After 1-seed Maryland's loss to Jeff Walz's 3-seed Louisville in the NCAA Tournament, many fans and writers are questioning Frese's ability to coach during that game. The main point was on the zone defense and how it not only did not stop Louisville but also did not change, so the Cardinals were able to take advantage of it. But this is not the only time Frese's coaching has come into question, and many are continuing after this game. Rick Maese of the Baltimore Sun wrote a column about it plus message boards are talking about it too.
Apparently Maryland fans are not happy with a women's basketball coach who got the first ACC title in the sport in 20 years. Not happy with a national championship and two elite eights in the past four years, with that national title happening with a starting lineup of all non-seniors. Or a 31-5 record this season that included two wins each against Duke, North Carolina, and Virginia. Or not losing a game in the Comcast Center in the last two seasons. Or constant top-10 recruiting classes.
I agree that there are certainly some questions to stem from that game. But Louisville was a great team from the Big East with a first-team All-American a coach that knew Maryland's best players very well. It is very hard to be entirely ready when the opposing coach who used to be Frese's right hand man knows the heart and soul of the team while the other does not have such a luxury.
Coming into this season, Maryland had the difficult task of replacing Crystal Langhorne and Laura Harper from the starting the lineup plus Jade Perry and Ashleigh Newman from the bench. Lynetta Kizer and Dee Liles both had very slow starts, but eventually Liles became a huge player down the stretch and key in the Maryland frontcourt. Anjale Barrett started to come into her own as a point guard. And Kristi Toliver and Marissa Coleman had great seasons, both getting to be All-Americans. This team did something that Langhorne and Harper could not, win a conference title. Frese may have had some difficulties with coaching, but she did a great job all season molding this team considering its options.
Also consider what happened to the conference during the tournament. 1-seed Duke, 3-seed UNC, 3-seed Florida State, 5-seed Virginia, and 7-seed Georgia Tech were all gone before the Sweet 16. No ACC team other than Maryland went past that mark. None. Maryland almost had a slip up in the Sweet 16 against 4-seed Vanderbilt, but Marissa Coleman took over and Maryland won. That is a coaching aspect too; when you need a win a team needs to rely on its stars and not panic, and that is what Maryland did. This is a team that did great things, and Frese deserves a lot of credit, not attacks.
Obviously it is disappointing that Maryland did not reach the Final Four and have a chance at Oklahoma or Connecticut, but this was a great season, and Frese did a wonderful job with this team. This program has won 13 NCAA Tournament games in the last four years plus a national title. Congratulations to the Maryland women's basketball team, good luck to Kristi Toliver and Marissa Coleman, and we will see the rest of the team next year.
(Photo credit: AP)