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Despite having two players taken in the first round of the WNBA draft last season, the Terps earned their top seed in the Raleigh regional after winning the Atlantic Coast Conference regular season and tournament titles. Maryland (28-4), which won the national title in 2006, will face Ivy League champion Dartmouth on Sunday at home in the opening round.
Maryland is one of 12 teams that will be playing its opening round game on its own court or very close to home. The field went back to 16 first and second round sites for the first time since 2004, when it set an attendance record.
"We keep everything in mind with the economy and travel for teams," women's basketball committee chair Jacki Silar said. "One of our principles is to try to keep our teams as close to home as possible. This was no different from years past. The committee spends a great deal of time of aligning teams as close to their campuses as possible."
Tournament newcomer South Dakota State will have a bit of a trip heading down to Lubbock, Texas, to face TCU in the first round. The other three teams at its site all hail from Texas. The Jackrabbits finished the season ranked 16th in the poll and earned a bid by winning the Summit League.
Whereas South Dakota State earned a tournament berth in its first year of eligibility, Oklahoma center Courtney Paris is feeling the pressure to produce.
The senior, who set an NCAA record with 112 straight double-doubles, has guaranteed she will pay back her scholarship if she doesn't lead the Sooners to a title.
That path to the championship for the Sooners begins Sunday, when the No. 1 seed in the Oklahoma city regional opens against Southwestern champion Prairie View A&M in Iowa City. Oklahoma could face host Iowa in the second round if the Hawkeyes can beat Georgia Tech.
In the other half of the region, Auburn earned the second seed and will face Patriot League champion Lehigh, making its first appearance since 1997, in the opening round. The Tigers will travel up to Piscataway, N.J., where Rutgers faces tournament newcomer Virginia Commonwealth.
The Rams are one of four teams making their first appearance in the NCAAs. Joining them and South Dakota State are Ball State and Drexel.
Evansville became the seventh team with a losing record to make the field of 64 with its last-second upset victory over Creighton in the Missouri Valley title game Sunday. They'll play No. 2 seed Texas A&M.
The Big East and Southeastern conferences put seven teams apiece into the tournament, and the ACC and Big 12 each had six.
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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