Ohio State will stay close to home for the opening of the NCAA women’s basketball tournament, but the circumstances will not be quite what the Buckeyes had expected.
The 16th-ranked Buckeyes received the No. 8 seed in the Des Moines Region. They will play ninth-seeded Florida at 12:15 p.m. on Sunday in Bowling Green, Ohio.
“We’re happy to be in the tournament. We are looking forward to playing,” Ohio State head coach Jim Foster said from his home Monday night. “This is the 26th tournament I’ve been in and it is by far the most disappointed I have been by the decision-making process by a group of people you trust to make decisions.”
Most projections had Ohio State receiving a seed in the five or six range prior to the seeds being revealed.
Opening weekend host sites are predetermined, and the NCAA Selection Committee has made an effort to keep teams close to home when possible to boost attendance in recent years, so the assignment of first- and potentially second-round games in northwest Ohio came as no surprise.
However, Foster expected better treatment after his team finished in a tie for second place in the Big Ten and defeated tournament teams Oklahoma, California and LSU in nonconference play.
The Buckeyes also posted a 5-5 record against the Big Ten’s other six teams – Purdue, Michigan, Nebraska, Michigan State, Penn State and Iowa – selected for the NCAA tournament.
However, they may have been hurt by a 5-5 finish in their last 10 games. That included losses at 15-17 Minnesota and 11-19 Illinois.
“We had some losses – there's no two ways about it,” Foster said. “I thought they would look at the whole body of work. We were 25-6, second in the league. That does not warrant an 8 seed.”
The winner of the clash between the Gators and the Buckeyes likely will have a tall order when it comes to advancing to the Sweet 16.
Joining them in Bowling Green is No. 1 overall seed Baylor. The undefeated Lady Bears, featuring 6-8 center Brittney Griner, begin tournament play against 16th-seeded UC Santa Barbara.
“We were all pretty shocked,” Ohio State point guard Samantha Prahalis said. “Just because we didn’t expect the eight seed. We thought we were going to be no lower than five. When we saw the eight, we were like, ‘Woh.’ But I honestly really don’t care where we’re seeded. I’m watching that show just to see who we play and when, what day. I really could care less.”
The Buckeyes will play the Gators (19-12) for the first time.
“We can’t look past Florida,” Prahalis said. “We’ve got to have a good week of practice. We have to be focused going in and don’t take no plays off. I think in the past we’ve had little lapses that have cost us games, so we just have to stay focused and work hard in practice.”
Ohio State will have had two full weeks off when the balls goes in the air Sunday. They were soundly beaten by Nebraska, 77-62, in the semifinals of the Big Ten tournament on March 3.
“I think we’re ready to get back and just play a game,” Prahalis said. “It feels like forever, especially since we lost our last game and lost a couple that we shouldn’t have lost. That put us in this spot, so we just want to play.”
Ohio State will make its program-record 10th consecutive NCAA tournament. The Buckeyes advanced to the Sweet 16 last year before falling to No. 1 seeded Tennessee.