The Ohio State women’s basketball team received a No. 2 seed in the in the NCAA Tournament and will play in the Philadelphia region.
The Buckeyes (28-4) will open up with No. 15 seed Holy Cross (20-10) Sunday, March 20, in College Park, Md.
Holy Cross is the Patriot League regular season and tournament champion.
“They are a well coached team,” OSU coach Jim Foster said. “Historically, they’ve had some very good teams. They spread the floor, they shoot the three. They play a very tough, competitive non-conference schedule and I think that prepares them.”
If Ohio State wins, it will set up a Tuesday, March 22, second round matchup against the winner of No. 7-seeded Maryland (21-9) and No. 10-seeded Wisconsin-Green Bay (27-3).
Maryland has the advantage of playing on its home court. However, Ohio State doesn’t seem upset about the draw.
“After having been in this tournament so many times and going to so many cities and towns, going to the Washington D.C. area is something that we’re looking forward to,” Foster said. “It’s a great place for our kids to visit. We’ll visit monuments and Arlington Cemetery and do some stuff. It will be great for our kids.”
But wouldn’t it be unfair if a No. 2 seed had to play a No. 7 seed on its home court?
“D.C.’s a wonderful city. D.C.’s a wonderful city,” Foster said with a wry grin. “I don’t want to think past Holy Cross.”
Ohio State senior guard Caity Matter also isn’t outwardly concerned about the draw.
“Well, I mean, you can’t really think about that. You can’t think about maybe playing (Maryland) on their home court,” Matter said. “We have Holy Cross on Sunday; you have to worry about that game. We’ll figure out who we’ll have to play after that. But you can’t really look at the home court thing. It’s a tournament, so it’s a whole different atmosphere.”
A total of five teams from the Big Ten made the tournament cut. It’s a top-heavy conference and there was some speculation that only four would get in.
“I’m surprised Iowa didn’t get in, to be quite frank with you,” Foster said. “I haven’t really looked at it that closely, but obviously the competition is getting a little bit keener and getting a little more difficult. I think Purdue (getting in as a No. 9 seed) was a strength of schedule deal. When you have so many good teams in the conference – Michigan State is a one seed, we’re a two, Minnesota is a four, Penn State is a five – it sort of probably helps a team like Purdue get carried in.”
Ohio State and Michigan State tied for the Big Ten regular season championship. The Spartans captured the Big Ten Tournament crown.
Foster was asked if he believes the Buckeyes have the components of a good NCAA team – a team that could make a deep run in the tournament.
“Yeah, I do,” he said. “I think a lot of teams do though. I mean, we have no bad losses. We have some things that we needed to tweak in the last week and we’ve done that and we’ve worked very hard. We had a great week of practice. And I think we’ve gotten healthy. We weren’t healthy at the end of the year. I think that’s a positive.
“I’m a firm believer that we’re so young, that we’re still getting better. For example, our three freshman now understand the difference between a regular season game, and a postseason game. And they didn’t have a clue. But the Wisconsin and Minnesota games (in the Big Ten Tournament) kind of opened the eyes of our freshmen that, hey, this is a little bit different.”
The Buckeyes have made the tournament in each of Foster’s three seasons at the school. He says making the field is an accomplishment in itself.
“I don’t think you should ever, ever, ever take making the NCAA Tournament for granted,” Foster said. “I think programs that do make a mistake, and I think individuals that do make a mistake. It’s a great accomplishment, it’s a realistic goal and you should be very, very happy when you realize it.”
Ohio State center Jessica Davenport – the Big Ten Player of the Year – is ready to get rolling.
“I’m excited,” Davenport said. “We’re going away for it. Last year, we didn’t travel, so this will be my first NCAA Tournament away from home. I’m just getting mentally prepared for it. We have to go on a six-game winning streak to win the national championship.
“I’m just ready to get back on the court and play hard and play against somebody other than our teammates and get out there and compete like we know we can.”
Davenport says OSU will not overlook Holy Cross.
“I know they are a well coached team,” she said. “It’s not going to be any type of gimmie game, you have to go out there and earn what you get.”
Davenport says the Bucks have turned the page on their Big Ten Tournament loss to Minnesota.
“We’re just trying to go out there and play our game in the NCAA,” she said. “We can’t really focus on the Minnesota loss, we’re not thinking about that. We’re trying to win a national championship. It was a tough loss, but we have to move on from it.”
Davenport is not afraid to admit she looked ahead at the bracket a little bit. She knows it won’t be easy beating Maryland on its home court, if it is able to get past UWGB in the first round.
“Yeah, it’s going to be tough,” Davenport said. “We expected nothing less than for it to be a tough road. We just have to go out there and play hard.”
The 6-5 sophomore was asked what Foster said to the team after the draw was announced.
“He just told us to just stay focused, in his own way,” she said.
If Davenport sounds focused and ready to go, then Matter has taken it to the next level. She looked intense and ready to suit up and play right after the draw was announced.
“We’re getting down to business now,” Matter said. “We’re going to figure out what we’re going to do with Holy Cross, tune some things up on our end, and we’ll be ready to go on Sunday.
“We know they are a good basketball game and they’re well coached. They wouldn’t be in the tournament if they weren’t a good team.”
* The Buckeyes downplayed the possible matchup against Maryland on the Terrapins’ home court. However, two years ago in the tournament, fourth-seeded OSU lost to fifth-seeded Louisiana Tech in the second round on the Lady Techster’s home court.
Last year, home court advantage didn’t help Ohio State out very much. The No. 6-seed Buckeyes fell in the second round to No. 3 seed Boston College at St. John Arena.
If Ohio State does make it to the regional finals this year in Philadelphia, it sets up a possible intriguing matchup against No. 1 seed Tennessee.