An elated Ohio State women’s basketball team learned it received a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament during the selection show on Monday.
The Buckeyes (28-2) will play No. 16 seed Oakland University (15-15) in the first round on Sunday, March 19 at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind.
The winner will take on the winner of No. 8 Boston College (19-11) and No. 9 Notre Dame (18-11) on Tuesday, March 21. The Buckeyes defeated Boston College 66-61 in overtime on Dec. 3 in Boston.
Ohio State – champions of both the Big Ten regular season and Big Ten Tournament – received the top seed in the Albuquerque region. The No. 2 seed is Maryland (28-4), a team that was hoping for a No. 1 seed.
The No. 4 seed is Arizona State (24-6), a team that would be playing close to home if it is able advance to the regional.
Ohio State closed the regular season ranked No. 2 in the country in both major polls, so receiving a top seed came as no surprise to head coach Jim Foster.
“You’ve got to go play a game,” Foster said. “The way it came out, I was comfortable that we were going to be a No. 1 and that’s the way it came up.”
Foster was asked for his take on OSU’s draw, just minutes after seeing it live.
“I think all the draws are tough,” he said. “At this stage of the season, most teams are on spring break, and the good ones are still playing.”
The coach also spoke specifically about Oakland University.
“They came from nowhere to win their conference tournament, so they’re definitely playing their best basketball of the year,” he said.
During the selection show, a broadcaster on ESPN said she felt that OSU did not deserve a No. 1 seed. She did not feel that the Big Ten was strong enough this season.
“The whole premise of television today is to get controversy, whether it’s the news, or sports,” Foster said. “So, you hire people and you give them controversial sound bites and you run with it. And fortunately, a lot of those shows have been cancelled.
“We won 19 games in a row and they look at your last 10 and how you performed. We won those 10 and we beat five ranked teams. We had some injury situations and we had to work a new player into the mix. We had a couple bumps, but we figured out how to deal with it. … We won our conference and our conference tournament. How many teams did that? I think it’s a pretty simple formula.”
Foster is pleased that the Buckeyes will play their first two games somewhat close to Columbus at Purdue.
“I think that the NCAA is hoping that a lot of Buckeyes get in their car and drive west,” he said.
* Ohio State junior guard Brandie Hoskins was relieved to see that OSU picked up a No. 1 seed.
“I think our record did a lot for us,” she said. “We’ve been playing well and getting better. But I still didn’t think we were going to get it with the way ESPN was talking. But now that we’ve got a chance to be a No. 1 seed, I think we can go far with it.”
According to the RPI, the Big Ten was just the seventh-strongest conference in the country this year. Hoskins finds that hard to believe.
“That’s ridiculous. I think it’s crazy,” she said. “We had to fight every night and I know what kind of teams were in our league. People throw out names like Tennessee and UConn, while we had the Indianas and Iowas and people don’t really look at them. But I think Iowa and Indiana can compete with anybody. I think the Big Ten is one of the toughest conferences, not just because I play in it.”
The draw was somewhat bittersweet for OSU’s players. They were obviously happy to get a No. 1 seed and stay close to home for the first two rounds. But no one in the room was especially pleased about having to go all the way to Albuquerque for the regional, if the Buckeyes are able to advance that far.
But Hoskins says OSU supporters will follow the team anywhere. Whether it’s Indiana, or New Mexico.
“Our fans always help us get momentum and things like that,” Hoskins said. “I’m pretty sure that we’ve got some OSU fans that will go with us anywhere in the country. I think the fact that we’re a No. 1 seed, it doesn’t matter where we go, they’re going to be there.”
The team watched the selection show at Foster’s house in German Village. The coach also opened the doors to reporters. Could he regret such a decision?
“As long as everything is still here when I leave, it’s great,” he said with a laugh. “I checked all the pawn shops around here.”