Okie-dokie, the NCAA Tournament is now set for both the women’s and men’s squads. For the men’s bracket, all roads—or streams, waterways, etc.—lead to the Riverwalk and San Antonio, the site of this year’s Final Four; on the women’s side, the national champion will be crowned inside Nationwide Arena, nested in Ohio’s capital.
It’s been a while, but the Ohio State Buckeyes are represented in both brackets, and have favorable opponents in the early going. We knew on Sunday night that the men’s team was traveling out to Boise, Idaho, for at least one game. They’ll get the No. 12-seeded South Dakota State Jackrabbits in a 4:30 p.m. ET showdown on Thursday. The Buckeyes fly out as the No. 5-seed, and are being projected by some outlets to be on upset alert—the Jackrabbits are a top-15 team in the NCAA when it comes to three-point percentage.
Following up the men’s seeding, the women’s bracket was unveiled on Monday night. Instead of traveling to some distant land as a selection for the Spokane (West) Region, the lady Buckeyes get to play at least one game on campus, as they were named a No. 3-seed. OSU drew No. 14-seed George Washington, with that game scheduled to tip-off on Saturday at 1:30 p.m. ET.
With the brackets filled in, let’s take a peek at what each program is dealing with, if they want to end their season with a Final Four appearance.
Ohio State Women’s draw
Head coach Kevin McGuff has the Buckeyes in the West Region, with Notre Dame (No. 1-seed) and Oregon (No. 2-seed) as the only teams seeded higher than the Buckeyes.
Here’s what the full region looks like:
In women’s basketball, the top-4 seeds get to host their game, as well as the matchup that would result in the other half of the Second Round pairing. This year, Ohio State gets to host GW in the Round of 64, with the No. 6 vs. No. 11 matchup of LSU-Central Michigan also using the Columbus venue.
Once in the Sweet 16 (aka the Regional Semifinals), the venue for the Spokane Region moves out West to Veterans Memorial Arena in—you guessed it—Spokane, Wash.
But in order to get there, McGuff’s Buckeyes are gonna have to do some work. First up, they’ll get the Atlantic 10 Champions in the Colonials, a team that has NCAA Tournament experience. GW has made the Field of 64 for the third consecutive year—all as A-10 Champs. However, the Buckeyes have even more experience. In the last two tournaments, OSU advanced to the Sweet 16; for GW, they haven’t gotten out of the First Round.
Kelsey Mitchell is one of the most talented basketball players to grace the women’s basketball game, and will be a big reason for Ohio State’s scoring in the first weekend of hoops. Assuming the Buckeyes get past the Colonials, they’ll face either the Tigers of LSU or the Chippewas of CMU.
We know, generally, what the Buckeyes’ weekend consists of in terms of games. But, what lurks on the horizon going West? Well, the Oregon Ducks are as advertised, and are one of the best teams in women’s basketball. They ended the season with a 30-4 record, and cruised through the Pac-12 Tournament, ending with a championship after a 77-57 win against Stanford. Sophomore guard Sabrina Ionescu is the scoring leader for the Ducks, putting up 19.4 points per game. Additionally, she’s recorded nine double-doubles on the year. Fellow sophomore Ruthy Hebard isn’t far behind in the scoring department; the forward is getting an average of 17.5 ppg.
If it’s a Bucks-Ducks Sweet 16 match in Spokane, it’ll be a good one.
Notre Dame, the top-seeded team in the West Region, went 29-3 over the course of the season. However, they suffered a two-point, 74-72 loss to Louisville in the ACC Championship Game. Junior guard Arike Ogunbowale shows up on the Wooden All-American ballot, while head coach Muffet McGraw took home USA Today Coach of the Year honors.
The Fighting Irish are expected to be a deep-run tournament team, so it’s a very real probability that they’ll wind up in Spokane for a game—or two.
Ohio State men’s draw
Sunday night, we wrote up a little preview on what to expect from the Jackrabbits. The main theme of the team is three-pointers, which they seem to be connecting on at a pretty good rate—40.3 percent. While that’s good news for them, that seems like bad news for the Buckeyes.
When OSU had to face Penn State, the Nittany Lions made it rain three-pointers. In those three meetings throughout the year, PSU was victorious in all three of them. For the Buckeyes to overcome their last obstacle, they’ll need to find a way to shutdown SDSU’s connection from beyond the arc.
The No. 5-No. 12 matchups are tricky ones to predict. If a first-round upset is going to happen, these are the kids of matchups they’ll happen in. Last season, 12th-seeded Middle Tennessee State upset Minnesota; the year before that, Arkansas-Little Rock defeated the No. 5-seed Purdue. In 2014, Wisconsin was the victim of the 12th seed upset.
Notice a constant?
If the Buckeyes do find a way out of the First Round, then they’ll run into a familiar foe in Gonzaga. Back in November, these two teams met in the PK80 Invitational. Unfortunately for the Buckeyes, it was one of their worst losses of the year. With practically a whole season to get better, could this rematch be different—assuming both teams manage to make it to the Round of 32?
Xavier is the top-seed in the West Region, and assuming they don’t trip up to their First Round game—a game where no No. 1 seed has ever lost in—and get past either Florida State or Missouri in the Second Round, it’s very likely that either Ohio State or Gonzaga will be waiting for the Musketeers.
No matter how the brackets breakdown, we’ll have you covered here at Land-Grant Holy Land.