The second round of the men’s NCAA tournament may be getting underway on Saturday, but the Ohio State women’s team will also be taking the court for what could be a historic March Madness run. The No. 3-seeded Buckeyes will face No. 14 George Washington at 1:50 p.m. ET on ESPN2.
This marks Ohio State’s 25th time competing in the NCAA Tournament, and the 12th time that they’ve gotten to play in front of their home crowd in Columbus. Saturday’s matchup against GW will be the first meeting of the two programs, but playing in St. John’s Arena should give the Buckeyes a little boost.
The team has some extra motivation to make it past the Sweet 16 — the round they’ve lost in both 2016 and 2017 — with the Final Four also taking place in Columbus. It’s not often that teams get home-court advantage in both the first and final two rounds, but it would certainly be a fitting way for a senior class to end their collegiate careers that will go down in Ohio State history.
Having won 11 of their last 12 games, the Buckeyes are back on a hot streak after a dry-stretch in mid-January. Since the drought, Stephanie Mavunga is averaging nearly 19 points per game over the last nine contests, and her 17 double-doubles on the season leads the team. Mavunga (along with Kelsey Mitchell) was named to the Big Ten All-Tournament Team.
Over on the other bench, the GW Colonials will be competing in their program’s 18th NCAA Tourney, and have a 13-4 record in first-round games. Winners of the Atlantic 10 Championship, the Colonials bested two higher seeds to claim their seventh ever tournament title. In addition to the four tournament wins, the team is 11-3 in their last 14 matchups, and have rebounded well from a 3-7 start to the season.
During the A-10 tournament, GW held teams to 52.5 points per game, and not only protected the ball well, but also forced a good number of turnovers (16.8 per game). Ball protection has played an important role in the team making it as far as they have this season. They went 18-3 this year when holding opponents to less than 59 points.
With the Buckeyes ready to make a long run in the NCAA tournament, they won’t make things easy on the Colonials in Columbus, but it’ll be a matchup that could be a little closer than some people might expect.
Numbers to know
This astonishingly high number is Kelsey Mitchell’s career points; enough to claim the title as the Big Ten’s all-time leading scorer (male or female), and leaving her just 31 points shy of besting Jackie Stiles for second-most in NCAA history. Mitchell has a decent chance to surpass that mark in today’s game and inch a little closer to overall top spot. Three thousand, three hundred and sixty three points. (So. Many. Points.)
During their four games in the Atlantic 10 Championship, George Washington forced an average of 16.8 turnovers a game, cementing their dominance as one of the toughest defending teams in the country. The Colonials rank No. 4 in the nation in both average number of turnovers per game (10.9) and fewest turnovers committed (348). They averaged just 7.3 giveaways in each of their four tournament title games, and claim 10 games this season with fewer than 10 turnovers committed.
We’ve talked about her before, and we’ll talk about her again. She is one of the best athletes of any gender, of any sport, to represent the Scarlet and Gray. Mitchell’s career in Columbus will come to a close after the NCAA tournament and she deserves as much attention as she gets. In addition to her scoring honors, she also led the Buckeyes to a Big Ten Tournament title, and earned “Most Outstanding Player” honors for her performance in the run. Mitchell has also recorded a three-pointer in an NCAA record 90-straight games, and will be sure to put on a show in her last chance at an NCAA championship.
Thanks to an all-star performance in the A-10 Championship, senior Brianna Cummings was named “Most Outstanding Player” at the end of GW’s title run. During the four-game series, Cummings led the Colonials averaging 16.0 points per game, shooting 46 percent. As she nears the end of her collegiate career, her senior campaign includes being the team’s leading scorer in 19 games, and averaging career-highs across the board: points (14.3), rebounds (5.7), assists (2.2) and steals (2.0).
How to watch
Time: 1:50 p.m. ET
Location: St. John’s Arena, Columbus, Oh.