The last time the Ohio State women’s basketball team played basketball was Sunday, Feb. 5 at the Big Ten Tournament. University of Iowa, led by guard Caitlin Clark, beat the Buckeyes handedly, 105-72. After a long week of watching film, practicing and waiting to make up for the loss, the Scarlet & Gray knows who they’ll face in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Also, the Buckeyes bring March Madness back to the Schottenstein Center.
Ohio State has their first match-up set, against James Madison University of the Sun Belt Conference. It’s the third time the Buckeyes will face the Dukes in the NCAA Tournament, defeating JMU 90-80 back in 2015. Overall, Ohio State is 6-0 against the Dukes.
Should the Buckeyes win their opening round game, they’ll face either the North Carolina Tar Heels or the winner of a First Four game between St. Johns and the Purdue Boilermakers.
A potential match-up with the Tar Heels or the Boilermakers is especially interesting. UNC lost to both the Michigan Wolverines and Indiana Hoosiers this season. Also, Purdue was the lone unranked team to beat Ohio State this year, defeating them 73-65 in Columbus.
Last season, head coach Kevin McGuff’s side made it to the Sweet Sixteen, falling to the Texas Longhorns in a close 66-63 defeat. That came after a tough first two rounds for the Buckeyes, starting with mid-major Missouri State Bears and culminating with a win over the LSU Tigers in a loud homecourt atmosphere.
This year’s Ohio State side is stronger than last season, including the rise of guard Taylor Thierry and B1G Freshman of the Year Cotie McMahon. That’s on top of guard Taylor Mikesell in her final season of her career, leading the Buckeyes averaging 17.3 points per game.
Ohio State enters the tournament with a boost too in the return of guard Jacy Sheldon. The senior guard missed 21 of the Buckeyes 32 games, playing once in the final 22 games of the regular season.
At the Big Ten Tournament, Sheldon played in all three games for the Buckeyes, coming in from the bench for 44 minutes across three games. In the first game against the Michigan Wolverines, Sheldon hit a late three that sealed the victory for Ohio State. However, Sheldon’s biggest impact came in the tournament semifinal.
The Buckeyes were down 24 points to the then No. 2 team in the country, the Indiana Hoosiers. The guard scored 12 points and had four steals in the victory, leading to the largest comeback in the history fo the Big Ten Women’s Basketball Tournament and tied for largest comeback for a Big Ten women’s team in conference history.
Across the Big Ten, seven total programs made the tournament, including four teams hosting first and second round games.
McGuff’s side and the other six Big Ten teams are all hoping to become only the second team to win the annual tournament. The Purdue Boilermakers are the lone side to lift the NCAA National Championship for women’s basketball, back in 1999. No conference side has made it to even the Final Four in six straight tournaments.
For Ohio State, they haven’t made a Final Four appearance since 1993, when the Buckeyes lost in the NCAA Championship game 84-82 to legendary guard Sheryl Swoopes and the Texas Tech Red Raiders.