Buckeyes Look To Break Into Elite In NCAAs
The Ohio State women's basketball team has seen its share of disappointment in the NCAA Tournament the last two seasons, and is looking to undo much of the frustration its felt in taking what it felt was a much-too-early exit.
Last year, serving as hosts, the Buckeyes fell in the second round to Boston College in St. John Arena. That left a bad taste in the mouths of the returning players, and this is why they're entirely focused on taking things one game at a time during this year's tournament.
The Buckeyes (28-4) enter the tournament as the No. 2 seed in the Philadelphia regional, and take on No. 15 Holy Cross in a noon game on Sunday.
While many are salivating at the possibility of an OSU-Maryland showdown on the Terrapins home court in College Park, the Buckeyes aren't leaving anything to chance.
"At this time of year everyone you play is good," senior guard Caity Matter said. "We have confidence in ourselves that we can win the game, but we know that Holy Cross is going to come out and play hard and try to take some things away from us. It's our job to adjust to that and play the way we can play."
The Buckeyes have had nearly two weeks to let the sting of an overtime loss to Minnesota in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten Tournament fester, and there are enough bruised egos that it would be a shock if Ohio State came out anything but jacked for this game.
"It's exciting. It's the postseason," sophomore center Jessica Davenport said. "We have a chance to really make some noise, and it starts against Holy Cross. I don't know a lot about them, but I know they're a good team if they're in the NCAAs."
OSU coach Jim Foster believes that this year's bunch is ready to break through to the next level, something the group was not ready for last year.
"They've been through it and they know what to expect," Foster said. "They have a tenacity about them now that I think was missing last year. We're simply looking at it as three four-team tournaments. We need to be the team standing at the end of each one."
BSB will break down the College Park portion of the Philadelphia regional by taking a look at the teams in OSU's immediate bracket. While four other teams play in Maryland -- Penn State, Liberty, DePaul and Virginia Tech -- they won't face the Buckeyes.
OHIO STATE (28-4)
WHAT TO LIKE: The fact that the Buckeyes are patient with the ball and know what is and isn't a good shot (51.3 percent field goal percentage, best in the nation). There are few players as dominant as Davenport (19.3 points) in the middle, and when teams take her away the Buckeyes can lean on Matter and the emerging Brandie Hoskins. The Buckeyes don't turn the ball over much and also don't commit many fouls (13.2, second in the country), so opponents don't have much of a chance to do damage with the clock stopped.
WHY TO WORRY: OSU hasn't played well down the stretch and has looked disjointed on offense. The bench has not provided much scoring punch, so the onus will be on Stephanie Blanton, Kim Wilburn and Marscilla Packer to step up during the tournament. Teams that press have caused the Buckeyes problems, so look for the Crusaders to at least attempt to pressure the ball.
FORECAST: Legitimate contender for the Elite Eight. Would need breaks to make the Final Four.
HOLY CROSS (20-10)
WHAT TO LIKE: The Crusaders run a disciplined offense and like to spread the floor, often creating passing or driving lanes. Center Lisa Andrews is a solid player with the ability to push foes off the block, but she hasn't always done well against top competition. Swing player Maggie Fontana does a little bit of everything, and is the one player that could keep Holy Cross in the game if the Buckeyes don't keep their eyes open. The Crusaders rebound the ball very well, with five players averaging four or more caroms. Can come back from adversity, as a return to the tournament after a 13-15 2004 shows.
WHY TO WORRY: Say this for Holy Cross -- it hasn't been afraid to take on the nation's elite. Games with Boston College, Duke and Connecticut have shown a willingness to play anyone. Unfortunately, the games haven't helped as only the BC game (a seven-point loss) was the only one that was remotely close. There isn't a lot of quickness with this bunch and opponents have been able to get their transition games going.
FORECAST: One and done.
WHAT TO LIKE: The Terrapins are at home, and they've had crowds in excess of 17,000 this season so there will be a comfort level. That's very important in the postseason and could be enough to swing the scales in Maryland's favor. Maryland has a tenacious inside headliner with Crystal Langhorne, who is capable of putting up double-doubles in scoring and rebounding. Langhorne had 23 points and 16 boards against North Carolina State in the ACC Tournament and has a nice array of post moves. Shay Doron is a gunner from outside and keeps teams from sagging down on Langhorne.
WHY TO WORRY: Maryland sometimes has defensive lapses, and against a team that moves the ball as well as Wisconsin-Green Bay, that could be lethal. The Terps sometimes have trouble scoring and didn't break the 60-point barrier in any of its final three games. Maryland also isn't very careful with the ball, turning it over just four fewer times than its opponents.
FORECAST: While the homecourt should be worth a little something, poor shooting down the stretch will doom the Terps to being ousted in the first round.
WISCONSIN-GREEN BAY (27-3)
WHAT TO LIKE: The Phoenix have a lot of different scorers, but most of the time look to difference-maker Tiffany Mor to get the job done. The best player no one has heard of, Mor averaged 16.2 points and 6.3 rebounds per game and shoots 61.6 percent from the field, fifth best in the NCAA. The Phoenix are well coached and make teams struggle with a matchup zone look, so if you aren't hitting you're in trouble. Just about everyone on the team can hit treys, so UWGB is never out of a game. This is the fourth straight NCAA appearance for Green Bay, so it won't be rattled.
WHY TO WORRY: This group lacks athleticism, so a really talented squad could give the Phoenix fits. If Mor isn't hitting -- and that's a pretty big if given how consistent she's been -- there aren't many other proven options. More of a finesse team than anything, the Phoenix can be had by teams that like to pound it inside.
FORECAST: Good enough to win one game and maybe even keep it close with Ohio State before succumbing.