Buckeyes React To Surprising, Unfavorable Draw
To say that Ohio State women’s basketball head coach Jim Foster was unhappy with the Buckeyes drawing a No. 8 seed for this year’s NCAA Tournament would be an understatement.
“This is the twenty-sixth NCAA Tournament that I’ve been in, and I will say by the far the most disappointed I’ve been in in a decision-making process by a group of people who you entrust to make decisions,” Foster said. “It’s an injustice as far as I’m concerned, and it’s not warranted.”
OSU’s draw as the No. 8 seed in the Des Moines region seemed to come as a shock to the coaches, players, and OSU officials gathered at Foster’s Columbus residence to watch Monday night’s selection show. A sense of stunned silence fell over a Buckeye team that felt that felt as though an undefeated out-of-conference record and a second place finish in the Big Ten would earn them more respect from the tournament’s selection committee.
Foster couldn’t provide a definite answer as to why the Buckeyes weren’t seeded as high as most thought that a team that picked up wins over LSU, Florida State, Oklahoma, and Cal would have been.
“Your schedule is your schedule. I think they changed the rules after the schedule was processed,” Foster said. “The bottom line is 25-6, second in the league- it doesn’t warrant an eight-seed. I’m sorry.”
Foster’s players shared his confusion in a draw that will see them open the first round of the tournament on Sunday against No. 9-seeded Florida (19-12, 8-8 SEC).
“We was all pretty shocked, just because we didn’t expect the eight-seed, we just thought we were going to be five,” OSU senior point guard Samantha Prahalis said. “When we saw eight, we was just kind of like ‘woah.’ But I honestly really don’t care where we’re seeded.”
Perhaps more concerning than having to open the tournament against a team that is ranked just one seed lower than the Buckeyes is what could come after Sunday’s first round. Should OSU advance past the Gators, a likely second round match-up with the tournament’s No. 1 overall seed, Baylor (31-0, 18-0 Big 12), would loom.
The Bears are led by the front-runner for this year’s national player of the year award in 6-foot-8 center Brittney Griner and are the only remaining undefeated team in college basketball.
“Obviously Brittney Griner’s a huge part of their team, but we have good pieces too. We have a great backcourt and (OSU center) Ashley (Adams) is kind of long,” Prahalis said. “It’s a pretty good match-up.”
Not everything about OSU’s draw is necessarily a negative for the Buckeyes. For one, both their first and a potential second round game will be played in Bowling Green, Ohio, which is just two hours driving distance from Columbus. Also, a No. 8 seed could be just what’s needed to re-focus an OSU team that went 5-5 in its final 10 games after using an absence in the preseason polls to motivate itself to its best start in program history.
“We played with a chip on our shoulder in the first half of the season. I think in the second half of the season when we got recognition the chip was kind of gone,” Prahalis said. “If being an eight-seed didn’t put that chip back on people’s shoulders, then something’s wrong with us.”
Prahalis’ backcourt running mate Tayler Hill said that there’s no doubt that the Buckeyes have returned to a mindset similar to the one that they had during their 15-0 start to the season.
“Already got it tonight. Back on our shoulder,” Hill said. “I’m excited to see how practice is going to be these next few days.
A potential upset of Baylor would move the Buckeyes to the Sweet 16 in Des Moines, Iowa where they could play for the right to go to the Final Four in Denver, Colo. But before OSU can worry about a Final Four or even the Bears, it must first focus on its 12:15 PM tip-off with the Gators on Sunday.
“We’re not going to look ahead, we’ve got to beat Florida first,” Hill said. “Or we won’t be playing Baylor.”