When Ohio State and UConn battle at the NCAA Tournament this weekend, a trip to the Elite Eight will be on the line.
That same line written above can be said for the other Sweet 16 matchups – just replace "Ohio State" and "UConn" with schools from the other seven games to be played at the NCAA Tournament on Saturday and Sunday.
|No. 2 UConn (31-5)||Climate Pledge Arena (Seattle, Wash.)||4 p.m.||ABC|
Still, the battle between the No. 3-seeded Buckeyes and No. 2-seeded Huskies has a bit more flavor than the other contests over the next two days, as the matchup has historical significance for both programs. Ohio State can make its first trip to the Elite Eight since the 1993 season, while UConn will look to make its 17th consecutive regional finals appearance dating back to 2006.
UConn head coach Geno Auriemma has claimed 11 national championships with the Huskies since 1995. His résumé also features 27 conference tournament titles and 27 regular-season championships. He also has over 20 coach of the year accolades. Auriemma accomplished those feats because he recruits and develops the best women's basketball talent in the world, something Ohio State head coach Kevin McGuff believes is evident about this year's Huskies.
However, McGuff said Wednesday that he doesn't want his players to feel intimidated by the name on the front of their opponent's uniform. As far as he's concerned, when the teams tip off at 4 p.m. on Saturday at Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle, Washington, it's just another game of basketball for his players to win.
“As coaches, we always say, ‘Well, if they showed up wearing a different jersey – Illinois or something – maybe we’d play a little differently,'” McGuff said. “I think that you have to get over the fact that you’re playing an iconic program and make it more about the players in the game and all that type of stuff and try to take that out as much as you can, which is probably easier said than done, but that is something we’ll be mindful of.”
Still, McGuff and his players greatly respect what Auriemma has built at UConn. They also understand it will take a complete team effort to defeat this talented Huskies squad that features five players averaging double-figures in points, including Aaliyah Edwards (17.1), Lou Lopez Senechal (15.3), Azzi Fudd (15.2), Dorka Juhasz (14.2) and Aubrey Griffin (11.6). Caroline Ducharme and Nika Muhl also average 7.7 points and 7.2 points, respectively.
"we preach giving it our all every day, and when we get on the court, giving it our 100 percent. That’s what we will continue to do, and that’s what we rely on.”– Jacy Sheldon
“This is huge. When you have the opportunity to play in March Madness and this tournament, it’s a really special opportunity, and then doing it for our university is really special,” Ohio State guard Jacy Sheldon said. “We’re not going to take it for granted. We’re going to give it our best like we have every game. We preach giving it our all every day, and when we get on the court, giving it our 100 percent. That’s what we will continue to do, and that’s what we rely on.”
That mentality has led Ohio State to a 27-7 record this season – one in which the Buckeyes climbed as high as the second spot in the AP Poll, finished runner-up to Iowa at the Big Ten Tournament and have now advanced to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament with wins over James Madison and North Carolina.
However, McGuff said Ohio State needs more than a hard-working attitude to take down the Huskies. The Buckeyes will need all-world performances from Sheldon, Taylor Mikesell, Cotie McMahon, Taylor Thierry and the rest of the team. More importantly, they must take care of the basketball and execute plays. If they can do that, McGuff said the team will be one step closer to achieving its goals.
“My expectations are that we get past the Sweet 16, we go to the Elite Eight and we give ourselves a chance to go the Final Four,” McGuff said. “It’s a great opportunity to do that, and I think we have a team that’s good enough to do it. Now we have to go execute and beat a great team to get there. I think it would be validation of where I think we are right now and where I think we’re going with this program.”
Need to Know
Ohio State's Last Trip to the Elite Eight Was in 1993
If Ohio State defeats UConn in the Sweet 16, the Buckeyes will make their first trip to the Elite Eight since the 1992-93 season. That year, Ohio State Hall of Famer Katie Smith, whose No. 30 hangs in the rafters at Value City Arena, helped take the program to the national title game as a freshman. The Buckeyes fell to Texas Tech, 84-82, in the championship as the legendary Sheryl Swoopes scored a Final Four record 47 points to lead the Red Raiders to the two-point victory.
UConn Has Reached 16 Straight Elite Eights, 14 Straight Final Fours
While Ohio State has fallen short of the Elite Eight for the last 30 years, UConn has reached that point and then some in that span. Since 1993, the Huskies have qualified for the NCAA Tournament each year and racked up 29 appearances in the Sweet 16, 26 in the Elite Eight, 21 in the Final Four and 12 in the national championship game, resulting in 11 titles and one national runner-up. Additionally, UConn has made 16 consecutive Elite Eights and 14 consecutive Final Fours.
UConn's Dorka Juhasz Played Her First Three Years at Ohio State
The No. 12 international prospect in the class of 2018 by Prospects Nation, Dorka Juhasz committed to Ohio State after a stellar career with Hungary's PEAC-Pecs Professional Basketball Club and the Hungarian U19 national team.
In three years with the Buckeyes, Juhasz collected first-team All-Big Ten (2020) and second-team All-Big Ten (2019) honors and a handful of national accolades. After the 2020-21 season, Juhasz transferred to UConn and has been a key contributor for the Huskies. In 2022-23, the 6-foot-4 forward has averaged 15.2 points and a team-best 9.9 rebounds per contest.
“She’s a really good player,” McGuff said. “She had a great career here, and she’s continued to do good things there. It seems like forever ago that she was here, things are going so quickly, but I think we’ve evolved in a really positive direction, and she’s done well there, so win-win for all of us.”
Projected Starters for Ohio State and UConn
|G||JACY SHELDON (12.4 PPG, 3.5 APG, 3.9 SPG)||NIKA MUHL (7.2 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 8.0 APG)|
|G||TAYLOR MIKESELL (17.2 PPG, 1.4 SPG, 40.9 3P%)||AZZI FUDD (15.2 PPG, 1.9 RPG, 2.0 APG)|
|G/F||TAYLOR THIERRY (13.8 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 2.1 SPG)||LOU LOPEZ SENECHAL (15.3 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 43.5 3P%)|
|F||COTIE MCMAHON (14.8 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 51.2 FG%)||AALIYAH EDWARDS (17.0 PPG, 9.0 RPG, 58.9 FG%)|
|F||EBONI WALKER (4.8 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 1.4 APG)||DORKA JUHASZ (14.2 PPG, 9.9 RPG, 1.4 BPG)|
How to Watch
As members of the Seattle Regional, Ohio State and UConn will tip off at 4 p.m. ET from Climate Pledge Arena on Saturday. The game will be broadcast nationally on ABC and streaming options are available on ESPN+.