The fifth-seeded Buckeyes trade Memorial Coliseum for Kentucky men’s basketball’s regular home venue, Rupp Arena, which normally holds more than 23,000.
LEXINGTON, Ky. – Before Ohio State women’s basketball coach Kevin McGuff headed to his Thursday Sweet 16 press conference, he woke up in the same hotel room he stayed in last weekend during his team’s run through the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament.
The Buckeyes travelled down to Lexington from Columbus, McGuff said, on the same bus with the same bus driver.
In a tournament that challenges teams with unfamiliar venues, opponents, tip times and situations, the Buckeyes enter the Sweet 16 on Friday with the minor benefit of familiarity, already knowing the area, the length of the bus ride and the layout of the hotel.
“Yeah, I think, but I feel we're coming into the game ready,” said redshirt sophomore guard Sierra Calhoun, asked if there are any positives associated with familiarity. “We've got some confidence in us. We're in the Sweet 16. I feel like we're really prepared. We've got a great game plan coming in, and I think we should do well.”
They’ll also play on an arena floor that doesn’t bear the logo of their opponent, unlike Kentucky’s Memorial Coliseum, where last Sunday the Buckeyes (28-6) secured a 14-point win over the Wildcats.
The advantages probably stop there.
While there will be fewer screaming Kentucky fans, No. 1 Notre Dame (32-3) boasts one of the best women’s basketball attendance averages in the nation and often travels well.
The fifth-seeded Buckeyes trade Memorial Coliseum for Kentucky men’s basketball’s regular home venue, Rupp Arena, which normally holds more than 23,000. Even with curtains drawn over the upper deck, it will still be one of the largest arenas on Ohio State’s schedule this season and will require some adjustment to re-calibrate depth perception.
Calhoun, at 39.2 percent Ohio State’s most accurate three-point shooter among players who have attempted more than 50 threes, said it’s a non-issue.
“I think, as a shooter, you treat every gym the same,” Calhoun said. “This is a big gym. Nothing changes.”
It’s likely even less of a concern for Notre Dame, which experienced the gym in last year’s Sweet 16 in a 90-84 loss to Stanford.
“We did play here last year, and it is a very big arena. We played at Louisville, which is a pretty big arena, played in a couple other places. We were in Oklahoma City one year. I think we played in some big arenas, but I think it's a little different,” Notre Dame coach Muffett McGraw said. “I think, when we go out to do our pregame shooting and our practice shooting, I think the guards will be able to adjust. It will be a little different with people back there, but I don't think they'll have any problem adjusting.”
As with any late-tournament game, the biggest adjustment likely won’t be to the arena or the opponent, but the moment. That’s expected, McGuff said.
“Among all the other things, there's certainly going to be some nerves and some jitters, but just hopefully that (familiarity with Lexington) at least give us a level of comfort that we otherwise wouldn't have,” McGuff said.