Linnae Harper was one of several Ohio State players paying attention Thursday night when the NCAA women’s basketball selection committee released its updated top 16 tournament seeds.
This time, and perhaps unsurprisingly so after a stretch of three straight Ohio State losses before back-to-back wins, the Buckeyes were not among the top 16, meaning if the season ended Thursday, Ohio State would travel elsewhere to start the NCAA Tournament.
Harper noticed that, too, but didn’t think much of it.
“We’re aware. I’m pretty sure our team has the ESPN app and gets notifications, but we can’t focus on that,” Harper said. “It might change, there are some upsets, there are some wins, so we have to continue to focus on us as a team and continue to play as best as we can and hopefully it’ll change.”
Ohio State’s toughest Big Ten games are behind it. With only one of six remaining Big Ten games coming against a team with a winning conference record, it’s not unreasonable to think the Buckeyes could win out, and that doing so will net a top-16 seed come Selection Monday.
But the Buckeyes (18-5, 7-3 Big Ten) aren’t thinking that far, coach Kevin McGuff said. Including a game Saturday at Wisconsin (9-15, 2-9), they’ll try to keep a narrow focus down the stretch.
Rankings and projections are often fleeting, especially as March nears. Thursday served as a perfect example, with six top-16 seeds losing and three — Michigan, Georgia and Florida State — losing to unranked teams.
“I don’t (pay attention to top-16 seed reveals). What’s the point this time of year? We’ve got a whole five or six weeks left,” McGuff said. “They did (a seed reveal) yesterday and a bunch of teams lost, so it would be totally different today. I don’t think that’s where my focus or energy needs to be."
After the three-game losing streak — their first in Big Ten play since the 2013-14 season — the Buckeyes have opened games with added tenacity, particularly on defense. Ohio State limited Michigan State to 29 first-half points in a win last Saturday and jumped to a 20-5 lead in the first 6:08 Wednesday of a 30-point win over Penn State.
The Buckeyes seek a similar focus from the opening tip at Wisconsin, and that’s as far as they’ll look into the future.
“It’s probably going to sound simplistic, but showing up with great focus and energy from the start (helps), especially on the defensive end,” McGuff said. “When we can get stops early and keep the other team from getting points on the board and allow us to get in transition, usually good things happen after that.”