The Ohio State women’s basketball team’s path to a 27-6 record and Big Ten regular-season and tournament championships wasn’t free of turbulence.

The Buckeyes in January lost three straight Big Ten games for the first time since the 2013-14 season — coach Kevin McGuff’s first at Ohio State — and suffered a 19-point loss to South Florida in a game designed to boost their RPI.

With a wealth of talent and experience, however, the Buckeyes knew they would have an opportunity to right the ship, and they did so over a seven-game winning streak leading into the NCAA Tournament, capped off by a 79-69 win over Maryland in the Big Ten Tournament final.

“I feel like we’re just jelling more than we ever have since I’ve been here,” forward Stephanie Mavunga said. “I think when you have that chemistry, it helps for making a better team on the court. I also think that we’re just playing hard. We have a lot of players who are willing to step up and play a role.”

This year’s wait for the NCAA Tournament bracket unveiling is different for the Buckeyes because their inclusion as a top-16 overall seed is a near-certainty. Mavunga’s availability also makes for a marked change.

Last season, Mavunga was ruled out in mid-February with a foot injury and missed the end of the regular season as well as Ohio State’s first two games in the NCAA Tournament, returning for just seven minutes of a Sweet 16 loss against Notre Dame.

Mavunga’s injury limitations hurt the Buckeyes against the Irish but also had an impact on Selection Monday 2017, when Ohio State was handed a No. 5 seed.

NCAA selection committee members consider 16 factors, one of which is “availability of talent.” It’s not one that would have kept the Buckeyes out of the tournament, but it's one that played a role in the decision to not include Ohio State as a 2017 host team.

“The 32 at-large teams they select, (the selection committee) looks at the body of work of the entire team, the work they’ve done the entire season. And then when it gets to the seeding, it’s how are they doing today? What injuries do they have, how have they been performing?” said Meredith Cleaver, NCAA director of championships and alliances. “So, for the committee, it’s almost like you have to take off that thinking from the selection to seeding because it’s a totally different mindset.”

Guard Asia Doss missed the Big Ten tournament with an ankle injury, but McGuff said he is “very, very optimistic” that the senior will be available for the NCAA Tournament.

Ohio State enters Selection Monday coming off some of its best basketball this season and healthy, giving the selection committee one less item to scrutinize as it puts together a final bracket.


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