Do Buckeyes know the Big Ten survivors in the women's tournament? Heck, they beat them

Ray Stein
Buckeye Xtra
Maryland players including Angel Reese (10) couldn't be more excited about the Terrapins' play thus far in the women's NCAA Tournament. Maryland is one of four Big Ten programs to qualify for the Sweet 16.

When Kevin McGuff looked at an updated bracket for the women’s NCAA Tournament the other day, he saw a lot of familiar names.

The Ohio State women’s basketball coach also recalled some fond memories.

Big Ten teams have been the surprise of the tournament thus far, with four conference schools – Indiana, Iowa, Maryland and Michigan – among the Sweet 16 teams qualifying for the regional semifinals that begin Saturday in San Antonio.

In the past four seasons, the Big Ten had four teams total reach this far in the tournament.

“This has been incredible for the Big Ten,” McGuff said this week. “This run in the tournament is showing the depth of talent in our league.”

McGuff knows all of the survivors well, and also knows what it’s like to be congratulated for beating them.

The Buckeyes did just that in a 15-day stretch in January, racking up victories over Iowa (84-82 on Jan. 13), Michigan (81-77 on Jan. 21), Maryland (88-86 on Jan. 25) and Indiana (78-70 on Jan. 28). OSU later added a second win over Iowa, 92-87 on Feb. 4.

In a January stretch that included wins over four teams still alive in the women's NCAA Tournament, Ohio State coach Kevin McGuff's Buckeyes were playing as well as any team in the country.

“At the time it was hard to pinpoint what those games meant. You’re just going through it,” McGuff said. “But as the season went on and you saw these teams go through these incredible stretches, it showed that we were playing as well as anyone in the country at that point.”

The Buckeyes cooled off, largely because a presumed positive COVID-19 test for sophomore point guard Madison Greene, and finished 13-7. They no doubt would have made the tournament, though, had the program not imposed a one-year postseason ban for recruiting violations by a former assistant coach.

Rather than focus on what could have been, McGuff is urging his team to consider the possibilities for next season.

“We have to look at what we did in that stretch and carry it into the offseason and into next year,” he said. “We can certainly have a special season.”

McGuff wishes nothing but success for the league’s four remaining teams, three of which play on Saturday and will be underdogs.

In the River Walk region, fifth-seeded Iowa meets top-seeded Connecticut at 1 p.m. and No. 6 seed Michigan faces No. 2 Baylor at 3 p.m. In the Mercado region, fourth-seeded Indiana meets top-seeded North Carolina State at 6 p.m.

On Sunday, Maryland is the No. 2 seed in the Hemisfair region and will play No. 6 Texas at 9 p.m. The Terrapins haven't lost since that January night two months ago in Value City Arena.

“The team I want to keep an eye on is Maryland,” McGuff said. “The way they’re scoring, they’re playing as well as anyone right now.”

rstein@dispatch.com