Ohio State Women’s Team Seek First Final Four Berth In 30 Years

Buckeyes seek a return to the Final Four for the first time in three decades

Fueled by a ball-hawking defense, Ohio State seeks its first Final Four appearance in 30 years Monday night when it faces top-seeded Virginia Tech in the Seattle 3 regional final.

The third-seeded Buckeyes (28-7) have been to the Final Four just one other time in school history, losing to Texas Tech in the 1993 title game when Sheryl Swoopes scored a Final Four-record 47 points. Ohio State ended a six-game losing streak in the Sweet 16 on Saturday, forcing Connecticut into 25 turnovers in a 73-61 victory that ended the Huskies’ 14-year run of Final Four appearances.

Freshman Cotie McMahon scored 23 points and Jacy Sheldon added 17, but the game turned on Ohio State’s full-court defense in the first half. The Buckeyes shook off a game-opening 10-2 burst by UConn, forcing 12 turnovers during a 21-2 run over a 7:49 span bridging the first and second quarters to grab a 30-19 advantage.

All seven players in Kevin McGuff’s main rotation had at least one steal, led by Taylor Thierry’s four, as Ohio State led by at least five points throughout the second half and did not let UConn get closer than nine in the fourth quarter. It was the Buckeyes’ first regional semifinal victory since defeating Western Kentucky in their 1993 run led by star freshman Katie Smith.

Who are the Hokies?

The Hokies (30-4) took care of another storied program in the top half of the Seattle 3 bracket, holding off Tennessee 73-64 on Saturday behind 29 points from Georgia Amoore for their 14th consecutive win. Virginia Tech is in its first Elite Eight in school history, with its only previous regionals appearance ending in the Sweet 16 in 1999 with a loss to the Lady Vols.

The challenge for the Buckeyes will be trying to speed up an efficient Hokies offense that ranks 14th among Division I teams with a 51.8% effective field goal percentage and is 21st in 2-point shooting at 51.5%. Center Elizabeth Kitley, who is the school’s all-time leading scorer and surpassed 2,000 points in Saturday’s win, is averaging team bests of 18.0 points and 10.7 rebounds. Amoore, who chips in 16.1 points per contest, is not bashful about shooting from 3-point range and is second among Division I players with 110 makes from beyond the arc.

Right behind her, however, is Ohio State’s Taylor Mikesell with 109 3-pointers, and she ranks fifth in the Big Ten in accuracy at 40.5% from deep. Mikesell, also a 2,000-point scorer in her collegiate career spanning three schools and leading Ohio State in scoring at 17.0 points per game, has gone 6-for-18 from 3-point range in the three NCAA Tournament wins.

Virginia Tech, which has yet to trail in the tournament, commits the second-fewest turnovers in the ACC at 13.4 per contest, while Ohio State is 13th in Division I in forcing them at 20.3 per game. The Buckeyes are 19-0 when forcing opponents into 20 or more turnovers and have done so twice in their three tournament wins. Poor 2-point shooting, however, has been the more common theme in the Hokies’ four losses — they have been held under 50% in each defeat and shot worse than 40% in two of them.

The teams have played four common opponents this season, with both teams defeating Tennessee, North Carolina, Boston College, and fellow regional finalist Louisville. Ohio State went 4-0 against those teams, winning by an average of 12.8 points, while Virginia Tech was 6-0 with wins by an average of 11.3 points.

Scouting the sportsbooks

Some sportsbooks are still offering NCAA Women’s Tournament title futures, with the Kambi platform powering mobile books BetRivers and Barstool Sportsbook offering the best Buckeyes bang for the buck at +4000, as they would not face overwhelming favorite South Carolina until a potential championship game showdown. DraftKings is a close second at +3500 while FanDuel and Betway are each offering +3000.

Oddsmakers have installed Ohio State as an underdog ranging from 1.5 to 3 points, though some larger books moved with Virginia Tech on Sunday.  As of 10 p.m. EDT on Sunday night, Caesars Sports was the lone sportsbook offering the Buckeyes as 3-point underdogs (-110), while FanDuel (-110), BetMGM (-115), and Hard Rock (-115) all were offering bettors Ohio State and 2.5 points.

DraftKings (-105) had the best value for Ohio State +2, followed by  Betfred (-110), bet365 (-110), and Barstool and BetRivers both offering a -114 listing. MVGBet and Betway were the books offering the tightest spread at Ohio State +1.5, with the former having a -110 listing and the latter -117.

Having the largest spread, Caesars also was offering the best moneyline for Buckeyes backers at +130, followed by FanDuel (+118) and bet365, BetMGM, Hard Rock, and DraftKings all offering +115.

Totals have ranged between 138.5 and 140.5 points, with DraftKings, Caesars, BetMGM, Betfred, and bet365 all opting for the higher number with offerings of -110 in both direction. FanDuel had the best offering on the lowest total at -110 each way, followed by MVGBet (-115) and Betway (-117). Hard Rock was the lone book to straddle the middle at 139.5 points, offering -110 for both positions.

Photo: Getty Images


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