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tBBC OSUWBB: Sweet 16 Preview – Ohio State vs Tennessee


OSUWBB: Sweet 16 Preview – Ohio State vs Tennessee
via our good friends at Buckeye Battle Cry
Visit their fantastic blog and read the full article (and so much more) here

With their win over West Virginia in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, the Ohio State women’s basketball team advanced to the Sweet 16 for the 8th time in program history. Their reward for that accomplishment is a trip to Sioux Falls, South Dakota (dear NCAA, why on Earth did you put a regional there) for a matchup against Tennessee, one of the most successful and iconic programs in the history of women’s basketball.

Tennessee had a down year this year, they have been a bit down since Pat Summit retired but this year saw them drop out of the top 25 for the first time in decades. The Volunteers only earned a 7 seed in the tournament but that didn’t stop them from continuing the program’s tradition of winning in March as they got to the Sweet 16 by upsetting 2nd seeded Arizona State on the Sun Devils’ home court. The Volunteers almost didn’t make it to the second round after trailing for most of their first round game against Wisconsin-Green Bay before putting together a late 10-0 run to go on top.

Ohio State and Tennessee had three opponents in common this season. Both teams beat Penn State, Tennessee won 74-66 at home while OSU won 77-63 on the road. The Volunteers lost to Notre Dame 79-66 while the Buckeyes lost 75-72, both games were in South Bend. The final common opponent was South Carolina who the winner of this game will likely face in the Elite Eight; Tennessee lost 62-56 at home while Ohio State fell 88-80 on the road. Based on the common matchups, this should be a good, close game.

Ohio State built a reputation this season for their offensive prowess as they have averaged 86.76 points per game. Tennessee has come in with a reputation built much more on their defense as the Volunteers only average 65.21 points per game but only allow an impressive 58.06 ppg; by comparison OSU allows 74.45 points per game. The matchup for this game will be whether the Volunteer defense can do what few other teams have done this season and slow down the Buckeye offense. Tennessee’s defense does a good job of frustrating opponents’ shooting, allowing 37% from the field and 30% from outside; Ohio State averages 48% from the field and 38% from three point range. A key to how this matchup will go will be whether Alexa Hart and Shayla Cooper can get the ball down low and score. In their embarrassing loss to Michigan State in the Big Ten tournament, the Buckeyes struggled to get the ball inside and had to settle for taking outside shots. Scoring inside will be made difficult by Volunteer center Mercedes Russell who at 6’ 6” has three inches in height on Hart and four on Cooper. Ohio State will need to get the ball inside to Hart and Cooper and attack off the dribble to balance out their outside attack.

Offensively Tennessee isn’t as explosive but they don’t depend on one or two players as much as Ohio State depends on Kelsey Mitchell and Ameryst Alston. Guard Diamond DeShields leads the Volunteers with 14.2 points per game and forward Bashaara Graves is the only other player to average in double digits with 10.2 points per game; center Mercedes Russell averages 9.6 ppg and could be an X-factor if she has a big day. Tennessee primarily scores from the inside, they don’t have a single player who averages more than one made three pointer per game. While you always have to worry about someone getting hot in the tournament, this is good news as one of the problems for OSU defensively this season has not been getting out on outside shooters quickly enough when the opponent moves the ball. While the Buckeye defense tends to allow opponents to shoot well, they do a good job of forcing turnovers (17.6 per game) and the Volunteers can be vulnerable to turnovers, giving up 15.9 per game.

A big question mark in this game is the status of Ameryst Alston. Alston has been Ohio State’s second leading scorer on the season and her presence has forced teams to not entirely focus on Kelsey Mitchell in the backcourt. Alston sprained her wrist in OSU’s Big Ten tournament win over Rutgers and her absence in the game against Michigan State had a huge impact as the OSU offense was much easier to contain and less dynamic. Alston sat out the first game of the NCAA tournament and while she played against West Virginia in the second round, she only scored 6 points, well below her 18.2 ppg average. A few extra days of rest will certainly help but it remains to be seen how ready to go Alston will be. If she is close to full strength, the Buckeye offense is much more dangerous and almost impossible to contain. If Alston is limited, more pressure will fall onto Mitchell in the backcourt. While Mitchell is very capable of carrying the OSU offense, as shown by her 45 points against West Virginia, she sometimes seems to let that pressure limit her ability to get teammates involved. Instead she tries to do it all herself and will take lower percentage shots. If Alston isn’t near full strength, Mitchell needs to remember she has a lot of capable scoring threats around her and make sure to keep them involved.

In the past playing Tennessee was often as much about playing the name on the front of the jersey as the players who wore it, the Volunteer mystique was that strong. While the program has gone through a few down years and that mystique may have dimmed a bit, you can bet that all of the players on OSU’s roster know they are playing one of the most legendary programs ever. The key will be to stay focused and remember they are facing just another opponent. If Ohio State sticks to their game and plays like they have most of the season, their offense is dynamic enough to stretch the Volunteer defense and put up points. This will be a close game and hopefully OSU’s amazing hard strength of schedule and many close games will pay off when the Buckeyes have to dig deep and fight late in the game for a spot in the Elite Eight and a shot at a Final Four.

Ohio State and Tennessee tip off at 7:00 pm on Friday and the game can be seen on ESPN2.

The post OSUWBB: Sweet 16 Preview – Ohio State vs Tennessee appeared first on The Buckeye Battle Cry: Ohio State News and Commentary.

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