For the 29th straight year, the No. 2 seeded UConn Huskies are set to suit up to play in the Sweet 16. Their past 16 times, they’ve advanced to the Elite Eight. Much of this team is very familiar with playing in that environment, with a lot of returning production from last year. This time, they’ll have to face a tough challenge in No. 3 seed Ohio State, a team that poses a rougher challenge than one might expect from a three.
The Buckeyes opened the year as one of the strongest teams in the nation, blistering their opposition in 19 straight wins. Four of those wins came against ranked opposition and they were in the top three nationally, right up there with the top teams. Then, they hit a massive slump, winning just one game in their next five tries. The Buckeyes’ first two losses came to future top two seeds Iowa and Indiana and the fourth was to another No. 2 seed in Maryland. It was a rough stretch, but they played much worse than you’d expect given how dominant they’d been from the jump.
From that point, things leveled off, and the Buckeyes went 5-3 in a span that includes the Big Ten tournament. This resulted in them being named as a No. 3 seed, which feels like a pretty fair average of their early success and late failure. So far in the tournament, they beat James Madison, convincingly but not by a huge margin, and then took down North Carolina thanks to a brilliant last-second shot from Jacy Sheldon.
Sheldon’s been solid this year, but the real star of the show has been Taylor Mikesell. The local senior guard has averaged 17 points, three assists and three boards on an impressive 40% from long range. She totaled 31 points in the tournament and will be a massive key for Ohio State as they look to make their first Elite Eight since 1993.
Madison Greene has been effective at the point position, scoring 10 points to go along with a team-high five assists. Like Mikesell, Greene is also an Ohio native and has been a relatively steady hand with just a pair of turnovers per game. She doesn’t take a lot of threes, but when she does, she doesn’t miss frequently, going 14-25 so far.
For UConn, they’ve had a “trying” season (meaning they have five losses instead of the normal one or two) that has been completely plagued by injuries. The Huskies already lost their 2021 NPOY winner Paige Bueckers and freshman Ice Brady before the season even started, a tough blow to endure. Throughout the season, Caroline Ducharme, Azzi Fudd and Dorka Juhász have all missed more than a month each and at least eight games.
They played many times with just six viable players, something that took a lot out of those who were playing. After big games they looked drained and it was tough to get up for every single matchup. This is why they lost to Marquette and St. John’s teams that were very good in their own right, but below UConn’s level.
Since they started the Big East tournament, the Huskies have been playing in early-season form. They made mincemeat of their five opponents in the BET and the first weekend of the NCAA tournament, with a pair of impressive wins over future No. 4 seed Villanova and No. 7 seed Baylor.
At the head of their effort is Aaliyah Edwards, who has been phenomenal this year. After a disappointing season that saw her regress from her first year, she earned AP All-America honors last week. The Canadian is averaging 17 points and nine rebounds to go along with her much improved jumper and passing skills (2.5 assists). In the NCAA tournament she has a combined 47 points, 11 boards and five steals, which puts her right up there with anyone else in the country.
Azzi Fudd will also be important to watch, as she broke out of a rough stretch plagued by injuries and inconsistency. She had 22 points that included 16 in the second half, her best game since they played Iowa in November. If she can continue to play like the Fudd fans have grown accustomed to seeing, it’ll be hard for the Huskies to lose.
The game will be at Climate Pledge Arena and will tip off at 4 p.m. ET on ABC.
Obviously the person who wore this article isn’t aware Greene has been lost for the season and Sheldon had only played in six games before her return. Really should do your research before posting inaccurate information!