COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — In 2023, Columbus has the distinct honor as the only place in America hosting men’s and women’s NCAA Tournament games.
Less than 24 hours after the final whistle sounds for Friday’s men’s slate at Nationwide Arena, the focus will shift to the women on Saturday with two first-round games at Value City Arena in the bracket’s Seattle Region.
Even before Saturday, the arena hosted a First Four matchup between Purdue and St. John’s.
The reason five women’s teams are in Ohio’s capital is thanks to the No. 3-seed Ohio State Buckeyes, which earned hosting rights for the first and second rounds as a top-16 seed. The winners of the afternoon games will reconvene Monday in the second round.
Here is a look at Saturday’s doubleheader.
1:30 p.m.: No. 14 James Madison vs. No. 3 Ohio State
The hometown crowd won’t have to wait long to see their Buckeyes take the court as the lead-off to the doubleheader, facing 14th-seed James Madison.
During the first half of the season, Ohio State was climbing up the national rankings after starting 19-0. As the Buckeyes got as high as No. 2, they began to hit a skid, losing five of their next seven games.
Despite the poor run, they earned a double-bye in the Big Ten tournament and made the final with an upset revenge win over top-seeded Indiana. In the final, Iowa battered Ohio State 105-72 behind a triple-double from Hawkeyes superstar Caitlin Clark.
The Buckeyes are confident they can make their second straight Sweet Sixteen if top scorers Taylor Mikesell and the Big Ten’s best first-year player Cotie McMahon continue to stay consistent.
The opponent looking to play spoiler is James Madison, who is in its first tournament since 2016 after winning its first Sun Belt tournament.
4 p.m.: No. 11 St. John’s vs. No. 6 North Carolina
The Tar Heels were once a dominant force in women’s college basketball, with four consecutive regional finals appearances in the mid-2000s. Since then, they have advanced that far only one and have missed five of the last 11 tournaments. Last year was a bounce-back season for Courtney Banghart’s team with a Sweet Sixteen appearance and being the only team to lose to eventual champion South Carolina by single digits.
North Carolina will play St. John’s, which defeated Purdue 66-64 in a First Four game on Thursday night. The Red Storm is in its first tournament since 2016.