Buckeyes To Open NCAA Tourney Tonight

Another chance to write a positive postseason story comes tonight in Des Moines, Iowa, for the Ohio State women's basketball team, but head coach Jim Foster said his team made no changes to its preparations as a game between the sixth-seeded Buckeyes and No. 11 Florida State loomed.

"Nothing we haven't done all season: reversing the ball and communicating on defense," Foster replied when asked what his team had work on in practice the week before facing the Seminoles in a 10:30 p.m. ET tipoff from Wells Fargo Arena.

There will be something familiar, though, as Foster can for the first time since the calendar turned to 2008 opt to use Star Allen at power forward.

A multi-skilled 5-11 junior, Allen was a preseason All-Big Ten pick but missed the Buckeyes' last 17 regular season games and their lone Big Ten tournament contest because of grade issues, but she is back, and the Buckeyes (22-8) are glad.

Asked if plugging a new player – who averaged 8.6 points and 7.1 rebounds per game before going to the bench – back into the lineup could be a distraction after nearly three months without her, senior guard Marscilla Packer said no.

"It will be really easy for her to return because she has been here the entire time," Packer said, referring to Allen's being allowed to practice with the team throughout her period of ineligibility."She's a different kind of four. She has guard skills and will help a lot."

"The distraction was playing without her," Foster interjected.

The coach praised Allen for her work to get in better shape than she was before going to the bench, noting that she lost 12 pounds.

"I am real comfortable with what she did over the last 12 weeks," he said.

The Buckeyes' opponents know something about changing lineups on the fly.

Three different Seminoles have served multi-game suspensions this season, and center Britany Miller is lost to academic problems.

But the ‘Noles do not figures to be a pushover.

The lineup flux hurt the team's consistency throughout the season, and six of the losses on their schedule are to teams that enter the NCAA tournament ranked in the Top 10: No. 2 North Carolina, No. 5 Maryland, No. 6 LSU, No. 8 Texas A&M and No. 9 Duke (twice).

Three of those teams are members of the ACC, like Florida State.

Foster said there is no substitute for facing big-conference foes on a nightly basis, and Florida State head coach Sue Semrau agreed.

"I can't say enough on how the ACC prepares us for the NCAA tournament," she said. "Our players feel confident and are excited to be back in the NCAA tournament and to play a great school such as Ohio State."

She compared the Buckeyes to "a hybrid of Maryland, Georgia Tech and Boston College" from the ACC.

The ‘Noles beat Boston College in Tallahassee this year and lost at Georgia Tech and Maryland. The same Terrapins FSU pushed to overtime before losing 92-84 whipped Ohio State in College Park in November.

Foster, on the other hand, compared Florida State to "long and athletic" previous OSU opponents Purdue and Auburn, two teams that beat Ohio State this season. The Buckeyes split with the Boilermakers.

"They like to get out and go, but they are patient in their halfcourt sets," he said. "They've got a lot of pieces. We've got to take care of our business: guard them and reverse the ball."

Florida State will be making its fourth straight NCAA appearance while Ohio State is in the Big Dance for the sixth year in a row.

Both teams opened tournament play in Stanford, Calif., last year, but their respective experiences were quite different. Seeded 10th, FSU advanced to the Sweet 16, while No. 4 Ohio State suffered a stunning upset at the hands of No. 13 Marist in the opening round.

The Buckeyes and Seminoles have never faced each other in women's basketball.

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