COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Kelsey Mitchell talked about it before the season, and the issue is even more glaring as her storied college career winds down. Ohio State's All-American senior guard knows this is her last chance to make a serious run at just about the only thing that has eluded her — a national championship.
FILE - In this Nov. 5, 2017, file photo, Ohio State's Kelsey Mitchell plays against Urbana during an NCAA college basketball game, in Columbus, Ohio. With star Kelsey Mitchell playing out her eligibility and other key players graduating, the Ohio State Buckeyes know this is there last best chance for awhile to get close to a national championship. (AP Photo/Jay LaPrete, File)
Her first three years in Columbus were exemplary but ended in disappointment for the Buckeyes. In her freshman year, they didn't get out of the opening weekend of the women's NCAA Tournament. The past two seasons, they fell in the Sweet 16 round.
The 5-foot-8 guard became the all-time leading scorer in the Big Ten this season and is the holder of 29 school, Big Ten and NCAA records. Surrounded by fellow senior stars — forwards Stephanie Mavunga and Alexa Hart, and guards Linnae Harper and Asia Doss — Mitchell knows the window of opportunity for her and her school is about to slam shut.
The extra incentive, as if Ohio State needs it, is that this year's Final Four happens to be three miles down the road from campus at Nationwide Arena in downtown Columbus.
"From year to year, we try to have the same urgency and we have fallen short," Mitchell said Friday. "I think the urgency is the same, but you want it to feel different because we want to get back to Columbus."
Ohio State (27-6) roared through the Big Ten Tournament and earned a No. 3 seed and an opening round NCAA Tournament game at home. It faces No. 14 George Washington (19-13) at about 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, following the 11 a.m. opening game between No. 6 Louisiana State and No. 11 Central Michigan. The winners play Monday night.
Here are some other things to know about the NCAA Columbus regional games on Saturday:
COLONIALS BACK AGAIN
George Washington is making its 19th appearance in the NCAA Tournament, but it's the first time for this squad. The Colonials have reached the Sweet 16 four times and got to the Elite Eight in 1997.
Playing a difficult non-conference schedule, GW started the season 3-7. They won four straight in the Atlantic 10 tournament to earn the bid, the first for the school since 2011.
The Colonials are led by senior guard Briana Cummings, who averages 14.3 points per game.
BIG ANNIVERSARY FOR TIGERS
This season marks the 10th since LSU last made it to the Final Four.
The Tigers, who beat Alabama in overtime in the Southeastern Conference championship game, are making their 26th overall appearance in the tournament. They've advanced to the Sweet 16 14 times and made eight Elite Eight stops. They lost to California in the first round last year.
Senior guard Raigyne Louis (16.2 ppg) is playing in her fourth NCAA Tournament. She and guard Chloe Jackson (17.9 ppg) are the stalwarts, rarely coming off the court.
Central Michigan has started the same five players in every game and the stability has paid off. All are averaging in double figures. That's a situation that coach Sue Guevara hasn't seen before in her nearly four decades of coaching women's college basketball.
"It's been a journey of unselfishness," Guevara said of this year's squad, which is averaging nearly 83 points per game.
Senior forward Tinara Moore averages 18.7 points and nearly 10 rebounds per game. Junior point guard Presley Hudson averages 18.3 and five assists per game. Reyna Frost (14.1), Cassie Breen (12) and freshman Micaela Kelly (11.4) are all reliable scorers, too.
"Anybody on this team can go off," Frost said.