Ohio State Women’s Basketball Enters 2022-23 Season with High Expectations Ahead of Immediate Test Against Fifth-Ranked Tennessee

By Dan Hope on November 8, 2022 at 9:20 am
Jacy Sheldon
Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch/USA TODAY Network

Coming off of its most successful season in five years, Ohio State women’s basketball enters the 2022-23 campaign with the potential and belief that it can go even further this year.

After a one-year postseason ban prevented the Buckeyes from playing in the postseason in 2021, Ohio State won a share of the regular-season Big Ten title and made the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament, advancing to the second weekend of the Big Dance for the first time since 2017.

Having experienced success last season, when Ohio State went 25-7 and upset No. 3 seed LSU in the NCAA Tournament before falling to Texas in the third round, the Buckeyes are hungry for more this year.

“That was the most fun basketball that I've ever played or been a part of,” Ohio State guard Taylor Mikesell said at Big Ten Media Days in reference to last season. “Just experiencing that, I think it gives you a taste of what you want to experience more.”

Ohio State starts the year ranked 14th in the AP Top 25, the highest it’s been ranked in the preseason AP poll since the start of the 2017-18 season, and there’s good reason to believe the Buckeyes should be able to improve upon last season.

The Buckeyes return their top three scorers from a year ago – Jacy Sheldon (19.7 points per game), Mikesell (18.6) and Rebeka Mikulasikova (9.4) – while they also bring back Madison Greene, who scored 13.4 points per game and led the Buckeyes with 4.3 assists per game during the 2020-21 season before missing all of last year with a knee injury.

Seeing what his team was able to do last season without Greene, who was in line to be the Buckeyes’ starting point guard before her injury, gives Ohio State coach Kevin McGuff lots of confidence about what his team can do with Greene back in the fold.

“Quite frankly, we had a really tough early-season injury with Madison Greene going out,” McGuff said at Big Ten Media Days. “That, I think, speaks to the leadership and resilience of our upperclassmen from last year's team. I think that’s what gives me great optimism for this year is that we've got some of the same kids with the high character that they have.”

Sheldon was often Ohio State’s primary ballhandler last season with Greene sidelined. Now that Greene is back, Sheldon is expected to play off the ball more than she did a year ago. That may be a bit of an adjustment for the Buckeyes, but they’re excited about the potential for what they can do with Sheldon, Mikesell and Greene all on the floor together in the same backcourt after Mikesell and Sheldon both earned first-team All-Big Ten honors last year.

“We did have great chemistry and a great backcourt last year. It's a great opportunity to infuse Madison back in and get them playing together, and I think that we'll only get better because of it,” McGuff said. “But we will have to kind of work to make sure we get her back in there the way that we want to for us to be effective.”

The Buckeyes return four of their five primary starters from last year, also including Rikki Harris, who averaged 7.1 points and 4.3 rebounds per game in 2021-22. The only player who started more than half of Ohio State’s games a year ago who isn’t back this season is Braxtin Miller, who used an extra year of eligibility to play last season with the Buckeyes.

Ohio State added a pair of transfers this season in forward Eboni Walker, who averaged 6.6 points per game across three seasons at Arizona State and Syracuse, and guard Emma Shumate, who left West Virginia before playing in a game but was ranked as the No. 59 overall prospect in the 2021 recruiting class. The Buckeyes’ incoming class of freshmen includes forward Cotie McMahon, who was ranked as the No. 23 overall prospect in the 2022 class and started alongside Mikulasikova, Sheldon, Mikesell and sophomore Taylor Thierry in OSU’s lone preseason exhibition game, in which it beat Notre Dame College (a Division II program) 118-33.

Sheldon and Mikesell were already one of the best scoring duos in college basketball last season, and the roster around them is deeper and more experienced than it was a year ago. That has the Buckeyes dreaming big about their possibilities for this year, as Mikesell – who considered entering the WNBA draft before choosing to return to Ohio State for her extra year of eligibility – said she came back because she believes the team has Final Four potential.

“I think we have a pretty high ceiling, something that we are 100 percent in control of, and we have the ability to take it as far as we are wanting to take it,” Mikesell said.

Sheldon, who is entering her fourth year as a Buckeye alongside recruiting classmates Harris, Greene and Mikulasikova, believes this year’s team has the highest ceiling of all four Ohio State teams she has been on.

“I think that we have so many different guards who are so versatile and so many bigs who are versatile as well,” Sheldon said. “We play at a pace that quite honestly I don't think I've played at before on any other team.”

McGuff said he is “very optimistic that this year could also be another special season for us.”

“I like our team,” McGuff said. “We've got great kids. They've worked incredibly hard to this point.”

The Buckeyes will be put to the test right off the bat Tuesday night when they face one of the blue bloods of women’s college basketball, Tennessee, who enters the season ranked fifth in the country. Ohio State will have home-court advantage for its season opener, which tips off at 8:30 p.m. at the Schottenstein Center and will be televised on Big Ten Network, and McGuff hopes to have a sizable crowd of Buckeye fans in attendance to give the home team energy it can feed off.

The early-season tests won’t stop there for the Buckeyes, as they are also set to play Louisville – ranked seventh in the preseason AP poll – on the road Nov. 30 as part of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. Ohio State will also face steep competition to defend its regular-season title in the Big Ten, which has six teams in the preseason top 25 (No. 4 Iowa, No. 11 Indiana, No. 14 Ohio State, No. 17 Maryland, No. 22 Nebraska and No. 25 Michigan).

Ohio State will find out quickly if it’s as good as it thinks it can be, and the Buckeyes know they will have to overcome challenges all year long if they’re going to achieve their goals.

“I think our expectation’s always to get better every day,” Sheldon said. “The best mentality is taking it day by day and at this point, practice by practice and focusing on the day and moving on from there. So that's what we're focused on right now is just getting better and every day doing as much as we can to fulfill that.”

That said, McGuff and the Buckeyes are ready to embrace the competition that lies ahead with the belief that they are capable of contending with the best teams in the country.

“We’re gonna open up with Tennessee, one of the best teams and most talented teams in the country. We're going to play at Louisville, who will be probably preseason top 10, in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. We’ve also got several other challenging games, and that will lead us into the Big Ten slate, which is going to be once again one of the best conferences in the country for women's basketball,” McGuff said. “And with the amount of great players that have returned and the coaching, it will be as competitive as ever and I think one of the most exciting years in history.”

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