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A way-too-early prediction of the Ohio State women’s basketball starting five

Putting on the coach Kevin McGuff hat to predict the starting five in the opener against Tennessee.

NCAA Basketball: Big Ten Basketball Media Day Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

It’s only two weeks into the Ohio State women’s basketball preseason, but Nov. 8 can’t come soon enough. That’s when the Tennessee Volunteers, a storied team in a tough SEC conference, take the court in Columbus to face off against the 2021-22 Big Ten regular season champions.

The Scarlet & Gray field a starting group with mostly returning role players, but there are still decisions to be made. Here’s how Land-Grant Holy Land thinks the starting five should look.

Guard - Madison Greene

It’s been a long time since redshirt junior guard Madison Greene stepped on the court for the Buckeyes, but it shouldn’t be too much longer of a wait. Greene was the starting point guard for 15 games in the 2020-21 season. In those games, Greene came up big against big opponents.

Against both the Iowa Hawkeyes and Maryland Terrapins, Greene went off. Against Caitlin Clark and Iowa Greene had 20 points and five rebounds. A little over two weeks later, Greene had 24 versus Maryland with seven assists for the Terps’ only conference loss of the season.

Shoot, assist or rebound, Greene will do it. The guard is a competitor who will give her teammates space to move and create themselves.

Returning from a season-ending knee injury in the days leading up to the 21-22 season, Greene’s stayed with the team over the offseason as an intern. During that time, Greene worked on the court and in the weight room to make up for the lost time. Before media availability last week, Greene was taking midrange shots during head coach Kevin McGuff’s time with the media.

There’s an itch to return and its evident. Why not start things off against First Team All-SEC guard Jordan Horston, who averaged 16.2 points and 9.4 rebounds last season.

Guard - Jacy Sheldon

The second of the three guards McGuff will use is Jacy Sheldon. When it comes to putting together a starting group, Sheldon is one of a couple names that’s expected to be there every game this season, barring injury.

Last year, Sheldon moved into the point guard spot out of necessity due to injuries to Greene and now-LSU guard Kateri Poole. Sheldon carried the Buckeye’s facilitating, and led the team in scoring while holding onto the starting point guard job through the end of the season.

Now, Sheldon is free to return to the shooting guard role.

NCAA Womens Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Spokane Regional-Ohio State Buckeyes vs Texas Longhorns
Jacy Sheldon returns to a shooting guard role this season, where she’s spent her first two seasons in Scarlet & Gray
James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

With the reunion for the Dublin, Ohio native to the spot she’s played in for her first two seasons with the Buckeyes, Sheldon can take what she learned playing point guard at the college level and become even more dangerous.

Guard - Taylor Mikesell

Like Sheldon, Taylor Mikesell’s name on the starting five should come as no surprise to anyone who’s watched the Scarlet & Gray last season. Mikesell was second in all of the NCAA in three-point percentage at 47.5%, which was low for a shooter who was consistently near or above 50% throughout the season.

Mikesell was second on the Buckeyes in scoring in her first year on the team. The Oregon Ducks transfer received NCAA eligibility to play last year in the week before the season began and didn’t take long to adjust.

Now, Mikesell takes a year of experience and a preseason where she’s reunited with former AAU teammate Greene into a final NCAA season. Mikesell looks to push Ohio State while simultaneously increasing her WNBA Draft stock. That begins against the Volunteers.

Forward - Rebeka Mikulášiková

In Rebeka Mikulášiková’s first two seasons with the Scarlet & Gray, the Slovakian forward started one game and made 44 appearances with 663 minutes played on the court. After Ohio State lost not one but two starting forwards to the transfer portal prior to last season, Mikulášiková was thrusted into a starting role. Mikulášiková started all 32 games, hitting 642 minutes in a single year.

Part of that reason was lack of depth. Mikulášiková, Braxtin Miller, Taylor Thierry and Tanaya Beacham were the four regulars playing in the paint. This season, Ohio State doesn’t have that same issue. McGuff lost Miller and Beacham but added transfers in Eboni Walker and Karla Vres. Ohio State also welcomed Team USA youth player Cotie McMahon alongside Thierry.

With that comes competition, but after a full season as a starter, Mikulášiková has the most experience in the paint over her peers. Also, having new names in the perimeter could push the 6-foot-4 forward to new heights.

Unless McGuff opts to go for a smaller, quicker, starting five, Mikulášiková feels like a lock at the top of the depth chart for the five position.

Forward - Taylor Thierry

This final spot in the starting five is brain-rackingly difficult to decide. There are so many ways this position could go, but Thierry is a strong contender, with some contingencies.

Before those “ifs” come into play, there are a slew of other options here. Another is guard Rikki Harris. Yes, not a forward, but neither was Miller when she transferred to the Buckeyes from Oklahoma State University.

Harris is a leader on and off the court, plus brings strong defense to the court. Last season, Harris went from a player off the bench to a starter throughout the latter half of the championship campaign. With that said, Harris fits better as the first guard off the bench, possibly sixth player overall.

Another option is either the transfer Walker or incoming top-100 recruit McMahon. Walker is new, transferring this summer from Syracuse, by way of Arizona State. The forward missed most of last season with an undisclosed injury. Unless Walker shows up big this preseason, I don’t see her starting right away.

Syndication: Cincinnati
Cotie McMahon has the ability and basketball IQ to start for the Buckeyes in 2022/23
E.L. Hubbard for The Enquirer

McMahon was second in this prediction at the four spot. The Dayton, Ohio All-Ohio First Team star graduated high school early and joined the Buckeyes for most of last season. Although McMahon couldn’t play, she was with the team, learning the McGuff ways. Then, this summer, she led Team USA to a gold medal in the U18 FIBA Women’s Americas Championship.

Thierry gets the pick over McMahon because of what the Cleveland, Ohio forward showed last year. Initially, Thierry didn’t receive a lot of minutes, but in January shifted from a player who gives starters a break at the end of the quarter to the second player off the bench, early in quarters when the team needed a boost.

Multiple times last season, McGuff called Thierry the most athletic person on the court. Thierry showed that ability on defense, making blocks inside the paint and even from beyond three and making her presence known on the boards.

Last week, Coach McGuff brought Thierry up when discussing the forward group, remarking on the work she put in this summer and the improvement shown. There are two places that improvement is needed if Thierry wants to increase minutes: scoring and reaction to earning fouls.

Offensively, Thierry averaged 2.9 points per game — a drop from Miller’s production last season. McMahon hasn't played at the NCAA level, but shows the confidence to score at a higher clip.

In terms of foul reaction, Thierry was that energy off the bench that helped turn games around, until she picked up an early foul. There was obvious frustration in hearing the whistle against her play. In response, Thierry became a more hesitant player.

Syndication: The Columbus Dispatch
Taylor Thierry (14) making a block on a three point shot in her fourth appearance for the Buckeyes
Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK

The Division II All-Ohio First Team player exhibits great skill and puts in hard work. If Thierry can shake off an early foul or two and continue her game, her 15.2 minutes per game as a freshman is bound to shoot up.