The Ohio State Buckeyes women's basketball team starts their 2022-23 season on Tuesday in front of home fans against the Tennessee Volunteers. On the court for Ohio State will be a pair of guards who had electric seasons last year, leading the Buckeyes to a co-share of the Big Ten conference championship. Now they’re both on the Naismith Player of the Year watchlist.
Their additions shouldn’t come as a surprise. Last year, both Scarlet & Gray splash sisters were named to award watch lists. Sheldon was on the Wade Trophy’s watch list given to best player in the country, awarded by coaches. Mikesell was a finalist for the Ann Meyers-Drysdale award for best shooting guard in the nation, but lost to UConn’s Christyn Williams.
Also, both were named First Team All-B1G in the title season, with Sheldon being only one of two unanimous selections across coaches and media, alongside Iowa’s Caitlin Clark. Sheldon also added a spot on the Big Ten All-Defensive Team.
Last season, the Naismith Award went to Aliyah Boston of the National Championship-winning South Carolina Gamecocks. Boston was a finalist alongside Clark before Boston won it all. This season, both Boston and Clark are listed on the watch list for obvious reasons, but there are some Big Ten names on the 50-player list, making up 10 of the 50.
Indiana guard Grace Berger and forward Mackenzie Holmes, Michigan guard Leigha Brown, Iowa’s Clark and forward Monika Czinano, Nebraska guard Jaz Shelley and forward Alexis Markowski and Maryland guard Diamond Miller round out the list for the conference.
Tuesday’s game against the Tennessee Volunteers will feature five Naismith watch list players across both teams. The Vols have guard Jordan Horston, who played high school basketball in Columbus, forward Rickea Jackson and center Tamari Key.
Since the award’s inception on the women’s side in 1983, a Buckeye’s never won the trophy. Only once has a Big Ten women’s basketball player won. Iowa’s Megan Gustafson earned the honor for the Hawkeyes in 2019. Rutgers’ Sue Wicks won in 1988, but that was before the school joined the conference in 2014.
Head coach Kevin McGuff hasn’t coached a Naismith Award winner in his time as a college coach. The closest he came was Washington’s Kelsey Plum, who won the honor in 2017. Plum was with the University of Washington from 2013 to 2017, the same year McGuff left the Huskies to join the Buckeyes.
Ohio State has history with the award on the men’s side. Sheldon and Mikesell, should either of them win, will be the second in school history to lift the trophy after guard Evan Turner did for the Ohio State men’s team in 2010.