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Column: You need to care about Saturday’s Ohio State vs. Michigan women’s basketball game

The Buckeyes welcome the Wolverines in one of both team’s biggest games of the season

Syndication: The Columbus Dispatch Barbara J. Perenic/Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK

If you drive through campus at The™ Ohio State University this week there are a few things you’ll notice. First, there aren’t a lot of people; it is winter break after all. Second, there aren’t widespread red “X”s on every reachable “M.” Even without the fanfare, the Buckeyes face the Michigan Wolverines on Saturday in Columbus and it’s a game you need to care about, and here’s why.

The “Duh” Reason

I can’t believe it needs to be typed but it’s Ohio State vs. Michigan. This is the rivalry that turns friends, family, and co-workers into enemies. Every time a fan of one team drives by a house with a flag of the other, it elicits a snarl or mumbled expletive (and maybe not mumbled at all). It’s a game that creates bragging rights where absolutely nobody wants to be on the losing side.

There are no illusions of grandeur that the Buckeyes’ basketball teams should get the same treatment as the football side’s heated rivalry, but why not? Each team plays under the flag of their university/region’s pride.

The Ohio State women’s basketball team wears the same scarlet and gray colors as the football team. They attend the same university, the same classes, and have friendships stretching between the two teams.

Plus, beating Michigan always feels great to an Ohio State fan. It makes the hellscape of social media a little better for at least a day or so, and that’s worth celebrating. Lately, Ohio State hasn’t had much reason to celebrate playing that team up north, but Saturday that could change.

Ohio State is Good

Following college football is difficult for Buckeyes fans. Perfection is an awfully high bar to set, and nothing but victory, and fewer screen passes, will suffice. Basketball isn’t like that.

Teams get 30+ games to prove their worth, and then get to play in a tournament featuring an ample amount of teams, where the best can prove they’re the best. The Buckeyes have done that, reaching 24 NCAA Tournaments.

Also, if you want to set a high bar, Ohio State women’s basketball has it in the Big Ten. Their 16 conference championships are the most of any team in the Big Ten. Most recently on Feb. 27, 2022, the Buckeyes jumped the Wolverines on the final day to win a share of the conference regular season title.

That strong end of last season propelled Ohio State into this season, pushing them to their second-highest poll ranking in history. The No. 3 Ohio State Buckeyes are the highest-ranked Big Ten team in the country right now.

Syndication: The Columbus Dispatch
Taylor Mikesell (24) leads the Buckeyes in scoring this season.
Joseph Scheller/Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK

Want proof that they’re good? They lead the country in steals and turnover margin and are the second-best Power Five scoring team in the nation. Offensively, six different Buckeyes average double-digit scoring figures and in 13 games, five different Ohio State players have led the team’s scoring in one of the most diverse offensive seasons in a while for the Scarlet & Gray.

Ohio State plays a high-tempo pressing game. Defensives are rattled when they play the Buckeyes. Teams like the Tennessee Volunteers, Louisville Cardinals, and Oregon Ducks. All three are women’s basketball powerhouses and all three lost to Ohio State this season.

Buckeyes Revenge

Scarlet and Gray fans unfortunately know the feeling of losing two times in a row to the Wolverines. In the basketball world, Michigan also tormented the Buckeyes last season, beating them in both match-ups during the 2021-22 campaign.

It was Michigan center Naz Hillmon who led the way for TTUN, terrorizing Ohio State on the boards. Hillmon’s gone this season, and Ohio State’s playing their best basketball in years in a No. 3 vs. No. 14 game on Saturday.

Beating the Wolverines on Saturday would stop a three-game skid for the Buckeyes in the rivalry dating back to 1978. Overall, the Buckeyes lead the series 57-16 against a Michigan side that recently started caring about the sport on the women’s side.

It’s Not at the Schottenstein Center

This can’t be stressed enough — the Schottenstein Center isn’t good for Ohio State women’s basketball. The good thing about Saturday is that it’s not at Value City Arena™!

The Buckeyes face the Wolverines at the Covelli Center, the home of Ohio State volleyball and wrestling. It’s a smaller venue that puts the fans practically in the game, creating an imposing environment for visiting teams, like the much-maligned Michigan Wolverines.

Syndication: The Columbus Dispatch
The Covelli Center is great for Ohio State women’s basketball.
Alie Skowronski/Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK

It’s the official Land-Grant Holy Land opinion that all Ohio State women’s basketball games should be at the Covelli Center, if St. John’s Arena is completely out of the question.

It Won’t Interrupt NYE or Football Plans

Tickets for Saturday’s game are hard to come by, with only resale tickets available on everyone’s favorite ticket site, Ticketmaster. That’s ok! The game is on the Big Ten Network at 1:00 p.m. ET.

Since basketball games don’t stretch into the four-hour territory, the tidy two-hour game time (without overtime) won’t interrupt either of the college football playoff games. If you attend Saturday’s basketball game, you would still likely get home before the 4 p.m. ET kickoff between the Michigan Wolverines and TCU, and miss all the pregame coverage, which is a blessing in and of itself.

You could turn on the Buckeyes and Wolverines game at 1 p.m. and never leave your couch until the second ticks off between the football Buckeyes and Georgia Bulldogs. What a holiday treat.

No matter what your plans are this weekend as the calendar flips from 2022 to 2023, have a safe and enjoyable New Year’s Eve celebration. Drink responsibly.