The Ohio State Buckeyes women’s basketball team earned another spot in the AP poll this week. After starting at No. 14 in the preseason, and jumping up to No. 4 two weeks ago, the Scarlet & Gray now sit at No. 3, thanks to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.
Last week, the Buckeyes played twice. In the first game, in Louisville, Kentucky, head coach Kevin McGuff’s side went down 14 points near halftime, in a game that didn’t look like it’d go Ohio State’s way. In the second half, guard Taylor Mikesell’s 26 points helped the Buckeyes surge past the then No. 18 ranked Louisville Cardinals in a 96-77 eventual rout in the final ACC/B1G Challenge.
On Sunday, conference play began, with the Buckeyes traveling to Piscataway, New Jersey for a date against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights. Rutgers had a tough season to start the 22/23 campaign but pushed Ohio State to tie the Buckeyes’ lowest winning margin of 12 points, after going up 14 points in the first quarter alone.
Launching the Scarlet & Gray to their first Big Ten win was the scoring of Mikesell and forward Rebeka Mikulášiková. Mikesell’s 30 and Mikulasikova’s 31 propelled Ohio State to an 82-70 win, without All-B1G First Team point guard Jacy Sheldon, out with a lower leg injury. It was the first game of the season where the Buckeyes needed a big performance from two individual players, after seven games featuring fairly distributed performances.
Even so, the Buckeyes moved ahead of the No. 5 UConn Huskies, who occupied the No. 3 spot. UConn, is without star guard Azzi Fudd. The guard went down in the game with a knee injury, Notre Dame won 74-60, in South Bend, Indiana.
Speaking of Indiana, the Hoosiers jumped UConn too, taking the No. 4 spot.
The ranking jump over UConn makes sense if looking at records, but beneath the records, UConn’s had a strong start to the season. They were the first team during this campaign to win three games against top-10 opponents. On the dates they played the Texas Longhorns, NC State Wolfpack, and Iowa Hawkeyes, all three were ranked in the top 10, even though some have fallen over the past two weeks.
Compare that to the Buckeyes, who played one top-10 team in the Tennessee Volunteers, who are now unranked, and an away win against then No. 18 Cardinals. Overall, the standard of play at UConn has been higher, outside of their one defeat featuring an injury for a team who’s already down an injury with Paige Beuckers out for the entirety of the season.
With the new ranking comes new pressure for the Buckeyes. The only teams now ranked ahead of McGuff’s side are No. 1 South Carolina Gamecocks and No. 2 Stanford University. The higher the ranking, the larger the target from opponents.
After Thursday’s home game against the University of New Hampshire, the Buckeyes welcome the Michigan State Spartans to Columbus in their first home conference test of the campaign.