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Ranking the five best non-conference games on the Ohio State women’s basketball schedule

Where the Volunteers, Cardinals and even Bobcats fall in the top five non-conference games for the Buckeyes

NCAA Womens Basketball: NCAA Tournament - Second Round-Ohio St. at Louisiana State Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

In the 2021-22 season, the Ohio State women’s basketball team didn’t have a non-conference schedule that grabbed a lot of attention. Head coach Kevin McGuff’s side won eight of them during the regular season by an average of 35.25 points. Every win was against teams from outside of the usual women’s basketball power conferences like the ACC, Big East, Pac 12 or SEC. The 2022-23 non-conference schedule already looks vastly different for the Scarlet & Gray.

This year, Ohio State features an 11-team non-conference slate, against teams from many conferences the Buckeyes missed last year. There’s at least one SEC matchup, with potentially a second, two guaranteed games against ACC teams and a potential storyline-creating matchup off the court.

Last week, LGHL counted down the top five conference games to watch, and now its the non-conference schedule’s turn. Here they are, with a surprise at No. 5.

5) Nov. 17 at Ohio University

Ok, after all that talk about games against conferences touting multiple NCAA basketball championships, the mighty MAC pops up first. The reason speaks for itself.

Ohio State University versus Ohio University isn’t just good, wholesome, fun. While it elicits memories of mascot sneak attacks, and churns up a rivalry that is far less focused on the court or fields but Ohio pride, there’s recent history between these two sides.

On Nov. 17, 2019, the Buckeyes lost to the Bobcats in Columbus in a close 74-68 battle. The Buckeyes went into halftime up two points before the other Ohio rattled off a 23-point quarter with Ohio State failing to comeback in the fourth.

This season, it shouldn’t be much of a battle, with Ohio State coming off a Big Ten conference co-championship and a favorite to compete again this season. The Bobcats were 15-15 last season, good for ninth place in the Mid-American Conference. It doesn’t guarantee a win though, as history shows.

Off the court, Bobcat fans fall back on the fact that Ohio University, in the beautiful hills of Athens, Ohio, started before the university who owns the word “The.” Its a university that’s in the top 10 of developing journalists, whose alumni stretch across the world. It’s a university of poetry and the arts.

A view of the Peden Stadium covered in snow during snowstorm... Photo by Stephen Zenner/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Adding another fun layer to the game is the location. The Buckeyes will make the one and a half hour trip southeast. Ohio State hasn’t lost a game against an Ohio school since that fateful day in Nov. of 2019. If there’s a chance of that stretch ending, its for a team getting to play at home.

4) Nov. 13 at Boston College

The game four days before the Buckeyes’ trip to Athens is an ACC away-day to Beantown. Boston College played to a 21-12 record last year, beating the likes of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and Virginia along the way.

Not known as a conference power, Boston College brings a unique game for the Buckeyes. Like the contest against the Bobcats, it should be a game that a top-tier Big Ten team wins.

Boston College lost their top two scorers from last season: guard Cameron Swartz and forward Taylor Soule to Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech, respectively. The Swartz loss is especially tough for the Eagles, with the All-ACC guard leading conference scoring in the 21-22 ACC schedule.

This game is the second of the season for the Buckeyes. It follows another matchup that’ll come up later in this list. Depending on how that game goes could also have an impact on this one.

3) Nov. 30 at the University of Louisville

That lone loss for the Buckeyes in their non-conference schedule last season came in the ACC/B1G challenge. Ohio State travelled to Syracuse and walked away with a high-scoring, 97-91 defeat to a rebuilding Orange side.

The Scarlet & Gray’s loss wasn’t indicative to how they’d play against non-conference teams away from Columbus. Ohio State won twice in the NCAA Tournament, including a home game for the LSU Tigers that the Buckeyes dominated in a 79-64 win. The end of November is bringing the intensity of McGuff’s schedule up a whole different notch against the Louisville Cardinals.

Louisville was one win away from the 2022 NCAA Championship game, losing to the eventual champions, the South Carolina Gamecocks. Also, they lost only twice during the regular season last year.

There’s definitely a scenario where the Buckeyes can win this game, although on paper Louisville is the clear favorite. Win, and who knows where this Ohio State team can go entering Big Ten play.

2) Dec. 12 at the University of Oregon (San Diego Invitational)

This game is second on the list, but its not even a game that’s guaranteed. Ohio State won’t know until Dec. 11 if this game will happen, with the Buckeyes part of the four-team San Diego Invitational.

On Dec. 11, the Scarlet & Gray face the University of South Florida Bulls in the first of two games in the quick in-season tournament, a win or loss for the Buckeyes and the same result for the Ducks pits two teams together with some history.

That history lies with Buckeyes guard Taylor Mikesell. The Northeast Ohio native who started her career with the Maryland Terrapins transferred to the Ducks for the 2020-21 season. It was one season where Mikesell didn’t play up to the standard established across high school and college.

NCAA Womens Basketball: Sweet Sixteen-Oregon at Louisville
Taylor Mikesell in the 2021 NCAA March Madness tournmanent, with the Oregon Ducks
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Mikesell moved back to her home state prior to the 2021-22 championship season. With just a couple days before the season tipped, Mikesell became eligible immediately and played an All-Big Ten First Team season, averaging 18.6 points — a career high for the shooting guard.

In March, Mikesell used her extra season of NCAA eligibility, staying with Ohio State. When discussing the situation, Mikesell shared advice for other transfers that could point back to the lone year with the Ducks.

“My advice to someone is to go where they feel appreciated,” said Mikesell. “Go where they’re going to have the chance to showcase themselves as a person and as a player.”

It wasn’t officially connected to Oregon, but its not hard to connect the dots.

1) Nov. 8 vs. the Tennessee Volunteers

No. 1 on the list is a no-brainer. Its not a top-five side like Louisville, but the Volunteers are always a team that brings a challenge. Add the fact that its the lone non-conference game against a top conference in Columbus, adding a likely sea of orange to the Schottenstein Center, makes it a can’t miss.

The Volunteers were a Sweet Sixteen team in the 2022, losing to those Louisville Cardinals 76-64, but are tested with a strong SEC regular season schedule. Tennessee overwhelmingly beat the eventual conference tournament championship winners Texas and Kentucky during the regular season, before slipping up against the latter in the SEC Tournament.

Leading the Volunteers is Lisa Leslie Center of the Year finalist, Tamari Key, who plays a position where the Buckeyes struggled last season. Key averaged 8.1 rebounds and 3.5 blocks per game, and returns for her senior season.

They also return 6-foot-2 guard Jordan Horston. Before suffering a season-ending injury last year, Horston led Tennessee in points, rebounds, assists and steals per game. So, even if the Buckeyes can slow down Key, the trouble doubles with Horston.

An SEC team, in Columbus, for the first game of the regular season brings excitement from all angles in this matchup. Hopefully the Buckeye fans and students can outnumber the orange of Rocky Top.