Two weeks ago, the Ohio State women’s basketball team was ranked No. 2 in the country after the longest undefeated start to a season in program history. Now, they’ve fallen to No. 10 after dropping three straight games, with back-to-back-to-back conference losses to Iowa, Indiana, and Purdue.
Three losses in a row is a tough pill to swallow for fans of a team that seemed to be having a dream season, winning games even without star guard Jacy Sheldon, who has been out with a foot injury since November 30.
Given the recent turn of events, it might be tempting to call the season a wash and quit paying attention to Buckeye basketball altogether, resigning yourself to a March with less madness and returning to counting the days to football season (especially since the men’s season, for its part, is giving us more sadness than madness).
Where the Ohio State women’s basketball team is concerned, I think that would be a mistake. I’ve gone on the record saying this women’s basketball team is the real deal, and I don’t think three losses negate what they’ve managed to accomplish this season. Losing streaks happen – they happen to really great teams, especially in sports with long seasons like basketball has.
And while losing streaks are never fun, they can also be a hurdle that makes the team stronger. Adversity itself isn’t what makes or breaks a team. In fact, it’s an inevitable part of any season, to differing degrees. The thing that separates champions from has-beens is how they face adversity. Does it make them stronger, motivate them to improve, and bring them together? Or do they crumble and wash their hands of the season?
This women’s team doesn’t strike me as the latter. This is a team that has already faced its share of adversity with injuries early in the season. They know how to work together and fight back. So I don’t think three losses are going to derail everything they’ve worked for.
I do feel obligated to acknowledge that I don’t abide fair weather fans under any circumstances. The only thing I hate more than fair-weather fans are Dodgers fans (and fair-weather Dodgers fans have a special circle of Hell just for them). As a Cubs fan from birth, sports can’t hurt me, so I can’t support abandoning your team when the going gets rough.
With that said, I also deeply understand the desire to turn your attention elsewhere out of self-preservation. Buckeye Nation doesn’t handle losing particularly well in the first place, and it can feel disheartening to invest time, energy and hope in a team only to be let down.
The thing is, though, I don’t think three losses are enough to call the season a letdown. I think it’s a setback. I do think they need to regroup and find a way to shift momentum.
But the season is far from over, and this team is far from a pack of quitters. They are still a top-10 team in the country. They are only two games back from the No. 1 spot in the Big Ten, with three remaining games against the teams ahead of them. The conference tournament has yet to be played. And it sounds like Sheldon will be back on the court soon.
If you want to celebrate the wins with them, you’ve got to be there through the hurdles. If they can overcome this one, they might be nearly unstoppable. This team has more steam left in them – it’s worth sticking around to find out how much.
The Buckeyes play again Wednesday, Feb. 1 at 7:30 p.m. ET at Wisconsin.