From now until preseason camp starts in August, Land-Grant Holy Land will be writing articles around a different theme every week. This week is all about our Unreasonable Expectations. You can catch up on all of the Theme Week content here and all of our Unreasonable Expectations here.
Last season, the Ohio State women’s basketball team was down 24 points to the Big Ten regular season champions: The Indiana Hoosiers. What happened next was unpredictable, especially for those that watched the Buckeyes and Hoosiers battle over the past two seasons. Ohio State came back against a team that’s had their number of late, and made history in the process.
It showed the Scarlet and Gray’s potential when the press is working and players are making shots. What happened Sunday was, well, not great for Ohio State. The Hawkeyes, led by guard Caitlin Clark, beat the Buckeyes in an astounding 105-72 title game victory.
For those fans stepping into college basketball just for the postseason, and after a season of hearing about the Buckeyes' No. 2 ranking, it felt like Ohio State was destined for hardware.
Outside of individual accolades for Big Ten Freshman of the Year Cotie McMahon or First Team All-B1G guard Taylor Mikesell, the Scarlet and Gray fell short of lifting up any major trophies.
Even so, Ohio State continued to be in the conversation.
The day of a team winning the regular season and conference tournaments, especially in the Big Ten, might be in the rearview mirror. Even though the Hawkeyes won both in the 21-22 season, they shared the 21-22 regular season title with the Buckeyes after falling to head coach Kevin McGuff’s side in Iowa.
To put it bluntly: the top teams in the conference are too good. Ohio State is in that group of three to four standout programs, albeit not in the top two with the likes of the Hoosiers and Hawkeyes.
Over the past two seasons, the Buckeyes are 2-6 against those two sides, but the field might be evening.
Indiana lost guard Grace Berger to the WNBA, not going too far with a move to the Indiana Fever. Although Indiana added two top-100 players in guards Jules LaMendola and Lenee Beaumont, attempts are luring in transfers like former Iowa State guard Lexi Donarski didn’t end with new experienced players joining the side.
Iowa is in a similar boat, losing center Monika Czinano to the WNBA draft. Now, there’s not too much of a worry behind the impressive post work leaving because Hannah Stuelke, the freshman who won Big Ten Sixth Player of the Year.
Plus the overall loss of talent at Maryland, the third team ahead of Ohio State in the standings last season. The Terrapins lost Diamond Miller and Abbey Miller to the WNBA.
Regardless of these changes, putting pressure on the Buckeyes to step into that top spot has major speed bumps. Their names are Clark and Indiana’s Mackenzie Holmes.
Ohio State’s lone win over the Hoosiers came when Holmes was not 100%, that 24-point comeback where the forward played 29 minutes, 14 in the second half. The forward also missed the next game of the NCAA Tournament before returning for an upset loss to the Miami Hurricanes.
In Iowa’s case, they still have the reigning National Player of the Year Caitlin Clark and role-players like Gabbie Marshall and Kate Martin are both returning.
So, the road still isn’t too easy. Not to mention the Buckeyes lost their leading scorer Mikesell to the Indiana Fever as well.
Now, Ohio State will in the conversation again. Transfers in guard Celeste Taylor, the 22-23 ACC Defensive Player of the Year, and forward Taiyier Parks from Michigan State shore up defensive and rebounding help. They join McMahon, forward Taylor Thierry, and guard Jacy Sheldon, creating a dynamic team, but how that team gels and the health of players like Sheldon who missed most of the 22-23 season, will loom large into the season.
It doesn’t get any easier in the 24-25 season either with the USC Trojans and UCLA Bruins joining the Big Ten too.
As hard as it might be, especially for fans of a school whose entire mood skyrockets and plummets on the perfection of its teams, the Buckeyes are a team that will be a worthwhile side to watch and follow regardless of the number of trophies lifted.