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Scary Sundays, blistering final games, more in Ohio State women’s basketball’s Big Ten schedule

We break down the weekend favorites, a tough stretch, and the biggest matchups.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: MAR 04 Ohio State vs Indiana Photo by Bailey Hillesheim/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Until the Ohio State women’s basketball season tips off in Las Vegas, Nevada on Nov. 6, Land-Grant Holy Land has coverage from all angles. Follow along for player previews, schedule release information and stories from the coaches and players themselves — all getting you ready for the start of the season when the Buckeyes take on the USC Trojans in Sin City.

The Ohio State women’s basketball conference schedule is live. While it's only one piece of the 2023-24 story, it’s a big one for a Big Ten on the rise. In it are seven 2023 NCAA teams, two sides that made it to the Elite Eight, the national runner-up, and the Naismith Player of the Year. As the conference grows, so does the excitement.

Here is more about Ohio State’s place in the conference, and its road to a potential 15th regular season conference title.

Loaded Sundays

We’re not talking ice cream here, although it's just as appetizing. Ohio State has seven Sunday games, five in back-to-back weeks, putting the Buckeyes in potential national television spots. Head coach Kevin McGuff’s side faces the Michigan State Spartans twice and the Purdue Boilermakers in the Sunday timeslot for likely Big Ten Network slots.

The games that stick out the most from the weekend games are the Indiana Hoosiers, Maryland Terrapins, and two against the reigning conference season and tournament champions: The Iowa Hawkeyes. More on the second one in a little bit.

Of the seven, four will take place in the Schottenstein Center, giving the Buckeyes homecourt advantage. It’ll be the Spartans (Jan 14), Hawkeyes (Jan 21), Hoosiers (Feb 4) and Terrapins (Feb 25). Unfortunately for Ohio State, it only beat those schools once in six regular season appearances in the 22-23 campaign.

Iowa Double

The most challenging piece of the Buckeyes’ conference slate is the Iowa Hawkeyes. This is no slight to the defending Big Ten regular season champions, the Indiana Hoosiers, but Iowa and superstar guard Caitlin Clark showed last postseason that they’re the most formidable team in the conference.

There was the tough day for the Buckeyes when Clark went off for 30 points, 17 assists, and 10 rebounds in the 105-72 humbling in the Big Ten Tournament championship game. Then Iowa made it all the way to the National Championship game, beating the No. 1 seeded South Carolina Gamecocks on the way to a second-place finish.

Iowa had some humbling of its own in the title game, losing 102-85 to the LSU Tigers. Clark still scored 30 points but was held to eight assists and only two rebounds.

A roster like Iowa seems like an ideal landing spot for the transfer portal, but this offseason head coach Lisa Bluder and the Hawkeyes were silent. Instead of adding, Iowa lost guard McKenna Warnock and forward Monika Czinano, each playing out their eligibility. This season sets up for Ohio State to change the narrative of losing to big teams.

On two Sundays in 2024, the nation will get to see how the Buckeyes have grown, facing the Hawkeyes on January 21 and March 3. They first played in Columbus and then in Iowa City.

Where Iowa’s lost leadership and its dominant post presence, the scarlet and gray have stacked up in those departments. ACC Defensive Player of the Year Celeste Taylor brings the eighth-best defensive rating in the nation and a long list of experience in the NCAA of leading young teams. The graduate senior joining from Duke is the likely choice to head up the defense of Clark to not completely stop but at least slow down.

In the paint, the Buckeyes added Taiyier Parks; the former Michigan State forward wh specializes in offensive rebounds. Each of Parks’ last three years in East Lansing ended with the forward ranking in the top 10 in the conference in offensive rebounds. That’ll help an Ohio State side that finished ninth in the Big Ten in that department last season.

Plus, there’s two-fold motivation for the Buckeyes. First, it was the Hawkeyes who ended the team’s record 19-0 start to the season and the celebrating by Clark following the game. After Iowa beat Ohio State on its home court, the guard grabbed one of the “dub chain” promotional shirts and slung it over her shoulder as she walked off the court.

Iowa Hawkeye celebrate Big Ten women’s championship basketball title Photo by Elizabeth Flores/Star Tribune via Getty Images

Then that Big Ten Women’s Basketball Tournament final. This one wasn’t a bulletin board material moment like the home defeat was, it was a straight-up shellacking. A day after coming back from a 24-point deficit to the Indiana Hoosiers, the Hawkeyes dismantled the Buckeyes in no uncertain terms.

Ohio State has a chance this year to right those moments, and they have it in themselves. In 2022, the Buckeyes went to Iowa City and beat the Hawkeyes on their own court, which went a long way in earning both teams a share of the Big Ten regular season title. This year it might come down to repeating that moment because that March 3 matchup is on the final day of the season.

Conference Opener

The Penn State Nittany Lions, a historically strong basketball team, have not played up to that history for years. This season is the 10-year anniversary of the last time Penn State even made the NCAA Tournament. This season, they have a tougher road facing the Buckeyes twice, with the two sides tipping off the Big Ten calendar against each other on December 10.

This time around, the Nittany Lions might be closer to those teams of old than the teams of recent memory and they have a chance to buck Ohio State’s conference season right away. It might not be a notable game on paper for scarlet and gray fans, but if Penn State is circling games, Ohio State gets a couple of times around with the pen.

Penn State returned forward Leilani Kapinus, an All-B1G Defensive Team selection. This summer, the forward played with the Team USA 3x3 team, taking home silverware with the Red, White, and Blue. That kind of international experience is invaluable in the NCAA, look no further than Ohio State’s own forward Cotie McMahon.

Often during the Ohioan’s freshman season, coach McGuff referenced McMahon’s time with Team USA U19 as a reason why she could start the first game of the season against the Tennessee Volunteers and continue to start through the entire season. Kapinus built her own international experience to an already established NCAA level of play. The forward will be a handful against the scarlet and gray.

Kapinus is also dangerous because she plays alongside fellow veteran guard Makenna Marisa. Marisa is a two-time All-B1G First Team selection and last season almost shocked the Buckeyes in the lone matchup. In the fourth quarter, with Ohio State leading by 29 points, Marisa went off. The Pennsylvania native scored 18 points in the last 10 minutes of the game. Although Ohio State still won by 12 that night, it showed how Marisa is a game-changer.

Both are great, but Penn State hasn’t really pushed for a postseason berth even with them over the past few seasons. However, now they have All-American Ashley Owusu.

The former Maryland Terrapin, who spent a single season with the Virginia Tech Hokies, returned to the Big Ten in a surprise move to Happy Valley. Just two years ago, Owusu was lighting up the conference and nation to the tune of 17.9 points, 5.9 assists, and 5.6 rebounds per game. In that season, Owusu lit up Ohio State too, scoring 33 points, 9 assists, and 6 rebounds.

Then there was the 2020 Big Ten Women’s Basketball Tournament final. Owusu scored 17 points on top of 11 assists and six rebounds to push Maryland over Ohio State. Those numbers were as a freshman.

Big Ten Women’s Basketball Tournament - Championship Photo by G Fiume/Maryland Terrapins/Getty Images

Over the past two seasons, Owusu has battled injury and a peculiar situation at Virginia Tech where the guard seemed to have fallen out of favor with head coach Kenny Brooks. After returning from injury, Owusu’s minutes vanished. In Seattle, when the Buckeyes fell to the Hokies, Owusu didn’t play a single minute and appeared listless in general.

A move to Penn State, and a clean bill of health, could push Owusu in the guard’s final season of NCAA eligibility. Time will tell how the Nittany Lions gel in the non-conference schedule, but if the program can respond, it could push the Big Ten up to eight teams in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in conference history.

The Final Stretch

Land-Grant Holy Land has to hand it to the Big Ten schedule creators, because they stacked the final 11 days of the season for some of the biggest Buckeye games of the year, back-to-back-to-back-to-back.

The run starts on February 22 against the aforementioned Nittany Lions. It could be a team that’s roaring or whimpering at that point of the season, but again the potential is there. Then three days later, it’s one of two straight home games. The first comes against the Maryland Terrapins.

Although the Mid-Atlantic side lost two stellar guards in Diamond Miller and Abby Meyers to the WNBA, the Terrapins don’t rebuild, they retool. Maryland features Ohio native Shyanne Sellers who is likely to leap into the next Miller for head coach Brenda Freese. Sellers is an All-B1G First Team player and made the All-B1G Defensive Team to boot. The junior now has command of the team, which should scare the conference.

In the penultimate game, it's the return leg of Ohio State v. Michigan. The Wolverines are the second and second-to-last game of the conference schedule and even though Michigan lost stars in Leigha Brown, Emily Kiser, and Maddie Nolan, it’s a rivalry game. It could also be a trap game for the Buckeyes who will take off for Iowa City for the final conference regular season game of the year, against the Hawkeyes. That all depends on how Michigan responds to the number of players lost this offseason.

Should Ohio State survive that run, and even win out, it’s a huge bump into the postseason.