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Ohio State women’s basketball moves to No. 12 in AP Poll

The Buckeyes upset of the then No. 2 ranked Iowa Hawkeyes moves Ohio State closer to preseason ranking

Syndication: The Columbus Dispatch Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK

Since starting the regular season ranked No. 7 in the Associated Press’ weekly basketball poll, Ohio State women’s basketball’s done a yo-yo in the middle of the 25-team pack. After Sunday’s 100-92 overtime win over the then No. 2 Iowa Hawkeyes, the Buckeyes are closer to a top 10 spot, moving to No. 12 in the Jan. 22 poll. The six spot swing is the largest improvement in the top 25.

The AP Poll, which is voted on by the media, is the metric used by the basketball world to determine the best teams in the nation and this season, Ohio State’s dropped because of losses. Albeit against top opponents.

Head coach Kevin McGuff’s side fell out of the top 10 quickly, after dropping the first game of the season against the USC Trojans 83-74, behind 32 points in freshman guard Juju Watkins’ first NCAA game. Then, a week after falling to center Lauren Betts and the UCLA Bruins, the then No. 13 Buckeyes dropped further.

Despite both USC and UCLA sitting at No. 5 and 6 respectively in the latest poll, both teams sole loss being against each other, Ohio State moved down to No. 18, which didn’t last long with a Dec. 30 away defeat to the unranked Michigan Wolverines.

Since the calendar turn to 2024, the Buckeyes look like a new team. Sunday’s win is the fifth in a row for Ohio State. While a win over guard Caitlin Clark and the Hawkeyes is great, it’s icing on a cake featuring victories over a surprise Michigan State Spartans side and an away win against the Maryland Terrapins.

For Iowa, the defeat puts the Hawkeyes down to No. 5, one week after making it to the No. 2 spot. The only other Big Ten team in this week’s top 25 are the Indiana Hoosiers, moving up to No. 14.

Now, AP Poll rankings don’t mean specific placement in the NCAA Tournament. Last season, when the Buckeyes and Hawkeyes faced off on Jan. 23, Ohio State was No. 2 and Iowa was No. 10. With another full month of conference basketball remaining, a lot can shift competitively and in polling. However, wins over ranked teams, or teams receiving votes like the Spartans, show a team on the rise.

In Ohio State’s three wins over Iowa, Michigan State and Maryland, it wasn’t the Buckeyes’ full court press winning games but the half court defense. Against Iowa especially, the scarlet and gray were without two starters for much of the game, due to foul early foul trouble. Guards Celeste Taylor and Taylor Thierry played 24 and 29 minutes respectively. Far less than expected in a top 20 matchup.

A more accurate reading of a team’s strength, that doesn’t include voters determining places, is NET Rankings. Compiling strength of schedule, winning percentage, game venues and more, every NCAA Division I team is ranked based on their performance on the court.

Through Jan. 21, Ohio State sits at No. 14, following the win over the Hawkeyes. Iowa dropped from five to six and Indiana dropped from 10 to 11. Overall, the Big Ten has 7 teams in the top 30, tied with the SEC for the most teams in that stretch of rankings. The Minnesota Golden Gophers sit right outside of those top 30 teams at No. 31.

It shows the depth of the conference this season, and doesn’t include UCLA, USC or Washington State, who are all in the top 30 too, but still with the Pac-12.

Overall, the list shows a strong Big Ten getting stronger. With Ohio State still having games remaining against the Hoosiers, and an away game to the Hawkeyes to end the regular season, expect all of it to change. For now though, the Buckeyes are moving up in college rankings, and the work on the court is getting them there.