Ohio State women’s basketball coach Kevin McGuff is not one to overstate things.
His message is typically one of focus and day-to-day preparation. He has driven home a mindset of not overlooking opponents during Ohio State’s nine-game win streak and said he doesn’t look at NCAA Tournament projections because what happens in March is out of his team’s control in February.
But it would be silly, McGuff said, to pretend that Ohio State’s home matchup tonight with No. 2 Maryland (26-1, 14-0 Big Ten) is not a big game.
“Our kids know what’s at stake, so I’ll be confident we’ll have two great days of practice and we’ll be prepared to play,” McGuff said before the weekend. “It’s a great opportunity against a great team, but we have to stay within ourselves and just kind of do the things that make us good.”
Both teams will have one Big Ten regular-season game to play after today, but what’s likely at stake for No. 12 Ohio State (23-5, 13-1) is a share of the Big Ten regular-season title and the Big Ten tournament’s top seed.
The Buckeyes have not been included in the selection committee’s first two top-16 NCAA Tournament seed announcements. A win against Maryland would go a long way in improving Ohio State’s stock as well as its confidence with postseason play rapidly approaching.
It also would serve as a needed measurement against one of the nation’s best offensive teams. The Terrapins have won 14 straight and rank first in Division I with 90 points per game. Maryland is the first ranked team to face Ohio State since the Buckeyes visited top-ranked Connecticut on Dec. 19.
“I think it would be a big boost, and it’s not going to be like that game defines the season one way or another, win or lose, but it would certainly be a measuring stick at this point in the year,” McGuff said. “It will really give us an idea of making sure we pinpoint things we have to improve upon as we head towards March.”
With leading rebounder Stephanie Mavunga likely still sidelined with a right foot injury, the Buckeyes will need continued rebounding help from forwards Tori McCoy, Alexa Hart and Makayla Waterman as well as from a few guards against a long Maryland team. The Terrapins rank third nationally with 46.4 rebounds per game.
A key to tonight’s game, junior guard Kelsey Mitchell said, is staying even-keeled and keeping things simple. As a demonstration of that mindset, she gave a clear but brief rundown of what is on the line against Maryland.
“I mean, it’s obvious that if we want to win and we want to have a Big Ten title on our belt, we’re going to have to buckle down here. It starts here,” she said. “There’s no other ifs, ands or buts about it.”