Key offensive players

The Buckeyes bring back their go-to scorer in senior guard Kelsey Mitchell, twice the Big Ten Player of the Year. Mitchell, who averaged 22.6 points as a junior, begins her season needing just 266 points to break Ohio State women’s basketball’s all-time scoring mark. Stephanie Mavunga provides a post presence and redshirt junior guard Sierra Calhoun can lighten Mitchell’s three-point shooting load.


Key defensive players

The Buckeyes were 313th in scoring defense last season and allowed north of 71.5 points per game. Defense again probably will not be a strength, but expect senior Asia Doss to be a strong defensive presence on opponents’ top guards. Stephanie Mavunga, Alexa Hart, Makayla Waterman and Linnae Harper will do the bulk of the rebounding.


Secret weapon

The secret is out on redshirt senior guard Linnae Harper, who averaged 8.4 points and five rebounds in 24 games off the bench last season to earn Big Ten Sixth Player of the Year honors. Harper averaged just 19.2 minutes on a 2016-17 team that had 10 players in its rotation, but she will see that number increase. Harper said her three-point shooting (36.1 percent last season) was a focus during the offseason. If that improves, she’ll make things even more difficult for Big Ten defenses.


Biggest offseason move

Replacing Shayla Cooper will be a challenge for the Buckeyes, but Alexa Hart and Makayla Waterman are experienced enough to log meaningful minutes at a forward position that created a matchup problem for most opponents last season.


Pressure is on …

Kelsey Mitchell. Against the best teams in the country, the Buckeyes will live and die by the shooting hand of Mitchell. The Buckeyes have plenty of leadership and experience to go around but will need Mitchell to hit some big shots. She’ll play away from the ball more this season; if Mitchell can find and sink more open looks from three-point range and improve on a 36.1 three-point shooting percentage, she’ll give the Buckeyes a chance against ranked opponents.


Key stretch

The Buckeyes will know by the end of November who they are and how much work they have to do. Stanford visits Friday, Louisville comes to town Sunday and Ohio State travels to Duke on Nov. 30 for the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. A key Big Ten game at Maryland won’t happen until Jan. 22.


Stats that must change

Ohio State allowed 266 three-pointers and a 33.8 percent three-point field-goal percentage last season, which ranked 290th in Division I. The Buckeyes need to put up more of a fight to close out along the perimeter, especially against marquee opponents.


Bottom line

One last ride. Eight of the 11 players on Ohio State’s roster are redshirt juniors, seniors or redshirt seniors, meaning that most of the Buckeyes have more than 100 games to draw from. The Buckeyes return four of their five leading scorers from last season and are more than aware that the Final Four is in Columbus. It’s now or never for this experienced group.


Buckeyes go dancing if …

They avoid lengthy injuries. A deep roster last season allowed the Buckeyes to weather the storm during Stephanie Mavunga’s weeks-long foot injury. With a rotation of seven or eight players, the Buckeyes can’t afford to be without two or more key offensive contributors for more than a couple of weeks.


Buckeyes suffer if …

Early foul trouble becomes a trend. The rest of the Big Ten knows the Buckeyes don’t have a deep frontcourt core, and Ohio State will have to either get creative or play small in the event that Mavunga, Hart and Waterman pick up early fouls.


Where do they end up?

33-5 overall, 15-1 and first in the Big Ten, Elite Eight


— Andrew Erickson