Kevin McGuff wouldn’t have chosen to expose his young Ohio State women’s basketball team to this brutal nonconference schedule with games against the Nos. 4, 2 and 1 teams in the country.
The Buckeyes coach believes those games are necessary, but this slate — ahead of a Big Ten schedule that includes five games against ranked opponents — would be a challenge for any veteran team.
Get the news delivered to your inbox: Sign up for our BuckeyeXtra newsletter
"I think we're getting better,” McGuff said. “And that's what these games are kind of exposing — where we have to get better — and we're using that information to really apply it to practice and make sure we improve.”
Ohio State (6-3) travels to California for a pair of games, at No. 1 Stanford (8-0) on Sunday night and at Sacramento State (1-6) on Tuesday night. These games were originally scheduled for last season, but were canceled because of wildfires.
Ohio State has more than held its own in their marquee games, with a win against then-No. 2 Louisville after taking then-No. 4 UConn to the brink. But the Buckeyes have also been inconsistent and are looking to establish an identity that — regardless of the opponent — they will be tough to play against when Big Ten play begins in two weeks.
"I still think we're kind of finding ourselves right now,” guard Janai Crooms said. “But at the same time, I feel like everyone's starting to know their role and doing the things that they do best, and I feel like it's going to all come together as games go on and the season goes on.”
The Buckeyes have struggled to put together quality performances in back-to-back games. Just after battling UConn for 40 minutes, they lost to South Dakota. After beating Louisville, the Buckeyes won but failed to pull away from overmatched Radford.
Crooms said there are areas this team has to clean up, but the defense has begun to lock teams down at key times. Leading by five against Louisville with under four minutes to play, the Buckeyes held the Cardinals to 1-of-10 shooting to preserve the win.
McGuff didn’t expect to be paired with arguably the best team in the Atlantic Coast Conference for the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, and the game against UConn only happened because a television conflict prevented the matchup in 2017.
McGuff said Stanford is one of the deepest, most skilled and well-coached teams in the country. Any result wouldn’t nullify a solid start to the season, but this game should provide another glimpse of where Ohio State is and if it can be a tournament team again.
"We're a really young group, so when we started there was a lot to learn, a lot to get down,” freshman Jacy Sheldon said. “We've gotten better at a lot of things, but we still got a lot of things to get better at.”