How Ohio State replaces Madison Greene, without Jacy Sheldon to lean on
For the second season in a row, the No. 3 Ohio State women's basketball team is facing the same problem.
After Madison Greene suffered a knee injury just prior to the 2021-22 season, the Buckeyes were forced to accommodate the loss of one of their key leaders — and their starting point guard. In Greene's place, Jacy Sheldon took on the majority of the point guard responsibilities and helped lead Ohio State to a share of the Big Ten title while earning a slew of individual honors.
On Dec. 21, just over 13 months after her initial injury, Greene once again suffered a season-ending knee injury. But this time, the injury problems are compounded for the Buckeyes. Sheldon hasn't played since Nov. 30 and is week-to-week with a lower leg injury.
Sheldon began the season as the starting point guard, but when her injury issues began, Greene stepped back into the starting point guard role. The Buckeyes now have neither of them available, and Sheldon's return doesn't look to be anytime soon.
"It's a huge challenge," coach Kevin McGuff said. "Not only are they both incredible players, two of our best players and leaders, but they’re also playing a specific position that’s incredibly important in the point guard spot."
Entering this season, McGuff believed that the Buckeyes had more depth than they'd had in recent years, primarily at forward, but at guard as well with Greene's return.
"We’ll certainly be a little deeper than we’ve been," McGuff said before the season. "Hopefully, that translates into positive things."
Through the first seven games of the season, from the season opener to Louisville on Nov. 30, it did. Ohio State regularly used as many as nine players and had a much deeper rotation than last season. The first blow to that depth was Sheldon's injury, and Greene's injury has subsequently all but eliminated the increased depth McGuff was looking forward to utilizing.
Rikki Harris, who came off the bench in the first 12 games, has started the last three and played a season-high 35 minutes in a win over No. 14 Michigan on Saturday. Elevating Harris to a starting role means that the other bench guards, most prominently Hevynne Bristow, have also seen a corresponding increase in their own roles.
"We’ve already seen people step up in ways," sophomore Emma Shumate said. "Hevynne and Rikki have been great off the bench and ready to go, played big roles in our wins."
Though the Buckeyes have yet to stumble on the court, at 15-0 and 4-0 in the Big Ten before facing Minnesota on Thursday at 8 p.m. ET in Minneapolis, the margin for error is slimmer now without Sheldon and Greene. And as Ohio State adjusts — yet again — to not having Greene, and with Sheldon's return not on the horizon, the expectations will rise for the rest of the roster.
"There’s obviously some strategic that decisions we have to make," McGuff said. "Fortunately, we have Rikki who has great basketball IQ and knowledge. She can really play almost any position. We’re relying on her quite a bit right now. Also moving Taylor Mikesell around a little bit. Those guys are kind of shouldering the point guard duties, but everybody kind of has to really be on point.
"Sometimes, when you have the amount of players that we had when the season started, a couple people could have an off night and you could still win. That’s not really the case right now. The people that are playing need to be good."