The Big Ten Women's teams all went undefeated against weak competition in the opening round of games, except Rutgers, who lost to a 2014-15 NCAA tournament team, the Seton Hall Pirates, and the Ohio State Buckeyes, who went winless against what are possibly the two best teams in the country.
Since it's early, we're going to be conservative in our assessments. Most of the wins were against weak competition. As fun as it was to watch the Indiana Hoosiers blow out the Tennessee State Lady Tigers, they might still be a mess (Update: Indiana upset #24 Chattanooga Tuesday night. This team might be really good!); and as ugly as OSU's loss to Connecticut was, it's too early to write them off. Let's focus on what we know to be true.
Big Ten Co-Players Of The Week: Mikayla Bailey (MIN) and Kahleah Copper (RUT)
Our first Big Ten Players of the Week are both expanding their range.
The Minnesota Golden Gophers got a spark from Mikayla Bailey off the bench on the way to a 98 - 54 romping over the Wolford Terriers. Bailey had 13 rebounds to go along with her career-high 26 points. She hit 6 of 11 threes; last year, she shot only 28.3% behind the arc. Minnesota's hoping the senior guard has figured something out with her stroke.
Senior Kahlea Copper had 30 points, 10 rebounds and 4 steals for the Rutgers Scarlet Knights, but the eye-popping number is 3 for 3. That was her rate from beyond the arc against the Saint Joseph's Hawks; those 3 three-pointers were the first, second, and third three-pointers she's made in her stellar collegiate career.
Against the Seton Hall Pirates, Copper was 0-2 from long range.
Freshman Of The Week Is No Surprise
Jessica Shepard is too damn fast and too damn big. The Arkansas-Pine Bluff Golden Lions were helpless to stop her; if they didn't foul her, she made her shots, and if they did foul her, she made enough free throws to make them pay. On only 16 field goal attempts she netted 24 points, to go along with her 13 rebounds, 3 steals and 3 assists. She is poised to be next week's freshman of the week, too, and every other week the Nebraska Cornhuskers don't face a superior big.
What's Wrong With The Ohio State Buckeyes?
Nothing, except that they've faced elite competition on the way to their 0-2 start, and the Buckeyes do not appear to be an elite team themselves. The opener against the #2 ranked South Carolina Gamecocks was at least competitive. Kelsey Mitchell had 36 points while going 4-9 from three, and the Buckeye's led for much of the game.
The home opener against the Connecticut Huskies... not so much. The final score, 100-56, would be difficult to accomplish on the easiest setting of a game of NBA2K.
The Buckeyes' biggest issue is their post defense, or lack thereof. Granted, they faced two of the best post scorers in the country in South Carolina's A'ja Wilson and Connecticut's Breanna Stewart, who combined for 44 points and 23 rebounds over the two games. Both Wilson (6'5") and Stewart (6'4") were too tall for Ohio State's interior defenders. Alexa Hart (6'3") and Shayla Cooper (6'2") are fast, long, and athletic, but they are getting pushed around, and have now fouled out of one game each.
Ohio State wants to play like another undersized team with an elite point guard who can rain fire from beyond the arc: The Golden State Warriors, who started the 6'7" Draymond Green in last year's finals. The difference? Golden State had the nation's best defense, and right now Ohio State is not even close.
That's it for the season-opening Women's Weekend Roundup. Call me cautious. Call me conservative. Call me idiotic for placing Ohio State number one in the Way Too Early Power Rankings (Maryland Terrapin fans called me worse than that.) But if there's one lesson I'm taking away from week one, it's that, in the great game of basketball, it's helpful to be tall. Who knew?