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This week in the Big Ten: Defending-champion Ohio State opens with tough matchups against South Florida, UConn

Plus, this week’s Big Ten games featuring ranked teams and some early injury news out of Iowa City.

NCAA Womens Basketball: Big Ten Conference Tournament-Ohio State vs Maryland
Ohio State’s Makayla Waterman led the Buckeyes in rebounds (10) and blocks (2) in the team’s Oct. 28 exhibition win over Indiana University of Pennsylvania.
Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

Ohio State wasn’t picked to repeat as conference champions this season. And before they even get a chance to prove to the rest of their conference that they can hoist the trophy once more, they’ll have to prove themselves in the first week of the season against the two top teams in the American Athletic Conference: No. 22 South Florida and No. 2 UConn.

The Buckeyes will get something of a break in between games, hosting Detroit Mercy on Nov. 9, but a jam-packed first week of play means multiple early tests for a team looking to come back from losing Kelsey Mitchell to the WNBA and bowing out of the NCAA Tournament much earlier than expected.

Ohio State had both the blessing and curse of playing an incredibly early exhibition game Oct. 28 against Div. II Indiana University of Pennsylvania, which they won 72-50. While the Buckeyes’ balanced scoring effort — four players scored in double figures — suggested they’re on the right track to figuring out life without Mitchell, the first half left something to be desired, as cold shooting left them with just a five-point lead at halftime.

With over a week to regroup from that showing for the first of many RPI-boosting games this season, the Buckeyes must continue to rely on their balanced scoring as the new season unfolds. That is, if they want to exceed expectations and compete for a conference title.

Buckeyes in action

Ohio State Buckeyes vs. No. 22 South Florida Bulls

When: Tuesday, Nov. 6, at 7 p.m. ET

Where: Value City Arena, Columbus, OH

How to watch: BTN Plus

Notes: This is USF’s first game of the season (exhibition or otherwise). So, between Ohio State playing on their home floor and having a game behind them already, the Buckeyes have a real chance to disrupt USF’s preseason ranking.

Ohio State Buckeyes at No. 2 UConn Huskies

When: Sunday, Nov. 11, at 12 p.m. ET

Where: Gampel Pavilion, Storrs, CT

How to watch: CBS Sports Network

Notes: Far be it for the Buckeyes to throw in the towel before tip, but it’s hard to ignore, first, that the Huskies haven’t lost at Gampel Pavilion since 2013 and, second, that their last loss in this arena came to this year’s preseason No. 1, Notre Dame.

Elsewhere in the Big Ten

  • No. 9 Maryland hosts Coppin State on Friday, Nov. 9, then hosts Dayton on Sunday, Nov. 11 (both on BTN Plus).
  • No. 13 Iowa has an exhibition on Tuesday against Dakota Wesleyan, but their first game that counts is against Oral Roberts on Friday, Nov. 9 (BTN Plus).
  • In other Iowa news, preseason All-Big Ten pick Kathleen Doyle is out 4-6 weeks with a broken hand sustained in practice Friday.
  • Northwestern and Penn State both host ranked opponents on Sunday, with No. 21 Duke visiting the Wildcats (BTN) and No. 24 California visiting the Nittany Lions (BTN Plus).

Full Week 1 schedule