Deane Webb wants to make sure that Ohio will be fully prepared for what he expects to be a competitive season in the Mid-American Conference.
So the fifth-year coach didn't want his team to have any easy stretches in the non-conference portion of the Bobcats' 2018 schedule, which was released on Monday. Ohio is set to play four teams from 2017 NCAA Championship qualifiers and six teams from the top 100 of the Ratings Percentage Index in 2017.
"Our team is working hard right now to prepare for this opportunity, and I look forward to seeing our team compete against some very physical teams during the first month of play," Webb said in a press release from the athletic department. "This schedule will prepare our team for what should be a very competitive season in the MAC. MAC teams, overall, were very young last year, so seeing several teams that graduated very few, if any, starters should make for an increase conference-wide in level of play."
Here are some notable opponents Ohio has in the first two months of the season.
Pittsburgh — August 18
Even Ohio's lone preseason match should be difficult. The Panthers won a share of the Atlantic Coast Conference title for the first time in program history last season and advanced to the second round of the 2017 NCAA Championship.
It's just the preseason, but this could be a telling match about how successful Ohio can be in 2018.
at Ohio State — August 25
The Bobcats will play their in-state rivals for the first time since 2014 in their first non-conference tournament of the season in Columbus.
Ohio beat Ohio State 3-1 the last time they met, and the Bobcats should be able to notch another victory; the Buckeyes went 15-16 in 2017.
at Nebraska — August 31
Ohio will play its toughest opponent of 2018 just four games into its regular season.
The Cornhuskers won their second national championship in the last three years in 2017. With just seven losses in the previous two seasons and no losses at home since Oct. 1, 2016, Nebraska has cemented itself as the best team in the nation.
A win for Ohio would already make 2018 a memorable season. A loss would just add the Bobcats to a long list of teams who have fallen to the Cornhuskers' dynasty.
Samford — Sept. 7
The Bobcats play their first regular season game at The Convo to begin the Bobcat Invitational early at 10 a.m. The Bobcats have beaten Samford twice in the past two years.
at Missouri — Sept. 15
Ohio will end its non-conference schedule at the Mizzou Invitational against Missouri, who advanced to the 2017 NCAA Championship Regional Semifinals. The Tigers went 22-12 last season and ranked No. 27 in the RPI.