Ohio State women’s basketball feeling motivated despite one-year postseason ban

Jacob Myers
Buckeye Xtra
Ohio State guard Jacy Sheldon (4) believes she and her teammates will find motivation this season in a one-year NCAA Tournament ban for recruiting violations.

The coronavirus pandemic halted an eventual NCAA Tournament bid last spring for the Ohio State women’s basketball team before sidelining the Buckeyes in mid-December for two weeks and negating all the progress they had made in the offseason.

A little over a week after a COVID-19 outbreak shut down the program, the Buckeyes were dealt another blow when they learned a trip to the 2021 NCAA Tournament would have to wait another season because of a self-imposed postseason ban due to NCAA violations.

The Buckeyes could have hung their heads upon their return to the court but quite the opposite was evident on Monday in an 82-69 victory over Penn State their first game in 25 days. Ohio State showed a level of resiliency that they hope becomes a hallmark to their performance the rest of the season. 

“I think all of us, it just motivates us a little more,” sophomore guard Jacy Sheldon said. “You always want to win but I think you want to win a little extra when you hear that news. I think we did that (Monday) and I think we'll continue to play like that throughout Big Ten play for the rest of the season.” 

At the start of this season, coach Kevin McGuff said the team was more physically fit than any team he has had at Ohio State, but a number of positive tests forced a two-week pause of all activities beginning Dec. 14. Slapping on the postseason ban was another devastating blow.

Sheldon and guard Madison Greene, two sophomores who make up the core of the Big Ten title contender that McGuff is building in his eighth season, have every reason to be bitter about not getting a chance to make a postseason run. But they’re choosing to channel that energy into a run for a regular-season conference title.

"We were definitely upset by the news, but we're going to use that as motivation to work harder and prove that we're a really great team and we deserve to be in the postseason,” Greene said. “We can't show that this year so hopefully we can just keep working and do it next year.” 

The NCAA cited former assistant coach Patrick Klein for improper recruiting activities and providing financial assistance to players, which also included “problematic relationships between Klein and women's basketball student-athletes.”

The NCAA told Ohio State that its initial offering of self-punishment wasn’t strong enough, which resulted in the athletic department self-imposing a one-year postseason ban.

Ohio State (5-0, 1-0 Big Ten) continues its season Thursday at Illinois (2-4, 0-3) before a home game Sunday against Rutgers. 

There might always be a what-if at the end of this season for the Buckeyes. Despite the postseason ban, the players are finding purpose in their season. 

"This team has great competitive character,” McGuff said. “They really care for each other and I think the biggest thing is they want to play for each other.”

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Ohio State at Illinois

When: 7 p.m. Thursday

TV: Big Ten Network

Radio: WBNS-AM (1460)