It was an Ohio State men’s basketball season with highs that inspired exuberance bellowed loudly from the highest seats in the Schottenstein Center. It was a season with lows that inspired vitriol jeered loudly at the television sets of Buckeye fans far and wide.
In the end there were neither boos nor cheers –– only silence.
The COVID-19 outbreak that has robbed thousands of their lives and millions of their normal livelihood also took from this Ohio State team the chance to pen a final chapter and define its story arc once and for all.
This lost season will not soon be forgotten. In fact, the 2019-20 season may be remembered for far longer than any in recent memory, but not for anything that took place on the hardwood.
It’s what didn’t take place that makes it so noteworthy.
While the NBA still holds on to the glimmer of hope that its season might pick up and continue at some undetermined date, the Big Ten Tournament was canceled for the first time since its inception in 1998, and the NCAA Tournament will not be held for the first time in its 81-year history.
They might be inconsequential relative to the destructive path of the global pandemic, but college athletes took losses of their own due to the cancellations.
The Buckeyes lost out on making a run in the Big Ten Tournament after winning nine of their final 12 games. They lost the opportunity to make it past the second round of the NCAA Tournament for the first time in seven years.
Instead, the closest thing to postseason consolation was the tongue-in-cheek fervor from fans on social media after a Washington Post data-driven tournament simulation projected Ohio State as the surprise national champions.
Aside from the outcomes of games, players like junior forward Kaleb Wesson and senior forward Andre Wesson lost out on sentimental moments they can never get back.
With Kaleb likely leaving for professional opportunities and Andre in his final year at Ohio State, the brothers had no warning that a blowout loss in East Lansing, Michigan, could be their final moment together on the court as Buckeyes.
The pair didn’t get to soak it all in, go out on top or even go down swinging in a final sendoff to put a stamp on their Ohio State careers.
In a whirlwind 24-hour turnaround, the Buckeyes went from addressing the possibility that they may have to play games without spectators to no longer having any games to play at all.
The abrupt end was especially unfortunate for redshirt junior guard CJ Walker, who closed out the regular season on a six-game tear, playing his best basketball of the year. Given his assertions that the team was “built for March,” he seemed poised to stay hot into postseason play.
Walker was going to have the chance to put his talents on display in front of his hometown Indianapolis crowd in the same arena in which he won a high school state championship in 2014.
He quickly lost that chance though, and said the hardest phone call he made was to his late grandmother’s best friend, whom he said doesn’t have many opportunities to see him play.
Ohio State wasn’t impacted more than any other team. It wasn’t favored to win the Big Ten title, let alone the NCAA Tournament. Its roster was not stacked with seniors, as Andre Wesson was the lone fourth-year Buckeye on scholarship.
The Buckeyes didn’t end the year winners or losers of games or championships, but just like every other team and most of the world at the moment, they lost just the same.