COVID-19 has brought the sports world to a halt as the NBA, MLB, NHL and MLS all suspended their seasons as a result of the outbreak.
It was originally decided that both the men’s and women’s NCAA basketball tournaments would be played without a crowd, but the NCAA decided to fully cancel both tournaments, along with all other winter and spring athletic championships, Thursday.
Ohio State women’s basketball was poised to make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament. It was playing the best basketball it had all season, closing the regular season with seven wins out of its past nine games, as well as a runner-up finish in the Big Ten Tournament.
“It’s heartbreaking because I feel like our team played the best basketball we had all season in the past two weeks,” sophomore forward Dorka Juhasz said. “We were really excited to play and see where we could get.”
Juhasz was one of the Big Ten Tournament’s best players, earning herself a spot on the all-tournament team with averages of 12.7 points and 11.7 rebounds per game.
Despite the heartbreak, both Juhasz and Ohio State head coach Kevin McGuff agreed with the NCAA’s decision to cancel the tournament.
“The NCAA Tournament was canceled for all the right reasons,” McGuff said. “Keeping our players and staff safe, and putting the safety of the general public first was the absolute right decision.”
While the Buckeyes will lose out on the experience gained by playing in the NCAA Tournament, they are in a better position than most teams moving forward.
Ohio State is one of the youngest teams in the country, as it graduates just one senior this season in forward Savitha Jayaraman. She played in just one game this season as she was sidelined due to a back injury.
The Buckeyes will return much of the same team next year, with six current freshmen in the usual rotation.
“We’re more fortunate than some other programs in that we had all underclassmen outside of [Savitha],” McGuff said. “So we have a lot of people that can come back, and we can take the momentum we had at the end of the year and try to carry that over and do something special next season.”
While the Buckeyes look ahead, the Big Ten has temporarily prohibited on- and off-campus recruiting. This provides a different challenge when it comes to adding prospective talent, McGuff said.
“It’s such an uncharted territory,” McGuff said. “We’re formulating ideas right now just to make sure that we stay on top of the recruiting aspect of the program.”
McGuff said his staff will rely on phone communication with its top prospects to remain in contact.
McGuff said the players will return home for the time being, but even that raises complications for Juhasz and fellow Europeans Aixa Wone Aranaz and Rebeka Mikulasikova, who hail from Hungary, Spain and Slovakia, respectively.
The United States announced travel restrictions from Europe that went into effect Friday, and the European Union announced a 30-day ban on nonessential travel into Europe Monday. However, McGuff said the staff is working closely with the Office of International Affairs at Ohio State to get the three players back to their home countries.
With the prolonging of the offseason, Juhasz said she feels that the Buckeyes can use this time to work on themselves individually.
“I think all of us can take time to focus on ourselves,” Juhasz said. “I’ve talked to my teammates about it and everybody is on the same page.”
McGuff said he is using the extra time off to be at home with his family and begin preparations for next season.