Sixty-four NCAA women’s basketball tournament bids were handed out Monday night, and Ohio State did not receive one.
That did not come as a surprise after the Buckeyes (18-13, 7-9) posted their first sub-.500 Big Ten record in a decade.
Fans who were expecting to watch their favorite team at least one more time in action this season were surprised to learn Ohio State is done playing games until this fall, however.
Head coach Jim Foster confirmed to BuckeyeSports.com that he and members of the OSU administration had concluded it is in the best interest of the program not to continue the season by accepting a WNIT bid.
“We just have a couple kids that have put off some things that they need to have done medically and to ask them to do it a couple more weeks, just to me the players are more important than that,” he said.
Because both arenas on campus will be occupied, the Buckeyes would have faced a road game if they chose to play in the postseason, but Foster said that had not entered his thought process.
St. John Arena will play host to NCAA tournament first- and second-round games this weekend while Value City Arena is the site of the Ohio High School Athletics Association state tournament Thursday-Saturday.
“I wasn’t even thinking about it, but the answer to your question is yes,” he said. “When the NCAA tournament takes over a building, it’s not your building anymore.
“To me (the players) are always first. I feel why make them wait a few more weeks when they’ve already been waiting for a long period of time?”
Citing privacy laws, he opted not to identify who specifically is in need of medical attention.
However, health was a major factor in the Buckeyes’ slide to eighth place in the Big Ten standings and their lowest win total since Foster took over the program prior to the 2002-03 season.
Senior guards Tayler Hill and Amber Stokes both struggled at times, particularly in January when the Buckeyes went 1-5 and fell into last place in the conference.
Hill missed one game and was slowed in several others with an undisclosed illness while a sprained left knee caused Stokes to miss all of four games and part of another.
With the season coming to a close, that duo will have a month to prepare for the WNBA draft scheduled for April 15 from ESPN in Bristol, Conn.
Junior center Ashley Adams played through a quad injury for much of the season, and freshman guard Cait Craft missed the last month with a bad back.
Hill undoubtedly will hear her name called after she led the Big Ten in scoring the past two seasons, and Stokes’ athleticism could make her an intriguing prospect as well. Both were members of the Big Ten all-defensive team the past two seasons with Stokes being named Defensive Player of the Year as a junior.
Ohio State last missed the NCAA tournament in 2002, the third year of a three-year drought that resulted in the firing of head coach Beth Burns and the hiring of Foster, then head coach at Vanderbilt.
The Buckeyes have 21 appearances in the women’s tournament since it began in 1982. They have advanced at least as far as the Sweet 16 on nine occasions, including Elite Eight appearances in 1985 and ’87.
Ohio State made its only Final Four appearance in 1993, when the Buckeyes lost to Texas Tech in the championship game.
Ohio State is undefeated (5-0) all-time in postseason WNIT play. The Buckeyes won the event in their only previous appearance in 2001.