Ohio State continues to improve despite a self-imposed postseason ban.
COLUMBUS (AP) -- Two months after Ohio State banned its men's basketball team from the NCAA tournament for violations committed under another coach, there is lingering resentment, anger and confusion by the Buckeyes players.
Team captain Terence Dials said Tuesday that some of his teammates believe Ohio State President Karen Holbrook and athletic director Andy Geiger were premature in imposing the postseason ban.
"Especially since we're a tournament-bound team, we believe, and they took that away from us," Dials said. "I don't think some guys really understand why. A lot of guys feel like maybe they [Ohio State administrators] could have waited a little longer and maybe nothing would have really come of all this."
At the time Holbrook and Geiger announced the self-imposed sanction in early December, the Buckeyes were a struggling team. Give up an NCAA berth? Few people thought the Buckeyes could come close to getting one anyway.
"There were people saying we couldn't win 10 games," swingman J.J. Sullinger said.
But now Ohio State is 16-7 and has won four consecutive Big Ten games heading into tonight's game at Michigan State. In a down year in the conference -- with the clear exception of No. 1-ranked Illinois -- the Buckeyes are one of at least three or four teams that could finish around 20 victories. That would all but assure Ohio State of a spot in the NCAA field -- were it not for the December decision.
"It's tough. It's tough to think about," Dials said. "We're going to be a bunch of sad puppies when March comes."
Geiger maintains that there was no choice, that Ohio State had to get out in front of what the NCAA would eventually have forced upon them.
"It was self-imposed because in our view it was inevitable," Geiger said. "It was thought by all parties involved that it would be better for us to be taking it now."
Ohio State has won each of its last four conference games by double-digit margins. The Buckeyes have road games remaining against Michigan State (15-4), Penn State (7-14), Minnesota (16-6) and Iowa (15-6), along with home contests against Indiana (10-10), Wisconsin (15-5) and Illinois (23-0).
Coach Thad Matta has tried to be positive around his players, avoiding any hint of being critical of the ban while motivating his team.
He cites the words of former UCLA legend John Wooden.
"I'll never forget the answer he gave when he was asked what's wrong with college athletics. He said, 'Too many people put too much into the last game of the year,' " Matta said. "My hope is that these guys enjoy the journey, enjoy the season, because the season is a hell of a lot more important to me than the ending to it."