The Badgers are off to their worst start in years, suffering in the vacuum left behind from a loaded core that delivered two straight Final Fours and weathering the resignation of Bo Ryan at midseason, Wisconsin clocks in 36 spots beneath the Hoosiers on KenPom and already has three sub-100 losses on their résumé. If you looked at their profile without the name attached to it, you would conclude that this is the kind of team that Indiana would be expected to dispatch of easily, particularly in Assembly Hall. After all, similarly-ranked Creighton made the trip to Assembly Hall this year, and were beaten down by 21 points.
But, on the other hand, this is Wisconsin. There are dark forces at work here. Indiana has a long way to go after a non-conference schedule that was a massive comeback against Notre Dame away from being an abject failure, both in terms of their résumé and with their eye test. On Tuesday night, they can't do much to improve the former, but they could really generate some good will in terms of the latter. If they want to prove that this year has a chance to be different, that there is tangible growth and improvement happening with this roster, you have to beat the team you haven't been able to figure out when they're as down as Wisconsin is right now.
"This is a very tough outcome for our Indiana team, but most importantly for James," said IU Coach Tom Crean. "He is establishing himself as one of the most elite guards in the country this season. I feel terrible for him and he has a tough road ahead of him but it is one he has been down before and we fully believe that this process will lead him to have an incredible future in the game at Indiana and well beyond. We look forward to helping him with his full recovery and I know he appreciates everyones thoughts, prayers and concerns."
In one sense, it feels right for Ryan to leave because this year's team has played so unlike a Bo Ryan team. If we have to transition, as a fan, I don't mind doing it all at once as long as there's a good chance of a rebound. I think Ryan's departure was made more palatable because he fired a retirement warning shot over the summer. When Dick Bennett retired abruptly after a win over Maryland in 2000 it was much more shocking. Knowing Greg Gard has the full support of Ryan and has been influenced by Bo as much as any other coach, he is (and should be) a serious candidate to take over full time. Right now, I'd say he has the best odds to get the job even if he's not Barry Alvarez's first choice. Gard, Tony Bennett and maybe one other wild card candidate will probably be the extent of the serious options.
Indiana Athletics often shouted the "POSITIONLESS BASKETBALL GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS" message from the mountaintops (or the SID's office, whatever) before the season. Ignoring the fact that creating such an unrealistic expectation among fans is borderline PR malpractice, the beauty of what the Golden State Warriors have done with positionless basketball is their work on the defensive end. The pieces fit together beautifully and in a complimentary manner -- from shooting, to bench contributors, to defensive big guys. It then becomes a beautiful, high-paced basketball concerto that is complete on both ends. Rolling the balls out, tossing a bunch of shooters on the floor, and calling it POSITIONLESS BASKETBALL is, well, not that. It's just failing to attempt to fit a roster together in a complimentary manner, crapping in your hand, flinging it a the wall, and WELP HOPE THIS WORKS. This is what, at times, Indiana has looked like in the 2015-16 season.