You absolutely knew it was gonna happen like this.
Every single time Indiana plays Wisconsin in men’s basketball, either here in Bloomington or up in Madison, we’re forced to watch the slop the Big Ten conference is evidently perfectly fine calling “basketball.”
Between the 21-20 score at halftime and the sheer amount of Badger elbows to make contact with the Hoosiers, it was almost worse that you’d expect. It took over ten minutes for either team to score in double figures. Indiana made a single three.
But that’s just what Big Ten basketball is: gross. There’s a reason zero teams have won a national title since the Clinton Administration and it’s obvious to anyone watching the games on a weekly basis.
Things like elbows, shoves, tugging and players rolling around on the floor that would be a foul or worse in any other conference are overlooked here. The officials see it, but it goes uncalled far more often than not.
Teams like Wisconsin, Michigan State, Purdue and others have leveraged the officiating to employ a certain style of play that wins Big Ten titles but holds the conference back when the NCAA Tournament comes around.
Wisconsin in particular has had Indiana’s number in recent seasons. Sunday’s 63-45 win marked the Hoosiers’ first over the Badgers since the 2018-19 season. That makes a double digit home victory that much sweeter.
There’s a lot that can be taken from this game: the performance of Jordan Geronimo, Indiana’s response on defense and whatever it is that the Big Ten allows Wisconsin to do under the guise of playing basketball.
Which is why we have a three things.
But, for a moment, let’s talk about the style of play that Wisconsin had to employ simply to get to the rim. If it wasn’t an NFL form tackle on TJD driving into the paint or the general pushing and grabbing, it was Steven Crowl elbowing Jordan Geronimo in the face on a spin move.
The above instance is not a basketball move. This is not a spin to get past Geronimo. It is using the left and right elbow to hit his face and force him out of the way. It happened because plays like this don’t get called in the conference and Wisconsin’s coaching staff is well aware of that.
Teams like Wisconsin are allowed to beat up on conference foes, which occasionally results in real injuries, to “grind out a win”. It’s a win for Wisconsin but a loss for the Big Ten because it usually means the conference’s better teams go into March with worse seeding and hobbled by injuries.
Then, when these teams get to the tournament themselves, they lose before the second weekend because NCAA refs aren’t having elbows to the face. They’re forced to play an entirely different style that doesn’t work and they lose.
Cool. Fun. Enjoy the Big Ten accolades because that’s the last honor any of these teams are seeing before losing in the NCAA Tournament before the start of the second weekend.
Back to today’s game: it didn’t work. Try as they might, Wisconsin was unable to stop Trayce Jackson-Davis from playing real basketball and dropping 18 points on them. And if the above literal tackle wasn’t enough evidence, it was him simply using his speed to get around [insert Wisconsin defender, don’t forget to do this] under the rim for an easy dunk.
Today was satisfying for many reasons, the least of which not being the fact that elbows didn’t win a basketball game.
More of that, please and thanks.