IU fans have seen this story before. Whether in Madison or at Assembly Hall, the Hoosiers simply cannot seem to figure out Bo Ryan and his Wisconsin Badgers.
Tom Crean was a dominant storyline before the game as he faced an opportunity to score his first win over Ryan as head coach at Indiana and move IU to first place in the conference. Instead Crean fell to 0-9 against Wisconsin in his time at IU in a game that had the Hoosier faithful searching for answers.
Game Takes Odd Turns
The game itself was an odd one from the very beginning, something that had to do with Wisconsin’s style of play – the Badgers are notorious for preferring a style of basketball that was popular before the advent of the shot clock. As significant as that was, other factors contributed to what ended up as a disappointing evening.
The officials, particularly Pat Driscoll, drew the ire of Assembly Hall multiple times throughout the evening as they made a slew of calls that the Indiana crowd disagreed with, to say the least. There were traveling calls, missed traveling calls, blocking fouls, charges and changes of possession throughout the contest that fans heatedly protested. As for their tone and expression, let’s just say that Chuck Crabb reminded the crowd a couple of times that profane chants could garner a technical foul.
The game also featured plenty of more abstract bad breaks for IU. Shots that they normally hit just weren’t falling. Jordan Hulls couldn’t buy a basket for most of the evening, Victor Oladipo – who entered the game shooting a scalding 68% – shot only three of seven from the floor, and Cody Zeller cooled off after a torrid opening half, as he hit one of his seven shots in the second half. Perimeter shots weren’t dropping, and shots at the basket weren’t falling through. There were even two points in the second half where two IU players pursued a rebound and combined to knock the ball to a Wisconsin player.
Crean said afterward that it was tough to win a game when you miss more than 30 shots, and as the game progressed, it became clear that it just wasn’t Indiana’s night.
Crean Searching For Answers Versus Ryan
As touched upon at the top, Crean once again was unable to come up with a win for Indiana against a Bo Ryan-coached team. With the loss, Crean falls to 0-9 against Ryan at Indiana and 3-12 against him for his career.
Before coming to Indiana, Crean and Ryan were head coaches of rival programs – Crean still at Marquette, Ryan at Wisconsin. No love was lost between the two during their time coaching against one another, and Tuesday’s gave an indication that the case may be no different now.
As a video on BTN.com showed, Crean and Ryan’s postgame handshake was decidedly brisk, and didn’t look like the interaction of a couple of men happy to see each other at the conclusion of a hard-fought contest with the winner getting the opportunity to sit atop the conference standings. Crean didn’t address the handshake after the game, and neither did Ryan, but it seems safe to say that both coaches may have had a little extra on board for Tuesday’s game.
The Difference A Year Makes
After an underwhelming second half against Minnesota on Saturday and a wholly ungainly contest against Wisconsin, moving Indiana’s 15-2 record to the back of one’s consciousness and focusing on the team’s recent struggles isn’t too difficult to do. There’s still little more than a month and a half left in this year’s college basketball season, which means that there’s plenty of time for the chinks that have begun to appear in the IU armor to become more apparent and be taken advantage of by well-built opponents.
Perhaps though, taking a look back to last season could serve to allay at least some of those fears. At this point last year, Indiana had just been decimated on the road by a very good Ohio State team and then traveled to Lincoln, Nebraska a few days later. The Hoosiers suffered their ugliest road loss of the season to a Cornhusker team that languished for most of the season near the bottom of the conference.
That IU team cleaned up its act after another tough loss a week later in Ann Arbor and morphed into the team that would finish the season on a tear, go into the Big Dance with momentum and eventually make the team’s first Sweet Sixteen in a decade.
Teams differ on a year-to-year basis, but last year’s team gives hope that if they could overcome a midseason swoon to rally in time for the postseason, then this more experienced team has a chance to do the same. So don’t sound the panic button, Hoosier Nation.
Not yet, at least.