Just when you thought it was safe to look at Iowa's basketball schedule ...
After the murderer's row of Indiana, Michigan and Michigan State to start the Big Ten season, it seemed like the Hawkeyes were back among the land of the normal. They went to Northwestern, and vanquished the Wildcats by 20 points. Then they come home for Wisconsin Saturday night, and Wisconsin is good, but no heavyweight.
That's right, the Badgers are alone atop the Big Ten at 4-0 after doing the highly unexpected and winning at second-ranked Indiana Tuesday night, 64-59. That was three days after they walloped Illinois in Madison, 74-51.
That's 11 straight wins for Wisconsin over Indiana, by the way. It's also a reminder that you never, ever underestimate Bo Ryan's program. Never. Ever.
Ryan is in his 12th season as the Badgers' coach, and his teams have never finished lower than fourth in the Big Ten and never failed to make the NCAA tournament. That, folks, is incredible. Especially since he hasn't exactly operated a factory for future NBA players. Three current NBA players went to Wisconsin, and only Devin Harris is a starter.
Wisconsin won 30 games in 2006-2007 and 31 in 2007-2008. Ryan's Big Ten record is a ridiculous 136-54. And here we go again.
If you saw the Wisconsin-Indiana game, you know which team imposed its will and style of play on the other. The Badgers were doing what they do. They work the clock on offense for good shots. They have a balanced offense. They play strong defense. They don't turn the ball over. They had just eight turnovers against Indiana. Their season-average is 8.9, the lowest of all 345 Division I teams.
Indiana entered Tuesday's game averaging a nation-leading 87.1 points a game. But transition baskets weren't there for the taking against Wisconsin. Indiana had a total of 3 points in transition. Three.
"’I'm still extremely upset about the three points they got in transition,” Ryan said. He was joking. Probably.
Wisconsin senior forward Mike Brusewitz was especially good copy after Tuesday's win. He said:
"I know we've got a bunch of mean guys in that locker room that won't quit and are tough and gritty.
"I'll hoop with these guys any where in the country. I don't care if it is on blacktop. I don't care if it's snowing.
"I'll play with any of these guys because they're mean and they want to win. And they know how to win."
Now they'll try to show what they know Saturday at Iowa City. You need every win in this league. But if Iowa loses this one, it's 1-4 in the league heading to Ohio State next Tuesday.
Here's what Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery said about the Hoosiers on Wednesday:
"They played tough, they played smart, they didn't turn it over, they made shots, they made shots when they needed to, they rebounded, they got ahead. I think that helped, especially when you're on the road and you want to get ahead. That's an experienced team. Very few teams are that experienced. They've got three senior starters in the front line, two fifth-year seniors, junior guard, sophomore guard. It's an experienced team."
But unlike Indiana, Iowa does have recent success against Wisconsin. The Hawkeyes swept their two games against the Badgers last season.