No. 4 Wisconsin took down No. 22 Iowa in the first marquee matchup of the Big Ten regular season, erasing an 11-point halftime deficit in the process, and all anyone wants to do is talk about Fran McCaffery’s inability to keep his emotions in check.
And to a point, I get it.
When a coach explodes the way that McCaffery exploded — getting himself ejected fro a game that his team is winning on the road by bumping an official — people are going to pay attention. It doesn’t happen often, and McCaffery’s reputation precedes him.
So, like I said, I understand what the focal point is going to be the Iowa head coach.
But that shouldn’t take away from what Wisconsin did.
I wrote on Sunday night that McCaffery cost his team a win, and I still believe that he did. When you’re playing on the road and you give a team that is as good as Wisconsin is on their home floor four free points, it’s going to hurt. The four technical free throws that Ben Brust made turned into a 10-2 spurt for the Badgers, giving their first lead since it was 3-2. It changed the game, and I think we can all agree to that fact before I remind you that the final score was 75-71. Still don’t think those four free throws hurt?
But it’s also important to note that McCaffery’s ejection didn’t change the momentum of the game. Wisconsin had done that on their own, catching fire in the second half while all-but erasing that 35-24 Hawkeye lead. In fact, McCaffery admitted after the game that he was trying to get the first technical because he wanted to wake his team up. He knew that the Badgers had taken control of the game. He was trying to light a fire underneath his team.
The point I’m trying to make here is that while the spotlight is being shined on McCaffery, it’s forcing us to overlook the fact that Wisconsin had taken control of a game where they were utterly dominated in the first half. They beat a top 25 team and a top four team in the Big Ten despite getting ugly games out of their two best players. Frank Kaminsky hit three threes in the first ten minutes and didn’t score again the rest of the night. Sam Dekker finished 2-for-12 from the floor, hitting a couple of key baskets down the stretch after missing his first 10 shots from the field.
Just how good are the Badgers?
Well, I’m not sure, but they’ve gone 15-0 against a tough schedule this season, and they just notched one of their best wins on a night when they spent 20 minutes playing like they were shaving points.