The IU men’s basketball program has seen a lot of changes since 1998. Back then, Bob Knight was the head coach and the Hoosiers were on a 12-year NCAA Tournament appearance streak.
Now, Archie Miller is in his third season as head coach and the Hoosiers haven’t made the NCAA Tournament since 2016. But IU has an opportunity to do something Saturday that hasn’t been done since that 1998 team — beat Wisconsin on the road.
The last time IU defeated Wisconsin at the Kohl Center, was eight days after the official opening on Jan. 25, 1998.
"Wisconsin is a tournament team," IU head coach Archie Miller said. "They have some veteran guys back. I think as the course of the season evolves, they played a difficult schedule. They will be battle tested and very difficult to deal within Madison like they always have been."
The Hoosiers head into their Big Ten opener at the Kohl Center with an undefeated 8-0 record after defeating No. 17 Florida State University in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. It’s the best start for the program since a 9-0 run in 2012-13.
Before the win over FSU, it was difficult to gauge how good IU potentially could be due to playing no power-five teams through the first seven games. It’s still early in the season but the victory over the Seminoles could eventually go a long way come March.
"I mean, that's why you come to Indiana," junior Joey Brunk said. "You come here to play in big-time games and big-time atmospheres. That's why we work as hard as we do over the summer, so your body can handle it and you can be ready when the opportunity's there."
On the opposite end, Wisconsin comes into the game a bit differently.
The Badgers are riding a 3-game losing streak after falling on the road at North Carolina State University in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. They’re currently 4-4 on the season but are undefeated within the confines of the Kohl Center.
If IU hopes to come out with a victory, it will start on the defensive end. Over the three-game losing streak, Wisconsin failed to score more than 54 points in any of the losses. Before IU defeated FSU, Miller consistently talked about his team’s defense needing to improve.
The Hoosiers took a step in the right direction after holding the Seminoles to 64 points and outrebounding them by 10. The Badgers also have the worst scoring offense in the Big Ten with 66.5 points per game while the Hoosiers sit at second with an average of 85.6 points.
Putting statistics and records aside, it’s always a closely contested matchup when IU and Wisconsin meet. That shouldn’t change Saturday as IU tries to get on the right side of history.
"There's a lot that goes into this one, that makes it a very, very serious approach," Miller said. "Hopefully our team, as long as we stay grounded and we stay coachable and we keep working at the little things to keep getting better; that we put ourselves in a situation that we're ready to play."
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