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Tuesday, April 16
The Indiana Daily Student

sports men's basketball

COLUMN: Wisconsin, the monkey Indiana men’s basketball can’t get off its back


No team in the Big Ten has terrorized Indiana men’s basketball in the 21st century quite like Wisconsin. 

Since a January win in the 1999-2000 season, the Hoosiers and Badgers have met 42 times between regular and postseason play. In that span, Indiana holds an abysmal 9-33 record, including a whopping 20 straight losses at the Kohl Center in Madison, Wisconsin. 

In the heyday of Indiana basketball under legendary head coach Bob Knight, Indiana dominated the matchup. From 1972-1998, Knight’s squads went 45-4 against Wisconsin, a mark that renders Indiana’s recent misfortunes almost inconceivable.  

Some of that stems from coaching instability. Since 2015, Greg Gard has served as Wisconsin’s head coach — in that same time, Indiana has employed three separate head coaches. Still, neither Tom Crean, Archie Miller nor Mike Woodson could quite alleviate the burden of the Badgers. 

This January, Woodson took his team to Madison with a chance to knock off the No. 11 hosts and break the curse. But after a Flagrant 2 ejection to sophomore guard CJ Gunn and dysfunctional play from Indiana, Wisconsin coasted to a 91-79 victory that could have been far worse if not for 28 points from Hoosier sophomore forward Malik Reneau. 

Stars have come and gone for both sides. Indiana boasts a laundry list of exemplary talent over the last 20 or so years, with Christian Watford, Cody Zeller, Victor Oladipo, Yogi Ferrell and most recently Trayce Jackson-Davis headlining some of the Hoosiers’ most notable names. 

For Wisconsin, Frank Kaminsky, Ethan Happ, Nigel Hayes and Brad Davison have been among the best the Badgers had to offer over the same time range. Indiana fans hold a particular disdain for Davison, whose peskiness and penchant for dirty fouls was a thorn in Indiana’s — and the rest of the Big Ten’s — side throughout his five-year career from 2017-2022. 

At home, Indiana has at least marginally overcome its woes against Wisconsin. Behind 18 points from Jackson-Davis and 16 from Jalen Hood-Schifino in January 2023, the Hoosiers topped the Badgers in a defensive slugfest, an apt characterization of plenty of the team’s clashes. In February 2019, a driving layup from guard Romeo Langford in the final second of a double-overtime thriller clinched the Hoosiers’ 75-73 victory over the Badgers at Assembly Hall.  

Yet, for the few euphoric triumphs, Indiana has suffered at least a handful of demoralizing defeats. 

Take, for example, Indiana’s first conference game on the road in the 2021-22 campaign — its first under Woodson. The Hoosiers got everything they wanted in the first 20 minutes, sprinting to a 42-25 advantage at the break and holding a lead as large as 22 points in the first half. 

Then, the collapse ensued. 

Indiana’s offense became a shell of what it had been in the first period, and Wisconsin began knocking down shots. Aided by an 11-0 Badger run to cap the contest and a scoring drought from the Hoosiers in the final three minutes, Wisconsin escaped with a rousing victory, and Indiana was left in despair. 

There have been stunning individual Wisconsin performances, like when Jordan Taylor dropped 39 in Assembly Hall en route to a 77-67 win over Indiana on the Hoosiers’ Senior Day in 2011. Davison relished his role as the villain, and even current Badgers like graduate forward Tyler Wahl and junior guard Max Klesmit have almost singlehandedly sunk the Hoosiers before. 

To make matters worse, since Knight’s dismissal from Indiana in 2000, the two programs have splintered on drastically different trajectories. Including the 1999-2000 season, Indiana has reached 13 NCAA Tournaments, advancing past the Sweet Sixteen just once. 

Conversely, the Badgers have made 21 March Madness appearances, featuring three trips to the Final Four and nine Sweet Sixteens. The disparity of success has been stark, especially given Indiana’s historical eminence in the sport and Wisconsin’s rather lackluster past. 

But since Knight’s departure, the Hoosiers — whose five national titles rank fourth in college basketball — have endured a steep decline. Meanwhile, the Badgers have transformed into one of the Big Ten’s most consistent programs while exhibiting unprecedented dominance over Indiana in the process. 

Tuesday night’s contest offers little material gain for Indiana in a lost season. Nonetheless, as brief as it may be, the Hoosiers have an opportunity to pen their own chapter in the book of a recently lopsided matchup. 

Follow reporters Will Foley (@foles24) and Matt Press (@MattPress23) and columnist Daniel Flick (@ByDanielFlick) for updates throughout the Indiana men’s basketball season. 

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