Monday, February 21, 2022

I spent Sunday at the Kohl Center. And still missed the big event

Went to the alma mater's basketball game yesteday, and saw another impressive win for UW as it tries to win a surprising Big Ten title. I also saw the jersey of all-time Badger great Michael Finley get retired, which was extra cool to see as a mid-90s undergrad that personally witnessed 3 of #24's 4 years in Madison.

It also led to this great photo from yesterday.

As the last seconds were ticking off, me and the guy I went to the game with headed up the stairs with the plan of taking advantage of the 50-degree weather, having a drink, and letting traffic clear out. As we were on the way out, we could hear booing start to swell and Matt LePay's voice seem strangely concerned with faster pace to it. We wandered up the ramp to see the remainder of an incident being clearing up, thought it wasn't much, and headed out.

Immediately, the "what happened at the end of the game?", texts started coming in. And we finally saw the video via social media.

And now it's the biggest story in sports. Naturally, I missed it as it was happening.

Michigan coach Juwan Howard is way in the wrong here. Not just for what he was angry about (which I'll go into in a second), but for the very lame act of trying to give a drive-by insult of "I'll remember that sh*t" to Badger Coach Greg Gard, then getting angry when Gard tried to get Howard's attention so Gard could explain himself. I'm not sure what Howard thought was going to happen when he tossed off that insult, but you can't get mad when the other guy tries to stop you from blowing by.

Howard then tells Gard "get your hands off of me", grabs Gard, and puts his finger in Gard's face (note - the former Fab Five member and NBA All-Star is about a foot taller than Gard-o). Badger assistant Joe Krabbenhoft and others from both teams come running in, Howard smacks Krabby in the head, and it's on.

At least for a minute or two, until things settle down, and Brad Davison (who's usually involved in chippiness like this) tried to make sure he and other UW players didn't get hit with further suspensions.

We got bigger fish to fry, like a conference title.

Allegedly the reason why Howard was angry was because of what Gard did late in the game as UW led by 14. Wisconsin had pulled all of its starters, and Howard was pressuring UW's backups to the point that they were struggling to get the ball across halfcourt. In order to avoid turning the ball over, Gard called timeout with 15 seconds left, and Howard viewed that as....taunting?

As CBS' top studio analyst and a longtime former college coach/ESPN analyst point out, Howard's decision to pressure UW's scrubs when the game was out of reach is the only reason that timeout ever had to happen. And means Howard has no right to complain.

Of course, as I write this, the suspensions and other punishments come down.

1. I'd also suspend Howard for the Big Ten Tournament, to lessen the chance of some kind of ugly incident if UW and Michigan end up playing again. But this is relatively in line. I also haven't thought Howard should be fired for this, at least not at this point (if he hit a player, that would be different).

2. Pleasantly surprised to not have Gard suspended, as I worried that the Big Ten would come up with some kind of BS to claim Gard "escalated" an incident that never becomes a fight if Juwan Howard doesn't try the drive-by insult after the game. I also expected Badger Assistant Joe Krabbenhoft to get suspended, as he ran in to the fray with heat and got smacked by Howard.

3. The player suspensions seem proper. Neath was definitely throwing punches along with the two Michigan players. But no suspensions of big UW contributors (and there shouldn't have been).

Now onto a 4-game sprint to make an improbable title happen.

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