On Tuesday night in Bloomington, Indiana, two national powers clashed for Big Ten supremacy.
And Wisconsin left little doubt about who the better team was.
In a balanced and concise effort, the Badgers took to the Hoosiers, who are now 0-2 in Big Ten play and have some serious self-evaluation to do.
But this was not a totally one-sided game. Indiana had their moments of making this game close, particularly with their ability to control the paint. However, Greg Gard’s squad jumped out to a 16-2 lead in the early going, en route to adding a big road win to their resume.
This was a huge game for both teams in Big Ten conference play. And one that could tell us a lot about these teams moving forward.
Here is what we learned.
What We Learned:
1. Wisconsin has the look of a Final Four team...
It was not that long ago when Indiana was the unanimous kingpin of the Big Ten conference and a pick of many to reach the Final Four.
Wisconsin has now snatched those accolades away from the Hoosiers.
The Badgers don’t have the super flashy freshmen on their roster, but they do have a lot of experience and great depth from top to bottom.
Sophomore Ethan Happ proved why he is a contender for Big Ten Player of the Year, putting up 19 points, 6 rebounds, and 4 assists. He was one of four Badgers in double figures as Bronson Koenig, Nigel Hayes, and Zak Showalter all had double-digit scoring nights.
This team also shot 50 percent from downtown and from the floor, providing a great outside presence to compliment Happ and Hayes on the inside.
The Badgers have it all, and it was all on display in this game.
2. ...and Indiana no longer does.
The Hoosiers were, simply, outclassed in this game.
Their perimeter defense struggled, again. And they struggled to have one of their big-time talents step up and carry them to victory.
Very recently, it was a no-brainer that the Hoosiers were, at least, the most talented team in the Big Ten with Thomas Bryant, OG Anunoby, and James Blackmon, among others. But that may no longer be the case.
Blackmon has not consistently been a dominant scorer, which he needs to be in order to make up for his defensive liabilities. The same goes for Bryant and Anunoby, who combined to take only nine shots in this game, despite making seven of them. Indiana needs to do a better job of getting their good players involved.
Tom Crean is one of the best coaches in the business, and he needs to reel his team in right now.
3. Ethan Happ might be the best big man in the nation.
I know. I know.
Happ’s numbers do not exactly jump off of the page. Entering this game, he was averaging 12.7 points, 9.6 rebounds, and 2.7 assists per game. But he has been wildly efficient.
The 6-10 sophomore has shot 67% from the field and dominated his match-up with Bryant tonight, hitting 8-of-11 from the floor.
Happ’s size and touch around the basket have made him a nightmare to defend. And that can also be attributed to the danger his teammates present if you double-team him. But nonetheless, he is very talented.
The Badgers made their national championship run on the back of an elite college big man in Frank Kaminsky. It appears they have another in Ethan Happ.
This was the biggest game of Big Ten play thus far. And it’s not even that close. This game was to be the measuring stick for Wisconsin’s status as a great team, and to see if Indiana could recover from its recent slide.
And now, we saw saw Indiana lose its third straight contest and Wisconsin win its ninth straight. These two teams are going in opposite directions and the Badgers have to be thrilled with where they are.
Don’t be surprised if at the end of the year, we see Wisconsin in the Final Four, Indiana as a middle-of-the-road tournament team, and Ethan Happ as a Naismith Award contender.