As America’s college basketball fan base awoke this morning, it caught glimpses of Iowa’s basketball program — on televisions, laptop screens and the sports page of the nation’s largest newspaper.
None of what they saw was good.
Forget the result of Iowa’s 86-76 loss at Michigan State, one of the toughest places in the country to play — particularly when the calendar flips to March.
What lingered uncomfortably: Video of Iowa’s Zach McCabe tangling with Travis Trice, throwing him to the Breslin Center court with a takedown that would make Hawkeye wrestling coach Tom Brands proud.
The thing, though: There was nothing to be proud about.
As the clip rolled along, ESPN analyst Dick Vitale said, “Frustration … no room for this stuff. None, whatsoever.”
On the front sports page of USA TODAY, a photo of exasperated Iowa coach Fran McCaffery accompanied a story headlined “Managing Their Anger.” The story discussed his ejection after making contact with an official in January at Wisconsin. McCaffery was tagged with a technical foul Thursday against the Spartans, as well.
We all know the heat-of-the-moment argument. It’s often an excuse for behaviors we hope to dismiss because we’re conflicted as fans or friends.
McCaffery probably deserves a pass, however, especially given that Michigan State’s Tom Izzo truly earned a “T” (but didn’t get one) after a second-half tantrum.
It seems that the Izzos and Bo Ryans of the league navigate the whistle-blowing fence more effectively. Is it what they say? Is it how they say it? Is it understanding the art of charging up to the line, without crossing it?
Or do reputations — even though no official from Lincoln to State College would admit it — play into perceptions and penalties?
“Apparently, I’m the bad guy all the time,” McCaffery said Thursday night.
Watching other coaches in the Big Ten provides some ammo for McCaffery’s frustrations. Some of the blame, though, is unquestionably his to share. To be honest: It’s as if Iowa’s coach is more at risk for a “T” because of his facial expressions and body language. He looks like he’s … losing … his … mind … more than the others.
McCabe, though? No pass there. It was dumb — and embarrassing, especially for a senior who should know a whole lot better.
The lack of discipline America peeked at today rarely bodes well for a team this time of the year, when composure matters most.
Play with an edge? Fine. Coach with an edge? OK. There are points, though, when the potential damage outweighs the benefits.
Iowa should focus its energies in other areas … like playing defense.