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Wisconsin 75, Iowa 71: Fran McCaffery, Hawkeyes Lose It

Fran McCaffery's ejection fell in the middle of yet another second half collapse for the Hawkeyes.

Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports

This is a thing now. It is a horrible thing but it is a thing. That thing is Iowa blowing substantial second half leads en route to a loss, and now we're at three at this young point in the season. And consider the situations: Villanova on a neutral court, at Iowa State and now at Wisconsin. All three opportunities for elite wins. All three games where Iowa outplayed their opponent for most of the game. All three crushing losses. And it's starting to show.

What made this one worse was Iowa having to make up for a frankly unacceptable decision by its head coach. In case you hadn't heard, Fran McCaffery blew a gasket and got himself ejected at the 11:52 mark of the game. It led to four free points for the Badgers—not a brilliant idea when you're hanging onto a tenuous lead, to say the least—and put an unreasonable amount of pressure on the team down the stretch. The Badgers were up by four points or fewer for 6:22 of game time down the stretch, and in case you didn't notice, the final margin was four points. It's a massively different game down the stretch if McCaffery can keep his composure.

But he can't. Fran McCaffery, a grown adult in charge of a basketball program, can't keep his stuff together. And while it makes for fun jokes and memes and frivolity, the fact is it cost Iowa a HUGE win, and it's flat-out pathetic. The nation laughs AT Iowa for this, not with us.

And hey, the referees weren't good. I'm not going to sit here and tell you they did a great job. They didn't. But there were some weak calls that went both ways, and Bo Ryan didn't bump a freaking referee over it.

Moreover, the referees didn't hit six of eight three-pointers in the second half; Wisconsin did. The refs didn't start the second half shooting a putrid 2-19 from the field; Iowa did. Wisconsin took care of business, and Iowa didn't. There's no way around that. And blowing up at the refs doesn't fix that. It just makes your coach look like a clown show.

Iowa's got to learn how to stop the bleeding when its leads start to disappear. As soon as Wisconsin got within five, it was a virtual certainty that the Badgers would take the lead, and soon. It took about four minutes. Just about everybody watching knew it; if everyone playing knew it too, that's both understandable and a serious problem. The last thing a team needs in a conference like the 2013-14 Big Ten (which is to say, filled with running chainsaws) is a mental block to success, and doesn't it feel like Iowa has one?

Past that, what is there to say? Roy Devyn Marble tried hard (10-24, 27 points to lead all scorers, three steals). So did Aaron White (12 and 8, two blocks). But they can't be expected to carry the team through the Big Ten; not if you want Iowa to go .500 or better in conference play. Not if you think Iowa's a tourney team. Not tonight.

What a bummer. What an absolutely brutal loss. Iowa's better than Wisconsin when it has its composure. That's not all the time though, and that's what separates the good teams from the great. Ugh.