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ADAM WOODBURY AND EYEPOKEGATE

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Iowa got blown off the court by Wisconsin last night, but one of the biggest topics of discussion from the game has nothing to do with points or rebounds.

Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports

As Pat chronicled yesterday, the basketball rivalry between Iowa and Wisconsin has only ramped up in intensity and importance during Fran McCaffery's tenure at Iowa.  Here's guessing that things in the rivalry are only going to get more heated after Adam Woodbury's extracurricular activities last night.  Fran McCaffery and former Wisconsin player Jarrod Uthoff were serenaded with boos by the Kohl Center crowd last night; Woodbury will no doubt get a vociferous welcome of his own if the Big Ten schedule-makers send Iowa to Madison next winter.

In case you missed the brouhaha last night (and we wouldn't blame you in the least for flipping away from that train wreck of a basketball game), ESPN broadcaster Dan Dakich verbally excoriated Adam Woodbury during the game for a series of eye pokes the big Sioux Cityan delivered to Wisconsin players.  The Gazette's Scott Dochterman transcribed Dakich's comments in full:

"If I was Bo Ryan, I would send that video in to the Big Ten office and ask that Woodbury get suspended. There's no rhyme or reason for that. That's complete garbage. When you do that, you're doing it on purpose to a completely defenseless player.

"It's gutless as well and he's doing it on purpose. You can say he's not and you can get mad at me all you want, but he's doing it on purpose, it needs to stop and the Big Ten office needs to discipline the kid.

"Woodbury, for some reason, Woodbury thinks that that kind of thing is toughness. That's as cowardly as you can be to hit a guy from behind or to poke a guy in the face and quite frankly Fran McCaffery and his staff have got to stop this.

Only 40 seconds later, Woodbury was called for a pushing the back of Wisconsin post Duje Dukan's head with his elbow concurrently with Iowa guard Peter Jok's jumper. The basket counted, but Dukan was awarded free throws after the foul.

"Coaches are notorious for making excuses for players and there's no excuse for what this guy is doing out here," Dakich said after Woodbury's foul.

"It's just ridiculous and he just tries to play it off. Hey, if you're going to cheap shot somebody at least have the guts to show up and say, ‘Hey, I hit you.' To me it's up the coaching staff to get rid of that stuff."

In the post-game press conference, Fran lobbed his own verbal grenades at Dakich and defended Woodbury:

"There's absolutely no way Adam Woodbury did that on purpose," McCaffery said. "Dan Dakich is completely out of line. He crossed the line. He is out of line. He's not right, it was an accident. Adam Woodbury would never, ever, ever do that. EVER do that."

Dakich didn't back down on Twitter.

In addition to the Vine above, there's also a slightly extended video of the incidents:

(via The Dagger)

There was another incident a few moments later in which Woodbury pushed the back of Duje Dukan's head with his elbow.  I also recall another play where Woodbury appeared to rake a Wisconsin player's eyes during a scramble for a rebound.  Taken separately, Woodbury's incidents might not add up to much -- arms and hands flail around a lot during a basketball game and some contact with opposing players is bound to happen.  On the other hand, it's hard to characterize Woodbury's movements as "flailing around;" the Nigel Hayes eye-poke, in particular, looks like something out of a Three Stooges routine.  The most charitable explanation would be that Woodbury was reaching out his hand to slow Hayes down and prevent him from driving toward the bucket.  It certainly wasn't as egregious as some other eye-pokes we've seen in recent years.

Taken collectively, though, Woodbury's incidents paint a picture of a player who was, if not necessarily malicious, then extremely frustrated and alarmingly negligent in his actions.  After all, this wasn't just one isolated incident -- Woodbury poked Wisconsin players in the eyes (inadvertently or not) on at least two separate occasions and was whistled for elbowing a Wisconsin player in the head on another occasion.  Woodbury was definitely not playing under control last night.

Today Woodbury apologized for the incidents and denied that there had been any malicious intent behind them.

Despite Dakich's exhortations, I have a hard time believing that the Big Ten will suspend Woodbury for what happened last night.  No one was injured and neither Hayes nor Kaminsky seemed too irate about the eye-pokes (although I expect them to have a little added motivation to drop a ton of points on Iowa when the Badgers visit Iowa City a week from Saturday). Said Kaminsky:

"I'm blind," Kaminsky joked. "It happens during the game. I've had much worse happen. I'm not thinking anything about it."

The video of the incidents is hardly conclusive on the issue of Woodbury's intent, either.  I would expect the Big Ten to call Fran and tell him that they're going to be watching Woodbury closely from now on and that he needs to keep Woodbury in line because future incidents likely won't go unpunished.  Whether Woodbury is suspended or not, his reputation is probably irreparably harmed and he's likely going to have a very short leash from officials for a while.  He's probably not going to get the benefit of the doubt when it comes to calls and they're going to be watching him to make sure he doesn't do anything like this again.  That's not exactly good news for a guy who happens to be Iowa's best post defender (by far) and who has sometimes struggled in the best of times to avoid foul trouble and stay on the court.