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SON OF EYEPOKEGATE: FRAN HITS BACK AT DAKICH

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Fran McCaffery is not amused by your antics, Dan Dakich.

Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports

Fran McCaffery made his regular appearance on his radio coaches show last night and in addition to answering the usual questions about what went wrong in the Wisconsin game (SPOILER: Everything), he also decide to drop some verbal napalm on Dan Dakich after Dakich had harshly criticized Adam Woodbury during the Wisconsin game.

Dochterman also has a full transcript of Fran's comments on Dakich, which is worth reading.  Some additional notable comments:

Let me explain to you how this happens. First of all, you're playing a great 3-point shooting team. We're going to teach closeout with a high hand, have a high hand. What they teach is they're going to drop their head and they're coming into your space. I'm teaching we're coming into your space, Bo's teaching they're coming into our space. And that's what happened.

Woodbury said something similar in his explanation for the eye-poke incidents and it does provide valuable context for the incidents.  The Hayes eye-poke still looks like something out of a Three Stooges routine, but it's also easier to see how that could happen in the context of playing defense.  Fran added this comment later on, which also seems relevant:

Two of them, there wasn't even a foul called. Refs didn't even call a foul. The other one they called a foul, which could have easily been on the other guy, they didn't call a flagrant, and they're crucifying this guy on television.

Officials certainly aren't infallible, but neither of Woodbury's eye-pokes were penalized by the officials.  Not only did the officials not react to the eye-pokes, but the Badger players didn't seem particularly aggrieved, either.  Neither Hayes nor Kaminsky reacted in a way that indicated that they thought Woodbury's actions were intentional or malicious or out-of-line (they did want fouls to be called, but basketball players also want fouls to be called for any contact).  The only person beating that particular drum was Dan Dakich.

"But for him to call Adam Woodbury a coward and gutless is inexcusable. All right. And I don't appreciate him saying anything about what I should do. He's a TV guy. If he was a coach, he'd be coaching. I should tell him to go buy some lottery tickets. He'd have a better chance to win the lottery than to ever in any way recommend what I should do with my player or my team.

...

DOLPHIN: "He's a goofball and he gets paid to comment like that, maybe not a goofball, but he's a character. A lot of analysts try to create their image of who they are, but he's a former Big Ten player and a former coach in the Big Ten. That's what surprised me about his comments.

MCCAFFERY: "Former assistant coach in the Big Ten. Let's clear that up."

Dakich was technically Indiana's interim head coach in 2008 after Kelvin Sampson resigned following a scandal involving NCAA recruiting violations, but... yeah.  Fran was taking no prisoners last night.

"I think everybody's getting away from what should be the topic. I don't care if you disagree, if you think he fouled a kid, you think ... that's irrelevant. The problem is, how he said it and the way he attacked this kid. That is unacceptable. Unacceptable."

I think that's dead on.  I think Woodbury was frustrated in the Wisconsin game (unsurprisingly) and let his emotions get the better of him at times.  But I don't think he acted out of malice or with an intent to harm any Wisconsin player. Dakich's comments were ludicrously hyperbolic and tremendously unfair to Woodbury.

Dakich hit back on Twitter:

Dakich did tweet earlier in the day that Iowa/Fran had declined an offer to appear on his radio show, but he didn't really say much about EyePokeGate on Twitter other than that, aside from retweeting a few comments from Iowa fans and a link to a Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel story backing up Dakich's stance.  I don't know what (if anything) he might have said on his radio show yesterday or today.

Of course, there was one benefit to EyePokeGate for Fran and Iowa:

...and he's right.  Iowa played their worst game of the season (by far) on Tuesday night, looking utterly lost on defense and confused on offense, but the overwhelming topic of discussion has been Adam Woodbury's eye-pokes rather than Iowa's ineptitude.  I don't think that was intentional on Fran's part -- he's been phenomenally loyal to his players since the day he arrived at Iowa, so this sort of reaction from him is in no way out of character.  If his players get criticized (fairly or not), he's not afraid to hit back.  But all of this chatter does have the happy side effect of pushing Iowa's awful performance under the rug.

Iowa's rematch with Wisconsin is scheduled to air on ESPN next Saturday (January 31).  TV announcers for that game have yet to be announced, though Dakich was widely expected to announce that game.