With practices beginning at the start of this month, NCAA college basketball is growing ever closer to the tipoff of the 2021 season.
As this progress speeds forward, we have seen everything from player to team rankings on national and conference levels. Among these teams under the media’s microscope is the University of Wisconsin men’s basketball team, which has come in 53rd on CBS college basketball ranks.
One touchpoint for such analysis is the annual Red v. White scrimmage held this past weekend at the Kohl Center.
Sunday’s event was more than just an expedition of talent or a metric of what is to come, though this is inevitably one of its products. The value of the scrimmage came in the pageantry that came back to the Kohl Center.
In a town that sees a campus and a state come together for sporting events, the Red v. White scrimmage saw the return of fans to seats that have stood vacant and limited for over a year. Because of this lack of exposure to fans, I expected a level of spectacle as I attended the event.
I was met with a comparative lack of palpable excitement in the building coming from both fans and coaching. This effect was not surprising for the sole reason that spectacle and show are not characteristics of the Wisconsin basketball program.
In a pre-season that saw Memphis coach Penny Hardaway drive on to the court in what looked like a bat-mobile as well as dunk contests being the main attraction in many Power Five Scrimmages, Wisconsin is a clear outlier.
With this being said, this lack of individual gimmicks is on-brand for the team. The effervescent pounding of the swing offense and all business mannerisms of Greg Gard and his predecessor and mentor Bo Ryan Wisconsin has let wins tell the story rather than gimmicks.
This team aspect was clear as no weight was placed on individual players with all events from the skills competition to the three-point competition integrated between Men’s and Women’s teams and performed by teams. This emphasis on team play over individual accolades is echoed in interviews with many players saying games will be won as a team.
This last weekend Wisconsin flew its colors in the Kohl Center again. Unlike some teams in college basketball, they did for their faithful state of fans and not to catch the eye of national media — an identity that will no doubt continue to sell out the Kohl Center in the coming months.