Uthoff Adds Another Storyline

The subplot of one of the Badgers' bigger games on its home schedule tonight, No.4 Wisconsin hosts No.22 Iowa and former player Jarrod Uthoff, who created quite a stir when he left Madison almost two years ago.

MADISON - Having studied the Iowa basketball program since arriving on Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan's staff, Gary Close – a former Hawkeyes assistant himself – as seen many different versions of his former employer. This might be the best one.

Iowa leads the Big Ten in scoring (87.1), scoring margin (+22.2), and field goal percentage defense (.361), not to mention ranking second in rebounding margin (+9.9), blocks (5.7), field goal percentage (.476), and assists (17.8).

In a word, Iowa is good and is one of the few Big Ten teams that have matched up well with Wisconsin over the last three seasons.

"I think they are very similar to last year, only better," said Close. "They are really good. They outplayed us last year. They could have very easily won both games last year (because) they played better."

Iowa (12-2, 1-0 Big Ten) comes into tonight's evening affair ranked 22nd in the country, making the Hawkeyes the second ranked opponent appearing on the Badgers' challenging schedule. The last three meetings between the two have been decided by four points or less, including last season's double overtime contest at the Kohl Center.

This game was already going to be intriguing, but the addition of sophomore Jarrod Uthoff finally playing against his former team brings another element to the equation for interested onlookers.

"He's certainly helped them, no question," said Close. "I thought he was going to be a good player and I still do. He's the leading scorer in the Big Ten off the bench, but they've all improved. They've got almost everybody back. Jarrod gives them some different things. It's a team that can beat you in a lot of ways."

Stepping in to help replace center Erik May, who was a key role player in the Hawkeyes run to the NIT championship game last season, the 6-9 Uthoff has come off the bench in every game to rank third on the team in scoring (10.9 points per game) and first in rebounds (6.5). Iowa can go as deep as 11 players on its bench, which is averaging 39.2 points, 23.2 rebounds and 3.8 blocks per game.

Uthoff may develop into a standout starter down the road, but he'll always be known for the firestorm he helped cause nearly two years ago.

Considered the most impressive piece of Wisconsin's 2011 recruiting class, Uthoff redshirted his first season at Wisconsin, and was even talked about early on in that season as being a player who could contribute early in his career. So when news got out that Uthoff had decided to transfer, everyone was taken aback.

"It was weird," said junior Josh Gasser. "Anytime you have a teammate come in and you play with him for a year, develop a relationship and in a second he's gone, it's definitely weird. Nothing was said to us. We found out via Twitter or the internet. That was the really weird part of it.

"He did what he thought was best for his family. That's what he wants, that's what he's going to get."

Transfers happen in college sports all the time, but Uthoff's decision made national news. He reportedly did not inform Ryan in person of his decision to transfer (although he claims he did), causing Ryan to restrict him from contacting schools in the ACC, Big Ten, power six schools in the surrounding states and other schools that appeared on the following year's schedule.

Uthoff claimed he was being the victim. Ryan told local media that the reason for restricting schools was done in order so the appeals process to serve as a means for dialogue to occur between Uthoff and UW Athletics administration. Ryan never got a direct answer, and became a villain in the matter.

Uthoff, a former Iowa Mr. Basketball and Gatorade Player of the Year at Cedar Rapids Jefferson High School, decided on the Hawkeyes anyway. He was not allowed to contact Iowa's coaching staff until he enrolled and arrived on campus in the fall of 2012, could not receive a scholarship until this season and spent another year sitting out.

Uthoff said the style of play at Wisconsin didn't fit him as well as he thought, and he expressed his desire to play in a faster tempo offense. Entering this weekend, Iowa leads the Big Ten and is seventh nationally in scoring 87.1 points per game.

"He is one of their 10 guys," Gasser said. "They have a bunch of guys who can play and who can get out and run. They are a really good team. We're going to have to treat him just like anyone else."

Although bitterness likely remains behind the scenes, Close, Gasser and others didn't air their grievances. Close said the only contact he's had with Uthoff is after last season's game at Iowa, and said that focusing on Iowa's good team was most important.

Gasser said he hasn't heard from Uthoff either, but isn't fretting about what could have been.

"I wouldn't trade any of my 16 guys for anyone. I love our great. I love the way we're playing. I am excited to go out there and hopefully beat down on them a little bit."

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