Ranking the best feuds in the Big Ten this season


Photo Courtesy of Fighting Illini Athletics

Kofi Cockburn celebrates after a play against Michigan at Crisler Center on Tuesday. The two teams had been feuding for weeks online, adding to a long list of Big Ten beef this season.

By Brandon Simberg, Staff Writer

Basketball is a competitive sport, and when you have competition combined with unrelenting school pride, you’re going to get into arguments. Arguments, feuds, rivalries, beefs, whatever you want to call them, are a part of what makes college basketball so fun and silly at times.

With COVID-19 protocols, I was worried we weren’t going to have many feuds this year in the Big Ten. Postgame press conferences were conducted solely through Zoom, and the post-game handshake lines were terminated, which is where some feuds have taken place in the past, including this mean-spirited monologue from Minnesota’s Daniel Oturu to Penn State’s Lamar Stevens.

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    Or this interaction between Illinois assistant coach Chin Coleman and Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery.

    But, the Big Ten didn’t let me down. There were fan beefs, coach beefs and even parking police beefs. Let’s dive into three of the best feuds from this season.

    Honorable mention:  Bo Boroski v. Big Ten Fans

    Big Ten fan bases don’t unite often, but referee Bo Boroski has the entire league against him. Boroski is known for calling excessive technical and flagrant fouls and spending way too much time at the monitor, which nobody likes to see. No matter what game he’s officiating, an in-game Twitter search of “Bo Boroski” will yield hilarious results.

    From Wisconsin fans:

    To Rutgers:


    To Michigan State:

    Maybe Boroski has always been a villain and I just haven’t noticed, but he’s been an undeniable figure in the Big Ten this season.

    5. Fran McCaffery (after a loss) v. Iowa media members

    McCaffery is known to be a moody character on the court. This year, he has shown those mood swings after losses. As someone who has covered two Big Ten head coaches, I’ve been to my share of press conferences after a loss. While they aren’t the same as after a win, this snarkiness and shortness by McCaffery is unreal. Just watch him nonchalantly answer questions for a minute straight.

    “Really interesting, Chad,” McCaffery said sarcastically after a loss at Illinois. “Great observation by you. You’re a smart guy.”

    “That’s a ridiculous question, Mark. You should know better,” McCaffery said after a loss to Indiana.

    I find McCaffery’s antics funny, but it’s easy to see why he’s a villain in the league to fans. I can only imagine what the press conference will be like if Iowa loses early in the NCAA Tournament.

    4. Illinois v. Mady Sissoko

    With Illinois losing late to Michigan State, Spartan freshman forward delivered a hard foul on Ayo Dosunmu, resulting in a facial injury for the Illini star guard. The call was reviewed and changed to a flagrant two foul. Naturally, Illini nation was furious with Sissoko. He was a trending topic on Twitter in Champaign. Illinois fans were disgruntled when the freshman big man did not get suspended for the next game.

    But, the Spartan fanbase saw Illini fans’ complaints, and they clapped back, saying the brand is just physical Big Ten basketball.

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    While the injury was serious and caused Dosunmu to miss at least three games, it doesn’t appear this beef is on the players’ side. Sissoko texted Dosunmu after the game asking if he was OK. But, one can only hope for a potential Michigan State-Illinois rematch in the Big Ten Tournament.

    3. Jordan Bohannon v Iowa City Parking Police

    Yes, you read that correctly. A starting guard on a top ten team in the country was beefing with his own city’s parking police.

    It started in late January when the Iowa senior guard received a ticket at Carver-Hawkeye Arena while waiting for a tow truck because he had a flat tire. On Twitter, he declared an official war against the parking police.

    “If the COVID vaccine was distributed out like the University of Iowa distributed out parking tickets at Carver, I think the pandemic would be over by now. These parking people have to be the hardest workers on this earth,” he tweeted.

    A day later, Bohannon parked his car for mandatory COVID testing. He parked at 10:50, paid for up until 11:22 and came out to his car at 11:25. In that three-minute time frame, Bohannon received a parking ticket.

    “It’s no coincidence this happened the next day. The parking police are reading my tweets. I know that you know that I know you are watching and following me. I will not back down. I will not surrender. I will not quit,” he tweeted later that day.

    The beef became so public that it led to a reporter legitimately asking about it during media availability. Bohannon did not mince words.

    “The Iowa City parking police, I don’t think any of the workers have a soul or a heart at that place,” Bohannon said. “I’m sure they are great people off of their jobs, but when they put on that uniform, I’m not sure there’s a heart in them.”

    This all led up to Iowa’s home loss against Indiana on Jan. 21, a game in which Bohannon, coincidentally, shot a season-low 0-9 and didn’t score a single point, meaning he had received more parking tickets that day than made field goals. This led people to question whether Bohannon was too distracted by the beef.

    It has been quiet on that front since then, and the beef may have died, but it’s one of the more memorable storylines of the season. As someone who has dealt with idiotic campus parking police before, I sympathized with Bohannon and felt connected to the Iowa all-time assist leader.

    2. Michigan v Illinois

    The top two teams in the league have been beefing for weeks now, and the feud is ongoing. It started when Michigan postponed its initial game against Illinois coming off a COVID-19 pause. Other Wolverine sports teams played that same day of the postponed Illinois game, and the men’s basketball team had zero confirmed cases. This led Illinois fans to believe Michigan was purposely “ducking” them, as the Illini were on a winning streak and a win against the Wolverines would have made the Big Ten race more competitive.

    Michigan fans of course denied this claim. Particularly, former Michigan player Anthony Wright, who is a notorious, and objectively hilarious, Illinois troll.


    After Michigan’s COVID-19 pause, it went on to win at Wisconsin and at Ohio State, while the Illini struggled to beat Nebraska and Northwestern, which, of course, Wright let the internet know about.


    Even the coaches got involved a bit. When asked about playing multiple road games in a short period of time — because Michigan postponed earlier in the season — Brad Underwood said this, sending a subtle shot to Ann Arbor:

    “We’re going to honor the (postponed games) because we’re a member of this league. We’re not gonna be the teams that pick and choose what we play for whatever. We’re going to show up. I think it’s about character, and this team has a ton of it.”

    The Wolverines were not on pace to play 20 games unless they scheduled back-to-backs at the end of the season. When asked about this, Juwan Howard said that wouldn’t be the case, sending a slight shot at Illinois, Maryland and Nebraska in one quote.

    “Well, every program is different, and we’re a lot different from Nebraska and Maryland. So I’ll just leave it like that.”

    This all led to the Illinois at Michigan game on March 3 in Ann Arbor. There was tons of internet trash talk leading up to it. Without Ayo Dosunmu, Illinois was expected to lose. But, the Illini dominated the Wolverines for 40 minutes, pulling out a 23-point victory, and Illini Twitter let Michigan fans hear about it.

    Even with the Illinois loss, the Wolverines still went on to win the Big Ten. Illinois fans felt robbed and said it was unfair since Howard’s team played just 17 conference games. While the fanbase beef is ongoing, and will likely continue until the season ends, there appears to be no ill-will from the players’ perspective. Illinois guard Trent Frazier said there is no rivalry. Even if it isn’t between the players, the fanbase beef between the two programs this season has been sensational content.

    1. Hunter Dickinson v. Maryland

    Hunter Dickinson, the front-runner for the Big Ten Freshman of the Year award, hails from Dematha Catholic High School, just 2.5 miles south of College Park. The Terrapins offered Dickinson, but they did not make his final four, as he ultimately committed to Michigan.

    Prior to the first contest between the two teams, Dickinson offered his point of view as to why things didn’t work out between him and the Terrapins.

    “Yeah, I did feel a little disrespected when I wasn’t recruited by them,” Dickinson said. “(But) I’m really glad with where I am right now. I’m 100% saying this is the spot for me. I’m happy to be here at Michigan.”

    Dickinson went on to dominate in College Park, scoring 26 points on 10-11 shooting. He made his presence felt even more by staring down the Maryland bench after a few buckets, ultimately leading to a technical foul.

    This brings up the obvious question: Why didn’t Maryland recruit a four-star big in their own backyard?

    Well, it turns out they actually did. This story became so public that the Washington Post — yes, that same national newspaper that broke the Watergate scandal — did a whole story on this. The story included details from a former Maryland assistant, the Dematha head coach and even head coach Mark Turgeon.

    It turns out the Terps did recruit Dickinson, offering him a scholarship his sophomore season and contacting him regularly. And, Maryland does recruit the D.C. area, but they just don’t have a strong pipeline with Dematha. The team’s last player from the powerhouse came in 2002. Maryland, who lacks size up front this season, would gladly have taken Dickinson. All of these indicate that it was Dickinson who had little interest in the Terps.

    That brings me to my next question: Why did Dickinson go out of his way to slight Maryland in a press conference? And why was he so excessive when they played?

    I don’t think we’ll ever have an answer, but that is what makes this feud that much funnier. If Dickinson returns to Michigan next season, this story will continue to pop up. When your beef is so evident that it gets a deep dive from The Washington Post, that separates itself from the pack, and that is why this was the best Big Ten beef of the season.


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