Storming the Court and What It Says About College Basketball Programs

Let’s make one thing clear off the bat. Storming the court is great.

Anyone who loves college basketball is lying if they tell you they’ve never dreamt of storming the court as a kid. The passion displayed by the fans — most notably the students — is what makes college basketball great.

There are also specific instances where storming the court is more appropriate than others.

For example, if your team beats the #1 ranked team in the nation on a buzzer-beater half-court shot, it’s incredibly acceptable to storm the court.

Conversely, if your team either (a) beats an unranked team, (b) beats another team ranked lower than themselves, or (c) wins by 40 points or more AND also storms the court, that is not acceptable.

Obviously, the above examples are the extremes on the court storming acceptability spectrum, but it’s worth mentioning that there is a spectrum and part of the spectrum represents scenarios where court storming is not acceptable.

Yahoo Sports college basketball columnist Pat Forde wrote a great column some years ago (back in his days at ESPN) outlining the various situations under which a school can qualify for (or be disqualified from) storming the court.

On Tuesday night, the unranked Indiana Hoosiers beat the #3 Wisconsin Badgers 75-72 at home to grab a much-needed win and hand Wisconsin its first loss of the season.

Following the final horn, the Indiana fans — almost 100% of them students — rushed the court in celebration.

At first, I was pretty annoyed by this, but decided to reserve judgment until my disappointment about the Badgers’ loss subsided in order to try to be as objective as possible.

Let’s look at the facts involved in Tuesday’s court storming in Bloomington:

Fact #1 – Indiana was 11-5 prior to the game and unranked. Wisconsin was 16-0, ranked #3 in the USA Today and Associated Press polls, and considered one of the best teams in the country by various advanced metrics (read:, RPI, BPI, etc.).

Fact #2 – Wisconsin had won 12 consecutive games against the Hoosiers.

Fact #3 – The game was close, came down to the final shot (a Wisconsin miss), and involved Indiana coming back from a 10-point deficit in the second half.

Under the above facts, the court storming seems reasonable. After all, Indiana had only won 2/3 of its games this season, with no real signature wins. As ESPN’s Myron Medcalf wrote, Tuesday’s win could be exactly what Indiana needs to get its season trending in an upward direction.

Fact #4 – People storm the court when they believe they’ve just witnessed a once-in-a-season win and are so excited about winning that game that the only logical course of action is to rush the court to celebrate.

Okay, this may be more of an inference than a fact, but still. Students don’t rush the court unless they think a win is a big deal and they feel they have good reason to do so. It’s hard to argue with that.

I want to revisit one of Pat Forde’s principles that he included in his original column, however. The ‘Old Money Principle’.

“Look up at the ceiling of your gym and count the banners. If your school has won three or more national titles in its history, you shall not rush the floor at any time. Schools affected: UCLA (11 titles), Kentucky (seven), Indiana (five), North Carolina (four), Duke (three).

Your program has won big games before. Act like it.”

Fact #5 – The University of Indiana has won FIVE national championships, including three in an 11-year span from 1976 to 1987. 

Do you know who hasn’t won five national titles? Wisconsin.

In fact, Wisconsin’s first ever NCAA tournament appearance under the current format was in 1994. From 1947 (its last appearance) to 1994, the Badgers had only 14 winning seasons out of 47, tallying no more than 18 wins in any single season.

Since Bo Ryan took over in 2001, Wisconsin has made the NCAA tournament every season, recording 20 or more wins 10 times, and 30 or more wins twice. Still, Ryan and his Badgers have only one Elite Eight appearance to show for it.

In other words, Wisconsin has definitely improved from its historical levels over the past decade and a half, but by no means would be considered a college basketball juggernaut.

Judging by Tuesday’s post-game court storming, however, it appears the program is on its way.

Twenty years ago, someone would have called you crazy if you told them that Indiana stormed their home court after beating Wisconsin by three points. It has now happened twice in the last seven seasons.

I think this says more about the progress and current state of Wisconsin’s basketball program than it does to bring down or diminish Indiana’s program in any way.

The Hoosiers are still considered among the elite programs in the country. They still pull top recruits. They easily fill coaching vacancies. Hell, there’s a movie called Hoosiers which happens to be one of the most famous college basketball movies ever made. Indiana may have down years, but they will still be relevant for a long, long time.

Wisconsin, meanwhile, has come a long way since Bo Ryan took the helm. While his style of play isn’t conducive to pulling in top five recruiting classes, Ryan has helped put Wisconsin basketball on the map and into the conversation of the perennial Big Ten conference powerhouses.

While there’s still a ways to go until the program is anywhere near elite, having a program like Indiana (or Michigan State in 2007) rush the court after defeating Wisconsin is certainly a sign that things are trending in the right direction. A Final Four appearance or national title would do wonders to help expedite the ascension to the top.

Until then…

Fact #6 – Kids will be kids. Fans will be fans. Storm away.


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