The NCAA doesn’t use a uniform basketball. As you can see in the picture above, Nigel Hayes of Wisconsin is passing a Wilson brand basketball. Sometimes the ball is Spalding; for the past 15 years, the Badgers have used a Sterling Athletics basketball.
But when teams visit Maryland, they are forced to use an Under Armour basketball, and no one seems to like it.
Jim Polzin of Madison.com detailed this issue of non-uniform basketballs, and Hayes really aired out (get it?) the Under Armour balls.
“It’s definitely different,” Hayes said. “Personally, we don’t like it too much. I don’t like the Under Armour ball whatsoever. But that’s the way this amateur sports league is set up. We’re supposed to be having fun, but all the money is in these basketballs that colleges play with. But it’s an amateur sport, we’re just here for fun. It’s not really that serious. So I guess any ball should be OK.
“Maybe we should have a universal ball like the NBA. You don’t go to the Clippers’ stadium and play with a Nike and then go to Golden State and play with a Rawlings. But in this amateur sport of college, where money isn’t the goal — it’s the student education and experience that you get — we play with a million different basketballs.”
This gripe appears to be fair and measured, but that almost always has no place in the NCAA. But it could be an issue moving forward, as Wisconsin and Under Armour begin a 10-year partnership in July, although there is a clause in the deal that would allow the basketball team to stick with Sterling Athletics balls.
Wisconsin plays at No. 2 Maryland on Saturday. Hayes said of the balls, “We’ll never let that be an excuse in any of our performances.”
It won’t be an excuse; it will just be a thing everyone on the team references in postgame interviews, but then says wasn’t a big deal. “Man, that ball is terrible and bad and makes it hard to shoot well … but really, that’s not why we lost, no excuses.”