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College Basketball

What Big Ten Basketball Game Is Playing In The Background Of The Latest ‘The White Lotus’ Episode?

GIF by Dan McQuade

On the recommendation of Luis Paez-Pumar, I’ve been watching The White Lotus, an unsettling (but funny!) six-episode dark comedy series airing on HBO and following the staff and wealthy guests at a fancy Hawaiian resort. Toward the end of Sunday’s episode was a scene in which Tanya (played by a terrific Jennifer Coolidge) goes to the hotel bar to meet Greg, a guest she’s been having a fling with. I couldn’t really tell you what else happens in this scene because I was distracted by an intriguing bit of set design: The TV at this bar appears to be showing a men’s basketball game on Big Ten Network.

The show’s editors did not make it very easy to figure out what this mystery game was. They kept cutting away from the background basketball to show, I don’t know, the main characters talking to each other, I guess. But limited glimpses of the TV still offer some clues: This game aired on BTN; the court looks like it might read BOILERMAKERS on the sideline; the away team’s jerseys are dark blue or black; some bright yellow specks appear on and around the opposing bench; the camera shows Purdue head coach Matt Painter; a shot of a player with 35 on the back of his white jersey immediately follows.

Using those clues, I narrowed down the pool to 1) Purdue home games that 2) aired on BTN and 3) featured No. 35 Rapheal Davis, who played for Purdue from the 2012–13 season to the 2015–16 season, and was the most recent Boilermaker to wear 35. The opponent seems very likely to be Michigan, based on the colors of the specks and jerseys, and—I noticed on 15th or 16th rewatch—a guy on the sideline whose silhouette and gestures closely resemble former Michigan head coach John Beilein’s. YouTube footage of a game that met these criteria confirmed my suspicions. In conclusion, this was a Feb. 26, 2014 Michigan-Purdue men’s basketball game. Michigan beat Purdue in overtime, 77-76. Whether this game’s inclusion in the show was incidental or a carefully placed clue about which character is going to die in the finale is a mystery I will leave for someone else to solve. I’ve done enough work for one day.

Video by Dan McQuade