Bo Ryan and Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery have plenty in common. In addition to both being at the helm of their representativeBig Ten men's basketball programs, Ryan and McCaffery are also both proud Pennsylvania natives.
McCaffery grew up in Pittsburgh, Pa., nearly 300 miles away from Ryan's hometown of Chester. Despite this distance, Ryan has gotten to know McCaffery quite well both as an athlete and coach.
"[Fran] was a heck of a player, tough competitor—kind of a playground guy too," Ryan said. "He's a very competitive guy so coaching seems to fit him."
McCaffery's Hawkeyes (3-8 in Big Ten, 10-13 overall) are coming off back-to-back Big Ten wins, and will be looking for their first three-game winning streak of the season when UW visits Carver-Hawkeye Arena Wednesday night.
Hovering around the .500 mark, the Hawkeyes have been a Jekyll and Hyde team, especially on the defensive end of the floor. In Iowa's ten victories this year, their opponents are averaging 53.1 points and shooting 35 percent from the field, including 24 percent from three. However, the Hawkeyes are also 0-12 when opponents shoot a better field goal percentage and 0-9 when out-rebounded.
Still, Iowa has won two straight games and is certainly peaking just in time for the Badgers' arrival.
"In scheduling, it's always about when you play a team and where you play them," Ryan said. "And if there's a team playing with more confidence than Iowa I don't know who that would be, other than Ohio State."
The all-time series between Iowa and UW is tied at 76-76, although the Hawkeyes hold the advantage at home 48-25.
Despite winning four of six in Iowa City, this time around won't be as easy whenlooking at Iowa's 10-13 record.
"You ask a lot of coaches; they would tell you they would much rather have played Iowa a month ago," said Ryan. "But that happens a lot in our league."
That said, the Badgers are playing with a bit of confidence of their own. UW has won five of six, with two of those victories coming against teams then ranked in the AP Top 20.
Junior guard Jordan Taylor and senior forward Jon Leuer, arguably the best duo in the Big Ten, have no doubt led the recent charge. The tandem is averaging a conference-best 39.6 combined points per game, and Taylor owns the nation's best assist-to-turnover ratio at 3.9.
Despite Taylor's emergence as one of the elite guards in the nation, he was absent from Monday's Cousy Award finalists, given annually to the nation's top point guard, another indication of just how under-the-radar the Bloomington, Minn. native has gone this season.
But Coach Ryan noted that while the ten finalists are all deserving of the honor, his focus has always been on the team and its maturity throughout the season.
"I never worried about what lists anybody's on or what awards or anything else," Ryan said. "I'm still one of those old coaches that never gives out any individual awards at any of our functions because I always thought it had Wisconsin on the front of the jersey."
Through it all, Ryan knows this disappointment will not deter Taylor from remaining one of the league's top performers.
"Jordan will be okay," Ryan said with a smirk. "He'll recover from that."
With a confident Iowa team up next on the docket, he'll have to recover quickly if the Badgers hope to continue their winning ways and head back home on a good note.
Badger Basketball looks like they are on a roll. GO BUCKY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!