Head coach Bo Ryan has been in the business of college basketball for a long time. That’s why when a reporter tried to ask if he had any regrets about losing out on a share of the Big Ten regular season title, Ryan didn’t even let him finish the question.
“I’ve been around a little too long for that, I don’t do that woulda, coulda, shoulda stuff,” Ryan said. “I like my guys and I like what they did this year.”
Outsiders to the program might remind Ryan had it not been for two losses to a sub-par Iowa team then No. 15 Wisconsin would have won the conference title outright, which would have been his sixth title as head coach of Wisconsin. However, the headman of the Badgers sees this season’s conference campaign from a different perspective.
“You know how lucky we were to steal those games from Illinois, Purdue, and overtime at Minnesota?” Ryan said. “If we hadn’t won those games we would have finished in seventh or eighth place.”
There is also something to be said for the difficulty of the conference as three teams tied for a share of the conference title, one of which being No. 13 Michigan who won a Big Ten title in men’s basketball for the first time in school history since 1988. Between Michigan, No. 7 Ohio State and No. 8 Michigan State, Bo Ryan’s bunch only went a collective 1-4 against the champions of the conference. With close losses to Michigan State and Ohio State at home, it is more than fair to say that the Badgers finished where they deserved to in the final standings.
“Obviously there wasn’t just a dominant team this year that just dominated everyone else,” Ryan said. “The league is pretty tough and I think that was proven this year.”
If there are any regrets about the season Ryan certainly doesn’t want to hear it from anyone. Especially now that the Badgers are entering into the Big Ten Tournament, which marks the beginning of the wildest and most unpredictable month in sports affectionately known as “March Madness.” At this point in the year it is not always the most talented teams, but usually the team that is playing the best basketball that ends up taking home the hardware.
“How about you had gallons and gallons of Gatorade and every time someone said ‘hot’ you had to take a drink,” Ryan added. “Could you imagine how bloated you would be?”
Though “hot” tends to become an overused word when it comes to postseason play in college basketball, ultimately it is the only quality that matters in March. Even if Ryan doesn’t like to use the word, it may be exactly what describes his scrappy group as they head into March. The Badgers have won three straight and 12 of their last 15 games, one of which came on the road against then-No. 9 Ohio State which was the first time in decades that a Wisconsin men’s basketball team had beaten a top ten team away from Madison.
“Tell me something better? It’s still a great sport and a great game. At this time of [March Madness] is all people want to talk about. At all levels,” Ryan added.
Either way a person looks at it the time for second-guessing is over, as hesitation and dwelling on the past will only earn a team a one-way ticket back home. The do or die nature of college basketball in March is something that captivates the nation, and this year Bo Ryan just might have the team to make a deep run. In many ways this year’s group is the true embodiment of the word team, as the Badgers have been able to bridge talent with suffocating defense and impressive mental toughness.
“With how hard they’ve worked on defense and how much they’ve accomplished given what they had, this group is good,” Ryan said. “Anyone who doesn’t know that doesn’t know basketball, trust me.”
It would be awesome if the Badgers could win the Big Ten tournament. GO BUCKY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!