In Bo We Trust
I’ll be the first one to say I’ve doubted Bo Ryan. I’ve told people Bo is a great coach. He’ll win a lot of Big Ten games, and a few Big Ten championships, but will not win a National Title. I still stand by that theory, but are my expectations too high?
Ryan is an amazing 287-109, good for a winning percentage of .724 at Madison overall. Ryan is 142-58 in the conference, good for a winning percentage of .709, in one of the best conferences in the country. Bo has taken the Badgers to the Sweet Sixteen four times and the Elite Eight once. So, what am I complaining about?
Bo Ryan squeezes every ounce of talent out of the players he has. Other than the occasional guys like Devin Harris, Jon Leuer, and Greg Stiemsma, there isn’t and hasn’t been a whole lot of NBA talent here. Yet year after year when you look at the roster and shake your head, Bo finds a way to keep the Badgers competitive and challenging for the conference title. I’ll admit after Josh Gasser went down with the ACL injury this season, I all but gave up on the Badgers. I told several people I thought Iowa would finish higher than the Badgers in the Big Ten standings. Yes, I look silly right now.
What we need to remember is that it’s hard to win a National title. Let’s take a look at the last ten years of teams who have won a National Title. We all know the top programs like Duke, Kansas, Connecticut, and North Carolina. UConn has won twice, North Carolina has won twice, Kansas once, and Duke once. These are programs that consistently recruit the best talent in the country from year to year, are always stocked with NBA talent, and yet are still only averaging one to two titles every decade.
We are lucky to have a Bo Ryan. Bo fields a competitive team every single year, and his teams are capable of pulling off the unthinkable. Is this year’s team a National Title contender? Probably not, but can you ever rule them out completely? No, and that’s all we ask for. I guarantee you if you ask the top teams who scares them in the tournament, Bo Ryan’s Badgers will come up in the discussion pretty often.
Bo’s system of defense and grind it out offense throws many teams off their game. Most of the top programs are run and gun type offenses. They get out on transition and push you up and down the floor. Bo’s style is their kryptonite. He slows the game down to a crawl, plays tough defense, and lulls teams to sleep. It works.
This season the Badgers have beaten #2 Indiana, #3 Michigan, #12 Illinois, #12 Minnesota, and #13 Ohio State. This is without arguably their best player, and starting point guard Josh Gasser. This season they’ve played the second toughest schedule in the nation according to the Sagarin Ratings. A year after leading the nation in scoring defense, the Badgers are at it again. Wisconsin leads the Big Ten, and is 11th in the nation allowing just 56.2 points per game. This team is absolutely capable of knocking off the top dogs.
After a win at Northwestern last night, the Badgers clinched a winning conference record for the thirteenth straight year. The only other team to match that in the power conferences is Kansas.
I’ve been hard on Bo Ryan, but if us Badger fans want a coach that consistently fields a competitive team, wins a few conference championships, and makes the occasional tournament run, then he’s definitely our guy. Would it be fun to watch a consistent run and gun type offense? Of course, but be careful what you wish for. Not every run and gun offense in the country is successful. Bo is an easy guy to take for granted, but I for one am finally starting to realize I need to appreciate what we have in him instead of wondering what could be with someone else.