Ranking the Bo Ryan Era Badger Teams
This is a project I’ve been mulling in my head forever and have worked on for a while: breaking down the Bo Ryan era teams and ranking them against each other, because ranking stuff is fun. I’ve probably watched 90% of the Badger games from this time frame and surprisingly I’m somehow married and only have a minor problem with alcohol.
My main criteria are regular season resume, the strength of the offense and defense (points per possession), the talent on the team and the Tournament results.
Its obviously a subjective exercise and I’m admittedly not weighing everything equal, but that’s how it goes.
All Points Per Possession listed are the PPP in Big Ten play only. Any numerical ranking assigned to opponents is RPI, KenPom wasn’t around Bo’s first year so using RPI to keep it consistent.
Here we go:
2006 - 19-12 (9-7), RPI: 33, 9 Seed
Stats : Offense: 1.03 PPP (5th), Defense: .98 PPP (4th)
Starters : Kam Taylor, Alando Tucker, Ray Nixon, Brian Butch, Jason Chappell
Bench : Joe Krabbenhoft, Marcus Landry, Michael Flowers, Kevin Gullickson
Big Wins : Michigan State (#18), Ohio State (#12), Indiana (#24),
Bad Losses : I could just stop at the home loss to North Dakota State, they also lost at Northwestern (102) and at Purdue (174)
Tournament : Badgers got run out of the gym against Arizona in a first round loss. It was 35-11 at one point in the first half, never got any better.
Summary : Transition year as they lost Wilkinson, Hanson, Chambliss and Morely from the year before. Kam Taylor and Tucker were the only returning guys who logged significant minutes. Flowers, Krabby, Butch and Landry would later for the nucleus of some really good teams went through some growing pains this year. Disappointing to waste one of Tucker’s years*, but the experience would pay off in the upcoming years.
* Its nice that a “wasted” year still resulted in a tournament appearance.
2002 - 19-13 (11-5), RPI: 52. 8 Seed.
Stats : Offense: 1.04 PPP (6th in Conference), Defense: 1.01 PPP (7th in conference)
Starters : Devin Harris, Kirk Penney, Travon Davis, Charlie Wills, Dave Mader
Bench : Mike Wilkinson, Freddie Owens
Big Wins : #16 Ohio State, #7 Illinois, at #25 Michigan State
Bad Losses : Weber State, Hawaii, Georgia Tech, UNLV. Basically any game played in November that year. Got smoked by 32 points at Illinois 3 weeks after upsetting them at home
Tournament : Badgers were two point favorites and beat #9 seeded St. Johns 80-70 behind balanced scoring, with 5 guys in double figures. They were 14 point underdogs in round two against eventual National Champion Maryland. Trailing by 8 at halftime, Juan Dixon and Maryland started the second half on a 22-5 run and Wisconsin got run out of the gym.
Summary : Pretty remarkable job by Bo in his first year. Penney was the only returning starter from the year before. Wills and Davis were Seniors who had only had spot duty the previous 3 years They were actually really good in conference and would probably be higher on this list had they not started out the season so poorly.
2009 - 19-12 (10-8) RPI: 45, 12 Seed
Stats : Offense: 1.08 PPP (1st), Defense: 1.00 PPP (5th)
Starters : Trevon Hughes, Jason Bohannon, Marcus Landry, Jon Leuer, Joe Krabbenhoft
Bench : Keaton Nankivil, Jordan Taylor, Tim Jarmusz, Kevin Gullickson, Rob Wilson
Big Wins : Illinois (22)
Bad Losses : Lost 6 straight Big Ten games in early January
Second Round: Led at halftime, but eventually were overpowered by 4 seed Xavier
Summary : Frustrating year with the big losing streak (many very close losses). They had lost Flowers, Butch and Steimsma and didn’t really have anyone step up. Taylor, Nankivil and Leuer would eventually make up the core of some very good teams but weren’t ready to carry the team this early in their careers. The win against Florida State was redeeming in a way as this team had under-performed and was better than the 12 seed they were given, but losing in the second round was about right for the talent they had.
2013: 23-12 (12-6), RPI 29, 5 seed
Stats : Offense .99 PPP (8th), Defense: .91 PPP (1st)
Starters : Traevon Jackson, Ben Brust, Mike Bruesewitz, Ryan Evans, Jared Berggren
Bench : Sam Dekker, George Marshall, Frank Kaminsky, Zak Showalters
Big Wins : at Indiana (9), Michigan (9), Ohio State (7), Indiana and Michigan in the BTT
Bad Losses : Blown out at Florida (11), vs Purdue (124)
Tournament : Totally forgettable game vs Ole Miss in which they scored 46 points.
Summary : Very interesting team and hard to judge. Elite defense and capable of beating anyone in the country and the road win at Indiana is perhaps the most impressive win Bo’s ever had. But they were capable of putting up complete stinkers on offense. They lost 6 games in which they scored 50 points or less and had a subpar offense overall. The Gasser injury forced gig growing pains from the guard position and the front line was stout on defense though often offensively challenged.
2003 : 24-8 (12-4), RPI: 25. Big Ten Champs. NCAA seed: 5
Stats : Offense: 1.08 PPP (1st), Defense: .93 PPP (1st)
Starters : Kirk Penney, Devin Harris, Alando Tucker, Mike Wilkinson, Freddie Owens
Bench :Boo Wade, Dave Mader, Andreas Helmighk
Big Wins : #24 Michigan State (“I’ll remember that” – Izzo), #15 Illinois
Bad Losses : At Penn State (#189 RPI)
Round One: Beat #12 Weber State 81-74 in the 1st round. Led by 47-30 at one point in the game. Weber State had a late run to get it to 7 points at the end.
Round Two: Beat #13 Tulsa 61-60 on the dramatic Freddie Owens 3. They were down 58-45 with 4:08 left to play and came back to win. Crazy.
Round Three: In the Sweet 16 game Kirk Penney went 5-7 from 3 and scored 20, but it wasn’t enough to beat Kentucky, losing 63-57. They were 12 point underdogs and do think they surprised a lot of people by playing the #1 overall seed as close as they did. They had no answer for Marquis Estill who scored 28 points.
Summary : This team is a little hard to judge simply because they did not have a chance to play many good teams. The Badgers won the league and were a 5 seed. Illinois was a 4, MSU and Indiana a 7, and Purdue a 9th. In non-conference they lost at home to the Chris Paul led Wake Forest team (12) and the D-Wade led Marquette team (7).
The Badgers stifling defense was the story for most of the year and there was great excitement with star Freshman Alando Tucker and the continued development of Devin Harris. 4 of the starting 5 are Badger legends (sorry Freddie) but they were a very young team. The bench was really an issue as they had little depth forcing Bo to primarily use a 6 man rotation.
2012 26-10 (12-6), RPI 15, 4 Seed
Stats : Offense: 1.03 PPP (7th), Defense: .97 PPP (3rd)
Starters : Jordan Taylor, Josh Gasser, Mike Bruesewitz, Ryan Evans, Jared Berggren
Bench : Ben Brust, Rob Wilson, Frank Kaminsky, Traevon Jackson
Big Wins : UNLV (21), Indiana (11), at Ohio State (6), Indiana (11) in BTT (the Rob Wilson game)
Bad Losses : Iowa (125) twice (!!)
First Round: Blew out Montana
Second Round: Beat 5 seeded Vanderbilt (who was getting a ton of buzz at the time). Balanced scoring with 5 guys in double figures.
Third Round: Lost a heart breaker to 1 seeded Syracuse. 4 Point underdogs, the Badgers played as well as this team could. They shredded Syracuse’s zone (1.21 PPP) by hitting 14-27 threes. However in the end they just couldn’t stop Syracuse’s offense.
Summary : Offense took a hit this year as Jordan Taylor was very good, but with the loss of Leuer, was asked to do a lot on offense and the PPP suffered and the pace slowed (58 possessions per game) while they struggled for quick shots. They did own a good Indiana team ( thanks Tom ), and the road win at Ohio State was one of the more impressive wins in Bo’s run. Lot of controversy at the time of the Syracuse game because of the last shot, but really played a great game against a good 1 seed.
2011 : 25-9, (13-5), RPI 16, 5 Seed
Stats : Offense: 1.19 PPP (3rd), Defense: 1.09 PPP (6th)
Starters : Jordan Taylor, Josh Gasser, Tim Jarmusz, Jon Leuer, Keaton Nankivil
Bench : Mike Bruesewitz, Ryan Evans, Jared Berggren, Rob Wilson
Big Wins : Purdue (13), Ohio State (2),
Bad Losses : Scored 33 points vs Penn State
First Round: Easy game vs Belmont
Second Round: Withstood a 38 point barrage from Jacob Pullen to hold off Kansas State. Bruesewitz came off the bench to hit a clutch 3, a couple FTs and a key block at the end to give them the victory in a pretty thrilling game.
Third Round: Got down big against Butler early and could never recover. Taylor and Leuer combined to hit 7-31 and they had no chance.
Summary : Taylor had the best individual single season in Badger basketball history this year, averaging 18 points, 5 assists and 1 turnover per game. Leuer also had a monster season averaging 18 and 7 rebounds. The offense was beastly when those two were going, though they had a terrible defense , (the slow pace distracted most talk of this). The downfall was it was basically a 3 man offense, Taylor, Nankivil and Leuer averaged 46 points per game while the ENTIRE rest of the team averaged 21 points per game. This was exposed in the tournament game vs Butler and the BTT game vs Penn State where Taylor and Leuer had off nights and they had no chance.
2010 24-9 (13-5), RPI 20, 4 seed
Stats : Offense: 1.11 PPP (1st), Defense: .94 PPP (1st)
Starters : Trevon Hughes, Jason Bohannon, Tim Jarmusz, Jon Leuer, Keaton Nankivil
Bench : Jordan Taylor, Ryan Evans, Rob Wilson, Mike Bruesewitz
Big Wins : Purdue (11), Duke (2), Michigan State (19)
Bad Losses : at Green Bay (104), Illinois (66) in the Big Ten Tournament, blown out at Minnesota (63)
Round 1: Big time struggle with Wofford in the first round
Round 2: Complete pantsing by Cornell
Summary: The tournament struggle left a bitter taste of what was one of the better Badgers seasons. Big time win over eventual National Champion Duke in December. Leuer was injured halfway through the season which gave Jordan Taylor some more playing time and would set up his next couple years. One of the better offenses in the Bo Ryan era combined with a stout defense. They led the Big Ten in both categories. Talented scorers in Hughes, Bohannon, Leuer, Nank and Taylor with good size on the bench.
The Cornell loss was one of the tougher games to take, they simply didn’t show up and never had a chance.
2005 : 25-9 (11-5), RPI: 14, 6 Seed
Stats : Offense 1.07 PPP (3rd), Defense: 1.00 PPP (5th)
Starters : Mike Wilkinson, Clayton Hanson, Alando Tucker, Sharif Chambliss, Kam Taylor
Bench : Zach Morely, Ray Nixon, Andreas Helmigk
Big Wins : Alabama (#20), Michigan State (#14)
Bad Losses : Destroyed at Pepperdine (123), at Marquette (94) at Indiana (76)
Tournament : Kam Taylor came off the bench in Round 1 to help them win in a dog fight over Northern Iowa. Tucker and Wilkinson both struggled, but Taylor and Sharif (5 threes) were enough to give them the edge.
In Round 2, Wilkinson had 23, Morley 15 and they were able to pound Bucknell inside. Game was tied in the second half, but a late run gave the Badgers the game.
In Round 3, they Badgers played an awful first half and found themselves down 30-21. They came out on fire in the second half behind Alando Tucker and Wilkinson. Julius Hodge was held to 4-16 shooting.
In Round 4, Wisconsin hung around with eventual National Champ North Carolina but it wasn’t enough at the end. A fast paced (for Wisconsin) 70 possession game, they were in it late but couldn’t really stop UNC all game (no one that year could). Hanson, Chambliss and Kam Taylor went 10-17 from three, Tucker scored 25 but they just couldn’t stop Sean May.
Summary : The second best Tournament runs boosts them up a little, but its not enough to get them higher. Am not diminishing it all because any Tournament win is impressive, but they knocked out an 11, 14 and 10 seed, often in close games. It’s not quite enough to jump some teams who had a better regular season but less impressive tournament.
2004 : 25-7 (12-4), RPI: 17. 6 Seed.
Stats : Offense: 1.12 PPP (2nd), Defense: .94 PPP (1st)
Starters : Devin Harris, Mike Wilkinson, Boo Wade, Freddie Owens, Andreas Helmigk
Bench : Dave Mader, Zach Morley, Clayton Hanson, Ray Nixon
Big Wins : Illinois (#23)
Bad Losses : at Purdue (106 RPI), blown out at Northwestern (99 RPI)
Tournament : I’ll just say this briefly on the seeding: they got screwed but I don’t think it was the end of the world. They probably a deserved a 4 seed, you could argue 5. Getting a 6 seed with the advantage of playing in front of a packed house in Milwaukee should have been good enough. The problem with the Big Ten being so down was that they played 3 top 25 teams all year, that’s it.
Round One: Staged a big comeback against Richmond
Round Two: Lost a close game against Pittsburgh, and I died a little inside.
Summary : Its hard to overstate how bad the Big Ten was this year. Only 3 teams made the tournament, Wisconsin at a 6 seed, Illinois a 5 and Sparty a 7.
This year was especially fun to watch because Devin Harris played out of his mind. He had a 3 game stretch in B10 play where he scored 97 points and UW won all three games. Just at a different level. The stretch at the end of the year where they blew out everyone they played was just amazing to watch. This should have stopped any talk of “momentum” with the tournament as they went from amazing to average pretty quick.
Oh what could have been if Alando Tucker wasn’t lost for the season due to injury.
2008 31-5, 16-2, RPI 12, 3 Seed
Stats : Offense: 1.08 PPP (3rd) Defense: .91 PPP(1st)
Starters : Trevon Hughes, Michael Flowers, Joe Krabbenhoft, Marcus Landry, Brian Butch
Bench : Jason Bohannon, Greg Steimsma, Jon Leuer
Big Wins : At Texas (#6), Michigan State (#16) in the Big Ten Tournament
Bad Losses : None. Lost by 24 at Duke (#7). Lost twice to Purdue and a 5 point loss vs Marquette, neither of which were poor losses.
Round 1: More of a struggle than it should have been. Was only a 8 point lead with 4 minutes left until Wisconsin got some stops and hit their FTs.
Round 2: One of the better tournament games in Wisconsin history. Beat a Kansas State team with future pros Bill Walker and Michael Beasley 72-55. Hughes led the way with 25.
Round 3: Played Davidson tough early, but then got the doors blown off in the second half. “Seth Curry torches the Badgers” is the lasting narrative from this one, but it was more a story of Wisconsin’s inability to score. This was a tie game at halftime, and the Badgers were only down 3 points with 14:00 left.
Then: Curry 3-Wisconsin turnover-Curry 3-Wisconsin turnover- Other Davidson 3. And a 3 point deficit jumps to 12 in a flash. So those threes hurt, but what really hurt Wisconsin is they scored 11 points the last 15 minutes of the game. That wasn’t going to beat anyone.
Summary : The Michael Flowers shot against Texas is the lasting regular season moment. Bo’s finest defensive team during his time at Wisconsin. They lacked a little depth as Leuer was hit or miss as a Freshman and Steimsma couldn’t stay on the court. Offense was solid, though not spectacular.
2007 : 30-6 (13-3) RPI 7. 2 Seed
Stats: Offense: 1.07 PPP (3rd), Defense: .93 PPP (2nd)
Starters : Kam Taylor, Michael Flowers, Alando Tucker, Brian Butch, Jason Chappell
Bench: Joe Krabbenhoft, Marcus Landry, Jason Bohannon, Greg Stiemsma
Big Wins : Blew out Pittsburgh (#2), won at Marquette (#17), Ohio State (#5),
Bad Losses : None really, dropped a neutral court game to Missouri State, but they ended with a 36 RPI so even that isn’t too bad.
Tournament : Ah, things fall apart. Trailed 27-19 at halftime to Texas A&M Corpus Cristi but stormed back with 57 points in the second half to win the game
They would also fall behind early against UNLV in round 2, but claw back and actually led 54-53 with 6 minutes left. UNLV would then hit a couple threes, go on a 15-8 and bury the 2 seeded Badgers.
Summary : This team was fantastic, just seemed to peak early. Their December, January and first half of February was one of the best stretches a Bo Ryan team has had. They stomped a good Pittsburgh team, beat a ranked Marquette team then beat the Oden/Connley Ohio State group. They won 12 of their first 13 Big Ten games, then just seemed to lose it offensively late in the year.
Losing Brian Butch for the season during a late season game vs Ohio State left them really thin at the front line and forced more minutes on Chappel and the underclassmen on the bench. The late season offense was also a large issue in the Tournmant disapointment, the team was routinely putting up 70 point games, then only broke 55 points once in their final 6 games leading up to the tournament.
2014 30-8 (12-6) 4 RPI, 2 Seed
Stats : Offense: 1.14 PPP (1st), Defense: 1.05 PPP (7th)
Starters : Traevon Jackson, Ben Brust, Josh Gasser, Sam Dekker, Frank Kaminsky
Bench : Nigel Hayes, Bronson Koenig, Duje Dukan
Big Wins : Florida (1), at Virginia (8), Michigan State (13), at Michigan (11)
Bad Losses : Northwestern (125!!). Bizarre stretch in which they lost 5 of 6 in late January.
First Round: Blew out American
Second Round: Got down big early vs 7 seeded Oregon, then roared back in front of a raucous Bradley Center crowd to win the game
Third Round: Destoyed Baylor
Fourth Round: In the greatest game in Badger basketball history and best individual performance (Frank Kaminsky) knocked out the 1 seeded Arizona team
Final Four: Lost a heartbreaker by 1 point to Kentucky
Summary : Even before the tournament, this was arguably the best Badger team of all time, with a resume that could match any past team and tied for highest tournament seed under Bo. The tournament run sealed it.
Defensive struggle at times and one of Bo’s weakest defenses, but had 8 rotation players who could score. There were no weak offensive links. Likely the most talented team Bo has had as well, with numerous players likely getting NBA looks down the road.
So there you have it, the last 13 years of Wisconsin basketball condensed into 2,800 words. Hope you had as good of time reading as I had researching.