After being named Big Ten Coach of the Year Monday, Wisconsin men’s basketball head coach Bo Ryan briefly addressed winning the award at his Tuesday press conference. But, it wasn’t to acknowledge himself. Rather, Ryan deflected any and all praise to his staff, his players and the university.
“For awards, individual awards like that, I don’t really get involved,” Ryan said. “But what they’re saying is it still has, after the coach’s name or a player’s name that gets an award, they have the university. So the fact that Wisconsin was listed there, the staff was pretty excited.
“That’s the reason you’re sitting there doing the interview is because of what the players and what the coaches have done, and they deserve every bit as much credit as any individual award.”
Wisconsin’s other conference award winners included senior center Jared Berggren and freshman forward Sam Dekker. Berggren was named second-team All-Big Ten and an an honoree for the All-Big Ten Defensive team, while freshman Dekker was named to the Big Ten All-Freshman team.
Finishing regular season conference play with a 12-6 record, the Badgers earned the No. 4 seed and a first-round bye in the upcoming Big Ten Tournament. UW will play the winner of Thursday’s matchup between No. 5 seed Michigan (25-6, 12-6 Big Ten) and No. 12 seed Penn State (10-20, 2-14 Big Ten). While Michigan is the favorite to win, Penn State managed to pull off an upset against the Wolverines back on Feb. 27 in University Park, Pa., for its first conference win of the season.
“You prepare to get your team ready,” Ryan said. “You know it’s Penn State or Michigan, but you know you’ve got a quick turnaround so you have no scout, you don’t have practice for the next one in the Big Ten Tournament.
“So you work on your stuff. One day we’ll do Michigan and then one day we’ll do Penn State.”
It’s an odd situation for scouting when it comes to the Big Ten tournament. Unlike the NCAA version, there is no off-day between games. Rather, like a lightning round, teams play one day to the next, with little to no time to prepare for their opponents.
“I don’t know if it’s going to work, but we’re trying to make it work so that the last 40 minutes of practice on Thursday,” Ryan said. “We’ll know the winner before we get on the bus. That’s what we’re trying to work out now so we can do final possessions that we do the day before a game on the team we’re going to play.”
Penn State is currently playing its best basketball of the season, although the season ended on a sour note when Wisconsin’s Traevon Jackson hit a buzzer-beating desperation three Sunday, denying the Nittany Lions their third Big Ten win in their last four games.
When asked about the benefits of having to sweat out a tough game before the Big Ten Tournament, Ryan noted the learning potential for his team when looking back on the final minutes Sunday.
“I thought it was good for our guys because there were several things [the coaching staff] were able to point out when we get [to practicing] in a couple of hours that I hope will benefit us. Sometimes what to do, sometimes what not to do,” Ryan said.
In what has widely been discussed as a wild season in college basketball, especially in what’s considered the best conference in college basketball, the Big Ten Tournament title is up for grabs. Ryan and the Badgers will look to avoid an early exit, as the team has lost in their first game of the conference tournament three of the last four years.
“Sometimes you get in and you get to play one game and then you’re home and it’s kind of hard to comment on the tournament,” Ryan said. “Sometimes you get to play in the finals, maybe you get to win, maybe you get to lose. We’ll have to wait until it’s over. We’d sure like to be a part of it for a while, who wouldn’t?”