Head coach Bo Ryan and the Wisconsin men’s basketball team find themselves in the last week of the Big Ten regular season. The Badgers will play their final home game against Purdue Wednesday and then face Nebraska in their Big Ten finale Sunday in Lincoln, Neb.
Even if Wisconsin (24-5, 11-5 Big Ten) falls in their final two regular season games, it will still be guaranteed a top-four finish in the Big Ten and a first round bye in the Big Ten Tournament. Wisconsin has now finished in the top four in the final conference standings for a record-tying 13 years, including every year since Ryan took over the head coaching position in 2001-2002.
Ryan commented on the consistency his teams have been able to display over the past 13 years in a press conference Monday.
“We’ve all been raised with the idea of don’t be a flash in the pan as a person, and as a team, we don’t want Wisconsin to be a flash in the pan,” Ryan said. “ I think it speaks volume to the players that have played here during this streak that you call it, of finishing in the upper level of the Big Ten. I’ve always thought that any coach that comes into the Big Ten. Shouldn’t that be your goal?”
Wednesday is not just the final home game for the Badgers this season, but it will also be senior night for a Wisconsin team very light on seniors. Of the three players being honored, senior guard Ben Brust has provided the most notable contributions in his four seasons. Last season he set a Wisconsin single-season record with his 79 three-pointers made and this season Brust has 71 makes from behind the arc.
While Brust is most known for his touch outside the three-point line, Ryan explained how he has used more than just his shooting ability to make an impact during his time at Wisconsin.
“He knew he was a good player. He had a lot of confidence in his scoring ability. His defense, he figured somebody could teach him that,” Ryan said. “He’s played extremely well on both ends of the floor, and obviously, he’s known for his three-point shooting, but he’s done a lot of other good things for us.”
Ryan also said although Brust came into Wisconsin with an undeveloped defensive game, he is now one of the Badgers’ best and most versatile defenders. Ryan described Brust as a “pest” on the defensive side of the ball.
“How big is a mosquito? Not very big. But boy can it be a nuisance,” he said. “That’s pretty much what Ben is if he happens to be on a bigger guy. He’s trying to pester him as much as he can. I know he’s a real nice, fine, young man, but when he wants to pester someone, he can.”
Redshirt senior forward Zach Bohannon will also be honored, and it was just recently announced that redshirt junior center Evan Anderson will forgo his final year of eligibility and not rejoin the team after graduating this spring. Ryan said even though Anderson has never played significant minutes, he has still been a very large contributor to the program.
“He’s just worked every day. He’s never had a bad practice from the standpoint of effort,” he said. “To go against Evan Anderson every day, just ask the guys. He’s helped us get the record that we have right now, and that’s not just saying it to say it. His teammates know how important he is.”
Ryan also explained that just because Bohannon has not played the minutes he expected to play coming into the season, that has not diminished his effort in his final season as a Badger.
“Nigel [Hayes] basically — because of performance — took a lot of minutes, and Zach was fine. He practiced hard every day,” Ryan said. “That shows you the type of man that he is. He’s getting ready for a lot of other things for the next 60 years that are pretty important in his life.”
The pregame festivities will be a special moment for the seniors, their families and the team as a whole, but Ryan and his team are still aware of the fact that they still have a game to play after the ceremonies take place. The Badgers are looking to avenge a 69-56 loss to Purdue that occurred on Wisconsin’s senior day last year.
Ryan said while this game is important, it is not a “be-all end-all” game for the team.
“If you want your life — the meaning of your life to be about one game, then, boy, you’re pretty shallow in your existence. So those young men had put in all that time and all those hours and all those experiences, and that was one game,” Ryan said. “I think we’re more mature than that. We’re bigger than that.”
The Badgers will take on the Boilermakers Wednesday night at the Kohl Center at 8 p.m.