Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

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Ryan’s plans ahead of schedule

When Dick Bennett unexpectedly resigned as the men’s basketball head coach last season, many thoughts of what was going to happen to the Wisconsin program ran through the minds of everyone.

When four senior starters turned in their jerseys and cleaned out their lockers, many wondered if a new young squad would be able to win enough games to keep the Badgers out of the Big Ten cellar.

When Bo Ryan was named coach, many wondered if his system would be adequate enough to last through the Big Ten.

With the Big Ten season well underway, the UW basketball team is right in the mix of a conference race that has taken so many twists and turns already that it is not quite obvious what direction the teams are going.

Instead of Illinois and Iowa battling it out on top like predicted, the premier match-up has been between Ohio State and Indiana. Both rest at 6-1 in conference action, with the Hoosiers only loss at the hands of the Buckeyes, while OSU was then stunned by Minnesota. Right behind the two, though, lies the Badgers.

Wisconsin (12-9) has managed a 5-3 record against conference foes halfway through the season, including victories over Illinois and Michigan State. While much of the success can be attributed to the constant building of team chemistry, it all comes back to the team coming together and understanding the new system of basketball implemented by Ryan.

Bennet had emphasized a defense that packed four defenders in the lane, while leaving the guard open on top. His defensive plan led to many low-scoring games that were not always the most exciting to watch. Ryan, on the other hand, has brought in a plan that opens up the offensive scoring. Despite an eighth-place standing in the Big Ten in scoring offense, the Badgers 66.8 ppg is still considerably more than their 59.4 average from last season. Now instead of finding guard Kirk Penney on top of the key, he can be found down low in the post working the basket.

“[Penney’s] already proved to people that he could score from the outside,” said Ryan. “Anyone that has played a guard position [knows] your position is not with your back to the basket and your positions [encounter] a defensive presence — and until you put people in those positions you do not know how they will adapt. Some will adapt better than others. Kirk Penney has adapted very well to using his body inside.”

So far this season Penney leads the team in scoring with an average of 14.3 points per game, including 13.8 in conference action.

Even with his new looks down low, he still finds time to take a shot from downtown. Of his 102 attempts from behind the arch, he has connected on 36 for a 35.3 percent shooting effort.

Even though Penney is still an outside threat, he is no longer the only man to worry about. Ryan’s offense has everyone taking shots when they have the open looks on the perimeter. 6-8 forward Mike Wilkinson has made 40 attempts, while his cohort Charlie Wills has tried his hand at 50 from three-point land. Leading the team is freshman guard Devin Harris who has made 41 of 115 three-pointers.

“I try to look at a lot of different spins, and I am pleased with some things these guys have been able to accomplish,” said Ryan, who is also impressed with how the team has been able to come up with the answers to make the offense work.

While Ryan’s defensive strategy isn’t as noticeable as Bennet’s was, it is still a force on the court. UW is fifth in the conference in scoring defense, thanks to holding its opponents to 65.2 points a contest.

“There were a lot of question marks about how competitive a group can be without A, B and C,” said Ryan. “I think the commitment to not bucking the system and do the things we had asked [has impressed me]”, said Ryan.

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