Coming off a huge 79-74 victory over the then No. 15 Iowa in Iowa City Saturday, the No. 14 Wisconsin men’s basketball team is cruising in the Big Ten schedule after winning five games in a row.
The Badgers (22-5, 9-5 Big Ten) have beaten three ranked teams during the five-game winning streak, earning victories over Michigan State, Michigan and Iowa along with solid wins against Illinois and Minnesota.
During a weekly press conference, Badgers’ head coach Bo Ryan stressed the minutia and attention to detail that it takes to win in Big Ten conference play.
Along those lines, Ryan has long been a proponent of having teams that can make more free throws than the other team attempts, meaning he does not want his defense to take unnecessary fouls.
This disciplined defensive principal has been one of the trademarks of Ryan’s coaching style in his 12 years as head coach.
“Well you always work towards it,” Ryan said of avoiding fouls. “You always have to get guys that believe that if you take shortcuts with your hands you’re going to be called for a lot of fouls that aren’t necessary. Play defense with your feet, so you try to limit the number of attempts the other team takes, but you can’t play soft, you can’t give guys things. So you’ve got to find that happy medium.
“And then for your own team you’ve got to have guys that can attack the rim and attack gaps in order to force other teams to use their hands. We don’t have a ‘blazer’ so to speak on our team, someone that’s been described that way. Someone that’s really quick or jet quick, but we have guys that use their instincts pretty well to get to the line, and Nigel [Hayes] has really helped us in that phase.”
One of the major success stories this season has been the emergence of Frank Kaminsky and his elevated game from last season. In his last two games alone, Kaminsky has averaged 23.0 points, leading the Badgers in scoring against Michigan Feb. 16 and Iowa with 25 and 21 points, respectively.
After only scoring 4.2 points per game last season as a sophomore, Kaminsky has broken out this year into a starting role and averages 13.3 points a game this season in 27 games so far.
Ryan explained the aspects of Kaminsky’s play that have changed since a year ago to lead to his bigger role on the squad.
“He’s gained some confidence on his ability to finish around the basket, and he’s maturing as I’ve said. After doing [college basketball analysts Dan] Dakich and [Andy] Katz it seems like if you answer a question this morning at 10:10, then you’re going to be asked it 10 more times. So if I’m repeating myself, I am. Frank is maturing, he is a young man who is — that’s what the guys are here for. They’re going to college, they’re playing a sport and they’re in the moment,” Ryan said.
A slightly irked Bo Ryan went off on a tangent after being asked the question on Kaminsky’s maturation process revealing his distaste with the media’s handling of his team.
“People are talking about Milwaukee? Are you kidding me? We’re talking about Indiana. And these kids are in the moment, these kids are playing right now, these kids are trying to enjoy their college careers. And I enjoy watching them develop. I enjoy being with these guys every day out there on the court. So that’s what I do. You guys do what you do. With all your projections and everything else, but it’s simply maturation. Frank Kaminsky is maturing on and off the court, and it shows in the way he is playing. But isn’t that what they’re here for? It’s college,” Ryan said.
As the topic of Kaminsky’s progression and his increased role in the paint as opposed to the perimeter continued, Ryan attributed credit for Frank’s improving game to his teammates and coaches.
“Yeah and it’s also where you receive the ball, it’s also maybe some of the things we saw in the scouting report or things we were trying to do. Some people take some things away better than others. So you know, Frank took advantage of the opportunities that he had, and the guys got him the ball in some good positions… So the key is to have a team, where if somebody’s hot, they can’t just concentrate on one person, that you can get it from different places,” Ryan said.
With four games left in the regular season, the Badgers will look to continue their winning ways when they take on Indiana (15-11, 5-8 Big Ten) at the Kohl Center Tuesday.