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February 24, 2014
Big Ten's best: UW No. 14 in AP Poll
MADISON, Wis. - The Wisconsin Badgers (22-5, 9-5) moved up two spots to No. 14 in this week's edition of the Associated Press Top 25.
No. 1 Florida finds itself at the top of the poll for the first time since the 2007 season, when they won the National Championship, after receiving 47 of the 65 first place votes. No. 2 Wichita State received 14 first-place votes and No. 3 Arizona received the remaining four.
The Badgers, winners of five straight, are now the highest ranked team in the Big Ten, with No. 16 Michigan, No. 18 Michigan State, No. 20 Iowa and No. 22 Ohio State joining them among the nation's elites.
Since falling out of the Top 25 the week of February 3, the Badgers have seen their stock rise in each of the following three weeks.
Wisconsin boasts one of the best résumés in college basketball as they have beaten the top team in each the SEC (No. 1 Florida), Atlantic 10 (No. 10 Saint Louis), ACC (No. 12 Virginia) and Big Ten (No. 16 Michigan). The Badgers have played the second toughest schedule in the nation (Kansas) and have a nation-best seven wins against the current AP Top 25.
While four regular season games and the Big Ten Tournament still remain on the Badgers' slate, the possibility of playing in Milwaukee in the NCAA Tournament is a thought that has crossed their minds.
"That would be big to have our home crowd involved, it would be cool and great not having to travel as far," Sam Dekker said. "We just have to focus on getting wins and putting ourselves in a good position to get there."
ESPN's Joe Lunardi and Yahoo! Sports' Brad Evans both have Wisconsin as number two seeds playing in Milwaukee in their latest NCAA Bracketology predictions.
The Big Ten once again is the top conference in the poll, represented by five teams. The ACC and the American Athletic Conference (AAC) each have four teams in the Top 25, with the Big 12 (3), SEC (2), Mountain West (2), Big East (2), Missouri Valley (1), Pac-12 (1) and Atlantic 10 (1) rounding out the remaining slots of Week 17 of the AP Top 25.
The following is a transcript from Ryan's press conference Monday:
Q. Bo, one of the things that Iowa appears to do well is really attack the offensive glass. I'm just curious. Is it length with them? Is it tenacity? Is it getting guys out of position offensively? What makes them so good with that?
Bo Ryan: "They're long and bouncy. We use those expressions a lot simply because they're true. If your wingspan is longer than your height, then you're considered long. And if your vertical's pretty good, then you're bouncy. So they've got a lot of guys that fit into that category.
And they are aggressive to the glass. They're very deep. All the things that we talked about before the first game."
Q. Bo, when you look at the Big Ten this year, this is as balanced and unpredictable as it's been that you can recall? I know it's often unpredictable, but just top to bottom, is it the most balanced that you can recall it being?
RYAN: "Well, as coaches, we always respect our opponents. To not respect your opponent only causes you problems. So it's 1 through 12. Everybody's playing hard, everybody's playing tough. The scores indicate that. The number of wins for each team, the number of close games, as I mentioned, all those things are an indication that teams in the Big Ten know each other pretty well, great crowds, great atmospheres.
So, yeah, I mean, from the time when I was an assistant to now, I've never seen it 1 through the -- used to be one through 10, which is why they called it the Big Ten. And 1 through 12 now, I've never seen it as competitive, top half, bottom half, so to speak.
And that changes every game. That top half, bottom half can change. But I've never seen it as competitive as this."
Q. People talk about these atmospheres in the Big Ten, and we all know they're really good, but why is the road team winning so much?
RYAN: "Well, when I say great crowds, that means the visiting team isn't going to be cheated out of any electricity. There are some people that turn that noise into, hey, they're cheering for us. Or, hey, this is fun playing in front of these kind of crowds.
You know, a lot of teams have streaks on the line, and then you go in and you knock the streak off. Or this team hasn't beaten that team since 1878 and whatever.
You know, all that stuff that Patrick (Herb) throws out there.
And you get -- so it's kind of like every game is to the point where every team knows that the other team just is down a little bit, has a tough game, is not making shots and we make some shots, there is not a team that doesn't believe they can go in anywhere or a team that doesn't believe they can win at home every game.
And I've never been around an atmosphere like that. It's not like we've played everybody so far, but we know that's been the case just by watching the way the teams go at each other.
So winning on the road sometimes is not always indicative of the home crowd being the one spurring him on. It could be that some guys play because they like that atmosphere.
I like guys that can play in both."
Q. Your team specifically on the road, what has them -- maybe the way they're built or wired, you guys have had such success in?
RYAN: "I don't think it's anything different than the fact that, you know, we've been a decent road team year in, year out. So I don't see our guys going on the road and not feeling that they can get it done.
So it's a state of mind. It's how you prepare. And if you believe, then you have a chance."
Q. What do you think of Frank's (Kaminsky) effort on Sunday? He really seemed to have a different edge to him in terms of attacking the glass? He was pretty relentless in that regard.
RYAN: "Yeah, Frank just recognized some driving lines, and that helped him get to the rim. And by finishing or getting fouled, that's -- you know, he's had some of those same drives before where we've come up dry or the contact that was made was not a foul. But he drew more contact, and he finished stronger at the basket.
And, fortunately, he caught a break on the step-back three because he put his forearm up. That made me a little nervous. He did clear a bit of space.
I'll point that out on the film here today.
He just -- you know, they talk about players being in the zone, but his zone was driving lines and finishing and being active inside. Can he do that all the time? No. Defenses are geared to stop certain things.
I think Michigan was really concentrating on eliminating any of our outside shots. Therefore, the driving lines were a little wider. The driving lanes. And Frank recognized that."
Q. Along those lines of the 3-point shots, Josh Gasser doesn't shoot a high number of shots, but does he have a good feel for when you might need a timely basket based on the flow of the game, time and score and all that? Because he seems to want the ball in certain situations and make shots more.
RYAN: "Yeah, he's opportunistic. He's one of those guys that isn't going to take a bad shot. Although, in the one around the basket, he didn't finish as strongly as we would like. And, unfortunately, it led to a basket at the other end. But who's counting. He'll see that today.
You know, if you don't finish strong, if you're throwing up bad shots, that's the first pass of a fast break that usually turns out to be something negative for the team that didn't finish on their shot, and we had a few of those that ended up being scores for Michigan at the other end.
You try to eliminate as many of those as you can. But Josh has been very opportunistic. He doesn't force. He's a good teammate."
Q. From losing a few games to now winning four straight, has there been a change that you've personally seen in this team?
RYAN: "No, they still work just as hard as they did back in October, in the summer. They just come every day, eyes and ears open, their minds open. Results are different, but that's the same with every team.
And ours isn't the only conference where you're finding some of this."
Q. What stood out most to you about how Traevon (Jackson) has handled himself as a point guard this year? Has he done a pretty good job of staying even keeled even when things haven't necessarily gone his way?
RYAN: "Well, he doesn't have to. You have to remember that the next possession is going to be the most important one. If something didn't happen the way you liked it -- and he had several of those against Iowa in the last game -- you have to come back, take care of the ball, and then get a good shot on the next one. Make a defensive stop, do something positive in another way.
Because there's a lot of things that aren't going to go your way 100 percent of the time. So you just have to be the kind of person that can not just pass it off but inside say, okay, I can't leave my feet again. I can't make that decision. I have to be stronger. So he's been able to catch himself and improve."
Q. Well, because of the Canada trip and the more practices during the summer, have you managed anything differently in order to keep these guys fresh, fresher, come this time of year?
RYAN: "Not really. The only thing that's happened this year where I've changed some of my practices and all is a gate closing on your bus, getting back late because of weather, and not doing possessions, maybe doing more shooting.
When our guys practice, they are so physical with one another, because that's the way -- that's the kind of players we recruit. We don't want players that are only going to play hard in the games. Our practices are very intense on every possession.
So sometimes if we don't get 24 hours, if we're back late from a trip or if we played a late game and the guys don't have as much recovery time, then we'll not have contact. By contact, I mean possessions.
Because if there's a loose ball, they're going to dive for it. Evan Anderson is still going to set 50 screens that will crunch your -- who needs a chiropractor when you've got Evan Anderson out there setting screens and going to the glass? He'll straighten up anybody's vertebrae.
So sometimes we just don't have as much contact. That's all."
Q. During the year when you've been forced to do that and it seems that they -- I don't want to say fresh, but they played well the next game, have you noticed in those instances where it's helped them?
RYAN: "Yeah, and we've also done it where they necessarily didn't. There's times, especially for some of the things we've had, timing-wise -- I mean, the one I keep going back to is the playing at Iowa on a Thursday night late game, snow, we don't get back till 4:00 in the morning, and we're playing, I think, Saturday at noon. And years ago we played Purdue. I think it was Purdue, one of them. Yeah, Michigan State might have been another of them.
It's not like we do a lot of possessions this time of the year. I mean, we go 35. Day like today or tomorrow, because we don't play till Saturday, we'll go extra.
But everybody -- you've just got to do it based on how you feel and who's healthy, who isn't. I mean, we got some guys sick today that won't be practicing, which Patrick can tell you about or you can wait till practice and go, ooh, where is such and such today? As you guys do.
Hey, what happened? I don't know. I haven't seen him either, have you? That's what I'd like to say some days. But either they have class or they're sick. I think we have both today where guys have to leave early"
Q. I got to ask a follow-up. I can't remember the last time you acknowledged there was an illness.
RYAN: "Well, because you're going to ask, because you're going to be at practice. He's got to tell you the truth, don't you?
Always telling the truth, don't you, Patrick?
That's like saying that Sam (Dekker) wasn't available for questions that one day. Nobody asked for Sam for the media that day. That's what Patrick said. So I've got to go with my guy."
Q. Ben (Brust) has hardly ever struggled from 3 in his career over the last couple of years, and he's kind of struggled of late, the last four or five games. Is he dealing with something in terms of injuries? Or what have you seen that --
RYAN: "He told me he's setting them up. Guys won't guard him anymore. That's what he's waiting for.
No, he's -- we do our three-point shooting drills, he's always one of the leaders. He can still shoot it. I don't think you want to play horse with him.
But, yeah, he's had a few games where they're not going down, but do you ever watch other teams and watch the NBA and watch high school? I mean, it's just -- it's the game. The game of basketball is like that at times. It's how you battle through it, and what you end up getting is your final results that will tell the story."
Q. Is he one of the guys on your team who doesn't let a bad shooting day affect his play that day? I'm thinking of the number of rebounds he got.
RYAN: "No, he'll still play hard. He doesn't change his energy level. Still moves away from the basketball, makes good cuts, gets a lot of attention from defenses. So that's helped free up some other guys."
Q. Nigel's (Hayes) obviously been tremendously efficient. Is there a way to get him more minutes without limiting Frank's minutes? How do you kind of balance that?
RYAN: "He's been in a position to get more minutes, but fouls have also been an issue. So that's probably the main reason you haven't seen even more."
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