MADISON - In Bo Ryan's tenure at Wisconsin, the Badgers have never finished lower than fourth place in the Big Ten. That's eleven straight years where the Badgers have earned a bye in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament. In his weekly press conference, Ryan said that his program's consistency depends on players concentrating on the team first.
"(We have) players that just check their egos at the door when they get in here, and they play together as a team, and work hard," Ryan said Monday. "Their eyes are wide open when they come in, and that's helped us quite a bit."
But while earning a bye is nice, it comes with some potential pitfalls too.
By not playing on Thursday, the Badgers are forced to play a team that has already won a game the day before. The Badgers found out first hand in 2011 how dangerous that can be, when they lost to Penn State after earning a bye as the third seed.
"Some (coaches) really like the fact that you get to play right away, and you actually do get practice time if you play on the first day," Ryan said.
But at the same time, earning a bye means that the team has accomplished something during the regular season. As senior point guard Jordan Taylor put it last week, the Badgers would rather have to win fewer games to advance, as opposed to more. Under Ryan, the Badgers have never known what it's like to have to play on the first day of the tournament, and it's not something they'd like to find out.
"I'm glad we haven't had a chance to find that out yet," Ryan said. "In order to not play on the first day, you have to have done something during the year, so the players earned it."
No looking back for Ryan
After Ohio State beat Michigan State on Sunday to create a three-way tie for the Big Ten championship, many Badger fans could only look back and wonder what might have been for their team. The Badgers finished a game out of first place in the Big Ten, with two losses to Iowa glaring out of the schedule, among others.
But Ryan doesn't concern himself with what might have been. The Badgers were able to avenge some of their home losses with upset wins on the road, and Ryan said he's happy with what his team accomplished this year.
"If we didn't steal that game at Purdue and if we didn't steal that game at Illinois, or Minnesota in overtime, we'd be in seventh or eighth place," Ryan said. "I don't do that 'would have, could have' stuff. I like my guys, I like what they did this year. This group is pretty good … and anybody that doesn't know that doesn't know basketball."
Press conference audio:
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