No. 10 Wisconsin flourishes thanks to steady approach Print
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Monday, 25 February 2008 12:17
NCAAB Headline News


 MILWAUKEE (AP) -Wisconsin's winning ways come from a plodding, proficient offense and suffocating, pressure defense. That's how the Badgers are successful, but not why.
Instead, look to coach Bo Ryan, who acknowledges he'll take chances on recruits others shun.
``Consistency is easier to deal with from the standpoint of, even if you're consistently doing the wrong thing, you can learn from that and then turn it around and consistently do the right thing,'' Ryan said Monday on the Big Ten coaches' teleconference. ``There might be flaws in players that you can work with as long as their minds are open.''
Ryan has a mold for who he wants at No. 10 Wisconsin, which has won at least 19 games each of his first seven seasons and is in line for another Big Ten title.
``If they're not headcases, you watch how they talk to their own parents when they visit your campus, you watch how they deal with people,'' Ryan said. ``You're just trying to find people who you feel will respond in the classroom, on the court.''
That vibe carries on in the program, which had just five winning seasons from 1968-69 until 1995-96, when Dick Bennett began rebuilding the Badgers.
It could've been a down year after the Badgers lost their top two scorers from last season, Alando Tucker (19.9 ppg) and Kammron Taylor (13.3 ppg). But Ryan continues to take Wisconsin to new heights since arriving in 2001.
His squads are 105-7 at home. His offense has committed 11.5 turnovers per game over the last seven seasons, fourth best in the nation behind Air Force, Butler and Temple. And his defense is allowing 55.3 points this year, second in the nation only to Stephen F. Austin.
``They continue to make a surge to the Big Ten title,'' Illinois coach Bruce Weber said. ``(After) losing quite a bit of scoring from last year's team, (he) got the guys to buy in and be very consistent, play their roles and it seems like every game somebody else steps up.''
The Badgers (23-4, 13-2) play No. 19 Michigan State at home on Thursday after beating Ohio State 58-53 on Sunday. That win gave Wisconsin a half-game lead in the conference race that includes No. 12 Indiana and No. 16 Purdue.
Both the Hoosiers and Boilermakers have a tougher final stretch than Wisconsin, which will play Penn State at home and go to Northwestern, 0-14 in the conference.
If the Badgers win out, it'll be Ryan's third conference title and put Wisconsin in prime position for a high seed in the NCAA tournament. Ryan's success has been built on his patience, defense and treating even star players the same.
Take Brian Butch, a fifth-year senior who was also a McDonald's All-America coming out of high school. A fan favorite nicknamed the Polar Bear (there's often a student dressed as one in homage to Butch at the Kohl Center), he spent his first year as an unglamorous redshirt.
He suffered a bout of mononucleosis as a sophomore and the Badgers lost him again when he dislocated his elbow in a fall at Ohio State last year, when the Badgers were ranked No. 1.
Bust? Hardly in Ryan's eyes.
Butch just became the 32nd 1,000-point scorer in Wisconsin history, and the 6-foot-11 center's presence as the go-to-guy has been solidified with a team-best 12.3 points and 6.8 rebounds per game.
``He's persevered and worked and handled some things that maybe not every athlete has been hit with, as far as mono and dislocations and things like that,'' Ryan said. ``The fact that he was able to contribute over 1,000 points is great. The rebounds are great. The fact that he's played on teams that have had great records, that's enough of an accomplishment that people at Wisconsin would have killed for years ago.''
During Butch's career, the Badgers have been to the tournament all three years, reached one regional final and secured the No. 1 ranking in the nation for a week.
Michigan State coach Tom Izzo lauds Butch's drive to overcome a killer combination of ``hype and injuries.''
Now Izzo must try to make Michigan State just the third Big Ten team to win in Madison since Ryan took over.
``I can't think of a better time to go into Wisconsin,'' said Izzo, who acknowledged his team is confident. ``We're about as good to go as we can be.''
Meanwhile, Wisconsin remains a consistent standard, thanks to Ryan's approach.
``(When) the student is not learning, it's usually the teacher's fault,'' Ryan said.
 

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