Badgers' Ryan: We know what we're up against

Contrary to popular belief, Bo Ryan doesn’t necessarily agree that an undefeated team carries added pressure with it.

And the Wisconsin coach has first-hand experience to back that opinion.

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“Not to promote my University of Wisconsin Platteville team necessarily,” Ryan said Monday during the Final Four coaches teleconference. “(But) I had a chance to coach two college teams that went undefeated in a season, and I know what it's like to be 10-0, 15-0, 25-0… what that does to a team.

“It actually made our practices better. Our practices were very competitive, knowing that all eyes are on you. Needless to say, in Division I there's more eyes, all on Kentucky's team. But going through that, I just thought it made us better while we were undefeated because of how you learned to deal with the outside pressures.”

A team forged in the fire of pressure is what the Badgers face Saturday in the national semifinals. Top-ranked Kentucky carries a 38-0 record into the matchup and is just two wins away from becoming the first team since Indiana in 1976 to run the proverbial table.

The Wildcats survived a stern test from ACC champion Notre Dame on Saturday in Cleveland, making almost all the clutch plays down the stretch after trailing the Fighting Irish by as many as six points.

Ryan noted that it’s not just tough games like that one that aid Kentucky’s cause. It’s what the Cats face every day in practice.

“In practices, you got enough good players going against each other, so you're actually developing the skills of your players while the season's going on because you have that depth,” he said. “So I think Kentucky is in a pretty good position from that standpoint of being able, even though they don't have the same players as last year, what they've developed in the last four and a half months is some pretty competitive drills, some pretty competitive practices and work, to where not only were they good in November, but they're even better now.”

Ryan, whose Badgers bring their own impressive record of 35-3 and a battle-tested Big Ten championship to Indianapolis, will be matching Xs and Os against UK coach John Calipari for the second consecutive year in the national semifinals. Last year, the Cats edged Wisconsin on a late 3-pointer by Aaron Harrison.

The Wisconsin boss says one of the things that makes Kentucky so difficult to play is the depth of talent on the roster. The Cats have been rotating nine players for most of the postseason and have a 10th player, reserve guard Dominique Hawkins, who saw key minutes in last year’s NCAA Tournament run.

“Even if there's a guy that shoots a bad percentage or has a rough day, look how many other guys can pick them up,” Ryan said. “There are some teams who have two, three, maybe four scorers. If they all have a bad day the same day, they're definitely losing. Kentucky can have guys have bad days but still have enough guys to make up for that.”

To wit, UK has Tyler Ulis as a backup to Andrew Harrison at the point; Devin Booker as a backup to Aaron Harrison at the 2; and Marcus Lee or Dakari Johnson as backups to Willie Cauley-Stein and Karl-Anthony Towns in the frontcourt.

“They’re strong from point to post,” Ryan said. “You don't go undefeated in college now without something pretty special.

“We know what we're up against. Our guys are pretty smart guys. They know what it's going to take, a pretty perfect game or close to it, to get these guys. We'll see what we have in us.”




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And the Wisconsin coach has first-hand experience to back that opinion.

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“Not to promote my University of Wisconsin Platteville team necessarily,” Ryan said Monday during the Final Four coaches teleconference. “(But) I had a chance to coach two college teams that went undefeated in a season, and I know what it's like to be 10-0, 15-0, 25-0… what that does to a team.

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“It actually made our practices better. Our practices were very competitive, knowing that all eyes are on you. Needless to say, in Division I there's more eyes, all on Kentucky's team. But going through that, I just thought it made us better while we were undefeated because of how you learned to deal with the outside pressures.”

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A team forged in the fire of pressure is what the Badgers face Saturday in the national semifinals. Top-ranked Kentucky carries a 38-0 record into the matchup and is just two wins away from becoming the first team since Indiana in 1976 to run the proverbial table.

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The Wildcats survived a stern test from ACC champion Notre Dame on Saturday in Cleveland, making almost all the clutch plays down the stretch after trailing the Fighting Irish by as many as six points.

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Ryan noted that it’s not just tough games like that one that aid Kentucky’s cause. It’s what the Cats face every day in practice.

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“In practices, you got enough good players going against each other, so you're actually developing the skills of your players while the season's going on because you have that depth,” he said. “So I think Kentucky is in a pretty good position from that standpoint of being able, even though they don't have the same players as last year, what they've developed in the last four and a half months is some pretty competitive drills, some pretty competitive practices and work, to where not only were they good in November, but they're even better now.”

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Ryan, whose Badgers bring their own impressive record of 35-3 and a battle-tested Big Ten championship to Indianapolis, will be matching Xs and Os against UK coach John Calipari for the second consecutive year in the national semifinals. Last year, the Cats edged Wisconsin on a late 3-pointer by Aaron Harrison.

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The Wisconsin boss says one of the things that makes Kentucky so difficult to play is the depth of talent on the roster. The Cats have been rotating nine players for most of the postseason and have a 10th player, reserve guard Dominique Hawkins, who saw key minutes in last year’s NCAA Tournament run.

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“Even if there's a guy that shoots a bad percentage or has a rough day, look how many other guys can pick them up,” Ryan said. “There are some teams who have two, three, maybe four scorers. If they all have a bad day the same day, they're definitely losing. Kentucky can have guys have bad days but still have enough guys to make up for that.”

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To wit, UK has Tyler Ulis as a backup to Andrew Harrison at the point; Devin Booker as a backup to Aaron Harrison at the 2; and Marcus Lee or Dakari Johnson as backups to Willie Cauley-Stein and Karl-Anthony Towns in the frontcourt.

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“They’re strong from point to post,” Ryan said. “You don't go undefeated in college now without something pretty special.

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“We know what we're up against. Our guys are pretty smart guys. They know what it's going to take, a pretty perfect game or close to it, to get these guys. We'll see what we have in us.”

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