So when he was awarded the conference's highest individual coaching honor Monday, Ryan made sure to hold up a picture of this year's team and commenting that the players, assistants and support staff deserve as much credit as he does for the award.
"After the coach's name or the player's name that gets an award, they have the university," said Ryan. "Players will tell you that, or at least players that are smart enough to realize, if they get an award, it's because of their teammates."
Winning the award for the third time in his career and first since 2003, Ryan will prepare No.22 Wisconsin this week for either 12th-seed Penn State or 5th-seed Michigan in the Big Ten Tournament quarterfinals Friday at Chicago's United Center.
The plan for Wisconsin this week is to spend one day practicing against Penn State – who the Badgers beat 63-60 in State College on Sunday – and one day against Michigan – who the 65-62 in overtime on February 9 in the team's only meeting.
Ironically, both of those games had a Wisconsin buzzer beater that propelled them to a victory and a first round bye, while Michigan missed a three footer to send them to the tournament's first round.
"We hit a 40-footer, 35, 36, nothing but bottom of the net," said Ryan, referring to junior guard Ben Brust's 3-pointer against the Wolverines to send the game to overtime. "Michigan missed a shot at the end … That ball sits on that rim … (and) rolls off. We hit a 30-something footer, and we get to have a bye."
Wisconsin will know its opponent during the last half of practice Thursday, and spend the week preparing against zone, pressure and different defenders to hopefully prepare three games in three days.
Lumping his name with the likes of Brian Butch, Greg Stiemsma, Jason Chappell and Mike Wilkinson, Ryan said senior Jared Berggren has made "the difference for (UW) defensively" in a season of challenges.
Leading the nation and ranking 21st in the Big Ten averaging 11.5 points per game, Berggren is sixth in the conference with 7.1 rebounds per game and leads the Big Ten averaging 2.0 blocker per game.
"By playing defense the way we do and running people off the line, we're pushing guys to take tough two-point jump shots," said Ryan. "You hear coaches all the time talk about no threes, nothing to the rim, tough two-point jumpers. So in order to do that, though, you have to have a 5-man that can protect, wall up the basket, make shots tough, either alter them, alter the shots or block the shots or take charges. That's what Jared's done a really good job of."
Last season, Berggren averaged 11 points per game in two tournament games last season, including 16 points and nine rebounds in the win over Indiana.
A year after leading the nation in scoring defense, allowing just 53.2 points per game, Wisconsin enters post season play allowing 56 points per game, which is tops in the conference and ninth annually, holding 12 of its 18 conference opponents below 60 and six below 50.
When it comes to defensive efficiency, Wisconsin leads the conference in 0.91 points per possession and swept the top spot in the conference in scoring defense, field goal percentage defense, 3-point field goal percentage defense and defensive rebounding percentage.
And yet, Ryan took more teaching clips from the recent Penn State game as any game he's had all year.
"There have been some times where, by not hitting shots, I can definitely see where the defense is let down," said Ryan. "Not because they go, ‘oh, ball's not going in. I'm not going to play defense.' It's just emotionally the charge isn't there.
"The juice tends to waver, and it seems a lot with the younger guys because they haven't been through this. The seniors have been pretty steady defensively. It's the younger guys who still have to understand that, if your shot isn't going in, you can't let it affect the rest of your game."
Ryan reference freshman Sam Dekker as one of the young players still learning the process. Although scoring in double figures in seven of the last eight games off the bench, Dekker, according to Ryan, likely didn't get the sixth man of the year award because of some weaknesses he has defensively.
"The nice part is thinking, ‘boy, if he keeps improving, we could be better,'" said Ryan.
Playing a total of five minutes and not scoring any points after Jan.8, Traevon Jackson leads the Badgers with 86 assists and 32 steals, but continues to make the big shot for UW's offense.
After hitting a game-tying 3-pointer to force overtime against Iowa (a game UW would go out to win in double overtime) and the game-winning bucket over No.12 Minnesota, Jackson hit a 25-foot 3-pointer as time expired. It was three of Jackson's game-high 15 points.
"He's a strong-minded young man, and he's shown that in just I'll get it the next time," Jackson said. "He believes in himself, and that's OK … All those things when I say we teach ways that he can be better because that's why he's here. He came here so he could become a better basketball player and play on a team that's competitive."
Besides potentially winning a Big Ten title, what do you have to gain in a tournament like this? Looking maybe a little down the road to the NCAA Tournament.
"It will be a grind. The theory was decades ago, when the ACC wasn't getting the National Championships, it was they beat each other up. The ACC, being on the East Coast, I remember reading articles about how they beat each other up going into the tournament, and then other people would say, when an ACC team would win, the tournament got them ready for it. So the fact the Big Ten hasn't won a National Championship in a while, I've heard that out there about how we beat each other up. I think it's an excuse, but we do.
"We do beat each other up, but that doesn't mean that somebody from our league can't go on and win six games. That's the tough part."