"Yeah, we've gone over this every year and more than happy to go over it again. You split it up, but then you also go with, you know, in your gut who's playing well right now and certain things, or maybe if an opponent has something that creates more of a problem in case they win, anything maybe a little out of the ordinary with something they do defensively or offensively. But again, when you go into it this time of the year it's you've got to have your own team understanding what it is that they need to do. Take care of your own house and the neighborhood will be okay."
I'll let you be Commissioner here for a minute. If you were Commissioner, how would you set this up? How would you run the regular-season schedule and then the tournament to make it all work and keep everybody happy, including the coaches and the people who want the money?
"Well, the thing isn't to keep me happy as an individual or the coach at this school happy or that school. We all have opinions of things, and mine's, I said maybe it'll change later, but, you know, I don't see the tournaments for conferences as being something that if you sacrifice playing each team home and away, I still think the regular season, in a true conference race, personally, and I said, maybe people can say that's because I'm old school or I'm not 40 years old, I'm 50-whatever, that's fine too. I think the regular season is the meat and potatoes and what it's all about.
"You don't have a tournament to make that statement for a sport. People play sports for certain reasons, and, you know, it's all part of the major portion of the schedule isn't a tournament. That's after. That was an afterthought when college athletics were established. And that's OK too. But to have a conference tournament and a national tournament -- that hasn't been something that I've been in favor of. But that's OK too because other people have the other opinion."
Bo, did you gain any more appreciation for this tournament after you won it last year, or did it kind of prove it the other way, that, you know, kind of proved your point that it didn't really help your seeding as much as we all thought it should?
"Well, again, for the sport, those people that feel that these tournaments promote the sport, I'll go along with that. I'll say, OK, that's good. The seeding thing, I don't, you have to win six games anyhow. I've never been these people that get excited about the Sweet Sixteen, the Elite Eight, the Final Four. We went to five of them at Platteville. We went to win five National Championships. It never is what it's called. You're in it to win it. And so for a national tournament, to me, I don't think you need a conference tournament to be able to determine who goes into the national tournament. And it's about winning the total number of games, never just being in something and get all excited about a part of it. I mean, if they have a national tournament what they're saying is they want to crown a national champion. If you're in that, let's go be national champions. And if we're not, then we're going to try again next year.
"But I don't think when we start the Big Ten season in January everybody goes 'let's be Big Ten Tournament champions,' right? I mean, we don't. I don't know. Let's be, let's win the Big Ten. To me still winning the Big Ten is winning the regular season. And it would be even better if it was everybody playing each other twice."
One of the reasons, rationales the Big Ten's always given for this is it's this great time slot when everybody's watching college basketball. Did you realize that, any benefits from the exposure of last year?
"Yeah. You know, I think people would be surprised as what they might think gets a program a lot of exposure and a lot of advantages and what doesn't. I think they'd be surprised. You know, people choose on that weekend to do whatever they do nationally and I thought playing in the championship game before the selection thing, I understand that that got a lot of viewers, and there are a lot of people that did see that game. But I can't tell you that it got us a recruit to commit. I can't say directly. I guess it all adds up. But we've talked about this before. I mean, right now, these kids aren't talking about the Big Ten Championship we won our first year here or the Final Four [Wisconsin went to in 2000]. These kids they don't, the guys we're recruiting now, it's, 'oh, yeah, last week I saw you guys play.' It is absolutely amazing. It doesn't matter. It doesn't.
"And so the Big Ten Tournament, can that get you into the household of a 15-year-old that maybe you're going to be recruiting down the road? I would like to think so, but I understand the Big Ten Tournament was set up and the reasons it was set up, and it's a business side. And let's face it, in college athletics it's there and we're all part of it, just like you [the media] are. It's a business for you."
As the tournament has evolved, has it become a bigger, has it had more of an impact on the losers than the winners? Obviously last year you could as a case in point. And do you still believe an early loss from the conference tournament's basically maybe a one bump in the seeding process for the tournament, for the NCAA Tournament?
"I couldn't even figure out the seeding if you don't lose in the Big Ten Tournament, so how could I figure if you win? No, and I didn't notice when we were, after we took bumps the first two years, when we were going off the court people going, 'Loser. Loser.' I didn't see that. Of course, I probably wouldn't notice anyhow. But you know what? We're in this thing and we're going to go out there and play. Don't misinterpret anything here. It's a game. I can't believe I was asked how do you motivate your players now that you're in the NCAA Tournament looks like for sure, the reporter says. How do you motivate your players for the Big Ten Tournament? How can you have played sports and ever ask somebody that question? I absolutely refuse to understand this from the media, how do you motivate your people to play a game. Now sometimes when we play you might think 'those guys aren't very motivated, they're getting their butts kicked.' But how in the heck could you ask somebody that question? I think I misinterpreted the question.
"And I'm telling you right now, they should not do these morning things [the Big Ten Teleconference] on Mondays the way they do. Put the questions on the Internet, put them [up] ahead of time, and do the press conferences that way. I mean, there are some areas that if you're playing a team from a certain state there's more interest and there's more questions about than if you're not playing somebody, then some coaches don't get any questions and some get more. Why don't you put them on the Internet and then everybody answer them and those same media people can get their answers. Who needs to be talking to one another on the phone in 2005? Why wouldn't they do the Monday mornings by Internet? You guys know, because you guys never ask me any questions on that one because you know we have this one on Mondays. Why do we do that by phone for those ten minutes? Anybody know?"
I think there's just the natural…if you do it by the internet than what if --
"Yeah, but my dad always got a haircut once a week. I don't. So don't say because they used to do it."
No, I wasn't saying because they used to do it, but what if a question is asked and then your response to it draws another question?
"Bring it on. We can sit there and do it [makes typing motion], and then you can read and you know the question. Sometimes I'm not quite sure what they're asking."
It might be used for radio Bo. For soundbytes for radio.
"But wouldn't that make, you could get more questions in. If you had questions, couldn't you get more answers, better answers, if you did it that way, but you're saying because they use they use it on radio. OK."
"Oh, there was a question here? Maybe this is why we do it."
If you go out early, does it, it has more an impact than --
"Yeah, see, I knew there was a reason I strayed, because I didn't want to answer the question. If you take a bump, I know people have said, hey, that got your team some rest, that, you know, maybe that's why you beat St. John's that first year, maybe that's why you got to the Sweet Sixteen your second year or whatever term is used out there, and you won this game or that game.
"I've never been one to say that a loss here, that it necessarily helps. So I can't answer that. I wouldn't agree with that, that if you get bumped that your team will play better if you're in the postseason after the Big Ten Tournament. I don't know. I can't give you an answer for that."
Think of Kam Taylor back in October when practices started and now, in what ways would you say he's progressed, how has he progressed?
"Well, defensively he's making some better reads, when to rotate, when to go over on screens, on shooters, when to switch off, how to pinch the backside. He's done some of those things a lot better. Handling the ball, he's a guy, we don't have a lot of guys that can attack the rim with the dribble and he's picking his spots and doing a pretty good job of that.
"Still I think because of his small hands and short arms he loses the ball more than your average person. I always, I'm bailing him out by saying, 'Kam, I know your hands are small, but we've got to take care of the ball a little bit better.' I think he tries. I think he's getting better at that. As he dribbled it off his foot against Purdue at the timeline, he'd like to have that back. He didn't do it on purpose obviously. He's got to keep working at taking care of the ball."
Coach, how can you create that third scoring option at this point in the season, or do you even need to?
"Well, I mean, I knew you guys struggled for things to write about, I guess, and evidently there must be some talk out there about us having another option. But we like to keep them guessing. I mean, there's a lot of teams that would like to have two guys that are scoring consistently the way (Mike) Wilkinson and (Alando) Tucker are, but instead there are people around here that want to turn it into, 'well, we've got two guys that are scoring consistently, but, whoa, man, we've got to get somebody else scoring.' Meanwhile there are people dying to have a Wilkinson and Tucker doing what they're doing. So you can't win.
"And I want them to guess who that other scorer's going to be the next game. Then they don't know who to guard or to put extra help to. So the answer is we like to keep them guessing. Not really, but it's the best thing I can come up with. I don't know who's going to score in our next game. I don't know who's going to, what we do approaching a game is who, how can we stop a team from scoring, how can we take away their strengths, and then how can we utilize our strengths.
"I'd say Wilkinson and Tucker are strengths right now."
Was yesterday just another example of how good regular-season college basketball can be?
"Yeah. I'm a regular-season guy. I think that's great. Yeah. And nobody's asked, I guess nobody cares to talk to any coaches that have had undefeated seasons. I don't know how many of them there are out there, but I don't get asked any of those questions of what it's like to be in that position. But I can tell you it, you go into that last game, and we were there a couple times [at UW-Platteville], and, I mean, it is cut the air with a knife, the team wants to get a piece of you, you're a marked team.
"And, boy, Illinois, they handled it for that long and that's quite a tribute to them. And Ohio State is that good. That's not a fluke to me. It might be to some other people, but do you know how well we played at Ohio State? I know, but other people maybe don't look at that as that big of a win or that great of a game, because people always want to find, well, this guy didn't do this or that guy didn't do that. And I understand how that works too. But Ohio State's a good team. I think they're an NCAA Tournament team if they hadn't put the ban on. Minnesota and Indiana [are NCAA Tournament teams]. I know you didn't ask that question yet, but I already have been today and that's, boy, the people at the Overtime Luncheon, they'll really grill you with tough questions. That's a tough group I have to talk to before I come in here."
When you looked at the game film of your game last week against Indiana, did you see any inconsistencies in the officiating or any of that that is creating some of the furor that's out there and maybe even caused one of your favorite analysts to say something that got the Big Ten upset?
"My only response to that is I just really think that people just aren't busy enough in their regular life to even care about what that other analyst said. I mean, come on. There have to be more important things in this world that people need to be taking care of than to take one clip, one possession out of a game and say that the reason the official called it this way is because of this, this and this theory. I know you like that. You're into that. And that's what makes you who you are. As a coach, I can't get into that. So what do I know.
"All's I know is I didn't like the fact that Luke Recker was allowed to throw the ball off the floor into the ceiling when we played Iowa and not get a technical. I made that known. You know who the officials were for that game. But I didn't think it was any conspiracy. I think that official had that game. You know I probably wouldn't say that unless I knew it, right? Come on. But what's, I mean, I know what some people were saying. But you could take a clip out of any game and say, look, they blew this one because this -- because their nephew is the SID at Notre Dame. I say that because Brian [Lucas] went to Notre Dame and he's our SID. How about that theory?
"So what did I say about, what do I think about inconsistencies with the Indiana game? No. How would you like to referee those kind of games? That's a tough job. Tough job. And to put up with those two guys on the sideline? A lot of officials say you couldn't pay me enough to have to listen to those two guys. I was talking about the head coach and the assistant from the other team. No, I mean, let's face it. That's a tough game. And everybody knew, a lot of people knew what was riding on it for Indiana. It wasn't a secret.
"But I think the referees did the best job they could. You're always going to get a couple calls go one way or the other because of angles. I know you guys can't believe this, but Otto's missed a couple calls in practice. I know we've said that before, but he actually missed a couple, let alone Boo Fullerton, who also referees some of our practices. But I've never missed one. You guys notice that when you sit up there, 'gosh, Coach was right on that one again, that guy didn't walk.'
Some people seem to think a loss will help a team like Illinois, an undefeated. You've been down that road. How tough is a loss to deal with, or does it help you at all, is there any possible way --
"That was the hint I was getting into, that there maybe has been a coach that's been through that. There was a team in our league [WIAC], in the state league, that was 21-0, and we happened to beat them in the 22nd game. After that, they lost three of their next four. So don't tell me that losses, no, I don't believe in that theory, that losses, fortunately those years that we made the run and went undefeated, we didn't get that bump because I didn't want to find out what it was going to be like that next game to try to get the team back emotionally. So I'm glad it didn't happen to us.
"When we had a couple years where we were maybe 29-2 or [29-3], the losses came earlier in the year, so you don't have to look back. For a lot of people like in high school that lost when you're 25-1 is the last game because it puts you out of the state tournament. So a lot of, it's like today talking about being 31-1 in the Big Ten [at home the past four years], I told our players, I'm telling you guys, in the next 50 years they will never ask you about the 31.
"You will be at a dinner or you'll be at a restaurant or whatever 20 years from now and you're talking about when you played at Wisconsin, and if they say, well, how did you do in the Big Ten and you tell them you were 31-1, what do you think they're going to ask you. They all know.
"I told them what you do is you say 'I forget who that one was.' Just say you forget. You don't though. For me it was Steelton Highspire who later got beat by Norm Van Lear and the guys after they took care of us. Everybody's like who's Norm Van Lear.
"Midland was Norm Van Lear's team."
If Ohio State wins Thursday, are you concerned about having to beat a good team for a third time in one season, or does that not worry you at all?
"Yeah, we've faced that a lot in other places where I've coached. High school teams face it. There's no science, there's no data that says that it's 30 percent tougher, but it is conversation. It is up for debate. I'm just glad that we're playing. And if it's Ohio State, those other two scores really aren't going to matter that much, let's get it on. If it's Penn State, so be it. But I think, yeah, it is hard to beat a team three times. Just statistically it's out there, I guess. But what the percentages are, I don't know.
What have you seen from Zach (Morley) lately that maybe is evidence that he's on track, over his injuries? I mean, do you feel that way, that he's playing better recently?
"Well, I mean, he's got injuries, and we don't say much about them and he's not going to say much about them. And, no, he's not over them, that won't be until after the season but he still works at it. He's still working at the game, he still trying to improve. He's doing some good things. We need him. But he is not 100 percent. But you know what? You get tired of hearing those coaches talking about guys that are hurting and we could have done this if he was healthy. Just play. Zach just plays."
Sharif (Chambliss) struggles with his shot a little bit, but his assist-to-turnovers has been pretty exemplary.
"Yeah, he's doing a very, very good job of that."
Can you just talk about where that's coming from or where, you know, just his running of the offense and what it's meaning to you right now?
"Well, you know, he makes good decisions in places where he forces the defense to read if he's coming off a ball screen, if somebody helps, if somebody hedges too hard, or as we're reversing the ball side-top-side, he sees somebody open, he's finding them, because he's learning the angles of the offense. It's one year of the swing for him. I mean, it's one year of the reads that we have because he was on the scout team last year, so he didn't get as many of those possessions. So he's done a good job with the background that he's had, transferring, the injury, the whole thing. He's been doing a great job for us."