Senior Michael Flowers can do it all. He is a leader on and off the court, is a lock-down defender who nearly draws the opponent's best player, is an above average rebounder for a guard and is capable of scoring in bunches when necessary.
Sophomore Trevon Hughes is Wisconsin's starting point guard, playmaker and leading scorer. He has received a lot of the attention thus far this season and rightfully so. He has improved his decision making and his jump shot since last year and that hard work has been paying dividends, not only for Hughes, but for the whole program.
The one of the trio of Badger guards who often gets overlooked, however, is sophomore Jason Bohannon. He's not a particularly explosive player and his modest numbers (6.6 ppg, 2.0 rpg, and 1.4 apg) don't exactly jump out at you. Nevertheless, his improvement from last year has been of great value to the Badgers.
Bohannon's greatest asset is his outside shooting. As the only pure shooter on Wisconsin's roster, he creates unique defensive challenges for opponents.
"If he can take some of that success knocking down a couple threes against Minnesota," Ryan said of Bohannon's performance this past weekend during Monday's press conference. "Take it into the next game and the following games. We can use that, because he can stretch the defense of the other teams."
He has also been Wisconsin's best free throw shooter, converting from the charity stripe 83% of the time. His free throw shooting ability, combined with his basketball IQ and ball handling ability make him invaluable at the end of close games, particularly with a lead.
Perhaps the area in which Bohannon has improved most since his freshman year has been on the defensive end, particularly his on-ball defense. At times last year, opponents singled him out as a weakness in the stingy Badger defense and tried to break him down off of the dribble. That hasn't been tried this year, likely because Bohannon has improved his quickness and his strength and has shown to be a very capable defender.
"He's getting better with his feet," Ryan said. "He probably doesn't appear to be a ‘muscle beach' guy to you, or fans, or people out there, but he's actually pretty strong in the weight room and some of the things he does. His core strength is pretty good so he's better that way, and he'll continue to get better that way."
While one can single out individual players for their contributions, the success of this year's Badger team has been a total team effort. On the offensive end, five different players have scored at least 20 points in a game and defensively, the Badgers are holding opponents to only 54 points per game.
Ryan has always been a advocate of team play and refuses to single out any individual contribution as more important than any other.
"It's a team," Ryan said. "I've never had a banquet with a ‘Most Valuable Player,' with a ‘Most Improved Player,' with a ‘This That And The Other Thing Player.' It's still about the team. I would never designate a ‘Most Valuable Player.' The most important thing is how every player lifts the next guy up."
Next on the Badgers' calendar is a date with Iowa in Iowa City on Wednesday. Although the Hawkeyes are only 11-12 on the season, they have already beaten both Michigan State and Ohio State at Carver Hawkeye Arena this year. While many coaches and teams get fired up about border battles like Wisconsin vs. Iowa, Ryan keeps an even keel.
"I just never did the rivalry thing to my team, to think that one game is different than another," Ryan said. "They're all rivals, they're the next game. I know that's too simplistic, but I honestly think that way. I know that's scary to some people."
Hopefully, that level-headedness rubs off onto his players, especially now that the Badgers have a big bulls-eye in the form of a No. 8 national ranking on their backs.