With Michigan State returning every contributor from last year's squad and Indiana having freshman phenom Eric Gordon and this year's conference player of the year D.J. White on its roster, the Badgers were thought to be third in a two-team race, especially after they lost three talented seniors from a team that won 30 games a season ago.
"Our bigs picked up for Chappell's post defense (and) the scoring definitely had to come from four or five (people), definitely not two," Ryan said. "That was not going to happen with this team. The players understood that early and they realized after the Duke game that there was only going to be one way that we were going to do this. Players could not get reach in fouls and sent to the bench. That's one of our things we don't do it because it interferes with our chemistry at times. I think from that Duke game we got better in that way."
"Taking care of the basketball against some other teams, Michigan at home, Marquette at home and Valparaiso did a pretty good job against us defensively," Ryan added. "We found some areas to score in the Texas game with our leading scorer and ball handlers out of the game against a small quick team. What Flowers did at the end of the game was so inspiring, both on and off the court, and Michigan starts it by getting a win on the road. Any conference player will tell you that if you get one on the road early, one helps you get two, helps you get four and to be 8-1 on the road, I don't care what league you are in, that's pretty good."
With bracketologists predicting the Big Ten will only get four teams in the NCAA tournament this year, thoughts of conference teams making an overall large impact in the tournament seem to minimal, with possibly the Badgers or Hoosiers making a run.
When the question was posed to Ryan, the Wisconsin coach was quick to recall a year when only four teams got in and the results turned out pretty good, especially for Wisconsin fans.
"I remember one year when we only had four teams get in and two teams got to the final four and one team made it to the elite eight. They weren't that good. They were red and white and North Carolina was a just a little better," Ryan joked about the 2005 season. "I still like the way teams from the Big Ten hang around and are pretty good spots at the end of the year. I still like our chances competing."
A Freshman Wake Up Call
Not playing his first time around against the Princeton offense and the unfamiliar 1-3-1 zone, freshman Tim Jarmusz is going to have nightmares about backdoor cuts and baseline traps.
Working his way into the rotation over the last three weeks, based upon his growth defensively, Jarmusz had trouble adjusting to the quirks the Wildcats threw at him.
Playing just four minutes, Jarmusz had three turnovers (travelling twice and throwing the ball away once) and a personal foul when he was out of position on a back cut.
Summing up how his day went, Jarmusz attempted a three-pointer in the second half, only to have the ball jam between the rim and the backboard.
"You can ask some of our freshman how it is just like you could ask me when I was a freshman how it was," said senior Brian Butch, going through the same situation before. "Experience is so important because of the unique kind of basketball that they play. Next time Tim is here, he'll be ready for it. That's one of those things where coach does an excellent job of putting people through it so they know what to expect the next time."
New School Record
Although it will go down as a successful free throw attempt with 8:49 left in the second half, Jason Bohannon's free throw meant much more in terms of Wisconsin's history.
Breaking Wes Matthews' 28-year-old school record for consecutive free throw attempts of 35, Bohannon now stands a top the record books with 39 consecutive free throws made.
"He's grown, he's more assertive, he's come a long way and I want to congratulate him for being able to step to the line there," Ryan said. "I think he knew the record for free throws was on the line there and he did not let it bother him."
"I have never been a petty person. I come every day and challenge the guys to this and this and this. When I was a teacher, I didn't worry about who those kids had for world cultures the year before. I just taught them competitive political systems. I am a teacher. I teach. Students learn. Our guys did it. They just did it. Give them credit." – Ryan on winning a conference championship with his own players and not Dick Bennett's recruits.