QUESTION #1: Can you pull out some of the points of emphasis you discussed with your team following the Marquette game?
BO RYAN: "Well, the same thing we did after the Virginia Tech game or any other game that we play. We take out clips, because, you know, student athletes here at Wisconsin have a lot of time they need to spend on getting ready for the finals, and also it's not like we take them through the whole film and take hours. We just crystallize certain points, and try to see what we can get out of it from the standpoint of what we did well and what we didn't do very well.
We've had some games where guys stepped up for us and made some big plays. And McNeal, that's the reason he came back this year was to better his position, because athletically, his talent, his ability to score and to do things offensively is there, and he showcased that. He was the difference maker, and then we try to look at ways of handling guys like him, because we play a lot of good players. So we discussed some of that and some of the positions that we put ourselves in with the ball, dribble attack lanes that weren't available, which caused some turnovers, those types of things.
I don't mind being aggressive, ramming and getting a charge or two, because we take our share of charges also, shut down the driving lanes. And they're averaging 87 points a game. They get 61, but they win. So what isn't forgotten is there are a lot of good things that we did defensively to shut down the things they've been doing to other teams, but we just needed to get a few buckets of our own. And that's what causes a 12-0 run. Turnovers that led to a basket or two, us not getting quite the shot that you want. But when it doesn't go in, you always say, well, that's not the shot you wanted. That's not true. But that spurt right there, it spells doom.
But I like the way we tried to make some things happen with the possessions at the end. That shows a little gumption on the part of our guys, especially being on the road again. But I think we checked around the country. I think there are only five teams that played two straight away games in the same week of the major conferences. So we'll see what we get out of it. We'll see if we get better from it."
QUESTION #2: How important is it for you guys to be able to play at the Kohl Center after being on the road so much?
RYAN: "Well, here it's extremely important, again because of the challenges academically that we have. And I'm not saying other programs don't, but it's pretty well known that Wisconsin has long been academically, before we got here and after we're gone, a place that's highly competitive. So they're not only competing on the court, they're competing in the classroom with some pretty good students."
QUESTION #3: How much of an issue is your assist-to-turnover ratio, and as far as the assists go, is the team moving the ball like you would like?
RYAN: "Well, you have me answer this every year. Ours might not seem as high assist-to-turnover ratio because you never get an assist leading to getting fouled. So if they ever did that because of the number of free throws that historically our teams have shot, no matter where we've coached, our assist-to-turnover ratio would be a lot better. But so it is and that's part of it. And in a couple games early in the year where we need to learn how to react to the quickness of the other team, as I said about driving lines and where to take the ball and where not to take the ball, are things that you have to learn.
You can practice it, but if you don't have the same quickness going against you, the practice can take you so far, but then you have to recognize when you get against opponents that are a little bit better in some areas. If guys are quicker, then you try to eliminate the advantage. If people are taller, you try to eliminate an advantage, and so on. So you take a look at every facet of the game. But one thing I do know is that our assist-to-turnover ratio has always been very deceiving, and you don't hear anybody ever talk about it but us, that I've ever heard. I never hear anybody else talk about it, but you don't get an assist for a great pass to a guy that gets fouled. And I always thought a player should be rewarded for that."
QUESTION #4: What has freshman Rob Wilson shown that you really like about him?
RYAN: "Well, I don't get wowed. What I mean by impressed is that he's learning things. So anytime I see somebody learning and working at getting better and listening and keeping a good notebook, and still to this day I was always impressed with Devin's notebook. The guy listened. He wrote things down. He got better. And a lot of other guys have, too, but, you know, some guys that have a little bit of quickness or can jump a little bit or whatever, sometimes they think, aah, I can just beat people because I'm more athletic. Rob is athletic to a certain extent, but he also knows he has a lot to learn, and that's what I'm impressed with. He's hungry. I like those guys."
QUESTION #5: How is freshman Jared Berggren been progressing in practice?
RYAN: "At times, he looks pretty good. He was nicked, as I mentioned earlier, but now he's getting back to 100%. And he's added some things, because we've got to go against that size with some teams that we're playing. Idaho State, they've got some tall guys. So we're going against him and J.P. (Gavinski) and Ian (Markolf) in practice, that's good. He's coming along."
QUESTION #6: How do you think Jason Bohannon fared defensively against a quick guard like Dominic James Saturday night?
RYAN: "For the most part, he graded out okay. A couple times got blown by. At times it looked like a cement mixer trying to herd a sheepdog. In other words, the sheepdog went right around him. I mean, the quickness, J-Bo just got frozen. He looked like he was a piece of equipment standing there. And we talked about it on the tape. He handles it well. He realizes he hasn't been blessed with, what was the sprinter that got the gold medals? Yeah, he hasn't been blessed with Usain Bolt's ability. I don't think Bolt can shoot with him though."
QUESTION #7: How do you negate quickness defensively on a team that you know going in is just superior in terms of quickness?
RYAN: "Well, you herd people. You take them to numbers. Everybody always asks, when we led the nation last year in defense, people went, ‘what do you call your defense?' It's 5-4-3 and basically, if there's three offensive players, I want them guarded by five. That negates some quickness. If there's four, if you have four defensive players guarding two, and if you can get three guarding one. Anytime a guy comes down in a fast break, a couple times in transition, we didn't get the numbers that we needed to handle the quickness. So you have to go to a numbers factor.
So our theory on defense has always been try to get five guys guard three, four guys guard two and three guys guard one. At any time on the court when we freeze our videotape, okay, how many guys are in support roles here? How many guys are on the ball? That's why it's always zone principles. I mean, you have to have that, because we have never been known, at anyplace I've ever coached, to be more athletic than most teams. High school, the league I coached in was, I mean it was a mismatch from day one. At Platteville, engineers aren't known for quickness, but we had a couple quick, I'm not saying none of the guys were, but we weren't known for it. And here, you have some, and our guys are athletic. They might not be the quickest, but athleticism is measured in a lot different ways. But that's, you have to get numbers in your favor, or you're never going to be able to stop the quicker teams."
QUESTION #8: How has Rob Wilson improved on defense since getting here this summer?
RYAN: "He's anticipating better. Plus when the film's on him and we break it down, he sees that. I can actually tell when we go to practice after we look at tapes that Rob is trying to do what he just saw, and that's how he's been able to get his minutes. So he's picking up the little things about taking driving lines away, sinking, pinching, doing all the things that we do away from the ball. Everybody sees on the ball defense. That's not fair. The guy with the ball does have the advantage, but the guy guarding that guy with the ball has to have help and know where the help's coming from, where to steer people. And that group, the past couple years with some veterans in there, they had a lot of repetitions and possessions at that. They got to be pretty well established. We've got to get established.
We need to keep learning from every game, and that's something that's been a delight to be a part of in coaching is that we've had, for the most part, young men that have gotten better as the year goes on at those things.
Of course, the other teams are getting better, too. When they're playing against you, they're learning offensively as well as you learn defensively. But that's the competition that's taking place, and that's why it's fun to be working with people who are trying to get better."
QUESTION #9: Can you comment on Jon Leuer's defense and how he's rotating?
RYAN: "Jon's better. Jon's better. And that keeps guys like me going, you know. When you see somebody doing something a little better, it's like, okay, good, he's listening about that. But then, okay, Jon, you also need to do this. You have to do that. Keaton (Nankivil), you've got to do this, you got to do that. One charge doesn't make a player. But anytime you're making progress, that's a good deal."
QUESTION #10: Could you say where he is making progress and what areas do you see his defensive getting better?
RYAN: "Well, his balance. When you gain strength, upper body strength, you gain confidence. And he still needs the core strength, so that you don't get pushed out of bounds. He had the ball on the wing and got bumped. We showed it to him on videotape, and he's got to be stronger and take that hit, that bump in the second half, down on the opposite side from our bench on the other side of the court. So that's a good sign, though, because he'll get better at that. He's improved from last year with his strength, and if he keeps doing it, then that's why you're in college, to learn."
QUESTION #11: Can you fill us in on Idaho State?
RYAN: "Yeah. They just beat Utah. That's all you need to know. They've gotten better from earlier in the year. That's a good sign for them. That's a big win in a program in the guy's third year where he's trying to get some things to happen. They have a lot of juniors, a lot of guys that have played together for a while. So they're an experienced team. I mentioned this before, most people will not come in here and play us unless they're in a certain stage in their program. Because they can get guarantees from a lot of different places now, and we're trying to keep our budget to the point where we don't spend a lot in recruiting. When I say we don't spend a lot, we're not doing frivolous things. And the less we pay in a guarantee, the more money for the other sports. So that makes sense.
So when Winthrop came, Winthrop knew they had a great team. Hey, yeah, we'll come to Wisconsin. We didn't have to pay a lot. So the teams that we tend to get in are teams in the stage of their program where they feel this is a pretty competitive team for us and we've got a chance. I mean, we haven't had a whole lot of teams come in who were real young. So when you ask what about Idaho State, Idaho State's coming in here for a reason. They feel they can compete. A couple bumps early. They had to work through some things, just like the rest of us. But that one the other night, that's a pretty good deal for them. So they won't be coming in lacking any confidence."
QUESTION #12: Can you talk about how Idaho State head coach Joe O'Brien had a lot of success at a division lower than this one, and now what he's trying to do that at Idaho State?
RYAN: "What do you mean, a division lower?"
QUESTION #12: Well, at the Junior College?
RYAN: "No. Isn't Division II higher than Division I, because there's two roman numerals? Okay. So Division III must really be good. Yeah, he's paid his dues. He's got them and he's coaching them up. He's a ball coach. He's not in it for the marketing of an individual or anything. He loves being in the gym and teaching and coaching, and I love those kind of guys."