Grimyser: Bo's Way Will Eventually Show

Bo Ryan's team has experienced quite the roller coaster ride during this season, with a six-game losing streak followed by the current five-game winning streak. That might not be typical of Wisconsin's teams, but the system has thankfully always been the same.

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – Bob Knight's legend still looms large in Indiana.

As college basketball's all-time winningest coach, he has won three national championships roaming the sidelines at Assembly Hall. It's safe to say that the man would be on the Mount Rushmore for his sport along with UCLA's John Wooden, Duke's Mike Kryzewski and North Carolina's Dean Smith.

But Knight was unbendable and ran his program his way no matter what. For all his successes and failures, he never changed a thing during his tenure at Indiana.

Bo Ryan is cut from the same cloth; an old school coach with a fixed mindset on how to get the job done. He runs the same offense, demands the same defense tactics and shows the same on-court demeanor every year.

Well, Wisconsin fans should thank him for his stubborn ways.

Badger players have become so familiar with the system that every play or game is a situation they likely have seen before. They become so ingrained with the system that they can instantly react when they needed to, which creates better decisions.

"We've got some older guys (who understand my system) and maybe they can relate to a game where this happened or that happened," said Ryan.

Ryan's rigorous dedication to his system was on full display in a 68-51 win against Indiana.

First, the swing offense was in full motion with Wisconsin's 6-foot-3 guard Trevon Hughes catching the ball on a post-up near the baseline against 6-foot-9 Tom Pritchard with less than a minute into the game. Then, on the last possession of the first half, there was Wisconsin's zone defense trapping and diving after a loose ball on the perimeter.

If you're of a certain age, you might remember two-sport athlete Bo Jackson famous "Bo Knows" catchphrase because it seemed like he could play anything. He looked identically composed and victorious while participating in every sport imaginable.

Bo Ryan has the same consistency. He treated this game – against a 6-18 opponent – like it was for a championship. The veteran coach was screaming at the refs and benching his players after a mistake.

Sometimes it seems like he doesn't even care about the future. On several occasions, he has even asked the media who the Badgers play next. Ryan is always too focused on his own team to give much thought to the other team.

Ryan still is not an all-time coach, but he certainly is the best coach the state has had since Marquette's Al McGuire worked the sidelines more than 30 years ago.

Think about this for a second, what other team in college basketball has been this consistent for the past decade?

You might have trouble thinking of a team besides the aforementioned UCLA, Duke or North Carolina. Whether their landmark coaches are still roaming the sidelines or have since retired, their programs try to carry on their legacies.

Ryan has slowly built up Wisconsin's legacy with an unwavering belief in his system. For as quickly as the Badgers are down (a six-game losing streak this year), they always bounce back up (now in the midst of a five-game winning streak).

"It never fails that people wanna go through the six-game losing streak or the five-game winning streak," Ryan said. "It's who ya play, when ya play and where ya play."

The game against Indiana properly reflects his steady approach as Wisconsin stretched a one-point halftime lead into a 17-point victory. But Indiana is a school with a long history of winning. They have Final Four appearances in every decade since the start of the Tournament except for the sixties. Certainly, their school should be one of the few schools who never worries, right?

Not the case last year. Indiana was predicted to have one of the better teams in the country, starring Eric Gordon as their top player and a veteran coach in Kelvin Sampson. Overall, the Hoosiers looked to be one of the better teams in the conference.

At the end of their season, all they had was a giant mess. Sampson was forced to resign midseason as a result of a recruiting scandal, the Hoosiers lost four of their final five games and lost Gordon to the NBA after only one season.

It's possible that Ryan would not have done any better in that situation, but he wouldn't have been involved in any recruiting scandal. And he wouldn't have recruited a certain one-and-done player who only views college as a stepping-stone to the NBA.

Indiana's Assembly Hall doesn't have countless banners and trophies because of the state name on the floor. It's not because of the movie "Hoosiers" nor is it because high schoolers across the country are dying to play in the Midwest – it's because of coaching.

Ryan is searching for a championship at the NCAA's highest level. It would cement his legacy – maybe not on that Mount Rushmore – but in Wisconsin's own mountain. He might never get there, but he is building something that could eventually lead Wisconsin in that direction.

"We were always playing the same kind of basketball (during the losing streak)," said Ryan. "We didn't close some games out and hopefully we learned from that. Nothing drastic (has changed)."

Every Wisconsin fan should be hoping nothing ever does.


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