MADISON - The model for Wisconsin basketball has been the same at virtually every point of every season for the last nine years that Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan has been on campus. Whether preparing for a tough challenge or trying to replace graduated contributors, the answer is the same – it's a team game requiring a team effort.
"There's no question that basketball will be, has been and forever be listed as a team sport," Ryan said Monday. "We do things together and the better you do things together, the better your results."
A team effort will be vital this weekend if the Badgers hope to handle No.10 Michigan State in East Lansing before welcoming No.4 Purdue Saturday, a squad that has beaten Wisconsin four straight times and twice at the Kohl Center.
Not only are the Spartans coming off a win in Evanston against No.25 Northwestern, a daunting task that Ryan and the Badgers know all to well, Michigan State hung 91 points on the Wildcats, thanks in large part to preseason player of the year Kalin Lucas scoring 15 of his 21 points in the second half.
Despite 14 turnovers and turning the ball over 14 times, the Spartans shot 57 percent from the floor and held the Wildcats to 37 percent.
"Anytime you can go in there and do that, anytime you can go in there and get Northwestern period, that's not an easy task," Ryan said.
Ryan's crew is 3-0 versus ranked teams this season, all games that could be summarized as a total team effort. Wisconsin knocked off No.21 Maryland in the third place game in Maui by having three players score 14 points or more, led wire-to-wire with high intensity over No.6 Duke and used suffocating defense to shut down No.15 Ohio State, holding the Buckeyes almost 40 points below their 81.6 per game average.
A lot of people have pointed to UW's 72.1 scoring average this season as one of the reason's Wisconsin has surprised people with a 12-2 start and a top 20 national ranking. Ryan and his coaching staff, however, prefer to look at the defensive side of things, where through two Big Ten games, UW foes are averaging just 44.5 points on 34.1 shooting.
"The reason we've had success is defensively, we've played together with the idea and the whole mindset that we can still improve a lot," Ryan said. "As long as they are still green and feel that they can grow, we're in pretty good shape as far as effort is concerned."
With the men's hockey team hosting the Camp Randall Hockey Classic in just over a month, the idea was broached with Ryan about the possibility of ever playing an outdoor game. Although he played basketball outside for 20-plus years on the playground, Ryan is not in favor of the gimmick, as taking fans out of the friendly climate-controlled Kohl Center is not appeasing to him.
"I thought that was considered progress," Ryan joked. "The reason universities can do the things they do, the reason we can support the non-revenue sports that we do, because people are willing to buy and pay for comfort."
According to one source, Wisconsin has tossed around the idea of playing a non-conference game at Miller Park, as its retractable roof would be the closest UW would come to playing outside under Ryan.