Worrying About Next

A distasteful second half shooting performance and an uncharacteristic home loss have left No.11 Wisconsin one game out of the race for the Big Ten Conference title. One wouldn't know it by the work the Badgers have been putting in this week, a direct result of UW Coach Bo Ryan's outlook.

MADISON - For every question, Bo Ryan has a story to tell.

A Sergeant in the Army, Ryan got his draft notice for the Vietnam War in 1969, right before the United States Selective Service System instituted the draft lottery. His number was somewhere in the hundreds, but it was a moot point.

"I didn't worry about it because you can't worry about things you don't have control over," Ryan said. "I was already in. It didn't matter. It could have been three or 360."

On the same accord, Ryan uses that same philosophy in his coaching, and has instilled it in his players not to worry about things they can't control, only to get ready for the next day.

"I couldn't wait to get in here and mix things up a little bit so guys are ready to play," true freshman Mike Bruesewitz said. "We hate losing so much here. It's literally one of the worse things here. We all hate to lose with an absolute passion so we made sure we got after it."

Bruesewitz' passion happened as a youngster, making a couple costly turnovers late a game that cost his team a victory. He made sure he took that loss out on the next three teams he played

"My dad always told me that somebody out there is going to pay for that later," Bruesewitz said. "If we had a bad loss, something we shouldn't have done or we messed up, it stays in the back of your mind that the next team isn't going to get you."

Ryan never studies a future opponent until they are the next game on the schedule. He never worries about rankings, winning streaks or another team. His sayings of ‘I can only coach one team' and ‘who's next' speak to validity of the argument. The same goes for inside the locker room.

"We couldn't celebrate the Duke win or the Michigan State game or the Purdue game at all," freshman Jared Berggren said. "He comes right in and is right on the mistakes we made and how we can get better, how we can always get better and moving on to what is next. That's part of his philosophy and why he is a great coach."

Part one of that philosophy is quickly correcting the problems before Thursday's practice that plagued No.11 Wisconsin in its home loss to Illinois Tuesday, problems such as being out of position, late recovering to a shooter, taking a bad shot or having a defensive breakdown.

Some of that was junior Demetri McCamey making some challenging shots but other things fell on Wisconsin not following its principles.

"He made some difficult shots, but we had some breakdowns that he took advantage of, which is what good players do," assistant coach Gary Close said. "Some times you have those breakdowns and they don't make the shot, which doesn't make the problem as exposed. But he was a real good player on a hot streak, and he made us pay."

After that point was driven home to the Badgers (18-6, 8-4 Big Ten), it was business as normal with all eyes on their match-up with Indiana (9-14, 3-8) Saturday afternoon. After finishing 6-25 last season (its lowest win total since 1915-16), Indiana is making baby steps in former Marquette head coach Tom Crean's second season in Bloomington, already tripling last year's conference win total.

"They've got some more experience and all you have to do is watch how they played Purdue and Illinois on the road to know that they are dangerous when they are playing well," Close said.

Indiana is still a work in progress – the Hoosiers have lost five straight – and starts two freshman, two sophomore and a junior, but the experience factor guard Verdell Jones (14.7 ppg) has received over the past two years has made the Hoosiers much more competitive.

"He's a very good Big Ten guard," said Close. "He's putting up consistent numbers, his perimeter shooting is improved and is still very dangerous off the dribble. He's got a real good feel for the game, when to shoot it and when to pass it."

With six games left (three home, three away), each game becomes more crucial for Wisconsin if it wants to win its fourth conference championship in the last nine years. With Purdue's win over Michigan State Tuesday, Illinois, Michigan State and Ohio State sit in a first-place tie with identical 9-3 records while Purdue sits one-half game back.

UW currently sits alone in fifth place, and might be kicking itself if it finishes one game out of the conference race.

"There is a lot of season left and a lot of things could still happen," junior Keaton Nankivil said. "With as many games and as much of a cluster as it is in the Big Ten there is no point in dwelling on one loss."

It's that urgency and the fact that any Big Ten team can beat anyone on any night that has the players focused on Indiana, or in Bruesewitz' case, the next day.

"I don't know my own schedule now, let alone who we play next," Bruesewitz said. "I know what classes I have to go to on certain days and what time practice is. The only way I knew we were playing Indiana was I had to get some extra tickets for my parents. I don't know even where we are ranked. We watched the film and it said 11, or maybe 12. I can't remember.

"I don't know who we even play after Indiana."

That would be the only meeting of the year against Minnesota next Thursday, the school that heavily recruited you, a campus that is located near minutes from your house and a game that you will probably receiver a few ticket requests from.

"Wow, that's quick," he laughed. "I'll worry about that Sunday."

That tunnel-vision philosophy comes right from the desk of Ryan. When a reporter asked him about the disappointment inside the locker room, Ryan looked at the stat sheet, surveyed the room and uttered his motto – ‘next.' His team has followed suit.

"The slate is clean the next day," said Berggren, another Minnesota native that's been contacted ticket hounds looking for a prime seat. "We'll go over the film, learn from what we did wrong and clear is out of our minds and move on to what's next. Right now, we're just preparing for Indiana and try to get a win on our home floor."

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