After a disheartening last second loss to the Syracuse Orange in the Sweet 16, critics quickly came out of the woodwork to bash Wisconsin Badgers Head Coach Bo Ryan while an elect few went as far to call for his job.
As I sat back and watched these events unfold, I couldn’t happen but get sick to my stomach.
Have they already forgotten what Ryan has done for the UW program or are they simply taking it for granted?
By my calculations, Ryan should be able to coach the Badgers for as long as his heart desires and here’s why.
Prior to Ryan taking over as the Head Coach in 2001, the Badgers made the NCAA Tournament a total of 7 times over 63 seasons. In those seven tournament appearances, they won nine games. During Ryan’s tenure, the Badgers have reached the Big Dance in each of his 11 seasons, compiling a staggering 16 wins.
Those numbers are absolutely crazy, yet people want to say he can’t “reach that next level.”
Using the “next level,” argument in the case of Bo Ryan is so flawed that even Charles Barkley could understand why the notion is simply preposterous.
Eleven seasons is just not enough time to build a program with little history (especially at a football school) into one of the elite programs in the country.By elite, I mean a school which comes into the season expected to reach the national championship game (e.g. Kentucky, North Carolina, Duke and so on …).
In 2000, the Badgers reached the Final Four under Head Coach Dick Bennett. Bennett started what Ryan has finished by going 94-65 and coaching UW to three appearances in the NCAA Tournament from 1995-2000.
A lot of fans feel reaching the Final Four is necessary on the resume of a great coach, but they are in fact discounting how hard it is to reach the Final Four.
Of the 345 teams in Division I basketball, only 32 teams have more than two appearances in the Final Four (33 if you count Memphis who had to vacate two of their appearances). That’s a surprising 9.3 percent of basketball teams.
A big reason for the difficulty involves recruiting. Teams with the most Final Four appearances; North Carolina (18), UCLA (18), Duke (15), Kentucky (14), Kansas (13) and Ohio State (11) are all national powerhouses when it comes to bringing in the best talent around the country.
Most of the other schools with multiple Final Four appearances can be attributed to having rare great teams or being elite during a more defined period of time.
What Badgers fans should be proud of is the turn Ryan has made on the recruiting front most recently. Not only is he finding players who fit perfectly into his system, he’s keeping the best homegrown prospects right here in Wisconsin.
Sheboygan Lutheran’s Sam Dekker is a 6’7″ small forward who is ranked as ESPN’s 25th best prospect and projects to be the Badgers next big player with his arrival to the team next season.
It doesn’t stop there as Ryan also landed La Crosse’s Bronson Koenig for the class of 2013. Koenig turned down offers from North Carolina and Duke to join the Badgers and help Ryan reach “that next level.” Here’s what the very talented guard had to say after choosing the Badgers:
“I liked a lot of things about Wisconsin. I like the challenge of bringing Wisconsin a national championship, which hasn’t happened (since 1941).”
The turn in recruiting and success in the Big Ten (Wisconsin has never fared worse than 4th under Ryan) all stems from Bo consistently finding a way to win. In his 11 seasons with the team, he holds an impeccable 268-101 record and became the third fastest Big Ten coach ever to reach 250 wins (behind only the great Bobby Knight and Ward Lambert).
If that’s not enough to anoint Ryan as the permanent coach at Wisconsin, you’re just crazy and don’t know college basketball.
What do you think of Coach Ryan? Were you as upset as I was when people started criticizing him? Let me know by commenting below!
Nick Grays is a senior writer at the Sports Bank where he covers the Wisconsin Badgers, Green Bay Packers, and Milwaukee Brewers. He also enjoys to share Fantasy Advice from time-to-time. Follow him on Twitter by clicking here or visit his blog Nick Knows Best.