At the end of a tough non-conference schedule, pundits and fans alike speculated that there was no way Bo Ryan could take a Wisconsin Badgers team without their starting point guard and contend for a Big Ten Title.
The Badgers were throttled at Florida (74-56 loss), picked apart by Creighton (84-74 loss), shocked by Virginia at home (60-54) and embarrassed by in-state rival Marquette (60-50 loss).
Not exactly the ideal way to go in to play in the best conference in America.
And now at the conclusion of their Big Ten slate and a 12-6 conference record, we’ve learned what everyone should have already known.
Each and every year the Badgers lose key seniors and Ryan is challenged with how to get a team that has limited talent to the Big Dance, something he’s done all eleven years as the coach at Wisconsin (soon to be 12-for-12).
However, that’s not the reason why he should be named the conference’s best coach. What Ryan had to overcome this season is truly amazing.
Prior to the start of the season, UW lost one of their most experienced players in Josh Gasser to a season-ending knee injury. Enter sophomore Traevon Jackson and freshman George Marshall who have had to run the point guard position in one of the country’s most disciplined systems. It’s been anything but a smooth transition, so don’t think Bo hasn’t wanted to tear some of the little hair he has left out of his head on multiple occasions this year.
Jackson and Marshall have improved by leaps and bounds, but the most significant addition to this year’s team has been highly touted freshman Sam Dekker. Dekker came in as raw as they come when talking about uber-talented freshman. Not only has Dekker tuned an extremely efficient offensive game, he’s slowly improved his defense which has in turn allowed Ryan to give the kid a bump in minutes on the floor.
Ryan’s management of Dekker will prove invaluable to the future of the UW basketball program. Another barricade to Wisconsin’s success was their woeful free-throw shooting. Give Bo a ton of credit for thinking outside the box and giving Ryan Evans approval on the jump-shot free throw which has made one of the team’s weaknesses bearable.
No matter what happens in the conference tournament and NCAA tournament, Ryan has done more with less than anyone else in the Big Ten and that is why he should win an award he hasn’t won since back-to-back honors in 2002 and 2003.
What do you think of Bo’s coaching job this season? Does he deserve to be the conference’s coach of the year? Let me know by commenting below.
Nick Grays is a senior writer at the Sports Bank where he covers the Wisconsin Badgers and Green Bay Packers. He also enjoys to share Fantasy Advice and pretend to be a Golf expert from time-to-time. Follow him on Twitter by clicking here or visit his blog Nick Knows Best. If social media is not your thing, shoot him an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
*Pictures obtained from usatoday.com and fdlreporter.com.