I find it especially humorous that Wisconsin men’s basketball coach Bo Ryan was taking shots after earning a hard-fought win over No. 3 Michigan on Saturday.
And the reason is because guys like Dan Dakich, the same Dakich that coached for 10 years at Bowling Green followed by a quick cup of coffee at Indiana, criticized Ryan for not fouling late in the game when the Badgers had three fouls to give.
Dakich repeatedly badgered Ryan when he put on a headset and joined the ESPN broadcast crew of Bob Wischusen and Dakich following the game. However, Dakich wouldn’t let the issue of not fouling go and it even got a little awkward when Ryan paused and looked back at Dakich as if to say, “Why should I give an ounce of credence to what you’re saying?” followed by healthy dose of “We won the game.”
The last person that should be criticized this season is Ryan. His team has been offensively pathetic at times, not to mention the inept display at the free throw line — most notably the Jan. 29 loss at Ohio State that saw the Badgers shoot a grand total of zero free throws.
But Ryan cannot put the ball in the basket. He preaches sound defensive fundamentals, so sound that he is willing to risk getting a flashy offensive player for one that is a lock-down defender that also isn’t afraid to sacrifice his body for the loose ball.
With the loss of veteran point guard Josh Gasser, this Badgers team was predicted to finish lower than fourth for the first time in Ryan’s 12-year tenure. The Badgers simply beat No. 2 Indiana in Bloomington, beat No. 12 Minnesota at home and upended the No. 3 Wolverines at home to shock everyone. That puts the Badgers in fourth place with seven to play, with five of those being truly winnable games.
This team has been unnerving to watch at times. They will go on cold spells that last forever (at Iowa) or cannot buy a free throw that would tie or win or the game (vs. Michigan State).
Ryan always gets criticized for the way his team plays, but since the 2001-02 season he leads the Big Ten with a 71 percent conference winning percentage. That’s higher than heavyweights like Michigan State (67) and Ohio State (65). The usual knock on Ryan’s teams were that they were of the plodding nature and generally boring to watch as opposed to showtime teams like North Carolina that don’t play a lick of defense.
Ryan should not only be in the conversation for Coach of the Year but the National Association of Basketball Coaches should give the greenlight for the engraver to begin detailing the trophy. Overcoming multiple injuries, bouncing back from awful shooting nights and leaning on a pair of inexperienced point guards to carry the offense are tall orders for anyone.
But Ryan has handled it in the most grueling conference in the nation as the Badgers have climbed from getting a 7 seed in the NCAA tournament to a potential 4 seed.
Ryan tried to explain to Dakich that Mike Bruesewitz tried to foul Tim Hardaway, Jr. but the refs swallowed their whistles. And Ryan also explained that he wanted a foul only if their man beat them off the bounce. Since Hardaway was rising up for the three, it was a good decision not to foul him, which would’ve resulted in three free throws.
Ryan will continue to get criticism because his offense may be too boring or his defense may be too physical.
But what cannot be criticized is what kind of a coach he is and what he has meant to Wisconsin basketball.