MADISON, Wis. — Bo Ryan never has been one to bask in the glory of winning an individual award. So during his Big Ten Coach of the Year acceptance speech Monday night on the Big Ten Network, he held up a photo of this year’s team to describe what the honor meant to him.
During his weekly press conference on Tuesday, Ryan elaborated on why he chose to go such a route.
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“That’s the reason you’re sitting there doing the interview because of the players and what the coaches have done,” Ryan said. “They deserve as much credit as any individual award. Players will tell you that. Or at least players that are smart enough to realize if they get an award, it’s because of their teammates.
“But they had the University of Wisconsin there. That’s the exciting part. I heard from a lot of alums, a lot of former players. That’s good stuff.”
Ryan, who has his assistant coaches vote for postseason awards, won his third Coach of the Year award in 12 seasons at Wisconsin. He picked up the honor in each of his first two seasons but hadn’t won since.
Wisconsin has earned a top-four finish in the Big Ten every season Ryan has coached, and this year’s team continued that streak on the final day of the regular season. Wisconsin edged Penn State, 63-60, on Traevon Jackson’s buzzer-beating 3-pointer, while Indiana held off Michigan, 72-71, when Wolverines forward Jordan Morgan missed a last-second tip-in.
The result moved Wisconsin up to a No. 4 seed and dropped Michigan to No. 5 for the Big Ten tournament.
Berggren gets defensive: Wisconsin center Jared Berggren earned second-team All-Big Ten honors on Monday and was named to the All-Big Ten Defensive team. On Tuesday, Berggren’s play netted him a spot on the United States Basketball Writers Association all-district team.
Ryan was asked Tuesday what made Berggren such a presence on defense in addition to his shot-blocking ability. Berggren holds the program record with 134 career blocks. Ryan cited Berggren’s ability to properly hedge against ball screens forced opponents into taking tough 2-point shots rather than running toward the rim — an innate skill that doesn’t show up in box scores.
“In order to do that, though, you have to have a five-man that can protect, wall up the basket,” Ryan said. “Either alter the shots or block shots or take charges. That’s what Jared’s done a really good job of. Sometimes you see people get in there and maybe make a runner. Purdue made three or four of the runners. Yet if you take the percentage of shots that they took running them off the 3-point line, the 2-point percentage wasn’t good enough to beat us. … Jared is the guy that’s made that possible for us.”
Tournament preparations: As the No. 4 seed at this week’s Big Ten tournament, Wisconsin has earned a first-round bye. But that also means the Badgers won’t know who their Friday opponent will be until Thursday afternoon. Wisconsin will play the winner of the No. 12 Penn State/No. 5 Michigan game at roughly 1:30 p.m. CT Friday.
Ryan’s philosophy is to have the Badgers’ scout team practice Penn State’s plays one day and Michigan’s plays the next.
“I don’t know if it’s going to work, but we’re trying to make it work so that the last 40 minutes of practice on Thursday, we’ll know the winner before we get on the bus,” Ryan said. “That’s what we’re trying to work out now so we can do the final possessions that we do the day before a game on the team that we’re going to play.
“But we’ll go against zone. We’ll go against pressure. We’ll go against three-quarter court, halfcourt (pressure). You’ve got to have all that in, especially if you’re fortunate enough to play three days in a row. For us, there’s no preference on who we play because we have no control over it.”
Wisconsin defeated Michigan, 65-62, in overtime at the Kohl Center on Jan. 22 in the teams’ only matchup. Badgers guard Ben Brust buried a 3-pointer from just inside halfcourt to send the game to overtime in one of the best finishes of the season.
Wisconsin has beaten Penn State twice — 60-51 at home on Jan. 3 and 63-60 in State College on Sunday.
Bracketology: Wisconsin’s NCAA tournament seeding line has fluctuated considerably over the past week, and bracket analysts have differing opinions on the Badgers’ standing.
ESPN’s Joe Lunardi lists Wisconsin as a No. 4 seed in his latest bracket projections, playing No. 13 Louisiana State in San Jose, Calif. USA Today’s Patrick Stevens projects Wisconsin as a No. 6 seed against No. 11 Cincinnati in San Jose. And Jerry Palm of CBSSports.com has Wisconsin as a No. 7 seed against No. 10 Colorado in Philadelphia.
Some might think if Wisconsin can win three games in three days to capture the Big Ten championship that it would significantly boost the Badgers’ seeding. But Ryan isn’t so sure.
Ryan, who serves on the board of directors for the National Association of Basketball Coaches, said he’s engaged in conversations with other committee members regarding how seeding is affected in a conference tournament. Given that the Big Ten tournament championship is the final game before brackets are revealed two hours later, he has more reason for skepticism about how much actually changes.
“One spot is the only thing that I’ve been told by very good sources can change from your conference tournament,” Ryan said. “One seed. I’ll have to call my lawyer, but you guys can’t make me divulge the person can you? I don’t think I have to tell you.”