Bennett, Bo, establish hoops cred

first_imgThe men\’s basketball team celebrates after taking its third Big Ten title under head coach Bo Ryan.[/media-credit]Badger basketball from 2000-09 will go down in Wisconsin lore as either the decade that sparked UW hoops to national prominence or as simply the best 10-year span for basketball in Wisconsin history.Starting with a Final Four appearance in 2000 by a Dick Bennett-led squad and peaking with consecutive 30-win seasons from 2006-08, Badger basketball made the jump from Big Ten afterthought to conference powerhouse and consistent NCAA Tournament presence.In 2001, Bennett retired two games into the season for UW, and after an interim stay from Brad Soderberg, the Bo Ryan era kicked off.With eight years under Ryan, the Badgers captured three Big Ten titles, two Big Ten Tournament crowns and advanced to March Madness every single year, only losing in the first round once. Ryan’s teams have averaged 24 wins a season, never finished lower than fourth place in conference and reached the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament three times. Currently, Ryan boasts the best Big Ten winning percentage of all time, better than some guy named Robert Knight.Most impressively, however, was how all these accomplishments came about. Five-star recruits? Not in Madison. McDonald’s All-American’s? The Badgers grabbed exactly one in Brian Butch. Ryan attained all of his accomplishments with players others had overlooked, guys who had skills but were limited athletically and, most importantly, athletes who wanted to learn and worked hard.Furthermore, Ryan produced an identity.Known for the swing offense, Badger teams could be defined by working the shot clock and limiting turnovers. Often one of the slowest-paced teams in the nation, UW might not score in high doses, but the efficiency was almost always there.On defense, the Badgers’ game was simple.Make you hit tough shots.With several standout defenders over the decade in Mike Kelly and Michael Flowers to name a few, almost every conference game was guaranteed to be a stereotypical Big Ten defensive battle.While it may not boast the name cache of some major national powers, an all-time starting five from the decade would certainly win its fair share of games. At point guard, Devin Harris and his lightning quickness would start, sharpshooter Kirk Penny would fill the “two” guard, all-time UW leading scorer Alando Tucker could start at small forward, inside-outside threat Mike Wilkinson would man the “four” position, and the continually underrated Brian Butch would anchor the defense from center.In a game with continual one-and-done superstars, it is refreshing to see Ryan put together a consistent powerhouse utilizing four-year players.Badger basketball certainly was not always pretty, and sometimes it was downright ugly, but the Grateful Red could always count on a win.last_img

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