Another Tough Week for UW Hoops

Bo Ryan (USA Today Sports)

Moving up two spots to No.8 in the AP poll, Wisconsin basketball has another tough week with a road trip to Virginia on Wednesday and hosting Marquette on Saturday. Badgers coach Bo Ryan addresses the media Monday.

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Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan

Q. How was Cancun?

COACH RYAN: Cancun was interesting. It was a change from what we thought when we originally signed the contract for the tournament. They moved it, but the court was fine. The atmosphere was great. We had a lot of fans. Played two really good teams. So basketball-wise, it was very good.

Q. This is the best start you've had, in terms of wins and losses at this point, since you've been at Wisconsin. Is this the best team you've had so far since you've been here?

COACH RYAN: I never compare teams, and you can't do that because each year is different. Sometimes, if you look at schedules, sometimes they play into your favor to a certain point, and sometimes they don't. But I thought we played good teams and we played pretty well, but it's early yet. It's like, you know, you bring up we're 8-0, but, oh, by the way, you have Virginia, Marquette this week. So I never get here, and I'm never here, and I'm always right there.

I know all our weaknesses, and I know some of our strengths, and I'm still looking for more strengths. So I'm probably not the guy to ever can ask those kinds of questions to.

Q. Bo, I think you said after the last game that they have answered the bell to this point. I'm just curious in what ways have they been pushed by the opponent in some of these games that they've responded?

COACH RYAN: Well, we've beaten some teams that have systems. You know, if you watch St. Louis play, you watch West Virginia, you watch Florida play, Oral Roberts. North Dakota had their system what they wanted to run. I mean, they're all different types of teams running different things with different strengths. Some were bigger than others. So what I meant by that was it's a 30-some game season. At least you're always hoping it's that many games. And they manage to find a way to be on the left-hand side even though I can look at the games and find a lot of things that we could do a lot better, which is what every coach is doing right now.

Q. Bo, the combination of Atkins and Mitchell really played well for Virginia here last year. Is matching them physically one of the bigger challenges on Wednesday?

COACH RYAN: Well, I mean, all you have to do is look at the fact that who are the starters, and are they still starting that are still in the program? So they've improved. They had two players sitting out that were better than what they had on the court.

It's easy to see there's reasons sometimes for optimism during a season where you're really close, like to the NCAAs like they were. They were right there. And yet I know Tony was just licking his chops knowing that, okay, well, next year with Joe Harris healthy and the rest of the guys and the guys we had sitting out. That's why a lot of people felt they were going to be a better team this year. So far they've proven that.

Q. Bo, I know you need good players to win games over the years, but I'm just wondering what is the significance to you to being one win away from 300 as coach of Wisconsin?

COACH RYAN: When somebody brought up that in front of the team, as Patrick reminded our overtime luncheon today, Coach Ryan's response was because he's old. Well, I got the job when I was older here at 53. How many guys get a chance to be in this position of a school like Wisconsin at 53? I'm living the dream. You know, I'm a pretty lucky guy, I'm not afraid to admit it.

So if there's a number attached to it, I can go back and think of 50, 100, 150 and think of games and think of the players and the plays that they made, how tough they were, and all those types of memories and what they're doing now, what a the lot of the players are doing now that added to that total of 299 to this point.

So if and when the 300th comes, it will be like anything else, like when people have anniversaries. You think about the first time. You think about halfway in between. You think about all the things that have transpired. So I'm a pretty lucky guy.

Q. So how do you like how the team is progressing on the defensive end and the adjustment to the new rules too?

COACH RYAN: Well, they aren't new rules. There's emphasis. We haven't been a handsy team in the past. So we just need to keep working on our positioning and our footwork. It's the rotations in behind, it's still one of the oldest theories in the defensive notebooks is try to get five guys to play three guys. Shrinking the court, pinching -- all those terms that we use at practice all the time. So they're trying to do it.

And physically, they've been able to improve. The thing is we had a jump start in August, and I think that really helped us in these first eight games, and hopefully it will be the same for the rest of the games.

But at least our guys knew after all this with the good Canadian players that we played, the good offensive players and how to stop them and how to move. So the at least they were a little bit further ahead, our younger guys.

But now everybody else is catching up that didn't make a foreign trip. So to this point, they at least know what they need to do, and physically and mentally, it's whether or not you think about getting to point A and your feet has to get you to A. So as soon as we start doing that 100 percent of the time, then I'll be happy with the defense.

Because your question was am I happy with it? I'm never happy totally, as far as our positioning, because I can always find things on our teaching clips that we didn't do well.

Q. Your team has beaten some impressive programs, obviously, a lot of those at neutral sites or at home, but now you travel into a team's gym. What kind of extra animal is that?

COACH RYAN: Well, you know, it's a true road game. At Green Bay, there were a lot of red jerseys. There was a lot of red coloring up at Green Bay. So it isn't like what's going to happen. I don't think we're going to see a lot of red in Charlottesville.

So in neutral site games, the St. John's games, West Virginia and St. Louis. So, yeah, it will be especially for the guys that don't have as much experience. But you know, being on the road, you're playing a team that's really good. And that's what you've got to do, take care of business on the court. What's in the stands, you have no control over. The only thing our guys can have control over is what happens on the court.

Q. Big Ten ACC, obviously two of the elite conference ins basketball and maybe even more so moving forward with all the expansion with the conferences. In your mind, what's the significance of the Big Ten ACC challenge?

COACH RYAN: The one good thing is you know every year either you've got a home or away game from a power conference, from a very good conference, and you know it's going to be a very good team. So that always helps in scheduling.

And also the promotion of the games. You know, it started before we had the Big Ten Network. So the contract that we have has been lucrative, helps pay a lot of Bills. A lot of exposure for both conferences. So it's been pretty good.

Q. Bo, when Jared Berggren left last season, did you envision Frank Kaminsky making this kind of leap from a sophomore to his junior year, where he'd be one of the two leading scorers on the team, everything he's done?

COACH RYAN: Again, you always preface it with to this point. Averages over last year were over 30-some games. Averages we have going now are over eight games. The important thing is to try to continue in the areas where we've done fairly well, to keep doing that, and then to shore up some other areas.

So Frank's progress has been very good, and if he's happy with himself, then I'd be extremely disappointed because you're always trying to get better. When I say happy with yourself, I mean, he's not going to rest on any Laurels to this point. He's going to continue to work, just like he did in practice on Saturday.

We had to take yesterday off because the way the NCAA rules are with the number of days that you practice in a row. I'm sure you're all well aware of that. So we'll be back at it again today. And hopefully, he'll feel today that he still have a lot to prove.

Q. What's your opinion of what Tony's been able to do at Virginia? And will it be odd to see him on the other bench again this year?

COACH RYAN: You know what, he's done a great job in that he understands the value of the basketball. He understands the defensive end. You know, he was a very good player himself. He obviously has the coaching background with his dad and his sister, his uncle. So basketball's obviously a huge part of his upbringing.

Looking at these players, looking at these games that I've seen, he's got to be very pleased with the progress and where these guys are, especially with the addition of the two players that I had mentioned before. I think he knows he's in a pretty good position right now.

You know how it goes. You've got to stay healthy. You've got to catch a break now or then. A last possession this or a last shot that or a one and one here. So many things factor in. But I know they're definitely better than last year.

Q. How much does holding up your end of the bargain for the Big Ten Conference play into the game this week?

COACH RYAN: Well, when you start to play, the players aren't thinking about anything other than what they've trained for. So going into it, it's conversation, but when it comes to performance, it's those 40 minutes.

So our guys, when the game starts and how we prepare and everything else, it's just like another game. But it's always nice to -- like when we beat Duke, where we finally got our first one, so to speak, it's always a nice feeling, but it's afterwards.

Or if you've taken a bump, you know, you've got to get ready for the next one.

Q. You lost some pretty good rebounders from last year's team. How would you assess where you guys are at in that area given the small sample size?

COACH RYAN: Well, the rebounding, we're not anywhere near where we need to be as a team. You know, the block-outs, the responsibilities. Because of rotations, because of the fact that guys can drive into you and you're afraid to use your hands on initial contact, if a guy throws up a flipper, throws up a running one-hander, a lot of times, because you aren't in the same position with your hands or the same balance, I think we can improve a lot on our block-outs.

And away from the ball, you have to rotate quicker because, if the player picks up the ball, then he's in the motion, the shooting. So you can't move once he picks up the ball. So our whole goal is to be one step quicker on our recognition of a driving line so that we're there by the time the guy picks up his dribble, which means that's one step further away from the guy that you have to block out if that guy throws up a flipper. Or, you know, a running one-hander, or even a jump shot.

So you have to be more disciplined to go block out So you have to be more disciplined to go block out your guy if you're trying to get off and get into position defensively. I don't want you to send that to anybody because I don't want them to know. Talking about it is one thing. Doing it is really hard.

Q. You talked about Tony's basketball pedigree. Knowing that he was an assistant here, do you turn on the tape and see some familiar things?

COACH RYAN: Well, he's his own personality. He's his own basketball guy. People see our teams play, and they go, that doesn't look like anything like this person that you coached with or that person that you coached with. Well, there are some things that you know -- because, again, you can't change five guys and make it look like something totally different. But, no, Tony knows how the game is played before he was an assistant with me, and he's even smarter now that he's had a chance to do his -- that's where you really get to be better as a coach. You get to do things on your own because the buck stops here.

And Tony's welcomed that challenge and done it pretty well.

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