30.6.15

RECRUIT, RED-SHIRT, AND DEVELOP.

That has been the model for the Wisconsin men's basketball team.  It's a team concept in which discipline trumps talent.  In the Big Ten, there are sports pundits recommending the approach for Penn State and Minnesota.  But now long-time coach Bo Ryan has announced his retirement -- with a little bit of urging from athletic director Barry Alvarez to make another tournament run and perhaps develop a successor.

Yahoo Sports pundit Pat Forde suggests we are witnessing the "end of an old-school era."  But read on, and you see that perhaps not.
Ryan is simply unrivaled when it comes to player development and finding prospects who fit his unique system.

I checked the Rivals.com team recruiting rankings going back to 2003. In that 13-class span, this is how many times Wisconsin has been ranked in the top 25 (and later top 30): zero.

Yet Ryan's teams have played in the NCAA tournament every year since he arrived in Madison in 2001 (14 years running), won at least 23 games 11 times and had double-digit Big Ten wins 13 times. They are recession-proof. And they've made a lot of hotshot recruiters look bad by comparison.

Patience and long-term growth. They've become the Bo Ryan brand – and this is a guy who predates that corporate buzzword by a few decades. He's an unhurried program builder, and also an unhurried tactician.

The Badgers have been a famously deliberate (sometimes outright dawdling) team under Ryan. They chronically rank in the 300s in tempo rankings. Yet Ryan has found players who embrace that style and flourish within it, while endlessly frustrating impatient opponents.

Wisconsin has always run more clock. Made more passes. Made more cuts. And inevitably short-attention-span defenses crack and give up something.

But beyond tempo there is another eternal tent of Bo's system: don't beat yourself. Don't throw the ball away (Wisconsin led the nation in 2014-15 in lowest turnover percentage, and has ranked in the top five nationally in that category seven years in a row). Don't put the other team on the foul line (Wisconsin led the nation in lowest free-throw rate this past season). Simple stuff in theory, harder to do in practice.
Simple stuff to do in theory. The harder the practice, though, the easier it is to do so in the game.  Discipline trumps talent.  Thanks, coach, and On! Wisconsin!

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