There's a lot for Bo Ryan to like about his 22nd ranked Badgers, after all they are 21-10 on the season, finished 4th in conference play during a season that was about as difficult as any in Big Ten history and had a player named to the conference's all-defensive team.
On Monday Jared Berggren was name 2nd team All-Big Ten along with being named to the All-Defensive team. He is already the all-time blocks leader in Wisconsin basketball history, but what has Ryan seen as Berggren's key to success on that end of the floor?
"You hear coaches all the time talk about no threes, nothing to the rim, tough two-point jumpers," said head coach Bo Ryan. "So in order to do that, though, you have to have a 5 man that can protect, wall up the basket, make shots tough, either alter them, alter the shots or block the shots or take charges. That's what Jared's done a really good job of."
However, that wasn't the topic on the forefront of Ryan's mind as he spoke to the media on Tuesday, instead it was the fact that he sees some room for improvement from his team's defense. A defense that has slacked off a bit from it's normally stingy self recently.
It's hard to blame the man as the Badgers results in terms of points have been a bit off lately, giving up 62.3 points per game in games against Purdue, Michigan State, and Penn State over the past two weeks. That flies in the face of a team that has been one of the best scoring defenses in the country, allowing opponents to score just 56 points per game (good for 9th nationally).
Wisconsin's defense is perhaps the best it's been in quite some time, allowing opponents just 0.879 points per possession (ranking 14th nationally), bettering their 3 year average of 0.984 points per possession. In fact, it's the most efficient defense the Badgers have ever played (according to the stats from teamrankings.com) since the tempo free stats came in to place in the 1997-98 season.
So, what is Bo's beef with the Badgers defense as of late?
For coach Ryan, it's not anything they've been doing on the defensive end as the effort has been at a high level all season long. Instead, perhaps it's related to a lack of production on the offensive end?
"There have been some times where, by not hitting shots, I can definitely see where the defense is let down," said Ryan. "Not because they go, oh, ball's not going in. I'm not going to play defense. It's just emotionally the charge isn't there."
He's not wrong to say the least, Wisconsin has averaged just 54 points per game in the same final three games where things have seemed a bit off for the Badgers.
Interestingly, Ryan also believes that emotional charge, or lack of intensity of it could be what cost Sam Dekker the Sixth Man of the Year award – an award most thought he was surely going to win.
"It's like some people said about Sam probably not getting sixth man of the year is everybody has film on everybody now, has clips, has their video guy doing this, this, this, and he's got weaknesses," Ryan said. "I think that probably cost him the sixth man of the year from what I'm hearing from some other sources."
So, as Wisconsin heads into the Big Ten and NCAA tournaments over the next few weeks it's improvement will likely be marked more by what happens on the offensive end of the court than anything else.