"Parting is such sweet sorrow," – I believe those were words of one famous writer named William Shakespeare and they are famously quoted a lot – however the other half of that quote is "…that I shall say goodnight till it be morrow.” That entire quote seems appropriate given that Wisconsin will say goodbye to five seniors, yet know their goals are far from finished.
On Sunday Badger fans will send off one of the most underrated and perhaps under appreciated classes in the Bo Ryan era. UW will honor starters Jared Berggren, Mike Bruesewitz, and Ryan Evans along with walk-ons Dan Fahey and J.D. Wise one last time and they should be remembered fondly. Yet, there job isn't quite finished yet.
After all, the Big Ten regular season championship is still possible and a high seed in the NCAA tournament is nearly a guarantee. Clearly their last act hasn't been written just yet.
This is also a group that has come a long, long way to get to where they are. You could say that as a group there is one word that means more to them than any other – Perserverance.
"Well, they've answered the challenge that the other seniors have over the years as far as setting a good example, working hard, persevering," said head coach Bo Ryan. "I mean, who's persevered more than this group? If you take a look at a combination of things — Jared with the troubles with his shoulder, finally had it taken care of, definitely helped him. Mike, what he's been through. Ryan with some struggles that he's still working on. They're all working on things."
Saying that this class has been beyond good and each individual player special in their own way is an understatement. Ryan Evans went from after thought to the most important cog on the team. Mike Bruesewitz went from novelty act to junkyard dog and the heart and soul of the team. Jared Berggren went from unknown big man to the all-time blocked shots leader at Wisconsin and a Naismith Award Finalist. All of that is just what happened on the court, never mind the struggles each faced off of it.
It's also a class that perhaps more than any other shows the beauty of player development at Wisconsin under Bo Ryan and a class that reminds us all that it's not how you start, it's how you finish. Hell, this season is a microcosm of that saying alone.
You would be forgiven if you wouldn't have thought much of anything about this group as freshman. Evans played the most minutes at 13.5 a game in the 2009-10 season, but was a terrible shooter (48-110 from the field) and a decent defender (3.0 rebounds). Berggren was a little used reserve who averaged less than 7 minutes a game in his first two seasons as a Badger. Bruesewitz saw some decent time, but was clearly an afterthought in his first season.
Now? Well, Evans is about to finish his 2nd season of averaging double figures in scoring and is leading the team in rebounding this year. Berggren is already the all-time blocks leader at UW and leads the team in scoring and is 2nd in rebounding. Bruesewitz has become the go to man when the team seems to need a boost, whether on the defensive or offensive end of the court while averaging a decent 6.7 points a game and 5.4 rebounds a game.
This class wasn't full of star power coming into Wisconsin to say the least, as only Jared Berggren was a four star recruit (according to Scout.com), yet they will enter Sunday with 95 wins so far in their careers at UW. It's the 2nd most wins for any class at the school, next to the 105 wins that Trevon Hughes and Jason Bohannon had in their time at Wisconsin. Hard to argue with a group that has never known a non 20 wins season, huh?
Unfortunately this could be a bittersweet moment on Sunday as Ryan Evans suffered a sprained right knee on Thursday and may not be able to suit up for his final game in front of the Kohl Center crowd.
So, while players will come and go and big time legacies have been and will be made by individual players, it's hard to say that there is a group that has made a bigger impact or imprint on what it means to be a Badger under Bo Ryan than this group as a unit.
Badger fans know just how much this group means to where this team is right now, but nationally it's doubtful this group will get the respect it deserves from the casual fan. So, on Sunday enjoy this group for what we, as fans, know it to be – one of the most important trio's of players this program has ever seen.