On Monday morning the Wisconsin Badgers 10-0 basketball team received the No. 4 ranking in the latest AP Poll and the No. 6 ranking in the latest Coaches Poll. Yes, you are reading that right….the Wisconsin Badgers are now considered one of the top teams in the entire country.
The Badgers are in the Top 5 for the first time since the 2006-07 season
Yet, it's almost hard to believe for some and it's lead others to ask if the Badgers really are one of the four best teams in the entire country.
It's a good question and one that depends on perspective.
Are there more talented teams on paper than Wisconsin? Kansas, Michigan State, Duke and a few others may scream bloody murder that they are a better team than the Badgers are—at least based on pure talent.
They may be dead on, but here's the problem—basketball and sports in general is about results and the results of Wisconsin's season so far outdoes anything the Kansas', MSU's or Duke's have done. Wisconsin is perfect on the season and have done it against one of the most difficult schedules this country has to offer.
Wisconsin has the 8th ranked strength of schedule according to realtimerpi.com and are the No. 3 team in its latest RPI rankings. Additionally, four of the 10 Badger wins this season are over current Top 50 RPI teams, which is more than any other team in the country to date.
Furthermore, eight of the 10 wins are against RPI Top 100 teams and all but three of UW's nonconference opponents currently have winning records.
If there is a better resume in the country we're missing something here. 10-0 and owning that many wins over those types of schools, without a single Big Ten game being played to date?
Who's resume is more impressive than that? Certainly not a Kansas team that just went down to Colo-freakin-rado or Michigan State who got crushed at home by North Carolina without its best player.
How about the way this team has gone about handling the increased rankings as the season has gone on. With so much youth on this team the question is, will the Badgers buy into the hype and rankings and let things slip because of it?
"No, I think, because of the leadership we have, I think the right things are being said in the locker room and the right directions being given out on the court with the players, with the upperclassmen," Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan said on Monday. "Even though it's not a real old group at all. There's guys that have been around.
You know, they've knocked off in years past teams that were highly ranked. So they know highly ranked teams are just as vulnerable as anybody else. It's the way of sports to try to rank people and rate people.
But they understand it's 40 minutes of basketball Wednesday night, or at least that's how we'll approach it."
If the Badgers truly have that leadership and mentality Ryan indicates the No. 4 ranking in the country won't affect how these guys go about their business moving forward.
One of the biggest reasons for UW's early season success? According to Bo Ryan you can look to the team's trip to Canada this offseason.
"You know, you have to be fair and look at the fact that we had the summer trip, which I'm glad we had the opportunity to do, because, if anything, as I've said a hundred times, it gave the younger guys, okay, these are the things that we're going to need to work on," said Ryan.
"So when the drills started — before, when we would start practice and there wasn't any contact in the summer, when you started the drills in September, you had to start really at a base level. And it's not that we've skipped any of the fundamentals.
But at least the guys understood from the video clips that we had from the five games in Canada, here are the things defensively you need to do. Here are the angles you need on offense. Here are some things, things that they might not have discussed in high school, especially because every young guy was probably the leading scorer on their team, and defensively they had to make sure they didn't get in foul trouble."
A trip to Canada, young players playing at a high level, having a lot of underrated and underappreciated talent and beating a hell of s schedule—that's what Wisconsin's nonconference success has been because of.
Yes, the rosters of other schools may be littered with better talent than Wisconsin, but the Badgers have earned their No. 4 ranking in the country the old fashioned way—on the court—and that matters way more than the perceived talent one team has over another.