By Nick Gray | UK basketball beat writer
University of Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan won four national championships in Division III, and he has been the head coach at three schools, all of which are located in Wisconsin.
But this season is the first time in Ryan’s 12-year tenure that the Badgers have made the Final Four. It’s also the first time since 2000 that Wisconsin has made it to the national semifinals, and students celebrated as such on Saturday night after the Badgers beat the University of Arizona.
The fan base, though it celebrated in a way similar to UK, is realistic with expectations and celebrations, Ryan said in his teleconference Monday.
“They realize that they didn’t invent (the game of basketball) like some other states believe,” Ryan said. “They understand these are student-athletes who actually are here for the purpose of an education first and playing ball second.”
So is the contrast between UK, a program who is the center of attention in its state, and Wisconsin, who went 46 years without making the NCAA Tournament between 1947-1993.
“They love it here, but they’re not so over the edge that they don’t understand.” Ryan said. “That’s what I believe makes them really endearing as far as a coach that stayed in the state this long because they’re so supportive of their players, of their teams.”
The differences are not limited to off the basketball court. University of Florida head coach Billy Donovan, who has played each UK and Wisconsin, said he thinks that the two teams have contrasting styles of play.
“Kentucky obviously is unbelievably talented. They continue to get better and improve and are a great rebounding team,” Donovan said. “Whereas Wisconsin is going to give you a lot of that flex motion where the floor is going to be spaced.”
With the floor spaced, UK will have to rally to the basket on the defensive glass in order to keep its rebounding advantage that it has all season.
“The question will always be: How many touches, how many offensive opportunities on second-chance points will each team get?” Ryan said. “It will definitely be a battle 10 feet and in, that’s for sure.”