Bo knows coaching.
He always has, despite what the critics have said, written, tweeted or verbalized in various forms of media, both professional and amateur (See Facebook and Twitter).
After Saturday’s dramatic 64–63 overtime victory over Arizona in the NCAA tournament West Regional final, those criticisms of the beloved Bo Ryan are falling on deaf ears.
The haters have referenced underwhelming recruiting citing a lack of NBA first-round draft picks. Some say UW’s methodical yet uber-efficient offense is too slow paced. Others call Ryan’s teams’ hard-nosed defensive-minded nature boring.
Each argument eventually results in some twisted version of the same conclusion: Bo Ryan’s system isn’t good enough to make a Final Four on the Division 1 level.
Phooey to that nonsense.
Saturday night Ryan and his all-heart 2014 Badgers served Wisconsin critics a heaping serving of crow.
Wisconsin prevailed in a thrilling, and at times controversial, victory over the top-seeded Wildcats, earning Ryan his fifth trip to the Final Four, his first at the Division 1 level.
Junior center Frank Kaminsky, the West Regional Most Outstanding Player, put the Badgers on his back and willed them to victory scoring six of his game-high 28 points in the extra session, while also pulling down a career-high 11 rebounds.
Junior point guard Trevon Jackson added 10 points and five assists.
The game featured seven ties, a nail-biting back-and-forth battle that came right down to the final possession.
Jackson scored on a runner with 1:09 left in regulation to give UW (30–7) a 54–52 lead, but Rondae Hollis-Jefferson rebounded an airball by guard Nick Johnson and dunk it for a 54–54 tie.
Ryan called a timeout with 30.9 seconds left to set up a final play for Jackson, but lefty point guard’s 17-foot jumper from the left wing came up just short, sending the game into overtime.
The teams traded baskets early in the OT period, but Kaminsky scored over Arizona center Kaleb Tarczewski to give the Badgers a 61–59 advantage with 2:21 left.
After an Arizona miss junior Josh Gasser made 1 of 2 from the line to make it a three-point game with 1:58 remaining.
Tarrzewski made two free throws with 1:43 left to cut Wisconsin’s lead to one at 62–61, and Kaminsky and Wildcats senior Jodin Mayes traded baskets to keep it a one-point game.
Jackson missed on a drive on Wisconsin’s next possession and Arizona had a chance to take the lead, but Johnson was called for an offensive foul after pushing off Gasser while driving to the basket with 3.2 seconds left.
UW struggled to get the ball inbounds on the ensuing play and Sam Dekker’s pass was knocked out of play. After a lengthy replay review — which did not notice that the Wildcat defender in front of Dekker was standing out of bounds — officials overturned the on-court call and ruled the ball out of bounds off of Jackson giving Arizona one final chance with 2.3 seconds left.
But Wisconsin defended Johnson so well on the final play that the Wildcat star couldn’t get off a shot in time.
Wisconsin, making its first Final Four appearance since 2000, will face talented tournament up-start Kentucky (28–10) in the second national semifinal Saturday at 7:49 p.m. in Arlington, Texas. The game will be on TBS, in addition to school-centered broadcasts on truTV for Wisconsin and TNT for Kentucky. The game will also be on WPVL (1590 AM) in Platteville and WGLR (1280 AM) in Lancaster.
Overall top-seed Florida (38–2) will face Connecticut (30–8) in the other semifinal beginning at 5:09 p.m.
In 13 years at Wisconsin, Ryan, now 66, has won 73 percent of his games (321–120), including 70.1 percent (155–66) in Big 10 play, and 13 straight NCAA tournament appearances. But this is his deepest run in the Division 1 tournament.
Ryan led UW–Milwaukee to a 30–27 record in two year prior to accepting the Wisconsin job, but before that, Ryan was busy dominating locally on the D3 level.
Ryan led UW–Platteville to five NCAA Division III Final Fours, winning the national title four times (1991, 1995, 1998, 1999) in his 15 years at the school.
His Pioneers won 82.3 percent of their games (353–76) and claimed eight WIAC titles and earned 13 tournament appearances both NCAA DIII and NAIA.
Bo Ryan will not have coached in a Division 1 Final Four until Saturday night, but he has championship pedigree that transcends all levels.
Bo knows anything is possible, and Saturday night the entire state and a nation will be watching.