Cantankerous, sarcastic Bo Ryan from Chester, PA has become one of Wisconsin's favorite sons thanks in large part to his success in getting the Wisconsin Badgers into the NCAA Tournament and actually making some noise once there. If you noticed in the Wisconsin tournament history post from yesterday, the Badgers' record books weren't exactly littered with postseason success before Ryan took the helm. Sure there was the Final Four run in 2000 (which was magical) and the national title in 1941 (which I'm sure was magical, but if Twitter wasn't around did it really happen?), but there was no sustained success.
Ryan finished up this year, his 14th in Madison, tied for the most wins he's ever had with a record of 31-3 (16-2 in the Big Ten) and boasting both a regular season and conference tournament championship. Having never missed the tournament while at the helm of the Badgers, he starts his 14th postseason campaign on Friday night against the No. 16 seed Coastal Carolina Chanticleers. It is the first time in Wisconsin history that the team has earned a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.
In his D-1 coaching career, which also includes two tournament-less years at UW-Milwaukee before taking the head job in the state, Ryan is 20-14 with one Final Four appearance (2014), one Elite 8 appearance (2005), and four Sweet 16 appearances (2003, 2008, 2011, 2012). His one Final Four appearance was ended by a last second Aaron Harrison three pointer for Kentucky to beat the Badgers by one point. Even the heroics of Frank Kaminsky, Ben Brust, Sam Dekker, Josh Gasser and Traevon Jackson couldn't stop Kentucky last year. Only UConn could, strangely enough.
Before last year, Bo Ryan had been thought of as an excellent coach that would always get the most out of his teams in the regular season but still a coach that couldn't quite reach the summit of the mountain. Finally breaking through and getting to the Final Four was a big deal for Ryan personally, and for the program as a whole. Until Ryan's father Butch died last year, he would take Bo to every Final Four and the two of them would be the toast of the town. It's fitting, in an ironic sense, that the first Final Four that took place after Butch's passing would be Bo's fist as a participant.
Despite all the criticism that Bo received as "not being able to win the big one" he has had marked success winning in the NCAA tournament before, just at the Division III level. From 1990-1998, while at UW-Platteville, Ryan won four national titles and reached the tournament every single year. He also won the conference title six of his last seven seasons coaching there.
Ryan is truly a coach to be admired. He worked his way up the ladder in a state that hasn't always been known as a basketball focused one and has turned Madison (and the rest of the state) into as basketball crazed as any in the country. Well, maybe not Indiana or Kentucky, but Wisconsin is definitely in the top-10 of basketball crazed states this year. As he gets older, he probably only has a handful of years left coaching and this year's team is by far his best. Both the players and the fans know that this is probably his last chance at winning a Division 1 national title, and since his team has already met all of their other goals this season, it doesn't seem to far outside the realm of possibility that they will meet this one too.