Ryan gives Wisconsin leg up with innovative offense
Posted: Wednesday December 27, 2006 2:36PM; Updated: Wednesday December 27, 2006 2:58PM
Critics have said Alondo Tucker falls between a guard and a forward, but he fits perfectly in Wisconsin's offense.
Grant Wahl will periodically answer questions from SI.com users in his mailbag.
MADISON, Wis. -- If you're Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan, you must be doing something right when your first practice the day after Christmas draws an audience that includes the 'Bag and the television golf analyst Andy North (a Mad-town resident who's actually here so often people call him "Coach North").
Ryan's list of achievements is growing by the week. Not only has he taken over for retired Temple coach John Chaney as The Coach Who Looks Most Like His Team's Mascot (more on that later), but his Badgers are also streaking at 12-1 with recent takedowns of Marquette (on the road) and Pittsburgh. AlandoTucker is making as strong a case as anyone for the Wooden Award, and Ryan's brainchild, the Swing offense, is one of the hottest trends in the X-and-O game.
Just check out this missive the 'Bag got after our column on hoops innovators last week:
Loved your list of innovators. You should see Wisconsin high school basketball. When Dick Bennett was head coach at Wisconsin, half the state was running his blocker-blocker offense and in-your-face man-to-man defense. Now with Bo Ryan at the helm, everyone is running the Swing-- including the women's college team I coach here. -- Brad Fischer, Kenosha, Wis.
What's the 4-1-1 on the Swing? Well, think interchangeable parts. Few offenses in the college game allow guards to post up as often as the Swing does. "It's an equal-opportunity offense that allows everybody in the post but still utilizes everyone's strengths," says Ryan. "Everyone makes passes from the post out and from the outside in, and that helps the development of our passers and keeps us in the top one percent of teams with the fewest turnovers over the years. We cut to the rim off back-screens and up-screens, and we also have fade-screens and ball-screens. There's a variety."
Like the Princeton offense, the Swing benefits from having big guys who are comfortable passing and shooting from the outside. But Ryan says he took bits and pieces from all sorts of offenses he's encountered over the years.
"When I started out I scouted coaches like Al McGuire, Bob Knight, Johnny Orr, Jud Heathcote and Eldon Miller," Ryan says. "You find out that certain things defensively are hard to guard. Orr ran a UCLA cut -- a big up-screening for the point guard going to the basket. Will a team switch? No, they're not going to put a seven-footer on a six-footer, so I always liked that up-screen.
"Then I did scouting reports for teams that ran the Flex. I loved the back-screen baseline cut to the rim in the Flex offense. Well, the Swing has that. It has the back-screen where you replace the post with the person who makes the cut. That comes from Tom Davis and anybody running the Flex.
"With [the rise of] Bob Knight, weak-side help became strong and people would get off to the middle of the floor. The fade-screen became popular because it made the help guy not cheat as much. So the fade-screen is in the Swing. And when you'd play Barry Collier at Butler you'd see ball-screens and a lot of bigs on littles. He did a great job on ball-screens. There were other coaches too, guys you always had to prepare your teams for."
Now that Ryan's Badgers are going national, the 'Bag expects the Swing will start doing the same. Unlike the Princeton guys, Ryan hardly keeps any secrets, and he lets all sorts of coaches into his practices on a regular basis. It's one more thing to keep in mind as we await the first truly big showdown in the Big Ten on Jan. 9 between Wisconsin and Ohio State.