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Bo knows basketball

How Wisconsin succeeds, Stock Report fallout, more

Posted: Thursday February 21, 2008 9:00AM; Updated: Thursday February 21, 2008 10:07AM
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Coach Bo Ryan has led Wisconsin to a 22-4 record and a No. 11 ranking this season.
Coach Bo Ryan has led Wisconsin to a 22-4 record and a No. 11 ranking this season.
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Seth Davis will periodically answer questions from SI.com users in his Hoop Thoughts column.
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As we dip into the Hoop Thoughts' mailbag, let's begin with this missive from Russell in New York: "How does Bo Ryan seem to win so many games with minimal talent?"

It is indeed amazing that Ryan once again has the Badgers within reach of a Big Ten championship. The only player on the roster who came in with considerable acclaim is 6-foot-11 senior forward Brian Butch, who was a McDonald's All-American but hasn't quite lived up to that encomium.

How does Bo do it? I dialed him up Wednesday and read him Russell's question. He burst out laughing.

"I've been asked that in a lot of ways, though never exactly that way," Ryan said. "I think developing talent is something I know we've had to do here to compete, because coming in a lot of these guys weren't eye-poppers. You start with the fundamentals and get each guy to be as sound as he can be. Remember, I've coached at a lot of levels -- junior high, high school, Division III. [Former Wake Forest coach] Skip [Prosser] and I used to talk about that when we were out recruiting. Give me guys who are good players with good basketball IQ's who will work hard to get the most out of what they have, and I'll sleep well at night."

It's worth remembering that Ryan was not Wisconsin's first choice after Dick Bennett retired. The school hired him only after missing out on its preferred choice, Rick Majerus. No doubt Rick the Pick would have done a fine job in Madison, but I hope Ryan's success paves the way for other coaches who have toiled in obscurity to get a shot at a prime-time job. After beginning his career as the coach at Sun Valley High in Aston, Pa., Ryan spent seven years as an assistant at Wisconsin, 15 years at Division III Wisconsin-Platteville and two years at Wisconsin-Milwaukee before Wisconsin tabbed him at the ripe old age of 55.

To this day, Ryan said, Kansas coach Bill Self laments that he passed on Alando Tucker in high school because he didn't think Tucker was quite good enough. Ryan sure knows a diamond in the rough when he sees one, but few coaches do a better job getting their guys to sparkle.

Elsewhere in the mailbag, I got a few questions asking me to revisit the stock ratings I issued earlier this week. Beginning in the Lone Star state, Tom Adams from Austin writes: "Texas as a hold? No one is playing better team defense than UT is right now. Agree the guards could be getting tired as they do not have much backup in that position, but [Rick] Barnes is starting to get a good rotation for the inside and the kids are responding well."

And this, from Mike in Austin: "What's it gonna take for Texas to be a Buy? Beating K-State? Beat a top five team again? Final Four?"

Actually, in the twisted logic of the Hoop Thoughts Stock Report, one way for Texas to get a Buy rating would be to lose a few games. That way they'd be undervalued and underestimated -- and ready to rise anew. By my lights, there has been a pretty firm top tier of six teams all season: Memphis, Kansas, UCLA, Duke, North Carolina and Tennessee. With Texas at No. 7 in both polls, the only reason to consider them a Buy would be to believe they belong in that top group. And they don't.

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