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Ryan’s Philosophy Will Be Put to the Test

At a January press conference approximately two years ago, a young and inexperienced reporter had the audacity to ask Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan if he thought Marcus Landry had a little more motivation than usual playing against his older brother—then Purdue forward and current Houston Rocket, Carl Landry.

Ryan glared into the eyes of the reporter and replied, "If he did, I don’t want him on my team. What is that? I’ve never understood that… a guy playing harder against one team or one player than another."

If you take Ryan at his word, every game has the same importance. Whether his team is playing the Idaho State Fightin’ Taters or a rival like Minnesota, he expects his players to give their all when they step out onto the court.

Likewise, Ryan has always hesitated to talk about "statement wins" or "devastating losses" for his program. One win is one win, and one loss is one loss. Nothing more, nothing less, period.

In theory, this mindset is flawless. In reality, it defies all logical explanation.

Ryan and the Badgers didn’t just lose a game to Minnesota Thursday night. They lost an important psychological edge.

The swing offense is supposed to grind opponents into the ground, especially when you have a 12-point lead late in the game.

It didn’t.

Teams aren’t supposed to be able to come back against the Badgers’ suffocating defense.

Minnesota did.

The Badgers are supposed to take care of the ball and be mentally tough under pressure.

They weren’t.

Wisconsin has lost games before, but the losses have usually come because a UW opponent simply had more talent or because the Badgers had a cold shooting night.

Badger fans expect those types of losses.

What made Thursday’s defeat so surprising was that the defense and discipline that Ryan’s teams pride themselves on vanished in the final minutes.

I’m sure Ryan would say he, his staff and his players have already forgotten about Thursday night’s back breaker. After all, it only counts for one ‘L’ in the loss column.

The Badgers may have forgotten, but I’m guessing the ten other teams in their conference won’t forget this one for awhile.

Minnesota didn’t just beat Wisconsin. They took away some of the intimidation that came with playing at the Kohl Center, and they showed the rest of the conference the Badgers’ most lethal weapon, their mental toughness, may not be what it used to be.