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Bo Ryan by the numbers: Examining Wisconsin basketball's remarkable run since 2001

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A deep dive into the numbers that cement Bo Ryan as one of college basketball's finest coaches.

David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

Ed. note: This story was published on July 1, after Bo Ryan first said he would retire after the 2015-16 season. It remains unchanged, but we are choosing to repromote it in light of Tuesday's surprise announcement that Ryan was retiring effective immediately.

By any measure, Bo Ryan is the greatest coach in the history of Wisconsin basketball, with the possible exception of Walter "Doc" Meanwell, who built a powerhouse at UW in the early part of the 20th century. Bo won more games, more Big Ten games, more tournament games -- more whatever you can think of -- than anyone who preceded him.

And it's not close. Some representative numbers:

Pre-Bo Ryan Bo Ryan Era
NCAA tournaments 7 14
Final Fours 2 2
Big Ten championships (since 1939) 2 4
Big Ten tournament championships 0 3
30 wins 0 4
20 wins 4 12
Winning % .502 .741

A Big Ten legend

In the beginning we said, "What Bo Ryan is accomplishing is amazing, for Wisconsin."

In the end we say, "What Bo Ryan accomplished is amazing, for any program."

Between 1950 and 1992, Wisconsin basketball was essentially an embarrassment, one of the worst major-conference teams -- ever. At least we had Northwestern, but that's all we had:

Big Ten overall records, 1951-1992

Indiana: 779-363 (.682)
Illinois: 711-405 (.637)
Purdue: 689-426 (.618)
Iowa: 679-430 (.612)
Ohio State: 684-434 (.612)
Michigan: 671-453 (.597)
Minnesota: 612-466 (.568)
Michigan State: 592-481 (.552)
Wisconsin: 454-611 (.426)
Northwestern: 376-667 (.360)

Stu Jackson showed up in 1992, and things started looking up. This mini-bloom culminated in Dick Bennett's magical run to the Final Four in 2000, but even if you start the clock in 1992, Wisconsin was a resolutely mediocre program:

Big Ten overall records, 1992-2001

Michigan State: 227-92 (.712)
Indiana: 223-100 (.690)
Purdue: 224-101 (.689)
Michigan: 204-118 (.634)
Iowa: 196-116 (.628)
Illinois: 194-120 (.618)
Minnesota: 200-126 (.613)
Wisconsin: 167-136 (.551)
Ohio State: 158-140 (.530)
Northwestern: 92-191 (.325)

Now compare the 14 years of the Bo Ryan era:

Wisconsin: 357-125 (.741)
Ohio State: 354-133 (.727)
Michigan State: 347-146 (.704)
Illinois: 323-159 (.670)
Purdue: 268-189 (.586)
Michigan: 274-194 (.585)
Indiana: 261-196 (.571)
Minnesota: 262-202 (.565)
Iowa: 249-211 (.541)
Northwestern: 210-227 (.481)
Penn State: 184-255 (.419)

Under Bo, Wisconsin has more Big Ten wins over the last X years, where X equals 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13 or 14. In other words, all the Xs:

Big Ten Wins Since... Wisconsin Michigan Michigan State Ohio State Indiana Illinois Purdue
2015 16 8 12 11 9 9 12
2014 28 23 24 21 16 16 17
2013 40 35 37 34 30 24 25
2012 52 48 50 47 41 30 35
2011 65 57 59 63 44 39 49
2010 78 64 73 77 48 49 63
2009 88 73 88 87 49 60 74
2008 104 78 100 97 63 65 89
2007 117 86 108 112 73 74 98
2006 126 94 116 124 82 85 101
2005 137 98 129 132 92 100 104
2004 149 106 141 138 99 113 111
2003 161 116 151 145 107 124 121
2002 172 121 161 156 118 135 126

The arch-mage of basketball efficiency

It is fitting that Bo's era at Wisconsin began in 2002, which is also when the records for Kenpom's "tempo-free era" begin. During that time, Bo's teams have consistently dominated in both offensive and defensive efficiency. Only Duke and Kansas have a better average efficiency rating in the tempo-free era:

Team Conference Average OE Rank Average DE Rank Pyth. Calc.
Duke ACC 117.0 1 92.4 3 0.9379
Kansas Big 12 113.8 5 90.1 1 0.9357
Wisconsin Big Ten 113.6 6 92.8 7 0.9103
Kentucky SEC 112.9 10 92.6 5 0.9071
Florida SEC 114.0 3 94.1 15 0.9005
Louisville ACC 110.3 23 91.1 2 0.9000
North Carolina ACC 113.3 8 94.0 14 0.8956
Pittsburgh ACC 112.5 11 94.0 13 0.8879
Michigan State Big Ten 111.9 13 93.5 9 0.8876
Ohio State Big Ten 112.1 12 93.8 11 0.8868

Among Big Ten teams, Bo's Badgers have, on average, had the best offense and the second-best defense (behind Illinois, strangely) in the conference:

Team Average OE Rank Average DE Rank Pyth. Calc.
Wisconsin 113.6 6 92.8 7 0.9103
Michigan State 111.9 13 93.5 9 0.8876
Ohio State 112.1 12 93.8 11 0.8868
Illinois 108.5 48 92.5 4 0.8616
Maryland 108.7 44 94.3 18 0.8366
Purdue 107.4 58 95.1 22 0.8013
Michigan 109.2 37 97.1 50 0.7952
Indiana 109.4 33 97.6 60 0.7877
Minnesota 107.3 60 96.6 45 0.7700
Iowa 107.2 61 96.8 47 0.7635
Nebraska 103.5 119 96.2 38 0.6978
Northwestern 105.1 89 99.9 107 0.6426
Rutgers 101.5 172 98.7 83 0.5790
Penn State 103.0 134 100.6 127 0.5664

The 2015 Badgers had the best adjusted OE (127.9) of any team in the Kenpom era. The 2013 Badgers had the third-best defensive efficiency (85.6) of any team in the Kenpom era (only 2009 Memphis and 2012 Louisville had better seasons). To quote John Gasaway, "The man doesn't specialize in either offense or defense, just excellence."

Bo Ryan in the NCAA tournament: Really good

At some point, Bo developed a reputation as a choker in March. It was nice to see that reputation implode the last two seasons. All told, Bo's record in the NCAA tournament looks a lot like his overall record: a testament to excellence.

Let's start with the most basic metric: NCAA tournament appearances. Over the past 14 years, Bo has coached the Badgers into the Round-of-64 14 times, joining just four other coaches in that club:

Coach Round-of-64 appearances
Mike Krzyzewski 14
Tom Izzo 14
Bill Self 14
Bo Ryan 14
Mark Few 14
Roy Williams 13
Rick Barnes 13
Rick Pitino 12
Thad Matta 12
John Calipari 11

This was not a matter of squeaking into the dance, as Bo’s teams earned a No. 5 seed or better in nine of the 14 seasons, including each of the last six:

Coach Top-Five Seed
Bill Self 14
Mike Krzyzewski 13
Roy Williams 10
Jim Boeheim 10
Billy Donovan 9
Rick Pitino 9
Bo Ryan 9
John Calipari 8
Jim Calhoun 8
Thad Matta 7
Jamie Dixon 7
Tom Izzo 7

In the tournament, Bo piled up the wins. Only eight coaches won more tournament games in this period:

Coach NCAA Wins
Roy Williams 40
John Calipari 36
Mike Krzyzewski 32
Tom Izzo 30
Bill Self 30
Rick Pitino 27
Billy Donovan 27
Jim Calhoun 26
Bo Ryan 25
Thad Matta 23

Those wins resulted in seven trips to the second weekend of the tournament, or one every other year:

Coach Sweet 16s
Mike Krzyzewski 10
Tom Izzo 9
Roy Williams 9
John Calipari 9
Bill Self 8
Bo Ryan 7
Rick Pitino 7
Sean Miller 7
Thad Matta 6
Billy Donovan 6

With the last two seasons' Final Fours, Bo put himself into a very select group of coaches who got to the sport's ultimate stage multiple times in this period:

Coach Final Four
Roy Williams 5
John Calipari 5
Tom Izzo 4
Rick Pitino 3
Billy Donovan 3
Jim Calhoun 3
Mike Krzyzewski 3
Ben Howland 3
Bill Self 2
Thad Matta 2
Bo Ryan 2
Jim Boeheim 2
Brad Stevens 2

Famously, Bo did all this with very few highly touted or exceptionally talented players. So far, only four of his players have been drafted in the first round of the NBA draft. His teams (the red dot below) stand out as a clear outlier from the general rule that it takes NBA talent to succeed in March:

bo ryan wisconsin basketball draft picks

There were a couple of disappointments -- most notably in 2007 and 2013 –- but on the whole Bo’s teams slightly overachieved in the tournament both in terms of wins against Kenpom expectations ("+/-" below) and Performance Against Seed Expectation (PASE):

Year Seed Actual Ws Exp. Ws +/- PASE
2015 1 5 3.2 1.8 1.7
2014 2 4 2.3 1.7 1.6
2013 5 0 1.3 -1.3 -1.1
2012 4 2 1.9 0.1 0.4
2011 4 2 1.7 0.3 0.4
2010 4 1 1.5 -0.5 -0.6
2009 12 1 0.9 0.1 0.4
2008 3 2 2.2 -0.2 0.0
2007 2 1 2.2 -1.2 -1.4
2006 9 0 0.6 -0.6 -0.4
2005 6 3 1.4 1.6 2.1
2004 6 1 1.5 -0.5 0.1
2003 5 2 1.7 0.3 0.9
2002 8 1 0.8 0.2 0.1
Total: 25 23 2.0 4.4

Not done yet

From the start, Bo Ryan has always found ways to surprise us. Consider his first four seasons at UW:

First season: Unbelievable, out-of-nowhere share of the Big Ten title, the first since 1947.

Second season: Outright Big Ten champs (what?) and a Sweet 16.

Third season: Devin Harris Big Ten MVP and a Big Ten tournament championship.

Then, 2004-05: a surprise run to the Elite Eight, and a second-half lead against eventual champion North Carolina.

Next year's team, Bo's last, bears striking resemblance to the somewhat disappointing 2005-06 team (as I will get around to writing about one of these days). But even that team showed great promise before Marcus Landry and Greg Stiemsma had to sit out the second semester.

I've got a feeling Bo's got one more surprise for us.