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Thanks, Platteville! Bo Ryan a Badger at heart

After last weekend's Red/White Scrimmage whetted our appetite for basketball, Wednesday's exhibition versus UW-Platteville is a reminder of how great the head coach pacing Wisconsin's sidelines is. Without his immense success at Platteville, Bo Ryan may never have come back to roost in Madison. And that would have been very bad.


Saturday's Red/White Scrimmage got a off to a great start as I was still finding my seat. Freshman forward Vitto Brown sang a smooth rendition of the national anthem to get the crowd going and ease my pain as I looked at the banner-less rafters. The rest of the evening was pretty much business as usual.

Now that I've spoiled myself and gotten a hold of season tickets the last few seasons, the scrimmage is a time to relax and scratch that basketball itch as soon as possible. No longer am I trying to analyze all 17 players ... which you know, is pretty tough when 10 of them are playing at the same time.

Wednesday night, however, we move one step closer to the real thing with the first ticketed game at the Kohl Center. Wisconsin hosts UW-Platteville, whose home court bears Bo Ryan's name in honor of his incredible coaching accomplishments there.

In a fun twist, Platteville's head coach is Jeff Gard, younger brother of UW associate head coach Greg Gard. His current Pioneers have most of their team back from last season's impressive defensive squad. Platteville also return the reigning WIAC player of the year and an NABC All-American in 6'8 senior Chas Cross. It should be an organized and experienced bunch for Wisconsin to go against in its final preseason tune-up.

And for those of you wondering, Platteville last beat a Division I opponent in 2008, when it shocked Bradley, 84-79, in Peoria.

Now seems like a good time to remind everyone just how dominant Ryan was at UW-Platteville. Peep this:

Year Record Pct. WIAC Place Post-Season
1984-85 9-17 34.6 4-12 7th --
1985-86 16-11 59.3 8-8 5th NAIA 1st Rd
1986-87 14-11 56.0 6-10 T5th --
1987-88 24-5 82.8 14-2 1st NAIA 3rd Rd
1988-89 24-5 82.8 13-3 3rd NAIA 3rd Rd
1989-90 26-3 89.7 15-1 1st NAIA 3rd Rd
1990-91 28-3 90.3 13-3 2nd NCAA DIII Champion
1991-92 27-4 87.1 13-3 2nd NCAA DIII 3rd Place
1992-93 24-4 85.7 13-3 T1st NCAA DIII Quarterfinals
1993-94 23-5 82.1 13-3 2nd NCAA DIII Sweet 16
1994-95 31-0 100.0 16-0 1st NCAA DIII Champion
1995-96 23-3 88.5 15-1 1st NCAA DIII 1stRd
1996-97 24-3 88.8 14-2 1st NCAA DIII 2nd Rd
1997-98 30-0 100.0 16-0 1st NCAA DIII Champion
1998-99 30-2 93.8 15-1 1st NCAA DIII Champion
Totals 353-76 82.2 188-52 8x WIAC Champion 4x NCAA Champions

Badger fans should never forget what we have in Ryan. It's been a fortunate pairing, aided by the fact that Ryan clearly grew to love the state. After all, he opted to stay and build a D-III powerhouse at Platteville rather than hop around for a bigger paycheck. (Ryan has been in the UW system for the past 37 years, which I suppose is a smart financial move on its own).

Ryan was older (53) than most rising stars in the college world when he landed the Wisconsin job, which some feel plays a factor in making UW perhaps his last coaching job. But if anyone is a young 65 going on 66, it's Bo Ryan. Not to mention he's a guy who would love year-round golf weather, so I don't buy it. He's just a Badger at heart.

What to watch vs. Platteville

A few things did stand out in the scrimmage that I will continue to keep an eye on during tonight's exhibition.

1. From the start, Sam Dekker was more bullish to the rack than I recall him being last year, continuing a theme of the Canadian tour. One of the interesting components of an intrasquad scrimmage is seeing when guys know exactly which matchups that can exploit immediately. Occasionally the "underdog" can surprise you, but in general Dekker had his way inside the arc on Saturday, en route to a game-high 18 points. Anything less against the Pioneers would be awkward.

2. All the youngsters seemed to belong playing against their teammates, but what about against an opponent they don't know that well? Bronson Koenig, Nigel Hayes and Vitto Brown all played extensively on Saturday, but we'll get a better idea of how many minutes they are truly in line for by the end of the half tonight.

(As an aside, Hayes cracked me up the other day after getting called for an offensive foul fighting for position inside against a smaller player. Hayes knocked the poor guy down (I believe it was Moesch), then looked to the referee after the whistle pointing to his biceps, as if to say, "C'mon man, I can't help doing damage to little dudes with these!")

3. While walk-on Aaron Moesch hit the "biggest" shots last weekend (two half-court shots to win the three-man shooting contest), George Marshall really stood out during the game. The kid just has a great-looking outside shot. Trae Jackson still has the upper hand when it comes to playmaking ability, however. By his own admission, Marshall wants to be more aggressive this season, but I still see him as a great off-the-ball option to make the defense pay for collapsing on Kaminsky and Dekker. Let's hope his shooting continues into the real games.