This is not a drill: Bo Ryan has retired.
You'd have to be a hermit or exiled on Dagobah to be unaware of the Wisconsin's struggles this season, which will place added importance on its strength of schedule when the time comes to consider the Badgers for an NCAA Tournament bid. That means interim head coach Greg Gard and the rest of the staff are in all hands on deck mode to get Wisconsin back to the promised land, especially in light of Ryan's departure.
As of today, Ken Pomeroy ranks Wisconsin's non-conference strength of schedule 151st. Slightly above average in other words, nothing like the stellar slate of the previous two seasons. The Badgers have played only one team currently ranked in the AP Top 25. Additionally, Prairie View A&M is one of five winless teams in Division I.
In our first look at Wisconsin's tournament resume, let's get up to speed on what some previous opponents have accomplished so far this season and note whether they are trending up, trending down or maintaining.
Western Illinois (7-2)
After shocking Wisconsin at home, WIU beat several nobodies in a row but then they got steamrolled at Creighton and at Iowa on their next two paydays by a total of 64 points. That really doesn't help Wisconsin's cause. Thanks Leathernecks!
Memories of Georgetown's opening night stumble to Radford were long gone when the Hoyas sandwiched a tough win over UW in between very close losses to juggernauts Maryland and Duke. The Hoyas continued to rise with a win over Syracuse in early December. Just this week, however, Georgetown lost big, 83-68, to Monmouth out of the Metro Atlantic. It looks like that won't end up a bad loss after all, though, since Monmouth has already beaten four Top 40 KenPom teams away from home! Georgetown will be a factor in a solid Big East.
None of VCU's losses are bad, but like Wisconsin, those losses are starting to pile up. The Rams can't wait to return home this weekend after dropping two straight to Florida State and Georgia Tech away from Richmond. Wisconsin's win over VCU could still wind up as its best non-conference win.
The Orange no longer look like the team that won the Battle 4 Atlantis in impressive fashion. After losing to the Badgers, Syracuse lost to Georgetown and dropped from No. 14 all the way out of the polls. Since starting 6-0, Syracuse has gone 1-3, most recently losing to a bad St. John's team on the road Sunday. Wisconsin sorely needs the Orange to turn things around when Jim Boeheim returns to the bench.
No. 3 Oklahoma (7-0)
Nigel Hayes and company. Oklahoma handled fellow top 10 team Villanova in a heavyweight matchup on Dec. 7 to reach its lofty perch near the top of the AP poll. It will finish up non-conference play with two more games against Power 5 schools.
The Owls rebounded from their loss in Madison (UW's best performance of the year I'd argue) to pick up their first road win at Penn. But Temple just lost an overtime, intra-city heartbreaker at home to St. Joseph's to drop the Owls back below .500.
Even if Milwaukee goes on to a great season in the Horizon League, the Panthers will still be a drag on UW's hopes for a tournament bid because of the conference's low quality this year, where Valparaiso is the only good team. We'll know much more about Milwaukee after a road trip to Minnesota.
Marquette gets to enjoy Steve Wojciechowski's biggest win ever for a long time. The streaking Golden Eagles don't play again until Dec. 21. Prior to toppling Wisconsin, Marquette started the season low, dropping home games to Belmont and Iowa (by 28 points), but turned things around quickly in the Legends Classic in New York. Big wins over LSU and Arizona State looked great at the time, but like the Badgers, the Golden Eagles are hoping those wins hold up over time -- especially the one over the free-falling Tigers (4-4).