Varsity - The Official Digital Magazine of Wisconsin Athletics

Varsity - April 3, 2014

Varsity is the free Official Digital Magazine of Wisconsin Athletics, covering Badgers football, basketball, hockey and more each week.

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20 // VARSITY April 3, 2014 BY MATT LEPAY // VOICE OF THE BADGERS THE VOICE W hen the Badgers fell to Michigan State in the Big Ten tournament semifi- nal round, we had assistant coach Gary Close on our postgame radio show. Remember, this was a day before the NCAA selection commit- tee revealed its bracket. Close, along with everyone else in the Wisconsin camp, was disap- pointed in the loss, but he thought this Badgers team had the goods to make a little noise in the NCAA tournament. Close admitted the players were hurting that day, and "we don't want that feeling again if we can avoid it. We've got a chance." Yes they do. And the Badgers will get another chance to extend their season this weekend in Arlington, Texas. It is funny how sports can work. Going into last Saturday's West Regional title game against Ari- zona, at least some of the talk was on the two coaches, Bo Ryan and Sean Miller. Two highly-successful coaches looking to take their team to the Final Four for the first time. (Note: Bo has been to a few Final Fours. He has coached four national championship teams. Somehow, folks seem to keep missing that little nugget.) A popular topic in such cases is to say a coach getting to a Final Four somehow validates his career. It drives me nuts. I can only try to imagine how it makes a coach feel. Gene Keady is a Hall of Fame coach. So is John Chaney, who led Temple to five Elite Eight appear- ances (he also led Cheyney State to the Division II crown in 1978). Both Keady and Chaney coached terrific teams, and on multiple occa- sions, were stopped one step short of a Final Four. Does that make them lesser coaches? No. Nor did it make Bo Ryan a lesser coach. Before the game Saturday, a talk show host ― someone I like and re- spect ― brought up the topic about Ryan needing a Final Four. My answer was simple. In what- ever profession we chose to enter, be it as a player, a coach, someone who covers sports or anything else in life, what tends to matter is what your peers believe. I would think that prior to Saturday, if you conducted a sur- vey of college basketball coaches, the opinion of Bo Ryan would be extremely high. More than 700 vic- tories. Three Big Ten regular season and two conference tournament titles. Never lower than a fourth place finish in the league. And oh, by the way, his teams won a few games at Platteville. As great as it is to see the Bad- gers win and advance to the na- tional semifinal round, my guess is had the Badgers lost by 20, fellow coaches would continue to hold Ryan in very high regard. I believe it is safe to assume that fellow coaches also have a very high opinion of Sean Miller. The former UW assistant has led three of his teams to the Elite Eight, one at Xavier and two at Arizona. Someday I hope he takes a team to the next step. But Final Four or not, Miller is a big time coach ― and very well liked. Single-elimination tournaments are thrilling to watch, in no small part because every team is vulner- able. "It is so hard in tournament play," said Badgers associate head coach Greg Gard. "That is what I think is not understood in-depth well enough. You can have a great regular season. You can have a great team." But every team can fall. "You don't even have to have a bad 40 minutes," said Gard. "You can have a bad five minutes. Be- cause, you get to this level, and all the teams are good. They all per- form at a high level." In the case of the Badgers, they get to keep performing. As Ryan would say, his group has earned the chance to play another 40 minutes. So they will have their teaching clips. They will have their passing drills, their post move drills, their scouting report and all the rest. They will not change. Nor should the perception of Ryan. He is today what he was last week. A Hall of Fame coach. A Final Four is won- derful, but the body of work is the validation. Ryan's body of work had been es- tablished well before last Saturday night in Anaheim. Ryan's validation came long before Final Four (COACH RYAN) IS TODAY WHAT HE WAS LAST WEEK. A HALL OF FAME COACH. A FINAL FOUR IS WONDERFUL, BUT THE BODY OF WORK IS THE VALIDATION.

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