MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Wisconsin Badgers fans who remember the lean years are among those especially enjoying the team’s latest success.
No team has reached more NCAA Sweet 16 games than the Badgers’ current string of 17. Winning is expected.
That certainly wasn’t always the case. In the years between Wisconsin’s only national championship before World War II ended and the first year under coach Bo Ryan in 2001, the likelihood of a NCAA tournament bid was absurd. The Badgers finished below .500 34 times.
In the mid-1950s to the mid-1960s, Wisconsin placed eighth or lower in the Big Ten eight times over 10 seasons. The 1970s and 1980s weren’t a whole lot better. The Badgers finished better than sixth in the Big Ten just twice.
Ryan was asked recently if he ever envisioned the level of consistent success the Badgers have enjoyed during his tenure - one that has seen Wisconsin qualify for the NCAA Tournament in each of his 14 seasons.
“I just kept filing everything away, just kept learning,” Ryan said,
The Badgers advanced to the tournament just seven times in the 63 seasons before Ryan became coach, according to Post-Crescent Media (https://post.cr/1c0Sak2 ).
“I watched other programs, studied other programs, saw players come and go,” he added. “And then when I finally got my opportunity, then you do your thing.”
It was certainly a different era when Wisconsin won its only national championship in 1941. The field included only eight teams and the highest score in any of the games was 64 points. The Badgers beat Dartmouth 51-50 in the East Regional semifinal in Madison that year.
Information from: Post-Crescent Media, https://www.postcrescent.com
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