UW Health Sports Medicine 

The Voice: Win or lose, Badgers know how to move on

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The_Voice_Matt_Lepay_200.jpgRather quietly, the Wisconsin men's basketball team has done something that is very hard to do. While it might not be the sexiest statistic in sports, it might go a long way in explaining why this team has enjoyed a great deal of success under Bo Ryan.

What stat might that be? Losing streaks, and how the Badgers tend to avoid them.  

This is Ryan's 10th year on the job, and only nine times has he seen his teams lose two or more games in a row. Three seasons they went the distance without dropping consecutive games.  

As for this season, so far so good. In fact, it has been almost two calendar years since Wisconsin has had a losing streak. It has won its last 18 games following a loss.

So how do the Badgers do it? I can't tell you how many times I get that question from fellow media members and representatives from other schools.

A couple of reasons come to mind. First, Ryan's teams follow a time-honored coaching philosophy -- it is more important to minimize mistakes than it is to make spectacular plays (Bob Knight talks about that a lot ... for those who do not remember, he was a pretty good coach).

Second, Ryan stresses "next," as in the next game. He stresses keeping on an even keel, which can be easier said than done. What goes on in a team meeting is the team's business, but in observing hundreds of practices, one would have a hard time knowing whether the Badgers are coming off a win or a loss.

NBA TV has been running a roundtable show featuring Hall of Famers Bob Lanier, Bill Russell, Bill Walton and Julius Irving. When talking about his approach to the game, "Dr. J" said he wanted to "win without boasting, and lose without crying." "If you chew on that one," said Irving "it's going to keep you in a good place that helps you maintain your sanity, while all the madness is going on around you."

To be fair, the Doctor was talking about the grind of an NBA season, but much the same can apply to a college season.

After last Tuesday's overtime loss at Michigan State, fans wondered how the Badgers would respond against a very talented Illinois squad.

When the home team missed its first 11 shots from 3-point range, the wonder may have turned into doubt. Yet, here comes Tim Jarmusz, hitting a 3 at the end of the half, then Keaton Nankivil drops three more from distance, Jon Leuer scores 26 points and the Badgers win by 10.

When the horn sounded, the players smiled, shook hands with the opponent, did their media interviews, then left the building, knowing the head coach would soon turn everyone's attention to "next."

Of course last Tuesday's loss to the Spartans hurt. Since the Badgers rarely allow a late lead to slip away, it hurts even more. But guess what? It happens. Last Saturday, six teams in the AP Top 25 had to rally from double-digit deficits. The most notable was Louisville's comeback from being down by 18 to stun Marquette.  

In sports, maybe especially in sports such as basketball, hockey and baseball, there is not enough time for players and coaches to sulk after a tough loss. The next game usually comes up quickly.

Eventually, the Badgers will lose consecutive games again, but the fact they have gone this long without that happening says a ton about their makeup.

Maybe without even knowing it, they have done a great job of following Dr. J's rule of "win without boasting, and lose without crying."

Win or lose, they just keep preparing for "next."

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Could you or Mike Lucas do a column and update everyone on which former basketball players are still playing and for who? Are last years graduates JoBo and Trevon playing?