The Voice: Don't expect rankings to get Ryan excited

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Unlike college football, where the coaches and Harris polls carry a ton of weight, the national polls in college hoops can help generate conversation and add hype to any number of games. Beyond that, the polls have little if anything to do with positioning teams for post season play.

But if you are a Badgers fan, it still is fun to see your team ranked sixth in this week's USA Today Coaches Poll and fourth in the Associated Press Top 25.  

The team is off to its best start since Stu Jackson's squad began the 1993-94 season with 11 straight wins. What makes this year's effort even more impressive is the schedule it has had to navigate. Wisconsin started the week with five wins against teams ranked in the RPI top 50. No other team had more than two against that caliber of competition.

Yes, it is enjoyable to talk about the Badgers' current status in the polls. Head coach Bo Ryan gets it, but he will not get caught up in it. Never has. Never will.

"I don't pay attention to them (ratings), but I know other people do," said Ryan. "I think some people pay attention to them to a fault.

"I have always been honest with people. If you were to ask me today who is ranked where -- who is in front of us, who is behind us -- I could not tell you."

While some might find that difficult to believe, Ryan is nothing if not consistent. I remember many years ago asking him about his team being in the top 25. He said he had no idea where the Badgers were ranked. His focus is on helping his team get better and preparing for the next game.  

Maybe that sounds boring. Then again, his teams win most of the time, and what is so boring about that?

Another thing to consider. When Ryan was leading UW-Platteville to title after title, the Pioneers were ranked No. 1 or No. 2 or a regular basis.  

"If we have that number on our ranking, they (the opponents) wanna get us. So shhhhhh -- keep the ratings down," said the smiling head coach.

The Badgers' better-than-many-expected start included a milestone win for Ryan last Wednesday at Virginia. It was the 300th at Wisconsin for the 13th-year UW mentor. He became the ninth coach in conference history to hit that number at a Big Ten institution. The short list includes legends such as Bob Knight, Gene Keady, Tom Izzo and Lou Henson.

Many of Ryan's old friends and former teammates from Chester, Pa., and Wilkes College were in attendance for Wisconsin's hard-fought victory to get the coach into the "300 Club." It was good timing for such a gathering.

"I think the most important thing about that number is to think of all the players and all the people involved," he said.

"I think of the young men, the commitments they have made. How dedicated they were to getting in shape, doing the hills, doing all the work in the weight room. And all the coaches and the personnel that surround the basketball program. That makes the number."

The good news for the Badgers and their fans is the number continues to climb. In the meantime, while the head man appreciates all of those games where his team ended up on the "left hand side," he continues to focus on "next."
ON WISCONSIN