Wisconsin mens basketball. In the year 2008, what do those words mean As with many questions pertaining to the world of college athletics, it all depends on who you ask.
Since its pretty much a hypothetical question, I can give you a number of answers. Being the responsible professional that I am, all of those answers will be backed up by facts (not always a pre-requisite in this day and age). Here are my answers to what Wisconsin Mens Basketball means right now:
The Winningest Program in the Big Ten in the 2000s
Since the start of the 1999-00 season, Wisconsin has compiled a 101-45 record in Big Ten conference play. That is the best record in the league over that time. Michigan State is second with a 99-47 record and Ohio State is third at 94-52. Those are the only three schools with at least 90 wins in those nine seasons.
Since Bo Ryan took over at UW the numbers swing even greater in the Badgers favor. Wisconsin is 84-30 in conference play in Ryans seven seasons. Next best is Illinois at 75-39. The Badgers have won five conference titles in the last seven seasons (three regular season and two tournament). That is tied with OSU (three regular season and two tournament) and Illinois (three regular season and two tournament) for the most in the league.
Nationally, only three teams from major conferences have better league records than UW over the last seven seasons. Those teams are Kansas (94-18), Duke (83-29) and Kentucky (83-29).
One of the Five Most Consistent Winners in the Country Over the Last Two Seasons
Wisconsin has racked up 61 wins over the last two seasons, the fifth-most in the country over that time. Only Memphis (71-6), Kansas (70-8), North Carolina (67-10) and UCLA (65-10) have better records than the Badgers in the last two seasons combined.
UW is just the third school in Big Ten history to post back-to-back 30-win seasons, joining Indiana (1974-75 and 1975-76) and Michigan State (19998-99 and 1999-00).
Playing in the NCAA Tournament Every March
UW has earned a bid to the NCAA tournament for 10 consecutive seasons. That is tied for the sixth-longest current streak in the country. The only teams with longer streaks are Arizona (24 years), Kansas (19), Kentucky (17), Duke (13) and Michigan State (11). Gonzaga and Texas are tied with Wisconsin at 10 in a row.
Consistent Winners in March
The facts are this: Only three teams in the country have made more Sweet 16s over the last six years than Wisconsin. Those teams are Duke, Kansas and Texas. The Badgers earned their third trip to the Sweet 16 this March, joining Pitt, UConn, Michigan State, West Virginia, North Carolina, Villanova, Memphis and UCLA among the three in six years crowd.
The Best Major Conference Homecourt Advantage in the Country
Since Bo Ryan arrived, Wisconsin is 107-7 (.939) at the Kohl Center. That is the second-best home record in the country over that time, trailing only Gonzaga (86-5, .945). The Badgers are 54-3 in Madison in Big Ten games. UWs three losses in conference home games are the fewest of any team in a BCS conference.
The Toughest Ticket in Town
All of that success has led to people flocking to the Kohl Center. Wisconsin has sold out 89 consecutive home games, dating back to Jan. 29, 2003. For the past five seasons, all tickets for UW home games have been sold out prior to the start of the season. In that time, the Badgers have increases capacity by adding courtside seating and restructured the student season ticket plan to allow more students access to games.
This years average attendance of 17,190 was tops in the Big Ten, marking the fifth time in the last six seasons UW has led the conference in home attendance. Wisconsin also finished in the top 10 nationally in attendance for the eighth straight season.
Led By One of the Best Coaches in the Country
Now this is nothing new for Wisconsin fans. They know the man patrolling the sidelines for the Badgers has brought unparalleled success to UW mens basketball. However, the numbers Bo Ryan has amasses bear repeating.
Best winning percentage in Big Ten history (84-30, .737)
Second-best winning percentage among active coaches with 500 career wins (556-163, .773)
10th-best winning percentage all-time among coaches with at least 500 career wins
11 conference titles in 24 years as a head coach
Most NCAA tournament victories among UW coaches (10 UW had won nine total tourney games prior to his arrival)
Three Big Ten regular-season titles in seven seasons (UW had gone 55 years without one)