By Bob Wolfley
November 9, 2010
After Cornell bounced Wisconsin from the NCAA men's basketball tournament last season (87-69), Badgers coach Bo Ryan was criticized by some observers, ESPN's Doug Gottlieb among them, for not adjusting his man-to-man defense in order to disrupt the Big Red's offense.
On Tuesday during a conference call with reporters, we asked ESPN college basketball analysts Jay Bilas and Dick Vitale if Ryan's decision to stick with his man-to-man, one of the signatures of his style of basketball, was a mistake and contributed signficantly to UW's 18-point loss to Cornell in Jacksonville, Fla.
"Bo Ryan does not have to apologize for any defensive assignment he utilizes," Vitale said. "I wouldn't sit there and really analyze and evaluate his decision making."
Bilas said altering the defense against Cornell would not have made any difference in the outcome.
"I don't agree with the critics who say he absolutely should have tried something different," Bilas said. "I think Bo has been one of those coaches over the course of his career, with the swing offense he runs and the defense that he plays, his teams have an identity. They play a certain way. They are going to have low turnovers. They are going to put themselves in a position to win.
"The problem last year was they ran into a hot team," Bilas said. "I didn't think Wisconsin played very well offensively. They didn't score anywhere near the amount of points they needed to. I don't think throwing a few traps in and trying something you normally don't do was going to throw off a veteran team like Cornell. And remember, Cornell beat the hell out of Temple too (78-65). It wasn't like they just squeaked by Temple and then put the hammer down on Wisconsin. They knocked the feathers out of Temple first.
"That was a hot basketball team," Bilas said. "Heck, they were six points down to Kentucky late in that basketball game. That was a darn good basketball team that was fully capable of playing an Elite 8 game."
The Wildcats beat Cornell in the regional semifinals, 62-45.