Probably no greater honor can come to any man than the respect of his colleagues.
- Cary Grant
Why start with that quote? Well, it seems as if no matter what Wisconsin does they've become the Rodney Dangerfield of the national college basketball scene, unless you talk to those that really matter - fellow coaches who've coached against Bo Ryan and players who've had to play against a Bo Ryan coached Badgers squad. They know and respect just what it takes to compete and attempt to beat Wisconsin and no matter the outcome they come away impressed.
Following the Badgers 65-62 OT victory over No. 3 Michigan on Saturday Wisconsin joined the ranks of Syracuse and Indiana as the teams with the most wins over Top 25 opponents this year, (according to the AP Poll) with four. I'd bet you that no one outside of the most die-hard, fanatical college basketball fan or media member would have even guessed that Wisconsin was amongst that group if you gave them ten tries.
Fancy to gather a guess who owns the most wins against ranked opponents in the Big Ten? Nope, it's not Michigan, Michigan State, or even Indiana - it's Wisconsin. All of the Badgers' four wins over Top 25 opponents have come in conference play - a feat that a team as "bad" as some think Wisconsin is shouldn't be able to accomplish, right?
So far this Big Ten season the Badgers are 4-2 against ranked opponents and the two losses were by 2 points to Michigan State at home and 9 to OSU on the road - not exactly the slouches of the B1G world. They are 4-4 overall against ranked opponents, losing to highly regarded Florida on the road (a blowout loss that has happened to just about everyone that's come to Gainesville) and to Creighton at the Las Vegas Invitational in non-conference play.
Both of those teams have spent time in the Top 10 at different points this season - not exactly like there's shame in losing to any of the four teams they've lost to from the ranked opponents territory.
With that record it got me to wondering - Is it time the Badgers get some much deserved respect on the year? I say, yes.
You aren't a game out of the Big Ten lead past the halfway mark of the conference season without being a legit contender - especially having played all six of the ranked Big Ten teams and come out on top more than you've lost.
Nevermind the fact that the Badgers now own two, yes two wins against Top 5 ranked Big Ten opponents on the year and have done it by winning in the arguably the most hostile atmosphere on the road and at home as well.
Nevermind the fact that the Badgers have that record all while playing in the toughest conference in the country and somehow manage to not be ranked or even on the same seed line as a Gophers team that has two more losses in conference play (including to UW).
Will Wisconsin get the respect it's owed on the national level? Probably not and it shouldn't surprise any of you, sadly. We've seen this song and dance before and we also know that it doesn't end very well for those that don't respect Wisconsin.
I mean, if you were to believe the pundits and the critics this must be the luckiest team in the world... Either that or they are a team that has the most wins against Top 5 teams at home in the country, with 6 (tied with Pitt) since the 2006-07 season.
That's more than the Indiana's, Duke's, UNC's, Kentucky's, Kansas', and Texas' of the world - yet no one gives Wisconsin (or Pitt) the credit they deserve for being that good in big games against allegedly superior competition.
The reasons for the lack of respect for Wisconsin basketball are about as old and tiresome as they come and rehashing them is just plain pointless. We all know what some in the outside world think about Bucky and it's style of play.
Is it always pretty? No.... and anyone that tells you it is is delusional to say the least. Is it effective basketball? Yes, and that's something you have to respect - the Badgers are getting it done with the whole being far better than it's parts and to me that's massively impressive.
Making the NCAA tournament every single one of your coaches 11 seasons, going to the Sweet 16 four times, losing only once in the first round of the tournament, winning three conference championships, and winning two Big Ten tournament championships - now those are ways to earn respect amongst your peers and that's exactly what Wisconsin has done under Bo Ryan.
Ultimately it doesn't matter whether Wisconsin gets the accolades in the middle of the season, they'll gladly let you doubt them and use it to prove you wrong more than you're right. However, at some point in time it would be nice for the general public to wake up and respect Wisconsin the same way Bo's peers and opponents do for what UW's been under Bo Ryan - a winner.