Originally posted on Fox Sports Wisconsin  |  Last updated 2/13/12
MADISON, Wis. The odds of Bo Ryan focusing on anything beyond his team's very next game during the season are about as great as a snowless winter in Wisconsin. So Ryan, Wisconsin's 11th-year basketball coach, won't be among those at practice this week patting players on the back for resurrecting a Big Ten season that appeared headed for disarray in early January. He also won't be leading any cheers at the very real prospect that exists for the Badgers to snatch a conference championship in the coming weeks. "When you have to talk to guys about winning, that's a sad state of affairs," Ryan said Monday at his weekly press conference. "The only thing that's important is the next one that we have control over, that we can prepare for. "That old saying is three things you have control over: How you think, how you feel and how you behave. What we've got to do in our practice is think about the things that we can do and do them well and hopefully feel good about them in the end. But that's all we can do right now." With six regular-season games remaining, No. 15 Wisconsin (19-6, 8-4 in Big Ten play) has clawed its way into the thick of the conference race and trails co-leaders Michigan State and Ohio State by a single game. The Badgers are also a half-game behind Michigan (9-4). Wisconsin plays at No. 7 Michigan State on Thursday and at sixth-ranked Ohio State on Feb. 26, meaning the Badgers control their own destiny in the quest to at least share a conference crown a somewhat stunning turn of events considering how poorly the team began Big Ten play. The Badgers lost consecutive games against Iowa, Michigan State and Michigan to fall to 1-3 in the Big Ten on Jan. 8. Since that time, however, Wisconsin has won seven of eight conference games, including road contests at Purdue, Illinois, Penn State and Minnesota. This season, Wisconsin has displayed an uncanny ability to win away from the Kohl Center something that surely will come in handy when the Badgers travel to East Lansing to face a dangerous Spartans team. Wisconsin is 6-2 in true road games, and only Baylor's seven road victories are better among teams in BCS conferences. Ryan's team has accomplished all these feats with only two returning starters in guards Jordan Taylor and Josh Gasser. The Badgers have relied on the strength of their customarily staunch defense to push them through, and it has continued to pay off. Wisconsin is allowing just 50.3 points per game, the lowest mark in the nation. "We knew it was going to be a little different this year," Ryan said. "And it's not the first time we've said that. Just think back months ago. We had unknowns. How would people react to certain things? But you talk about resilient and coming to practice everyday and not letting a slump affect this or not letting some success affect that. And there's still more to come. Probably both ways." Wisconsin's last Big Ten regular-season title came in 2007-08, when the Badgers finished 16-2 in conference play to edge Purdue by a game. If the season ended today with Wisconsin in fourth place, the Badgers would earn a first-round bye in the Big Ten Tournament in Indianapolis. Wisconsin would then play No. 5 seed Indiana a team the Badgers defeated 57-50 in Madison on Jan. 26. But with a half-dozen games remaining and the Big Ten so closely bunched, any number of possible scenarios still exist. Just don't ask Ryan to make any predictions. "If the juices aren't flowing for what we've got coming, you need help," Ryan said. "We've got quite a stretch coming up here." Ten-year anniversary: Wisconsin's 2001-02 men's basketball team, which won a share of the Big Ten championship, will be honored during Wisconsin's game against Penn State on Sunday in the Kohl Center. It marked Ryan's first season at Wisconsin, and the Badgers finished 11-5 in the Big Ten to earn a share of the regular-season title with Illinois, Indiana and Ohio State. Wisconsin went 19-13 overall and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. "They came together," Ryan said. "We ended up basically with seven scholarship players because of injuries. We had to re-recruit some people so they wouldn't go somewhere else. They just worked." Follow Jesse Temple on Twitter.
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