Bo Ryan’s first trip to the Final Four will be the first without his father

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“This is for Butch.”

That’s what Bo Ryan told Craig Sager in his post game interview after his No. 2 seeded Wisconsin Badgers advanced to the first Final Four in Ryan’s 13-year tenure with the program with a thrilling, exhilarating 64-63 overtime win over top seed Arizona.

If you don’t know the story, it’s touching and heart-breaking all at the same time. Butch Ryan is Bo’s father. Butch and Bo were mainstays at the Final Four every year, with Butch decidedly the more popular of the two.

“More people knew my dad at Final Fours than me,” Ryan told after their win over Baylor on Thursday night. “It was our bonding time. Hell, I always had time there ’cause I’ve never been able to play in one of the dang things.”

Well, now he will be, but he’ll be doing it without his dad there to see him. Butch passed away in August. Saturday would have been his 90th birthday.

MOREArizona’s defense costs them a trip to the Final Four

“I’ll tell you, it’s going to be tough to be there coaching without him,” Ryan said, holding back tears, during his postgame interview. “I can’t imagine him or my mom being any happier. I’m happy that I’ve been able to be on the sideline and do this thing called coaching because my parents gave me the opportunity.”

For Wisconsin, this will be their first Final Four since 2000, when the program was still under the watchful eye of Dick Bennett. Ryan took over in 2001, and while he’s finished in the top four of the Big Ten regular season standings in every single season that he’s been in Madison, this was just his second trip to the Elite 8 and his first to college basketball’s final weekend as a coach, not a fan.

And here’s the kicker: Wisconsin is going to have a real chance to win this thing. Frank Kaminsky may be the single most difficult matchup left in the tournament, Sam Dekker is a future draft pick, Nigel Hayes will be a star next season and Wisconsin’s back court is as tough as any that you’ll find.

The Final Four is still a week away, however, so for now the Badgers are going to celebrate this win.

They’re going to celebrate with their coach.

“I’m honored to be a part of this,” Kaminsky said.

POSTERIZED: Wyoming’s Josh Adams takes flight

Josh Adams
Associated Press
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Not only is Wyoming senior guard Josh Adams the lone returning starter from a team that won the Mountain West tournament last season, but he’s also one of college basketball’s best dunkers. And if anyone may have forgotten about his jumping ability, Adams put it on display Saturday during the Cowboys’ win over Montana State.

After splitting two Montana State players at the top of the key Adams attacked the basket, dunking with two hands over a late-arriving help-side defender. If you’re going to rotate over, have to do it quicker than that.

Video credit: Wyoming Athletics

Defensive progress will determine No. 4 Iowa State’s ceiling

Monte Morris
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Even with the coaching change from Fred Hoiberg to Steve Prohm, No. 4 Iowa State remains one of the nation’s best offensive teams. Given their skills on that end of the floor many teams find it tough to go score for score with the Cyclones, and that’s what happened to Illinois in Iowa State’s 84-73 win in the Emerald Coast Classic title game.

Georges Niang scored 23 points and grabbed eight rebounds, with Monté Morris adding 20, nine rebounds and six assists and Abdel Nader 18 points as the Cyclones moved to 5-0 on the season. The three-pointers weren’t falling in the second half, as Iowa State shot 0-f0r-12, but they shot 19-for-24 inside of the arc to pull away from a team that lost big man Mike Thorne Jr. late in the first half to a left knee injury.

Illinois’ loss of size in the paint opened things up offensively for Iowa State, and the Cyclones took advantage. But where this group grabbed control of the game was on the defensive end of the floor, and that will be the key for a team with Big 12 and national title aspirations.

Nader took on the responsibility of defending Illinois’ Malcolm Hill (20 points) in the second half and did a solid job of keeping the junior wing in check, with that serving as the spark to a 12-2 run that put the game away. There’s no denying that the Cyclones can put points on the board; most of the talent from last season is back and the productivity on that end of the floor hasn’t changed as a result. Niang’s one of the nation’s best forwards, and both Morris (who now ranks among the country’s best point guards) and Nader have taken significant strides in their respective games.

Iowa State will add Deonte Burton in December, giving them another option to call upon. Front court depth is a bit of a concern, as Iowa State can ill afford to lose a Niang or Jameel McKay, but there’s enough on the roster to compensate for that and force mismatches in other areas.

But the biggest question for this group is how effective they can become at stringing together stops. Illinois certainly had its moments in both halves Saturday night, but Iowa State also showed during the game’s decisive stretch that they can step up defensively. The key now is to do so consistently, and if that occurs the Cyclones can be a threat both within the Big 12 and nationally.