Though Bo Ryan certainly garnered negative attention to both himself and the Wisconsin basketball program this past April, I believe this will only make the Badgers even stronger in 2012-13.
For those unfamiliar with the situation, here's a quick rundown: Jarrod Uthoff wanted to transfer out of Wisconsin, but Ryan decided to block the redshirt freshman from transferring to a list of 26 schools, which is allowed but frowned upon.
The list included every other Big Ten school, every ACC school, Marquette, Iowa State and Florida. Ryan was looking to prevent the Badgers from having to face-off against Uthoff playing for one of their rivals.
Wisconsin plays each team in the Big Ten at least once, if not twice, during the regular season. The Big Ten-ACC Challenge occurs every season, and the Badgers have an annual contest with in-state rival Marquette. Also, Fred Hoiberg-led Iowa State has been the latest go-to school for Big Ten transfers.
At the end of the day, I can see both parties' points. While Ryan did not break any rules, many thought he was penalizing Uthoff out of spite. After much criticism, Ryan limited the list of blocked schools, and Uthoff will be attending Iowa, another member of the Big Ten. Hailing from the state, Uthoff will pay in-state tuition but will not be a scholarship player in the upcoming season.
In the end, all was settled but not before this situation caused a major uproar in college basketball. At the same time, the incident may have boosted both Ryan and the Badgers, and I have high hopes for them this upcoming season.
Uthoff arrived in Madison as a three-star recruit from Cedar Rapids. The 6'8" forward never saw the floor during his lone season as a Badger and has still yet to play a collegiate game, but it seems like Uthoff may have not been a perfect fit anyway.
Wisconsin runs the swing offense, which has been the staple of their success under Ryan. Every player on the court needs to be able to handle the ball, pass and knock down open shots from the outside. It's a slow-paced game with many offensive possessions reaching less than 10 seconds on the shot clock.
Uthoff is known for his athleticism and rebounding, more so than his outside shooting ability and strength on defense. Those skills alone make him a better fit at Iowa, where the Hawkeyes will have a loaded frontcourt a year from now when Uthoff becomes eligible.
His reason for leaving Wisconsin was partially attributed to the fact that he didn't fit the system. Coach Ryan recruits players strictly based on whether they fit his system, so obviously Ryan and Uthoff didn't see eye to eye on what type of player Uthoff was and could become.
While most schools only place a restriction on a player transferring to another school within the same conference, what Ryan did was strategic. Although Uthoff may not have fit in at Wisconsin, he was good enough for Ryan to initially recruit, and you can't blame Ryan for not wanting to get burned by losing Uthoff down the road.
By restricting Uthoff going to ACC schools, Ryan was not only trying to help Wisconsin in their annual Big Ten-ACC Challenge game, but it would have also helped any other Big Ten team. Iowa State, a member of the Big 12, has added Royce White (Minnesota), Chris Allen and Korie Lucious (Michigan State), and Chris Babb (Penn State) from Big Ten schools in the past few years.
Contrary to popular belief, restricting a player on your team from transferring to certain schools is not that uncommon. Just recently, St. Joseph's coach Phil Martelli was heavily criticized for not allowing a former player to transfer anywhere, essentially wasting the player's scholarship to sit on the bench.
Who knows what the relationship between Uthoff and his teammates was like, but one thing is for sure: Uthoff didn't want to be a Badger anymore. The Badgers now benefit from not having a committed player, and the media attention could light a fire under the Wisconsin players this upcoming season if they're now encouraged to prove everybody wrong.
While Wisconsin only has two incoming freshmen this year, Ryan has already landed two more players for the class of 2013 and another for 2014. Bronson Koenig, a point guard from La Crosse, WI, will be added to the Badgers next year and is currently rated as a four-star recruit on ESPN.
This also isn't the first time that a player leaving Wisconsin has opened up a door for another athlete to come in. Just three years ago, Diamond Taylor was kicked off the Badger team due to some off-the-court issues.
Ryan responded by adding Josh Gasser for the following season, who became only the third true freshman to ever start under him. The two previous players distinguished under this honor were Devin Harris and Alando Tucker, both of whom made the NBA.
Gasser's freshman season was highlighted by a triple-double performance at Northwestern, and he has turned into one of the elite defenders in the league. Sometimes things just fall into place following a controversy.
Besides Uthoff, Jordan Taylor and Rob Wilson were the only two players that Wisconsin lost at the end of the season after they graduated. Unlike Uthoff, Taylor and Wilson were guards. While questions remain about the Badger backcourt in 2012-13, fans should be confident in their frontcourt's strength.
Josh Gasser, Traevon Jackson or George Marshall will take over Taylor's role, which will not be easy to follow. However, Wisconsin already boasts a frontcourt with the likes of Ryan Evans, Jared Berggren, Mike Bruesewitz, Frank Kaminsky and freshman Sam Dekker.
Rising seniors Evans, Berggren and Bruesewitz all started last season, making it hard to believe that Uthoff could have surpassed any of them in the offseason. Dekker won Mr. Basketball in the state of Wisconsin last year and is projected to be an instant impact player for the Badgers.
It's hard to see where Uthoff would have fit in with the Badgers this upcoming season, although he could have received playing time later in his career.
When all is said and done—and whether you think what Ryan did was right or wrong—there is no denying that Ryan is a winner. The fact that Ryan has never finished below fourth place in the rugged Big Ten is amazing and speaks volumes to the type of coach he is and the players that he recruits.
Wisconsin basketball and team basketball are synonymous. Unlike some teams, at Wisconsin, one player will not make or break a season; rather, every player on the court and team must buy into the coach's system for success to be achieved.
Although Ryan has not gotten to the Final Four at Wisconsin, the day is approaching. And even if he doesn't, he has established a culture, winning attitude and gritty brand of basketball that not many other programs in the nation can say they also have.
In the end, this whole situation will work out for both Ryan and Uthoff. And hey, we'll even get to see them face-off once Uthoff becomes eligible to play in the near future. Despite another deep pool of Big Ten teams in 2012-13—notably Indiana, Michigan, Ohio State, Michigan State and Minnesota—Ryan will find a way to get the Badgers another top-four finish in the Big Ten and a Sweet Sixteen appearance, even without Jordan Taylor.