There is a simple reason why the Wisconsin Badgers are atop the Big Ten:
They are good.
But they aren't spectacular. Like all teams, there are some things they can work on.
First, let's look at what they do well.
They don't really take any bad shots, using their 35 seconds to find the absolute best look. Thanks to Bo Ryan and that swing offense, the Badgers are undefeated in conference play.
Another thing that Ryan likes to focus on is defense; it shows, as Wisconsin is third in the nation in scoring defense, allowing only 54.4 PPG. The Badgers also rebound well, with Brian Butch pulling down about eight boards a game.
The Badgers are also fundamentally sound, which can't be said for all teams. They hustle, dive on the floor for the loose balls, box out to get position for rebounds.
And those things make it fun for fans to watch their games. These guys play the complete 40 minutes and leave nothing on the floor.
If, by chance, the Badgers do get out hustled or lose a lead, Bo Ryan is there to call a timeout and get his players back to the task at hand.
In recent games, Wisconsin has kept the games close when most thought blowout. Does this mean their defense was getting lax? Not necessarily; maybe players were getting tired or opponents were simply making their shots as well.
These Badgers can't be that bad though, because they still managed to walk away with wins.
So what are their faults, you ask?
They aren't the fastest guys around, or the biggest, but they will bang you down low and stick to you like glue. I personally doubted their ability to hang with the bigger and qucker Texas Longhorns last month, but they gutted it out, played Badger basketball, hard-nosed and blue-collar, and earned that win in Austin.
The Badgers shoot well, but they aren't a three-point shooting team.
What's the difference? A three-point shooting team is the one announcers say "lives or dies by the three."
The Badgers aren't one of those, but they can compete in a shooting contest; the team doesn't look for the three first, but the better shots aren't afraid to take them.
There is one thing I notice that Bo Ryan could do to increase that third-ranked defense even more. The Badgers have two seven-footers in Brian Butch and Greg Stiemsma, and yet I rarely see them on the floor at the same time for long minutes.
Seeing those two towers in the paint could really make teams think twice before driving the lane for the layup.
Maybe Bo is just keeping one as a handy backup in case fouls become an issue for one of them. Maybe Ryan's thinking, "Hey, what happens when one seven-footer comes out? I replace him with another one!"
I'm going to disagree and use the old, "Two heads are better than one." Try it out once, get both Butch and Stiemsma plenty of minutes together and see what happens.
If any Badger fails to perform any of the jobs that take place on the court, you can guarantee that Ryan will replace them with someone who will. He won't tolerate subpar play from any of his guys; he needs to be commended more for doing so.
Bo Ryan can only speak his wisdom, it's up to the players to put those words into actions. Coaches can only coach; players win or lose games based on their performance.
The player at the highest level of that performance is Joe Krabbenhoft. Right now, he is the MVP of that team; it's not bad for a kid from Sioux Falls, SD, where farming is the main sporting choice.
I shouldn't single out Krabbenhoft, as all of Bo Ryan's guys have played well; it's usually a different guy every night.
It was Marcus Landry's night a while ago, and Brian Butch contributes constantly. Trevon Hughes is coming off a hot streak, and look for another one with what I think is newfound confidence. Freshmen Jon Leuer had his time to shine with a three-fest against Michigan in Ann Arbor earlier; he's proven he can play.
Even with the above faults, I don't see why the 11th ranked Badgers (6-0; 16-2) can't win the Big Ten.
They need to hold off Indiana, with freshman phenom Eric Gordon, and the ever-so-pesky Spartans from Michigan State.
I'll go even further and say that they can make a decent push into March.
That is, of course, if they can stay healthy and continue to execute those fundamentals.