Wisconsin has become synonymous with machine-like consistency under Bo Ryan, but this season the Badgers have been nothing if not streaky.
You may recall, for example, the team racing out to a 16-0 start and being ranked No. 3 in the nation. In fact, in early January this was being called perhaps Ryan's best team yet, one that had a legitimate shot at reaching the Final Four.
Then the Badgers suffered through a slump where they dropped five of six games. The tailspin included a once-unthinkable 0-3 stretch in Madison, with losses at home to Michigan, Northwestern and Ohio State. In less than a month's time, Wisconsin went from 16-0 to falling out of the Associated Press Top 25 entirely (albeit briefly).
At many programs, a 1-5 skid would be grounds for a lineup change, a switch in tactics or both. But that's not Ryan's modus operandi. He has put the same starting five on the floor in all 27 games this season. Throughout his team's dismal January, he stayed with the playing style that had worked so well in November and December.
Maybe that was the right call. Wisconsin has won five straight, including back-to-back road wins against Michigan and Iowa. If the cast of characters has stayed the same and so has the strategy, why are we seeing such different results from this team?
I happen to have some thoughts on that.