The Wisconsin Badger basketball team enjoys a long and rich history. The Wisconsin men’s basketball program begins its 108th season in 2005-06. In 1898, six years after the advent of the new sport of basketball, the first Wisconsin Badger basketball team was born.
A definitive feather in the Badger basketball cap of history is the NCAA Championship victory of 1941, the only one in school history. The team was led by a pair of All-Americans named Gene Englund and John Kotz. Badger coach Bud Foster preached old-school defense and taught a disciplined brand of basketball. The Badgers opened the season with three straight wins, but dropped three of their next five. A 44-27 setback at Minnesota to open the conference season was an early low point. Wisconsin bounced back from the loss to the Gophers and won its last 15 consecutive games, including a historic run through the NCAA Tournament that culminated in a 39-34 Badger victory over Washington State in the championship game.
Another high point for the Badgers basketball team was a trip to the Final Four in Indianapolis in 2000, and not as spectators. Following a devastating loss to Michigan State on February 14th of the 1999/00 season, the Badgers and Coach Dick Bennett were 13-12 and hoping to win enough games to qualify for the NIT.
However, Wisconsin mounted a second- half comeback win at Iowa ten days later that sparked a month long run of incredible victories, culminating in a Final Four appearance. The Badgers defeated Fresno State, top-seeded Arizona, LSU and Purdue to advance to the Final Four where they lost to their arch-nemesis, Michigan State. Jon Bryant was the West Regional’s Most Outstanding Player and Mike Kelley and Andy Kowske were named to the all tournament team. Michigan State, coached by Tom Izzo, ended their season by winning the national title with an 89-76 victory in the championship game over Florida.
The home of the Badger basketball team for over 50 years was the University of Wisconsin Field House. Commonly known as the UW Fieldhouse, the 11,500 seat multi-purpose arena in Madison, Wisconsin opened in 1930. It was designed by Wisconsin State Architect Arthur Peabody in consultation with Paul Cret of the firm of Laird and Cret. Badgers fans of numerous generations can attest to the loud rowdiness that was customary during games at the Fieldhouse. And although Badger fans love the new home of the team, the Kohl Center, many have fond memories of the UW Fieldhouse. The Fieldhouse still stands adjacent to Camp Randall, where the Badger football team plays it’s home games.
The Badger basketball team has developed into one of the Big Ten's powerhouses in recent years. Wisconsin won the Big Ten Tournament in 2004, the only time since the inception of the competition in 1998. The current coach is Bo Ryan who has been in charge since the 2001-02 season and has led the Badgers into the NCAA Tournament in every season since.
Bo Ryan began playing basketball at a very young age. His father, Butch Ryan, coached basketball to under-privileged children in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Bo Ryan would follow in his footsteps. Once graduating from Wilkes University, Ryan began graduate work at Villanova University in Pennsylvania. Ryan later accepted an offer to be an assistant coach at the College of Racine in Wisconsin. Ryan seemed to like Wisconsin, as he went on to accept the head coaching positions at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He finally took over as the head coach of the Wisconsin Badgers early in the 2000/01 season. On December 10, 2005, Bo Ryan recorded his 100th victory as he led the Wisconsin Badgers to a victory against in-state rival Marquette.
The team has played their home games at the 17,142 seater Kohl Center since 1998. The Kohl Center is named after U.S. Senator Herb Kohl (D-Wisconsin), a 1956 graduate of UW-Madison. Kohl, a successful local businessman before becoming a senator, donated $25 million to the project. The arena ensures that the Badger basketball team, as well as the Badger hockey and volleyball teams, will have a state-of-the-art venue to host its games for years to come.