Head coach Bo Ryan and the men's basketball team are reaping all the rewards they deserve after last week's success. The Badgers are coming off arguably one of the biggest wins in the program's recent history, a 73-69 victory over No. 5 Duke Dec 2. Wisconsin followed that with a 33-point victory over Grambling State Saturday.
For the team's effort, the Badgers find themselves in the top-25 national rankings for the first time this season. The Badgers are ranked No. 20 in the AP Poll and No. 23 in the USA Today/ESPN Coaches Poll.
Picked by many at the beginning of the season to finish the season in the bottom half of the Big Ten standings, Wisconsin now sits as the fourth-highest nationally ranked team in the conference, behind Purdue, Michigan State and Ohio State.
The rankings are not a distraction for the team, though.
""I don't even know if our guys would know one way or the other if we were or weren't ranked,"" Ryan said. ""They always know the next team wants to beat us, and we want to beat the next team.""
Additionally, for his personal effort, senior guard Trevon Hughes was named Big Ten Player of the Week. This is the first such honor for Hughes, and the first for a Wisconsin guard since Kammron Taylor in 2007. Hughes averaged 23 points per game on the week, including a career-high 26 points against Duke, with 19 of those coming in the second half.
""This has been [Hughes'] best year,"" Ryan said. ""He's been the most focused. Not that he wasn't before, but just this is his time.""
Hughes and his teammates will look to carry last week's success into this coming week as they take on two in-state foes.
Wisconsin begins the first of three contests with in-state Division I teams when it takes on the UW-Green Bay Phoenix (2-0 Horizon, 8-2 overall) in Green Bay Wednesday.
The Badgers have never lost to Green Bay, taking a perfect 15-0 record into the matchup. Last season when the two teams met, Wisconsin came out victorious by a 20-point margin.
Bo Ryan isn't expecting the game to be as easy this season. He knows Green Bay is prepared to bring its best.
""They're on a roll,"" Ryan said. ""We know what we're going into up there. It's going to be a heck of a battle.""
On Saturday, the Badgers face off against their biggest in-state rival, Marquette, at the Kohl Center. Always a highly charged game, Wisconsin is looking for revenge after a tough loss last season in which the Golden Eagles edged out the Badgers 61-58 in Milwaukee.
Ryan knows games against in-state rivals always carry a certain amount of added intensity. The Badgers embrace every opportunity to face those rivals, though.
""It's always for the right to say this or the right to say that,"" Ryan said of the rivalry. ""You can't get any more competitive games that I've seen.""