Wisconsin men’s basketball coach Bo Ryan wouldn’t be on Fran McCaffery’s list of people to invite for Christmas Dinner.
But that doesn’t make them enemies.
“We weren’t going to each other’s house for Christmas dinner before,” McCaffery said of his fellow Pennsylvania native during a Friday teleconference.
McCaffery and Ryan will square off Sunday when the 22nd-ranked Hawkeyes face undefeated and fourth-ranked Wisconsin at the Kohl Center in the Madison, Wis.
The rivalry has been hotly contested on the court since McCaffery was hired at Iowa in March 2010 and on the recruiting trail where the Hawkeyes and Badgers often compete for the same players.
Wisconsin senior guard Ben Brust originally signed with Iowa, but changed his mind after Todd Lickliter was fired as the Iowa coach shortly after the 2009-10 season and replaced by McCaffery. Brust was granted a waiver that allowed him to play immediately for the Badgers.
Iowa struck a blow to the Badgers when 6-foot-9 forward Jarrod Uthoff, who graduated from Cedar Rapids Jefferson High school in 2011, decided after being redshirted as a freshman at Wisconsin that he wanted to transfer to Iowa.
Ryan tried to block the move by restricting Uthoff from transferring to a Big Ten school. Uthoff filed an appeal and eventually agreed to pay his own way to Iowa for one year while sitting out last season.
Uthoff is now on scholarship at Iowa and is a key member of the team as a third-year sophomore.
“The reality is this: He’s trying to get his team to win a national championship and we’re trying to do the same thing,” McCaffery said of the 66-year-old Ryan, who has led the Badgers to the NCAA Tournament in each of his 12 seasons on the job. “If we play them twice, we’re trying to beat them twice, and they’re trying to beat us twice. You compete on the court. You compete in recruiting. And we’re trying to win. It doesn’t mean that you don’t respect the other person and the job that they’re doing. And it doesn’t mean that you can’t be cordial.”
McCaffery grew up in Philadelphia and played his final three seasons of college basketball in his hometown at the University of Pennsylvania as a standout point guard. Ryan grew up in Chester, Pa., and played basketball at Wilkes University in Wilkes-Barre, Pa.
“We’re both from the same area, so there is no animosity,” McCaffery said. “There is no dislike, other than we’re trying to beat them and they’re trying beat us. I think people really make more out of it than is there. There is really nothing there. But for some reason, people want to continue to talk about it and it doesn’t make any sense.”
Reach Pat Harty at 339-7370 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes men's basketball