The Wisconsin basketball vibe has never been uptight, militaristic or stilted in the tradition of a John Thompson, Bobby Knight or Mike Krzyzewski-coached team.

But the image of a heavily starched white shirt has come to mind over the years.

No nonsense. Businesslike. Efficient.

If a program takes on the personality of a coach, let's just say the Badgers have been comfortable in Bo Ryan's skin.

There has been no revolution, no storming of the gates like the '60s protesters who charged the old Field House's doors.

But the times, they are a'changing to a small degree.

The white shirt has become tropical in hue. And no starch, please, just natural fibers with the shirttail out.

The Badgers may not be the enlightened Al McGuire renegades who dominated '70s college basketball with style and substance. Wisconsin may have changed its jerseys, but, in honoring the quaint team-first mind-set, there still are no names on the back.

Yet this UW team has more freethinkers and class clowns than pretty much any since Steve Yoder's latter days, when Tim Locum and Tracy Webster kept things loose. Those teams never made the NCAAs, never came close. Like a number of other Ryan teams this one has No.2-seed talent, and the looseness cannot hurt when you are a 20-to-1 shot to win it all.

It would be an overstatement to say that Ryan has changed or even softened, but he has adapted to some of the delightful personalities on his roster such as freshman Nigel Hayes, who was goofing around the locker room Wednesday, interviewing his teammates with a video camera.

Ryan has won 700 games, placing him on a historically elite platform. Outside of winning a Division I national championship, there is nothing left for him to prove. It has also been a personally trying year for Ryan, who recently lost both of his parents.

But at 66, the future Hall of Fame coach has mellowed just enough to blend with some of the talented characters he's recruited.

"I think part of it has to do with the personalities on this team," junior guard Josh Gasser said. "We're a lot younger, looser group and he has had to handle that. I think just the relationships he has had with the players this year have (deepened) more in the past."

Team chemistry can only be strengthened when players can watch Sam Dekker get into it at practice with Ryan without the coach pulling arbitrary rank. Everyone knows who is in charge and that's never going to change with Ryan, but there is something about a lighter rein that sometimes that allows NBA talents like Dekker to play freer.

And then there is Hayes.

"Nigel is a beast," Gasser said. "Anytime he gets the ball something good happens, usually. As a freshman that's just a rare trait. I don't think he realizes how good he can be sometimes, but yeah, on the court everyone sees what he does. Off the court he's a great personality, fits in great with us. Fun guy to be around, funny. Pretty much everything you want in a teammate, he is."

On Wednesday — as the Badgers got ready for their 11:40 a.m. Thursday meeting with American at the BMO Harris Bradley Center — Ryan rambled at the podium.