The schedule shows the Minnesota men’s basketball team isn’t supposed to start the Big Ten season until January.
Then why are the Gophers gearing up for Thursday’s game against Marquette like it’s a conference game?
Tom Crean, that’s why.
The second-year Eagles head man has a coaching style very similar to that of a Big Ten counterpart. Afterall, he was an assistant on Tom Izzo’s Michigan State 1999 Final Four.
“Tom Crean has been in this league,” Gophers coach Dan Monson said. “He understands Big Ten basketball and he’s simulating it at Marquette.”
“The trademark of how they play and how tough they are, is very similar (to Big Ten opponents).”
Like every good Big Ten team, there is a go-to-guy. On the Eagles, it’s 6-foot-5 senior guard Brian Wardle, who is averaging 20 points per game through Marquette’s four contests.
If the 6-1 Gophers are to make it seven wins in eight games, they will need to slow Wardle. They’ll also have to fend off the mystique of the surroundings.
Because the NBA’s Bucks are playing at the Bradley Center tonight — the Eagles home court — the Minnesota-Marquette game was switched the old Milwaukee Arena.
A.k.a. The Mecca.
Now the U.S. Cellular Arena, it’s the same arena in which NBA great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar won back-to-back scoring titles in the early 1970’s.
“That’s something to think about,” freshman Michael Bauer said about playing on the same court as NBA Hall-of-Famers.
“But then again, it’s just another basketball court. If we’re talking about history, we need to make history.”
Bauer, who had his first double-double (11 points, 12 rebounds) against Morris Brown, was just about the only bright spot in the lackluster win.
It was a game Monson called the worst performance of the year — a performance not worth reliving.
“I haven’t seen (the game tape), I don’t want to see it,” Monson said. “I saw it once already, it just makes it worse to sit there and dissect what went wrong.”
Needless to say, a better effort will be needed against Marquette.
ù Monson said guard Shane Schilling is expected to return to action against the Eagles baring any unforseen circumstances.
The sophomore missed Monday’s game against Morris Brown with a sore ankle.
ù According to the media relations office, the NCAA Wednesday determined the fate of the games played while academic violations were being committed at Minnesota.
The games from the 1993-94 to 1998-99 season, all coached by Clem Haskins, were originally going to be turned into losses.
But the NCAA ruled the records will be thrown away as if the games were never played — including the NCAA loss to Gonzaga in 1999.
Haskins career record with Minnesota, which was 240-165, is now 111-100 in seven seasons.
ù After tonight’s game, the Gophers return home for five straight games to round out the nonconference schedule. Bethune Cookman heads to The Barn on Saturday for a 1 p.m. tipoff.
John R. Carter covers men’s basketball and welcomes comments at [email protected]