Schedule will favor No. 6 Gophers

by Todd Zolecki

A player or coach probably wouldn’t be caught saying it, but the Gophers men’s basketball team has a favorable schedule the next two weeks before it plays Purdue and Iowa back-to-back on the road in mid-February.
The sixth-ranked Gophers play Saturday at Northwestern. The Wildcats (6-12, 1-6 in the Big Ten) won their first conference game of the season last weekend against Ohio State.
Northwestern has struggled without All-Big Ten player Geno Carlisle, who decided to leave the program and play for California. The guard led the Big Ten in scoring last season.
Minnesota hosts Penn State next Wednesday. The Lions (8-8, 1-6) have also suffered from the loss of a key player — guard Dan Earl is out with an injured back.
“We have 10 games to go,” Gophers coach Clem Haskins said. “Earlier in the year we had the toughest schedule probably of all the Big Ten schools. We played four of the first six games on the road. That was very difficult.”
The Gophers have the toughest schedule in the league this season. Because of the Big Ten’s unbalanced schedule, Minnesota only plays the Wildcats and Lions — the two worst teams in the conference — once.
Holy cow!
Gophers forward Sam Jacobson won Big Ten Co-Player of the Week honors for scoring 46 points on 60 percent shooting from the field during wins over Iowa and Purdue.
While his performances were Michael Jordan-esque, Jacobson said all this talk about him being the “Jewish Jordan” has got to stop.
Against Iowa last Thursday, ESPN studio host Chris Fowler called Jacobson the “Jewish Jordan.” Apparently, Jacobson made a Jewish All-American team last year and the tasty tidbit found its way into ESPN’s player notes.
Of course there is one major problem with the alliteration.
“Nothing against Jewish people, nothing against Jewish religion, but I’m not Jewish, I’m Catholic and I’m trying to get that out into the open,” Jacobson said. “Everybody’s saying that after they said that on ESPN, but I don’t know where they got that from.”
No word if ESPN will be calling Jacobson the “Catholic Cousy” anytime soon.
Call the foul!
Iowa coach Tom Davis said the Gophers are tough to beat when the officials call a loose game and don’t call fouls on Minnesota’s physical play. Davis thought the Gophers were too physical on Hawkeyes point guard Andre Woolridge last Thursday during Minnesota’s 66-51 win over Iowa.
Davis said, however, that his team failed to adjust to the calls in the game. He said good teams adjust to the officials.
“I think that’s one of the things that stands out about Minnesota this year,” he said. “They’ve adjusted real well at home and on the road. They handle adversity, handle change and handle whatever it is that gets thrown at them. They’re a good solid veteran team.”
Fast break points
ù The Gophers rank No. 5 in the latest Rating Percentage Index poll, which is used by the NCAA to decide the teams that will participate in the tournament and where they will be seeded.
The poll is compiled from three factors: a team’s Division I winning percentage (25 percent), its opponent’s schedule strength (25 percent) and its own schedule strength (50 percent).
Other Big Ten teams rank as follows: Indiana (7th), Michigan (16th), Illinois (31st), Wisconsin (32nd), Iowa (35th), Purdue (39th), Michigan State (69th), Ohio State (111th), Penn State (122nd) and Northwestern (173rd).
ù The Gophers are No. 5 in the USA Today/CNN coaches poll this week.