Players, coaches and fans net excitement of a title

by Todd Zolecki

and Michael Rand

ANN ARBOR, Mich. Gophers basketball players, coaches and fans were all whooping and hollering as they took turns snipping off parts of the Crisler Arena net following a Big Ten title-clinching 55-54 win over Michigan Wednesday night.
But the giddiest of the giddy might have been assistant athletics director Pat Forciea.
“It’s always nice to beat Michigan at anything — tiddlywinks, hopscotch, whatever,” Forciea said. “But to win the Big Ten championship in their back yard is as good as it gets.”
He also mentioned a play from a game between the teams in a different sport earlier this season.
“I remember a long bomb they threw at the end of a football game this fall, when they were up by 40 points,” Forciea said.
He also noted the difference in outcome between that long pass and the Hail Mary the Wolverines hurled at the end of their one-point loss Wednesday.
Bubbling over?
With a 7-8 conference record, Michigan is now in danger of missing the NCAA tournament for only the second time since 1985. Guard Travis Conlan said he thinks the team needs to win its last three games to be in the field of 64.
The Wolverines’ last two games are against Northwestern and Ohio State, two very beatable teams. That means Sunday’s game at Illinois could either be a bridge to an NCAA run, or a dirt road to the NIT.
Gophers guard Eric Harris hopes it’s the former.
“We want the Big Ten to be represented well in the NCAA tournament,” he said. “I wish them the best of luck.”
It’s no big deal
Gophers men’s athletics director Mark Dienhart didn’t sound too shocked when Minnesota brought the game down to the wire and Bobby Jackson made a free throw to win it with 1.8 seconds left.
“They’ve been doing it all year long that way,” he said. “It was nice to see it happen here. I’m sure that was a great thrill for the kids.”
Also a great thrill for the athletics department. In the year of a fired football coach and suspended hockey coach, it’s nice to have some positive things happen in the news.
“It feels good,” he said. “This is a great season. I’m proud of not only the outcome, but of the way they played with team spirit.”