U earns sixth seed, will open vs. Illinois

Michael Dougherty

What bubble?
After last Tuesday’s 54-42 loss at Purdue, the Gophers men’s basketball team was trying to maintain its balance while teetering on the so-called NCAA tournament bubble that seemed as fragile as a television around an incensed Mike Tyson.
But two conference wins later, everyone involved said the bubble has disappeared.
“We know we have a bid locked up after today,” Gophers coach Clem Haskins said after his team’s 58-51 win over Northwestern Saturday. “If we don’t get in now, I’ll be very disappointed.”
Thanks to Michigan State’s 60-46 win against Purdue on Sunday, Minnesota (17-9) finished the Big Ten regular season at 8-8 — good enough for sixth place. The Spartans’ win was a big boost for the Gophers because it means Minnesota will play Illinois (11-17, 3-11 in the Big Ten) instead of Michigan. The Illinois game will be at 6 p.m. Thursday night at the United Center in Chicago.
Michigan’s record (11-18, 5-11) isn’t much better than Illinois, but the Wolverines have already beaten the Gophers this year, 75-65 in Ann Arbor on Feb. 7. The Illini, meanwhile, lost at Minnesota 75-63 on Feb. 3 and are clearly a step below the Wolverines and the rest of the Big Ten.
Despite the fact that most people consider Minnesota a shoo-in for the NCAA tournament, forward Quincy Lewis said he knows one foolproof way to assure a bid to the Big Ten.
“The more wins you get, the better off you are,” Lewis said. “We just have to go to the Big Ten tournament and win the whole thing, then there’s no question about it.”
Forward Miles Tarver said he thinks the team has both a bid locked up as well as a good shot to win the Big Ten tourney. Tarver said finishing 8-8 in a conference that is considered by many to be the toughest in the country “speaks for itself.”
“We feel on a neutral floor we can play with anybody, and that’s what the Big Ten tournament offers us,” Tarver said. “We performed well there last year, so we’re looking for the same this year.”

Lewis in a 76ers uniform?
Philadelphia 76ers coach Larry Brown was at Saturday’s game. His squad was in town to play the Bulls on Thursday, and played at Milwaukee on Sunday. Brown said he was there because, “I love Clem and I’m a big Quincy Lewis fan.”
Brown said he thinks the Big Ten has eight teams that are among the best 64 in the nation, but also said he thinks a team should at least finish with a .500 record in the conference — something only six teams did.
The 76ers are 8-5 so far this year, and whether Lewis will be available when Philadelphia drafts is debatable. Brown said he doesn’t know where Lewis will go in the draft, but guarantees he’ll be playing in the NBA next year.
“I’ve watched him a lot, and I like the way this Gophers team plays,” Brown said. “They play hard, and Quincy’s in a program that prepares him to play in the NBA by playing man-to-man defense and play unselfish.”