U suddenly on NCAA bubble

Michael Dougherty

The Gophers men’s basketball team is doing the limbo in their quest for an NCAA tournament bid, and the bar keeps getting lower and lower.
Saturday’s heartbreaking loss to Michigan State severely damaged the Gophers’ hopes for a trip to the Big Dance, dropping them to eighth place in the conference. If Minnesota could have pulled off the upset of the No. 5 Spartans, a tournament bid might have been locked up.
Instead, Clem Haskins’ squad (14-8 overall, 5-7 in the Big Ten) finds itself with four regular season games and at least one Big Ten tournament game left to reach 18 victories, a total Haskins said the team needed to get invited to the NCAA tournament.
The Gophers go to Penn State (10-12, 2-10) on Wednesday. They beat the Lions 75-60 on Jan. 9. Minnesota will then take a much-needed weekend off before playing three crucial games next week.
On Feb. 23 the Gophers travel to No. 17 Purdue (18-7, 6-5) for a makeup of the Jan. 2 game that was snowed out. The Boilermakers then turn around and head to Minnesota two days later for a rematch.
Minnesota concludes its regular season with a trip to Northwestern on Feb. 27. The Wildcats (14-8, 6-6) beat the Gophers 58-55 on Jan. 6 at Williams Arena, so Minnesota will be thinking revenge.
With a 0-5 record in conference road games, however, the Gophers have shown that wins are tough to come by away from home. That could make the 18-win hurdle even tougher to navigate.
The Big Ten tournament could provide Minnesota with an opportunity to collect a win or two. If it started today, the Gophers would face Michigan (10-15, 4-8) in the first round.
Minnesota split the regular season series with the Wolverines, a 76-70 win at Williams Arena and a 75-65 loss in Ann Arbor.
College basketball analysts have argued both for and against the fact that this might be the first year a conference sends eight teams to the tournament. And the Gophers are the team sitting on the bubble.
But Haskins and Big Ten leading scorer Quincy Lewis both said this team belongs in the NCAA tournament, and not the NIT. Spartans coach Tom Izzo said he agrees.
“I think we have a pretty good team, and we got beat in a lot of ways (Saturday) — it just didn’t show it on the scoreboard,” Izzo said after the last-second win. “Yes, they are definitely an NCAA team in my mind. Unfortunately, I don’t get to vote.”
ù Minnesota’s 10-week stay in the AP poll came to an end on Monday, as the Gophers fell out of the rankings. Minnesota was ranked No. 22 last week.
The Gophers are still ranked No. 23 in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll.

Knight’s not your daddy
The most colorful coach in the Big Ten is, of course, Indiana’s Bobby Knight. But second-year Northwestern coach Kevin O’Neill is quickly closing the gap between himself and the General.
On Saturday, both men took a combined flight right over the cuckoo’s nest.
Indiana beat the Wildcats 69-62 in overtime at Northwestern, overcoming a double-digit second-half deficit in the Hoosiers’ fourth overtime game out of the last five. And while the Wildcats were enjoying their lead, the student section started hassling Knight with a pun-filled chant of “Hoosier daddy?” — a take off of “Who’s your daddy?”
But when Indiana took the lead in overtime, Knight started screaming at the student section, “Who’s your daddy now?”
After the game, Knight and O’Neill met at half-court and had a heated exchange that resulted in assistant coaches having to hold O’Neill back.
“I just asked (O’Neill), ‘Who’s your daddy now?'” Knight said. “People were standing around and I simply said to Kevin, ‘That’s not the way your crowd, with your team, should be.’ And Kevin said, ‘I have no control over that.’ And I said, ‘I know that.'”
“Then I started to walk away and I don’t think he felt I heard him or I understood him, and I thought he was irritated and I said, ‘Hey, don’t grab me, Kevin.’ But I love Kevin; there’s no coach I enjoy more than Kevin.”
O’Neill, who met with Knight an hour after the game on the Wildcats practice court for an hour, gave this explanation:
“Coach (Knight) was upset about our crowd,” O’Neill said. “I don’t control the crowd. He’s been there 20 years and he may control the crowd at his place. If I’m here 20 years, I’ll probably be dead. It was nothing really — kind of a heat-of-the-battle thing. There’s no bigger supporter of coach Knight than me.”