Gophers will use their bye week to prepare for Big Ten finale

Adam Fink

After 15 Big Ten games – 13 of which were losses – Minnesota’s men’s basketball team finally gets a day off.

Actually, three days off.

The Gophers do not play until Saturday and after losing to Iowa last weekend, will not practice again until today.

In Dan Monson’s five years at Minnesota, the Gophers (10-17, 2-13 Big Ten) have always had their bye week earlier in the season. But this year, only Michigan State has a later off-date.

The Spartans concluded their regular season Tuesday.

“I can’t imagine it being any later than this,” center Jeff Hagen said.

While the bye week comes later than usual this year, it isn’t necessarily coming at a bad time.

The Gophers’ seeding for the Big Ten tournament has essentially been determined. Minnesota will finish in last place in the conference.

Penn State – the Gophers’ opponent Saturday – will finish tied for last place if it loses its final two games.

If that scenario unfolds, both teams would be 1-1 against the other, setting up the second tie-breaker: The team with the better record against the top team in the conference will get the higher seeding. If tied again, the seeding is determined by looking at the second-best team and moving down the rankings until there is a winner.

Both Penn State (9-16, 3-11) and Minnesota defeated different teams so the final order of the standings will determine who earns the 10th seed.

The time off also allows Minnesota to get healthy – notably freshman Kris Humphries.

Humphries, the Big Ten’s leading scorer averaging 20.7 points per game, sat out of last Saturday’s 66-62 loss to Iowa while recovering from a sprained tendon in his right ankle.

In recent years, Minnesota has incorporated a few wrinkles into its game plans during the bye week.

But with nearly the entire schedule complete this season, the Gophers said they want to rest and begin preparing for the conference tournament.

The only way Minnesota will get a postseason berth is if it wins the Big Ten tournament and receives the conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

“People start to wear down so you got to walk the fine line between having tough practices and resting up,” Hagen said.

Bauer steps it up

While Michael Bauer’s career at Minnesota is winding down, the senior’s impact is picking up.

Bauer, who has struggled this year, made his second consecutive start last weekend and had only his third double-digit scoring game since Jan. 7.

The senior, who had ankle surgery last summer, scored 16 points, including 13 in the first half.

“It’s been very frustrating for him because he never has gotten himself totally in shape this year coming off the ankle surgery he had,” Monson said.

In making his first start in nearly two months against Ohio State on Feb. 25, Bauer finished with zero points.

But after the game, Monson said he was happy with Bauer’s energy and presence on the defensive end.

In addition, the Hastings, Minn., native continues to be a threat from three-point range and has shown he won’t force many shots.

Bauer will be among five seniors honored prior to Minnesota’s game against the Lions.