Badgers not reading into Gophers’ rough patch

Badgers head coach Bo Ryan is not underestimating the Gophers and Tubby.

Losers of three straight games, some may be starting to wonder if after such an encouraging start to the season, the Minnesota men’s basketball team is beginning to come unglued.

Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan, however, doesn’t see it that way.

Ryan, whose Badgers visit Williams Arena on Sunday, said the Gophers (12-6 overall, 2-4 Big Ten) – who have played arguably the toughest slate of games of any team to start the Big Ten conference schedule – will be just fine, despite their current tough stretch.

“The only way it would affect anybody in a negative way is if you had weak people involved,” Ryan said. “Well you don’t have that at Minnesota.

“Tubby has been through an awful lot in his coaching career, so it starts from the top and that’s not going to change. Their players are tough; players who have been through the league and played some very good teams,” he said.

Playing time adjustments?

Minnesota coach Tubby Smith, who has played 10 or 11 players all season long, said he may consider cutting back to a smaller rotation as the Gophers enter the thick of their 18-game conference season.

“We probably have to narrow that down some because we just aren’t getting the production we need to get from our bench Ö although our bench is still playing very well.”

Although not seen in the win column as of late, Smith said he has been pleased with the effort his team has played with.

“I think we are doing what we can with the personnel, with the people we have,” Smith said. “I think they are giving us what they have.”

Still no respect

Nearly every year in recent memory, despite supplying countless amounts of talent to the NBA, perception is that the Big Ten is having another “down year.” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo has had just about enough of those remarks.

Izzo sounded like Rodney Dangerfield for part of his weekly Big Ten teleconference Monday morning, coming close to pulling the “no respect” line. He said it’s harder to win on the road in the Big Ten than many conferences in the country and doesn’t understand where the “down year” view comes from.

And he may have a point.

In the latest Associated Press Top 25 released Monday, three Big Ten teams are in the top 15 – Michigan State at No. 8, Indiana at No. 11 and Wisconsin at No. 13. Purdue is on the cusp of making the top 25, receiving 34 votes this week.

“You don’t hear anyone talking when (last week) we had three teams in the top 11; I’m not sure (any other conference) had that,” Izzo said.

“I’m always going to be sticking up for us and I think I’m doing it in an educated way, not because we are in the Big Ten.”

Player of the week

Michigan State senior guard Drew Neitzel was named Big Ten Player of the Week on Monday.

The Grand Rapids, Mich., native appears to be a revitalized offensive threat since scoring 17 second-half points in the Spartans’ 78-73 win at Williams Arena on Jan. 20.

Neitzel followed up that outburst by averaging 19 points, 6 assists and 4 rebounds per contest in two games this week; both Michigan State victories.

In leading the Spartans to wins at Northwestern and against rival Michigan, the preseason conference Player of the Year shot .583 from the field and 50 percent from three-point range.

Game of the week: Indiana at Wisconsin

It was clear Indiana coach Kelvin Sampson wasn’t pleased after the Hoosiers dropped a home game to unranked Connecticut on Saturday at Assembly Hall. Indiana, which is still at the top of the Big Ten standings without a conference loss, fell 68-63 in a game in which Hoosiers stars D.J. White and Eric Gordon went a combined 10 for 29.

Sampson said his team could have played better in every facet of the game Saturday and his team will need to if it wants any chance to beat Wisconsin on Thursday night at the Kohl Center in Madison.

“We have a chance to certainly right a lot of wrongs and play a lot better Thursday and we are going to need to,” he said.

The Badgers, coming off their first loss of the conference season – a 60-56 loss at Purdue on Saturday – are dangerous, Sampson said, because they play as a team. Wisconsin has had seven different players lead the team in different games in scoring this season.

“I think their greatest strength is they don’t contribute to their demise – they don’t beat themselves, the right people take the shots, they are balanced in and out,” Sampson said. “They are just really sound at what they do.”