Home wins tough to come by this season

by Adam Fink

In one of his final post-game comments following his team’s win over Minnesota’s men’s basketball team last month, Indiana coach Mike Davis said playing at Williams Arena is difficult.

Since opening in 1927, the Barn has established itself as an intimidating facility with its raised floor and large pipes running throughout.

But this season, the Gophers are finding it difficult to win at home – a trend echoed in the Big Ten.

Minnesota is 9-6 in the confines of Williams Arena but only 1-5 at home in the conference.

The Gophers (10-15, 2-11 Big Ten) play two of their final three games at Williams Arena – starting Wednesday night against Ohio State – in contests that will likely determine the team’s final positioning for the Big Ten tournament.

The last time the Gophers failed to win more than two home Big Ten games was 1987, Clem Haskins’ first season.

“Right now, the home teams are maybe not as dominant and so there is more parity as far as going into places and having an opportunity to win,” Gophers coach Dan Monson said. “Teams are closer from the bottom to the top, so there are not any automatic games.”

In the conference, teams are only 44-24 in home games. Four teams have four or more Big Ten losses at home.

The Gophers have lost in every way possible; from a heart-breaking defeat in overtime against the Hoosiers to a blowout by Purdue last Saturday.

Also exemplifying this trend is the Hoosiers. Indiana lost at home to Ohio State on Saturday.

This marks four straight Indiana losses at Assembly Hall, a place considered difficult for visitors. The four losses are the team’s second-longest home losing streak ever.

“Who would have thought we would lose four home games?” Davis said. “From a personal standpoint, all of the (Big Ten) teams are basically the same. There is no fear going into anyone’s arena.”

Three teams have separated themselves from the pack.

Wisconsin, Illinois and Michigan State have combined for a 19-1 Big Ten record at home. The Badgers are the only Big Ten team not to lose – nonconference or conference – at home this season.

Not surprisingly those three teams sit atop the conference and also have solidified their NCAA Tournament bids.

For the rest of the Big Ten, winning on the road isn’t the same daunting task as it once was.

Fighting for a bid

With only two weeks remaining until the Big Ten tournament, at least three teams are fighting for their NCAA hopes.

While the Badgers, Spartans and Illini will likely make the 64-team tournament, Purdue, Iowa and Michigan are on the bubble.

Although the Big Ten has been criticized for its parity and lack of outstanding teams, many of the conference’s coaches expect at least five schools to make the field.

In fact, for the past 19 years, the Big Ten has had at least five teams make it to the NCAA Tournament.

“I do believe a number of teams have to win a few more and that will have a direct effect,” Buckeyes coach Jim O’Brien said. “I don’t think we have as many real-good teams but we do have some good teams bunched up in the middle.”

Purdue coach Gene Keady squashed any notion that the Big Ten is having a down year after defeating the Gophers last Saturday.

Keady said the Big Ten might not be as good from top to bottom as, for example, the Atlantic Coast Conference but still believes Big Ten schools will be a factor.

“It’s a cycle and we’ll get back to that,” said Keady, the conference’s longest tenured coach at 24 years. “I’d like to see six Big Ten teams get in the tournament, but they’d probably laugh at me for that.”

The Boilermakers have the toughest schedule remaining out of the top five teams. Purdue plays Wisconsin, Illinois and Iowa.

Radinovic wins honor

Ohio State’s Velimir Radinovic was named the Big Ten’s player of the week Monday for the first time in his career.

The center shot 77 percent last week en route to averaging 19.5 points and 10.5 rebounds.

Purdue center arrested

Boilermakers center Ivan Kartelo was arrested Sunday for punching a bouncer at a bar.

According to The Associated Press, citing a police report, Kartelo hit a Wabash Yacht Club employee and faces preliminary charges of battery and public intoxication. He was booked into Tippecanoe County Jail and released after posting bond.

Keady said he has not yet decided if Kartelo will play in Purdue’s game at Wisconsin on Sunday.