by Mark Heller

It’s a simple case of having things go from bad to worse.
Four losses in a row, two new starters forced into action, an out-of-sync offense, not much inside presence and a totally new continuity.
All within a two-week period.
Minnesota men’s basketball coach Dan Monson has seen the worst of the worst in his first season, but Iowa coach Steve Alford has had his share of “torture.”
Following the Hawkeyes’ 12-point win over the Gophers on Sunday, Alford talked at length about the play of his center Jacob Jaacks.
Jaacks was benched by Alford in the last minutes of Minnesota’s 85-82 win earlier in the year for throwing elbows. Alford also said Jaacks hasn’t been “in the game” a lot of times.
Iowa also lost senior starting guard Ryan Luehrsmann to a broken hand in practice last week.
OK, so Alford’s problems don’t involve NCAA sanctions or the sudden departure of his best player who didn’t want to go to class. But that doesn’t mean he can’t sympathize.
“I went to dinner with Dan (Saturday), and I support his efforts wholly,” Alford said. “We’re learning as coaches you either build a foundation very strong, or you compromise, and you get a lot of cracks in it, and in year three, it crumbles.
“That’s not an easy decision for Dan when it comes to losing a guy like Przybilla, but when you don’t go to class, those things have to take place.”
The blasted schedule
During Monday morning’s Big Ten teleconference, Monson declared the conference one of the best in the country. Iowa’s loss puts the Gophers as the 10th seed for the Big Ten tournament.
Thanks to the pileup of troubles this season and the team’s recent struggles on the court, whoever decided to schedule Michigan State and Ohio State at the end of the year has a lot of explaining to do to Monson.
“It’s ironic for us,” he said. “In a year where things can’t get any worse, you look at this week, and it can.”
It doesn’t help the win-loss column that the Big Ten now has five teams in the top 25, but it helped in Monson’s assessment of the Big Ten.
“Now that I’m in 10th place, yeah, I think it’s very good,” he said. “That’s why I came to the Big Ten, and this season hasn’t changed my mind. It’s not just some of the best players, but the best coaching has been done in the Big Ten. Also, we’re in 10th place, and we’ll have 14,800 fans for Ohio State on Saturday.”
The seventh-ranked Spartans are coming off a one-point loss to Indiana in overtime, perhaps further reason for Monson to be angry with the scedule-maker.
Purdue and Ohio State both won this weekend, setting up a wicked race for the top spot in the tournament.
Luckily, the Spartans get Minnesota and Michigan to close out their season. But don’t call it luck around Spartans coach Tom Izzo.
“Dan has done a good job with them,” he said. “They’ve been competitive in 90 percent of their games. There’s no looking ahead for us. You don’t win many games in this league if you don’t play well yourself. I was very impressed with the way they played against Seton Hall.”
Cheap shots
In nearly every road game this season, the student sections of opposing teams have chanted away, showering Minnesota with the same taunts regarding the state of the program.
On Sunday, such echoes included “On Probation” and “Where’s Przybilla?” Previous games have also brought “Do my homework” and “Write my paper” to the repertoire.
“We hear it everywhere,” said freshman center Ryan Wildenborg. “We just laugh.”

Mark Heller covers men’s basketball and welcomes comments at [email protected]