Rand: Nebraska has edge on Gophers for NCAA basketball berth

  • Updated: February 24, 2014 - 6:38 AM
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Nebraska guard Tai Webster drove by Gophers guard DeAndre Mathieu during the Cornhuskers’ victory in Lincoln earlier this year, a victory which puts Nebraska in a better position to enter the NCAA basketball tournament than Minnesota.

Photo: Dave Weaver • Associated Press,

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Three thoughts as we head into the first Olympics-free day in more than two weeks:

• Less than a week ago in this space, we expressed optimism that the Gophers men’s basketball team had a reasonably clear path to the NCAA tournament. Now? Well, the water is much muddier, and one game in particular could seal Minnesota’s fate in the wrong direction.

Sure, any loss — including that second-half meltdown leading to an 18-point defeat at Ohio State on Saturday — could fall into this category, but right now that 82-78 loss at Nebraska stands out. The Huskers didn’t look like too much of a threat at the time, but after beating Purdue on Sunday they are 8-6 in the conference and have a five-game winning streak (including a huge win at Michigan State).

The Big Ten feels like a six-bid league this year. Right now, you have to think Nebraska has the inside track over the Gophers.

• Some of the discussion around NFL prospect Michael Sam annoucing he’s gay and now Jason Collins — who came out last April — joining the NBA’s Nets has revolved around the question of “is this news?”

The conclusion drawn by most is that it will be nice when we reach a point in time when such things are not, in fact news. But the existing reality is that when something has never happened before, by its nature it is a big deal — and each subsequent example becomes less and less of a story.

• Coach Jim Boeheim’s antics in the closing seconds of Duke’s victory over Syracuse on Saturday would have been bad enough without his attempts to exonerate himself afterward.

Down 60-58 with 10 seconds left, Syracuse’s C.J. Fair was called for a charge on a bang-bang play near the bucket during a made layup. A basket and foul would have given Syracuse a chance for the lead; a no-call would have been a tie game. So certainly it was a major play.

Boeheim charged onto the floor, screaming at officials and earned himself two technical fouls (plus the requisite ejection). That gave Duke four free throws; the Blue Devils made three.

“I just hated to see the game decided on that call,” Boeheim said of the charge.

Sorry, coach. Your tantrum is what sealed the game, not the charge. Down two with 10 seconds left, there is still a reasonable shot at tying things up.

As Fair told reporters, “Maybe if we didn’t get the tech, we might get the chance to win.”

We’ll never know because Boeheim didn’t give his team a chance to find out.

MICHAEL RAND

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