Gophers men’s basketball fans might feel like they’re in a bubble dealing with constant issues that have derailed what was supposed to be a special season.
That whole “bad things keep happening to us” mentality repeats over and over on social media since the blow of the suspension of Reggie Lynch was worsened with injuries, most notably to starting guard Amir Coffey, who could miss Saturday’s game at Michigan because of lingering right shoulder pain.
Once ranked as high as 12th in the country, coach Richard Pitino’s team is falling toward the Big Ten basement with seven losses in eight games, including four in a row in the absence of key players.
Nobody’s feeling sorry for the Gophers, who are 14-10 and 3-8 in the Big Ten. Especially other squads that have seen seasons of high expectations sink in the midst of injuries and off-court problems.
Similar to the Gophers, Texas A&M and Notre Dame are desperately trying to salvage their seasons.
The Irish (13-9, 3-6 ACC) probably suffered the most impactful single injury loss in college basketball this year when All-America senior forward Bonzie Colson broke his right foot in early January. Colson, who averaged 21.4 points and 10.4 rebounds in 14 games this season, could still possibly return in March. But will it be worth it?
Notre Dame’s realistic hopes of making the NCAA tournament could be gone at that point. Coach Mike Brey had a 6-0 team ranked No. 5 in the country in Week 4, but the Irish are on a six-game game losing streak. Not only is Colson sidelined, but Brey is playing without starting point guard and second-leading scorer Matt Farrell (ankle) and freshman guard D.J. Harvey (knee). Colson, Farrell and Harvey have missed a combined 16 games.
“We’re trying to figure this thing out,” Brey said after a 22-point loss to Duke on Monday. “We could use a couple more bodies back.”
The outlook for Notre Dame and Minnesota is pretty gloomy. Until last month, Texas A&M (14-8, 3-6) was able to weather a situation that basically looked like a Code Red with off-court incidents and players banged up all season. The Aggies have suspended five players this season for unspecified team rules and school policy violations, including starters Robert Williams, D.J. Hogg and Admon Gilder.
Freshman J.J. Caldwell was suspended going into the season five games for a driving while intoxicated arrest — and he was later suspended again for another team violation. Hogg was also suspended two times, including in late December.
On top of that, four A&M players have missed games because of injuries, including Williams (concussion) and Gilder (knee). The suspensions and injuries took a toll with the Aggies dropping seven of nine, which included an 0-5 start to SEC play. Tuesday’s victory over Arkansas kept Billy Kennedy’s club in NCAA tournament projections, but barely. A&M was ranked as high as No. 7 nationally after a 7-0 start, but this seems like a different team now.
Miami (Fla.) could be the next once highly ranked team to seriously struggle due to injury. The Hurricanes, who beat the Gophers at the Barn in November as a top-10 squad, recently fell out of the top 25 and lost star guard Bruce Brown Jr. for six weeks because of a foot injury.
So while you’re wallowing in self-pity over Minnesota’s collapse shorthanded right now, just know you’re not alone Gophers faithful.
BIG TEN POWER RANKINGS
Marcus Fuller’s rankings, with five teams to watch:
1. Purdue (22-2, 11-0)
2. Ohio State (19-5, 10-1): The Buckeyes trail Purdue in Big Ten standings after their first league loss, but they play each other Wednesday in West Lafayette.
3. Michigan State (21-3, 9-2)
4. Michigan (18-6, 7-4): John Beilein’s team has its longest schedule break since December with five days in between Saturday’s game vs. the Gophers.
5. Nebraska (17-8, 8-4): The Cornhuskers have won five of six, including three in a row, behind G James Palmer Jr., who has averaged 25 points over those six games.
6. Maryland (15-9, 4-7)
7. Indiana (12-11, 5-6)
8. Penn State (15-9, 5-6)
9. Northwestern (14-10, 5-6)
10. Iowa (14-9, 3-7): Not much to celebrate in Iowa City lately, but Fran McCaffery picked up his 400th career coaching victory Tuesday vs. the Gophers.
11. Minnesota (14-10, 3-8): G Amir Coffey is out again with a shoulder injury, and he’s still not cleared to play Saturday at Michigan. Uh oh.
12. Wisconsin (10-14, 3-8)
13. Illinois (12-11, 2-8)
14. Rutgers (12-12, 2-9)
PLAYER TO WATCH
Collin Sexton, G, Alabama
Sexton outplayed fellow freshman star Trae Young in Alabama’s victory over Oklahoma last weekend, scoring 18 points. But the Crimson Tide fell Wednesday at home to Missouri, as Sexton put up 23. He will try to keep his team in NCAA tournament contention Saturday at No. 23 Florida.
Game of the weekend
Seton Hall at (1) Villanova
11 a.m. Sunday, Ch. 9: I know what you’re thinking: Why watch college basketball on Super Bowl Sunday? Well, because why not check out the nation’s top team play a tough Big East opponent or possibly get upset while you’re stuffing your face before the big game.
Big week for the Boilers
Purdue just keeps rolling with 18 consecutive victories going into this weekend’s game at Rutgers. (So it will be 19 soon.) The Boilermakers are fun to watch, but are they really the Big Ten’s top team? The true test is next week, when they face Ohio State and Michigan State. Can’t wait.