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Monday, February 6, 2012
3-point shot: Gophers, Wildcats on the brink

By Andy Katz

1. Minnesota isn’t dead on arrival for a bid. Neither is Northwestern. Sunday’s results changed their season. Minnesota, which won a road game at Nebraska, is 5-6 and has a stretch with four of the next five games at home against Wisconsin, Ohio State, Michigan State and Indiana, all wrapped around a road game at Northwestern. All four of those home games are against teams destined for the NCAA tournament. This could turn out to be Tubby Smith’s best coaching job if he gets a bid without Trevor Mbakwe. Meanwhile, the Wildcats won at Illinois on Sunday. Northwestern doesn’t have as advantageous a schedule but there are opportunities against Michigan and Ohio State at home.

2. Big East coordinator of officials Art Hyland better not assign Gene Steratore to a Seton Hall game the rest of the season. Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard didn’t hesitate about his distaste for the official. Willard was handed two technical fouls by Steratore and ejected during Saturday’s loss to Connecticut. In the post-game, Willard didn’t name Steratore, but multiple Seton Hall sources said Willard has had issues with the official this season. “There’s one of them I don’t get along with," Willard said. "I don’t mind getting blown out but I do have an issue when the refs enjoy a blowout. I don’t think they should be smiling or enjoying one team getting their butt kicked and another team not. That’s what I saw."

3. Karl Hobbs, the former George Washington coach and current UConn assistant, agreed with my potential comparison of Murray State to his 2006 GW team. Hobbs’ team was 26-2, 16-0 in the A-10 heading into the NCAAs and was placed in the 8-9 game. The only regular season loss was at NC State. GW lost in the A-10 tournament to Temple. “A lot of people thought we should have gotten a higher seed, but I think that’s a good comparison," said Hobbs of the criticism of the non-conference strength of schedule. "But like (Murray), everyone was waiting for us to lose a game,’’ said Hobbs. Murray’s non-conference strength of schedule could be an issue, and that’s why the Saint Mary’s game on Feb. 18 will be a good barometer.