Gophers WBB falls again


AnotherViewsquareHOFFMAN ESTATES, ILL. — In a few days, Penn State and several other Big Ten women’s hoop squads will learn where their March playing schedule takes them next. But unlike the regular season champions, the Lady Lions, who are assured their spot, the Gophers aren’t sure of theirs.

“We just let the basketball gods figure it out,” admitted U of M Coach Pam Borton last Thursday after her team’s nine-point loss to Ohio State in the Big Ten tourney’s first round as she referred to the NCAA selection committee.NCAA

“It’s out of our hands,” added Ohio State senior guard Tayler Hill of her Buckeyes’ chances. She scored 48 points, including a game-high 25 against Minnesota, in two games last week, surpassing the 2,000 career points mark.

Selection Monday is March 18.

Hill’s OSU (18-13), however, may have a better case for NCAA consideration than her hometown Gophers, also 18-13.

While the Buckeyes have gone 7-5 in their last 12 games, Minnesota, on the other hand, has a 5-6 record over their last 11 contests. While Ohio State at least advanced to the second round here last week, the Gophers once again posted a one-and-done performance, which, with five exceptions, has been the team’s M.O. since the conference tournament was instituted in 1995.

Gophers Women’s Coach Pam Borton Photo by Charles Hallman
Gophers Women’s Coach Pam Borton
Photo by Charles Hallman

While Ohio State probably is NCAA-bound, the Gophers more likely are heading to the WNIT, for which Minnesota easily qualifies because they have a winning record.

“Hopefully we can make a run in whatever tournament that we get into,” said Gopher senior forward Kionna Kellogg.

It was the third meeting this season between the two squads: Minnesota twice defeated Ohio State in two regular-season contests. “It’s hard to beat a team three times,” said Kellogg after last week’s game. It’s also hard to beat any team on missed lay-ups and an unsuccessful four-minute stretch where they couldn’t extend a nine-point lead, or when only one player (Rachel Banham) has 20 points but no else scored in double figures. “It was not our night,” surmised Kellogg.

Moreover — and nothing happened here last week in Chicagoland that convinced me otherwise — these post-season tournaments are still unnecessary.

Kionna Kellogg Photos courtesy of U of M
Kionna Kellogg
Photos courtesy of U of M

For good teams all but assured a big tournament berth, it pads their records. For poor teams, it delays the inevitable and adds one more loss to their unsuccessful season ledgers. And for the bubble teams, proponents argue that a league tournament run could be the tipping point in their favor. However, I argue that if a round-robin regular season isn’t enough to sell the selection committee folk of a team’s deserving a bid, then nothing will.

Furthermore the regular season serves nothing but a bakers’ dozen or so games to determine seed positions — the top four teams get first-round byes in the Big Ten tourney while the other clubs play on the first day.

The Gophers are 4-9 in Big Ten first-round games and 6-19 in tourney games. Only once has the team reached the finals and once made the semi-finals, both in 2005. Four times Minnesota has lost their first game as a top-four seed (2002, 2003, 2006 and 2008).  They are among five Big Ten clubs with sub-.500 tournament records as well.

I was against the Big Ten women’s post-season nonsense tournament as well as the men’s, which also begins this week, when it was first staged 18 years ago. And 18 years later, I’m still against it.


Big Ten tourney diversity notables 

The following is sung to the tune of “Jimmy Crack Corn”:

We don’t have any Blacks

And we don’t care.

We don’t have any Blacks

And we don’t care.

We don’t have any Blacks

And seemingly we wouldn’t have it

Any other way.

Aside from a few Blacks as food servers and arena security, this reporter didn’t see any Blacks among the tournament support staff. The number of Black reporters could be counted on one hand among the 80-some credentialed media. This included two members of the Black Press: the Chicago Defender and the MSR.

Other colorful, or lack thereof, observations:

Hill, Banham and Iowa’s Theairra Taylor (St. Paul) were the only local “sistahs” on the 12 conference teams, and Illinois and Ohio State each had all-Black starting lineups.

Finally, during the tournament’s first game last Thursday, a lower section of the arena was suddenly filled with kids, many of color. Then suddenly they were gone, apparently brought in as seat fillers for the television cameras to offer the appearance that the arena was filled. Otherwise, there were very few Black folk in the stands.


Did you know…?

How many Black head coaches historically have coached in the Big Ten women’s tournament? Name the only Black coach with an unbeaten record. (Answers in next week’s “View.”)

Answer to last week’s “Did you know?”: How many national title banners have the Gopher women pucksters lofted in their arena? Minnesota has won four national championships.


Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to