Friday, January 30, 2009

Quick Thoughts Before I Go Drink

  • I struggle to follow the Timberwolves but explain to me how Al Jefferson is not an All-star. Explain to me how Shaq getting 18.1 ppg and 9 rebs surronded by Nash, Stoudemire and Richardson get in over Jefferson getting 22.7 ppg and 10.5 rebounds surrounded by Foye, Telfair and Love. He is an all-star in every defintion and is the reason for any Wolves success.
  • I have been dreaming of the NCAA tournament all day and two thoughts occured to me. The first thought is how my bracket might suffer with Minnesota in the bracket. I have been the answer sheet for the last few tournaments because I have had no strong rooting interests and could just pick on who I objectively thought would win. Even when Minnesota was in it a few years ago I only lost one first round game because they were not going to beat the One seed which I think was the Champion North Carolina. I might have to do two seperate brackets this year.
  • The other thought was about how glad I am that I did not buy NCAA tickets to the games at the Dome this year. How much would it suck to plop down 200 bucks to watch meaningless games while Minnesota is playing elsewhere. Remember Minnesota can not play at the Dome because they are the host of the site. The NCAA would be smart to have the Gopher games on the opposite days of the Dome games.
  • People are retarded. I have heard talk of the possiblity that Tubby will take the open Georgia job. Why the hell would he do that. He left Georgia after two years to head to Kentucky. Not only would he have to compete with Kentucky and Florida he would also have to compete with Georgia Tech. Georgia Basketball has never been relevent, not making the Elite 8 since 1983 and the Sweet Sixteen since he coached them. There is not a job out there that will be better for him than the Gopher job. I would bet 1,000 dollars he will retire a Gopher coach. If I am wrong you are welcome to track me down and collect your reward. If he gets us to a Final Four it will be Tubby Court at Williams Arena. He is a god here and he is too old and rich to leave for 1 million more.
  • Well I'm off the Library, and no Mom and Dad that isn't as wholesome as it sounds but it should be fun.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Illini Game Review

If anyone says that they saw that happening I'd call you a Blogo. To say we played a great defensive game is an understatement. We allowed 36 points to a Big Ten opponent. According to the Gophers Media Guide, this was the second lowest total ever behind 32 by Nicholls State in 2007. This was the lowest we have ever held a Big Ten opponent in our entire history. It was the lowest total that Illinois has been held to in 24 years. It wasn't them missing open shots. It was them not getting any open shots.

The Player of the Game is a duo of the game tonight. The Twin Towers announced that they are here and a force to be reckoned with. Ralph Sampson continued his great play with 10 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists and 1 block. Colton countered with 6 points and 6 rebounds. The most impressive part of their game was the defense. Mike Tisdale and Mike Davis came into the game totaling 22.8 ppg and 11.4 rebs. They came out of the game with a total of 4 points and 7 rebounds. They went 2-11 from the field. That was the difference.

This was a huge win ending the 20 game losing streak to Illinois but it was more important as the Gophers next week head to Michigan State and Ohio State with the confidence that they can go in there and pull an upset or two. This game is the blueprint of how Minnesota has to win. They do not have the talent to win a pretty offensive game. They have to play great, aggressive defense and play strong down low. If they play with that tenacity and power from the Twin Towers we can beat anyone. The key will be taking this show on the road.

Stats of the Game
  • 44-29: Rebounding edge for the Gophers with 15 on the offensive end.
  • 8-10: RSIII from the free throw lane. So far he is 81% from the line this year. That is great from a big man.
  • 11.5 and 7.5: RSIII's average in the last two games. Before the last two games he was averaging 6.3 ppg and 4.0 rebs.

Illini Game Preview

Minnesota Golden Gophers (17-3, 5-3) vs. #19 Illinois Fighting Illini (17-3, 5-2)

This is a very important game for the Gophers. After this game they go on the road to face Michigan State and Ohio State. They need to win this game or they will be in serious trouble of being 5-6 in the conference. A side note I am sick of Thursday night games that make me miss The Office and 30 Rock. Either they need to change the dates or someone should pitch in and help me buy a DVR, but I regress. Here is the Illini's resume:

Wins to showcase:
  • at Purdue 71 - 67
  • at Missouri 75 - 59
Losses to hide from:
  • at Michigan 51 - 66 (Other losses were at Michigan State and against Clemson)
  • Shooting: Average 47.9% from the field, 1st in conference
  • Sharing the Rock: 18.8 assists per game, 1st in conference, 3rd in nation
  • Defense: Allow 56.6 ppg, best in conference, 4th best in nation
  • Getting to the free throw lane: 285 attempts, last in conference, 333rd in nation
  • Turnovers: 12.9 per game 4th worst in conference
Usually I put up 3 strengths and 3 issues put I could only find two issues and the second one is pushing it. They do a lot well. They play great defense, shoot the ball well, and have multiple players capable of scoring. They don't have any outstanding wins outside of winning at Purdue but they also have no losses to be ashamed of. They lost to Clemson by two and were up big at Michigan State before the Spartans came charging back. They are battling Purdue for the second best team in the Big Ten this year

Interesting things to watch:
  • Ralph Sampson Vs. Mike Tisdale: Ralph has taken some big steps lately and has played some very good interior defense with blocks, but he will be facing someone taller than him in 7-1 Tisdale and will be challenged. If Ralph can hold his own and make his presence felt the Gophers could be in business.
  • Perimeter Shooting: The biggest reason for the Gophers recent struggles is the lack of outside shooting. Illinois is the best in perimeter defense holding opponents to 27.6% from 3. The Gophers need Westbrook, Hoffarber, Joseph and Nolen to start making their shots from the outside to get the half-court offense going.
It has been well-documented that the Gophers have not beat Illinois since 1999 losing 20 straight. It could be chalked up to Monson's inferior Gophers up against great Illinois teams featuring Deron Williams, Dee Brown, Brian Cook and James Augustine but there is more to it than that. Last year a 16-19 Illini team that went 5-13 in the Big Ten beat a Tubby Smith coached Gopher team three times. I can't explain what they do that frustrates us but it doesn't bode well. Illinois in my mind is clearly a better team but this is at Williams so that does even things out a little bit. The problem is that Illinois has 4 players averaging double digits and they play defense that should give or weak half-court offense fits. I would like a win here but given how the Gophers are playing recently unless we see a breakthrough performance we are looking at being 2-3 at Williams in Big Ten play so far this year.

Illinois 67, Minnesota 59

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Big Ten Future (Part 2)

Wisconsin Badgers
Graduating Losses: Marcus Landry, Joe Krabbenhoft, Kevin Gullikson (22.3 ppg, 11.9 rebs, 4.5 ass)
Possible Losses: None
Returning Stars: Trevon Hughes, Jason Bohannon, Jon Leuer, Keaton Nankivil (37.1 ppg, 13.5 rebs, 6 ass)
Recruits who could contribute: None

They will be relying on the development of Hughes and Leuer but even if they grow they look headed for the middle of the pack, but you can never count out a Bo Ryan team.

Iowa Hawkeyes
Graduating Losses: Cyrus Tate (7.4 ppg, 6.3 rebs, .1 ass)
Possible Losses: Anthony Tucker (10.4 ppg, 3 rebs, .6 ass)
Returning Stars: Matt Gatens, Jeff Peterson, Jake Kelly, David Palmer (36 ppg, 11.6 rebs, 9.4 ass)
Recruits who could contribute: None

They will likely send Anthony Tucker packing and this team is quickly becoming a perennial bottom-feeder in the conference.

Northwestern Wildcats
Graduating Losses: Craig Moore (13.8 ppg, 3.4 rebs, 2.8 ass)
Possible Losses: None
Returning Stars: Kevin Coble, Michael Thompson, John Shurna (33.8 ppg, 10.8 rebs, 7.3 ass)
Recruits who could contribute: None

This team will be very similar to this years team not an NCAA team but a very dangerous team capable of an upset every night. Coble could be First-team All Big Ten.

Indiana Hoosiers
Graduating Losses: Kyle Taber (4 ppg, 5.3 rebs, .9 ass)
Possible Losses: None
Returning Stars: Tom Pritchard, Devan Dumes, Nick Williams, Verdell Jones III, Malik Story (48 ppg, 20 rebs, 7.1 ass)
Recruits who could contribute: Christian Watford (6-8 F #34 in Rivals 150), Maurice Creek (6-5 G #59), Derek Elston (6-8 F #98)

They will be a drastically different team. They are bringing in a lot of talent and the current players should get better. They should be a decent team but not a NCAA team yet.

Minnesota Golden Gophers
Graduating Losses: Jamal Abu-Shamala, Jon Williams (5.8 ppg, 3.4 rebs, 1.2 ass)
Possible Losses: None
Returning Stars: Lawrence Westbrook, Damian Johnson, Al Nolen, Ralph Sampson, Colton Iverson (44.7 ppg, 18 rebs, 10.4 ass)
Recruits who could contribute: Royce White (6-7 F #19 in Rivals 150) Rodney Williams (6-5 F #95), Trevor Mbakwe (6-8 F JC)

The hype surrounding this program is well deserved. This team will be head and shoulders above this years team. The key will be the development of Ralph and Colton down low.

The Big Ten is good this year but it will be even tougher next year. Penn State is the only team that will be decidedly worse and Minnesota, Ohio State and Indiana should be greatly better. It is too far off and too much could happen for me to rank them right now. The Gophers could easily be better than this year and finish 5th or 6th in the conference. A player could get hot in March and become a lottery pick but I don't see a player right now who is a lottery pick this year. A current mock draft has 13 of the top 30 picks from the ACC or Big East, so it is possible that the Big Ten could be the best conference in the nation next year.

The Future of the Big Ten (Part 1)

I was thinking in great happiness of the Gophers future, when it occurred to me that while the Big Ten is having a good year their is not a lot of elite talent in the conference. It got me to thinking what the Big Ten will look like next year and it is scary. Here is the future for the Big Ten teams:

Michigan State Spartans
Graduating Losses: Goran Suton, Marquise Gray, Idong Ibok, Travis Walton (21.8 ppg, 15.6 rebs, 5.1 ass)
Possible Losses: Raymar Morgan (13.5 ppg, 6.6 rebs, 1.7 ass)
Returning Stars: Kalin Lucas, Delvon Roe, Chris Allen, Durrell Summers, Korie Lucious (40.4 ppg, 13.8 rebs, 9.8 ass)
Recruits who could contribute: Garrick Sherman (6-10 C #66 in Rivals 150)

Michigan State will lose a lot of size down low especially if Raymar Morgan leaves (which I don't think will happen), but they will still have very good guards in Kalin Lucas and Chris Allen. Roe should make huge strides as he will finally be fully healthy after two knee surgeries.

Illinois Fighting Illini
Graduating Losses: Calvin Brock, Chester Frazier, Trent Meacham (22.1 ppg, 9.8 rebs, 9.2 ass)
Possible Losses: None
Returning Stars: Alex Legion, Demetri McCamey, Mike Tisdale, Mike Davis, Dominique Keller (46.7 ppg, 18.5 rebs, 8.3 ass)
Recruits who could contribute: Brandon Paul (6-2 G #44 in Rivals 150), DJ Richardson (6-3 G #57),

The only significant loss is Chester Frazier who is lead PG, but McCamey is a very good guard who can step in and is a better scorer. They should be very good.

Purdue Boilermakers
Graduating Losses: Nemanja Calasan, Marcus Green (13 ppg, 7.9 rebs, 1.6 ass)
Possible Losses: None
Returning Stars: E'Twuan Moore, Robbie Hummel, JaJuan Johnson, Keaton Grant, Lewis Jackson (53.4 ppg, 23 rebs, 11.4 ass)
Recruits who could contribute: DJ Byrd (6-4 G #97)

I don't think Moore, Hummel, of Johnson is a threat to leave this year. Hummel has been struggling with his back and Johnson has moments of domination but not enough. If they all return they will be the favorites and a serious contender for a national title.

Penn State Nittany Lions
Graduating Losses: Jamelle Cornley, Danny Morrissey, Stanley Pringle (35.6 ppg, 11.9 rebs, 6.3 ass)
Possible Losses: Talor Battle (18.5 ppg, 5.6 rebs, 5.4 ass)
Returning Stars: Andrew Jones III, David Jackson (9.3 ppg, 8.6 rebs, 1.1 ass)
Recruits who could contribute: None

This team will be devastated by graduation. I think Talor will leave because he won't get as much of a spotlight next year and he is terrific this year. They will be back to old Penn State next year.

Ohio State Buckeyes
Graduating Losses: None
Possible Losses: BJ Mullens, Evan Turner (24.6 ppg, 11.5 rebs, 3.3 ass)
Returning Stars, William Buford, Jon Diebler, David Lighty, Jeremie Simmons, Dallas Lauderdale (44.2 ppg, 18.7 rebs, 8.9 ass)
Recruits who could contribute: None

The though going into the year was Mullens would be a one and done. A recent mock draft has him going in the top 20 but I think he will come back for one year and become the top 5 pick he is suppossed to be. This team if they all come back will be a very good squad. Definitely Pre-
Season top 10.

Michigan Wolverines
Graduating Losses: CJ Lee, Jevohn Shepherd, David Merritt (7.6 ppg, 3.9 rebs, 2.6 ass)
Possible Losses: Manny Harris, DeShawn Sims (33.4 ppg, 15.6 rebs, 5.3 ass)
Returning Stars: Laval Lucas-Perry, Zack Novak, Kelvin Grady, Stu Douglass (27.2 ppg, 8.5 rebs, 7.6 ass)
Recruits who could contribute: Darius Morris (6-3 G #71 in Rivals 150)

Their fate all lays in the hands of Harris and Sims. I wouldn't be suprised if Harris left but I think Sims should be around for another year. If they are to become elite however they will need the other players to step up.

Monday, January 26, 2009

News and Notes

  • The Alabama job is officially a possibility as Alabama has fired Mark Godfried. Alabama is 12-7 and 2-3 in the terrible SEC. I am going to get so sick of the speculation that Tubby might leave just because of those who think Minnesota is an inferior school.
  • The Gophers fell out of the top 25 in the AP poll but are still ranked 24 in the ESPN poll. The team is 36 in the latest RPI. The latest bracketology has the Gophers a 7 seed playing Florida State.
  • Lawrence Westbrook is no longer the only Gopher averaging double digits in scoring. With 18 against Indiana Damian Johnson is now averaging 10.1 ppg along with 4.2 rebs.
  • Gophers Illustrated has released the top 10 juniors in Minnesota football. If you have the premium service you can view it here. Seantrel Henderson (Cretin) could be the number 1 player in the nation. Other juniors who will be strongly recruited are Jimmy Gjere (Irondale), Beau Allen (Minnetonka) , Tobi Okuyemi (Wayzata), and Joel Bauman (Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg). I don't see the Gophers getting Henderson because he can go anywhere and start on day one and the Gophers have never been able to recruit Cretin kids. He likely will follow the Cretin train to Notre Dame. The Gophers should be able to get the others however.
  • Some Vikings news: The NFL has settled the lawsuit with Korey Stringer's widow. It has been 7 years since the incident. There is still a pending lawsuit with Ridell, the maker of the helmet and shoulder pads he was wearing at the time. Viking great Carl Eller has been found guilty of assaulting a police officer.
  • Blake Wheeler was named the MVP of the YoungStars game leading the rookies with a hat trick. He will get some serious consideration for Rookie of the Year. I would not have guessed that considering his underwhelming run as a Gopher. He went from barely making the team out of training camp to 14g, 16a and a whopping +/- of 27.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Indiana Game Review

It certainly wasn't an awe inspiring win but it was a win none the less. Indiana stuck around and played hard but they just didn't have the talent. The player of the game was Ralph Sampson III. He had 13 points, 8 rebs and 6 blocks. He was everywhere on the court and played more aggressively than I have ever seen him play. I along with others have stated that Iverson was farther along than Sampson, but Sampson had the higher ceiling. I think that may not be true anymore. Sampson has more ppg, more rebounds and more blocks. He is not as physically strong as Iverson but he is becoming a very productive center.

I am a huge Tubby fan but his rotation and use of players is very puzzling and hard to figure. Devron Bostick had seemed to bust out with the Penn St and Wisconsin games. Since then he has barely played. He played one minute today against Indiana. Instead JAS played 22 minutes as did Blake Hoffarber. I like Blake but when he is shooting like he is why is he out there. If he can't shoot how does he contribute to this team. He is subpar defensively and isn't able to penetrate. When he is on the court we almost have 4 players on the offensive end. Colton Iverson only played 9 minutes and that was all in the first half. I understand RSIII was playing well but Iverson should be getting more than 9 minutes.

The Gophers have the biggest stretch of the season coming up. They get Illinois at home on Thursday, then head to Michigan State and Ohio State. I would like them to go 2-1, but they could easily go 0-3 and that would leave them at 17-6 and 5-6 in the conference. They suddenly would be in danger of missing the tournament.

Stats of the Day
  • 34: Points in the paint by the Gophers today.
  • 21-19: Bench scoring with IU having the 21. That must be the first time our bench has been outscored.
  • 19: Total minutes for Devron Bostick in three games since scoring 11 points at Wisconsin.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Indiana Game Preview

#21 Minnesota Golden Gophers (16-3, 4-3) at Indiana Hoosiers (5-12, 0-5)

There could not be a better time to face Indiana. The Gophers need to get their rhythm back and get a win on the board and they get to try against the doormat of the Big Ten this year. Here is Indiana's resume:

Wins to showcase
  • vs TCU 66-56
  • vs Cornell 72-57
Losses to hide from
  • vs Lipscomb 69-74
  • vs Northeastern 42-55
  • Tom Crean: Has coached Marquette to a Final Four
  • Tom Pritchard: 12.4 ppg, 7.4 rebs, 1.1 ass
  • Almost everything: They are last in the Big Ten in scoring, and last in defense. Opponents shoot 46.7%. The next highest is 43.3% . They shoot 29.3% from 3. The Gophers have been struggling but they still shoot 36.1%. They commit 18.5 turnovers per game. The next highest is 14.4.
Indiana is brutal. They are the worst team in the conference and is not even close. I would be shocked if they win a conference game this year. They don't have any talent and this team would finish last in a mid-major conference. I know this seems harsh but when your best wins are TCU and Cornell at home you are in trouble. Northeastern and Lipscomb have gone into Indiana and won so the Gophers better be able to do the same.

Interesting things to watch
  • Verdell Jones III: The freshman appeared to be headed to Minnesota but went to Indiana because he is able to start at point guard since day one. He has 8.5 ppg and 2.6 ass. It should be fun to see Al Nolen match up with him.
  • Gophers Offense: They should be able to turn it around today. Indiana plays poor defense and turns over the ball a lot. The Gophers should be able to get out an running and get some confidence going on the offensive end.

If the Gophers lose this game, the sky will be falling and the NCAA tournament chances will be in serious jeopardy. Indiana just does not have the players to compete. Despite it being a road game, the Gophers shouldn't be facing a hostile environment and as long as they come out with intensity and reasonable shooting this should be a quite enjoyable game.

Gophers 83, Indiana 68

Friday, January 23, 2009

Time to Take a Step Back

Back to back losses by the Gophers have caused me to take a step back and try to take a more objective view of the team. Going in to this season I thought this team would be a NCAA bubble team. I figured they would be seeded somewhere between 8-11 and likely be one and done. Then wins over Louisville, Ohio State and Wisconsin had me dreaming of Sweet Sixteens and 4 or 5 seeds. The last two games have made me forget those dreams and for good reasons. It won't happen because as the famous Denny Green said, "They are who we thought they were." This team is better than last year and should make the tournament but they are not a sweet sixteen team.

You can't be an elite team if a 6' (I'm being generous) shooting guard named Lawrence Westbrook is your leading scorer and the only one averaging double digits. You can't be an elite team if him and your point guard are the only ones who can create their own shot. You can't be an elite team if your leading rebounder is a 6' 7" wing who averages 4.1 a game. This isn't the NFL. Defense does not win championships, talent wins championships. Sure, some of the teams have played great defense like UCLA but they still had star talent. I challenge you to find the last Final Four team that did not have a NBA lottery pick on the team.

This team is well coached, play hard and with great intensity but the talent is not there yet. I'm not saying it won't be there soon. Nolen is only a sophomore, all three of the freshman look to be good players eventually, but they are not elite players yet. There will be fans out there that will equate this team to the football team as a big disappointment if we finish fourth or fifth in the conference and lose in the first round. They are stupid and short-sighted. Find me someone who predicted the Gophers were a top 25 team at the beginning of the season. Most prognosticators didn't even have the team making the NCAA tournament. This team is good, but the talent and ability is not currently there for this team to live up to the top 20 ranking and be an elite team. Here is my current view of the Big Ten. This is how I would currently rank the teams and how I expect them to finish the season along with where they will be in the postseason.

Michigan State (2 or 3 seed)
Purdue (4-6 seed)
Illinois (5 or 6 seed)
Minnesota (8 or 9 seed)
Ohio State (8 or 9 seed)
Wisconsin (8-10 seed)
Michigan (bubble team 11 or 12 seed)
Penn State (bubble team, likely NIT)
Northwestern (NIT)
Iowa (CBI)
Indiana Absolutely nothing

Stats of the Day
  • 314th: Westbrook's rank in scoring in the NCAA. There are 347 teams in Division 1
  • 29th: Johnson's rank in rebounding in the Big Ten. He is not in the top 500 in the NCAA.
  • 210th: Westbrook in 3-pt% in the NCAA at 39%. Needed to make 1.5 threes per game to qualify.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Purdue Game Review

The Gophers have an issue. Purdue played very well and looked very much the part of the second best team in the conference but the Gophers could of still won this game. The Gophers did a lot of things well. They had 10 blocks, 12 steals, only turned the ball over 3 times in the second half. They made 27-31 free throws making 27 in a row. It wasn't enough to overcome what is the overwhelming issue that has cost them the last two games. No one on this team can shoot. They shot 27.6% and an unbelievable 15.8% from three. How did this same team shoot 9-9 from 3 against Penn State. To prove that no one can shoot look at each players shooting:

Al Nolen 3-14
Damian Johnson 2-9
Lawrence Westbrook 2-8
Devoe Joseph 3-8
Paul Carter 1-5
Blake Hoffarber 1-4
Devron Bostick 0-2
Colton Iverson 2-3
Busch 0-1

Some of the poor percentage can be attributed to Purdue's D but there were a lot of open shots. If the Gophers even shoot 36% I have to believe they win this game. If they are going to turn this season around they have to shoot at least 36%. We have enough problems with half-court offense that when we get shot we have to make them. Purdue played great but our shooting lost the game. One thing I don't get is at the beginning of games we go down low to the bigs and force things and then we don't do that anymore and they usually don't even play towards the end. Ralph went 2-4 with 7 rebounds and Colt was 2-3 and they combined for only 36 minutes.

On a bright note while he shot 3-14 I was impressed with the play of Al Nolen. He was fouled on most of those shots and went 10-10 from the line. He also had 6 rebounds, 3 assists, 4 steals, and one block. He was the only player aggressive on the offensive end and got into the paint whenever he wanted.

The Gophers should get the good feelings going again when they head to lowly Indiana on Sunday. Hopefully someone gets their shot going.

Gopher Football Very Busy

The Gophers have been very active recently considering it is the end of January. It has already been mentioned about the new offensive coordinator, but here is what else is going on:
  • Tramaine Brock is no longer enrolled at the University. This hurts as I thought Simmons and him were the main reasons for the defensive improvement. He was a sure tackler with athleticism. I hope the Gophers find a solid replacement.
  • The Gophers are close to setting up a home-and-home with USC. Fans have been clamoring for better non-conference games, but I don't think this was what they had in mind. You would like to schedule opponents that you can compete with. However, I already want to get a ticket for when USC comes to TCF Bank Stadium.
  • The Gophers have secured there first commitment for 2010. It is Konrad Zagzebski. Two things have me excited about this. One it is a great name and I wish I had an idea on how to pronounce it. The best fact is that he is from Wisconsin and should be the top prospect from Wisconsin. No only if we can get the top prospect from Minnesota (Seantrel Henderson) we will really be in business. It feels good to win some recruiting battles. Here is his film reel.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Purdue Preview

#21 Minnesota Golden Gophers (16-2, 4-2) Vs. #18 Purdue Boilermakers (14-4, 3-2)

This is a big game for Minnesota. While a loss won't hurt their chances of making the NCAA tournament. A loss will make it hard to get a seed higher than 8 or 9 and finish 3rd or better in the conference. If they are going to stay in 2nd place they need to protect the home court from other top 25 teams. Here is Purdue's resume:

Wins to showcase
  • vs. Wisconsin 65 - 52
  • vs. Davidson 76 - 58
Losses to hide from
  • at Penn State 64 - 67
  • vs Illinois 67 - 71
  • Defense: Hold opponents to 36% from the field, best in Big Ten and 57.3 ppg, 3rd in Big Ten
  • Scoring: Score 72.2 ppg 2nd in conference despite shooting 9th best 44.5%
  • Robbie Hummel: 13.8 ppg, 7.9 rebs, 2.4 ass
  • Shooting: shoot 35.4% from three and 44.5% from the field both 9th in conference
  • Road Experience: Have only played 3 true road games. Only two road wins are Northwestern in which they were down 11 with 7:45 left and at Ball State who has an rpi of 208.
  • Defensive rebounding: Opponents get 12.8 offensive rebounds/game most in Big Ten
They came into the year with high expectations after returning almost everyone from a 15-3 second place team. They have been very underwhelming so far this year. They were crushed by Duke at home, and started the conference 0-2 losing at home to Illinois and losing at Penn State. That said they are a very talented team that still is a lock for the NCAA's. They play a game very similar to the Gophers where they play tough defense and get the offense going through turnovers.

Interesting things to watch
  • Robbie Hummel Vs. Damian Johnson: Robbie Hummel was the preseason Big Ten Player of the year and has struggled with back issues but looks to be back in top form. Damian Johnson has a chance to make his case as the Defensive Player of the Year with a great game here.
  • Al Nolen: He is coming off a bad game at Northwestern. Purdue feeds off turnovers so it will be up to Nolen to play fast but under control and lead the defensive intensity.
  • Gophers response: The Gophers are coming off a bad loss to Northwestern and are coming back to Williams playing a very important game. All the students are back and so the Gophers need to get out to a good start to get Williams rocking and put doubt in Purdue.

Purdue has been very underwhelming so far this year but is coming off a throttling of Iowa at home. While that is not impressive it may have gotten them going in the right direction. They have All-Big Ten talent they just haven't put it together yet this year. If this game was at Purdue I think it would be an easy win for Purdue. However, this is a nationally televised game at a packed Williams Arena. Tubby should have the Gophers coming out hard and playing well, very similar to the Ohio State game. This will be very close but I think the Gophers will play with enough urgency to pull this game out.

Gophers 79, Purdue 78

Quick News
  • It is official. Jedd Fisch is the new offensive coordinator for the Gophers. It lacks great excitement but it will be interesting to see what becomes of the offense.
  • In disappointing but who really cares news, Kevin Payton has been suspended indefinitely for academic reasons. He has appeared in only 8 games so far this year.
  • Helping my opinion that Tubby is here to stay. The Star Tribune is reporting that Minnesota is evaluating ways to build a practice facility for the basketball team.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Why Tubby Isn't Leaving

There has been speculation mostly started by the man they call "Sid Hartman" that Tubby is a huge candidate for other jobs and may leave the Gophers. I just don't see it happening and will try to explain why it makes no sense for him to do so.

Alabama Job:

The theory: Alabama boosters are so happy with the Nick Saban move that they will do that to basketball and throw loads and loads of money at Tubby Smith for him to turn around the basketball program. He will take the job because he loves money and he will be able to beat down Kentucky every year.

Why this won't happen: Alabama is currently 11-6 with a RPI of 121 and the biggest recruit coming in next year is three-star Shawn Kemp (yes one of the 30 descendants of that Shawn Kemp). The Gopher program is much farther along. People argue that he left Georgia after two years but the difference is that he left Georgia (which I am told still plays Division I basketball) to coach a national power in Kentucky which he lead to a national title the next year. He also will never be able to get the program to the level where they will always be able to beat Kentucky who has a hold on the SEC thanks to him. Also, it must be mentioned that one perceived reason for the lack of love at Kentucky was underlying racism, it is hard to believe that wouldn't be more of an issue at Alabama.

The main reason he won't go is that Alabama is a football school. If you were to ask Tide fans if they would rather have a SEC football title or a Final Four appearance most would choose the SEC title. Basketball can succeed at football schools like Florida, Texas and Ohio State but at all schools the football coach is the star and the basketball coach is second fiddle. Take Florida for example, Billy Donovan has two titles and went to the Final Four three times, Urban Meyer has two titles, Billy Donovan is respected but Urban Meyer is God. Here in Minnesota Tubby is the star. He sat in a suite behind the student section during football games and every game a Tubby chant was started, that won't happen at Alabama. He will be an afterthought.

Arizona Job:

The theory: Arizona is a national power that has more prestige and ability to win national titles. Old Minnesotans move to Arizona so Tubby will also.

Why this won't happen: Arizona was a national power, they are 11-7 with an RPI of 94 and are in shambles since the retirement of Lute Olson. They do not have a single commitment for 2009 or 2010 despite two seniors and the likely departure of Chase Budinger and Jordan Hill. Minnesota is in better shape to compete for titles than Arizona currently is. Certainly it wouldn't take that long to turn around Arizona but he has such a good start at Minnesota he wouldn't want someone else to get credit for his turnaround here.

The main reason he won't is because of the lesson he learned from the Kentucky job. He came in after revered Rick Pitino and even given his success wasn't beloved because he didn't have the same success as Pitino(even though that is debatable). It would be even worse at Arizona. At Kentucky he was taking over for just a good coach. Lute Olson is Arizona, the court is named after him, he was there for 24 years. He could never be as loved there as Lute Olson is. For example look at Indiana after Bobby Knight left. Mike Davis went 115-79, 4 NCAA appearances, and went to the national title game but he was let go after 6 years because he was not Bobby Knight. Going to Arizona would be a no win situation for Tubby.

Another reason he will not take any job is Saul Smith. Tubby would like it so that when he retires Saul is given the head coach job. If he walked into Maturi's office now he could get that deal where it would be harder if he went elsewhere. At Minnesota Tubby is a rock-star and will always be. This isn't football where the Gophers will never be able to compete year in and year out with Ohio State and Michigan. They can contend for the Big Ten title and Final Fours every year with Tubby at the helm. It does not make sense for him to fix another program this late in his career.

Quick Notes
Stats of the Day
  • 24: Straight appearances in the NCAA by Arizona likely to end this year. Lute Olson only missed the NCAA his first year as a coach at Arizona.
  • 3: NCAA appearances by Arizona before Lute Olson.
  • 10,711: Attendence at last home game for Alabama against LSU. Arena seats 15,043. 92,138 attended the last Alabama home football game against Auburn.

Monday, January 19, 2009

A Time to Reflect

That was ugly. We couldn't do anything offensively. Our defensive had issues. Nothing was working in the second half and to make it all the more frustrating we had to watch it listening to Tim Doyle who made Spencer Tollackson seem like Bob Costas. His most annoying call, after another three by Craig Moore, he cried "In the midnight hour, you need Moore, Moore, Moore." Stupid and he wouldn't shut up about playing Spencer.

When we win I give the player of the game but today you get the goat of the game and it was an easy one to call. Al Nolen came into the game with 93 assists and 25 turnovers. In the game he had only two assists and 6 turnovers. He failed to get the offense going at all and did not look like a college basketball player at all. He is only a sophomore but he needs to play like he did in the Louisville game by controlling the tempo and running the offense.

The initial reaction of the diehard Gopher fan is to declare that the sky is falling and all the progress they have made is destroyed but that is totally incorrect. The loss hurts and stings but the damage is minimal. They only fell to #21 in the AP poll. The latest Bracketology has them as a 5 seed which is up from the 8 seed they were last week. In college basketball it is more who you beat than who you lose to and Northwestern despite the record is very dangerous with Moore and Coble they will win a few more Big Ten games they shouldn't. All it does is make the Purdue game more important. If the Gophers want to be a team with a 4-6 seed and make some noise instead of just making the tournament they need to beat Purdue at home. They are still on the way to making the tournament, they just had a little setback and probably lost any small chance they had of winning the Big Ten which will go to Michigan State.

If there is any questions of the affect Lucia has on the Gopher hockey team those were answered this weekend. Without him at North Dakota they get swept 6-3 and 6-1. With him they sweep St. Cloud 5-1, 8-6. This team was struggling of late but I still think this team has a very real chance of winning the National Title they just need to get hot at the right time. Also it is time to start looking at Ryan Stoa as the front-runner for the Hobey Baker award. He leads the WCHA in scoring and has 15g and 15a for 30 pts in 21 games.

Stats of the Day
  • 19: Number of turnovers committed by the Gophers against Northwestern.
  • 6-23: Gophers shooting from 3 after starting 4-4. If you aren't making them maybe you should try to go inside.
  • 5-11: Gophers free throw shooting. They need more than 11 attempts but they really need to make more than 5. They missed some big free throws that could have gotten them back in the game in the second half.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Northwestern Preview

#18 Minnesota Golden Gophers (16-1, 4-1) at Northwestern Wildcats (8-6, 0-4)

Northwestern is a perennial bottom feeder in the Big Ten and they haven't gotten off to an impressive start this year. They have never made the NCAA tournament and this does not appear to be their magical season. They have had some good wins and should have beaten Purdue on Thursday but they are not an NCAA caliber team. Here is Northwestern's Resume:

Wins to showcase:
  • vs Florida State 73 - 59
  • vs DePaul 63 - 36
Losses to hide from:
  • at Penn State 57 - 61
  • at Wisconsin 45 - 74 (Losing by 29 not the opponent)
  • Ball Control: 11.5 turnovers per game, 1.4 assists to turnover ratio
  • Quick Hands: 7.4 steals per game, 3rd in conference. Gophers 1st with 9.0
  • Kevin Coble: 14.2 ppg, 5.4 rebs, 2.3 ass
  • Rebounding: 34. 6 per game, second worst in conference
  • Free Throws: 64.7% worst in conference
  • Perimeter Defense: Opponents shoot 36.1% from 3, second worst in conference
While their losses are not too embarrassing, they don't have any real good wins, DePaul is the worst team in the Big East and their third best win is probably over 9-7 UC Riverside. They play a style similar to Iowa. They play slow and limit possessions. If they make you play their style it could be a close game, if you force them to play up-tempo it could get ugly.

Interesting things to watch:
  • Gophers athleticism: The Gophers have some long quick wings in Johnson, Bostick and Carter that can cause some problems and they will likely be assigned to shut down Coble.
  • Blake Hoffarber: Lost in the excitement around the program is the struggles of Blake Hoffarber. He has shot 3-20 from 3 in the 5 Big Ten games and has not made one since the Ohio State game. That is 15%. He shot 42.7% last year. He did very well against Northwestern last year scoring 15 points in both games. I look for him to shake off the drought at Northwestern.

This has the possibility to be a trap game. Coming off a huge win at Wisconsin and playing a bottom feeder. Northwestern showed in the Purdue game that they can be very dangerous. The game will be similar to the Iowa game if we shoot poorly we will be in for a dog fight but if we play like we can it should be a breeze. Monson frequently struggled with Northwestern's defense but Tubby doesn't have the same issues. In the two games against Northwestern last year the Gophs won by 19 and 20 points. They scored 92 at Northwestern last year. Also the Barnyard has chosen this game for their annual road trip. I don't know the number they are bringing but with Northwestern's lack of attendence the game might feel more like a neutral court game than a road game.

Gophers 73, Northwestern 60

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Oh, Its a Great Time to be a Gopher

That is what college basketball is all about. I'm struggling to write this because I at a loss for words to describe how awesome that game was. I think this finalizes any complaints or naysayers saying "well they didn't play anybody". We have beaten Louisville, Ohio State and Wisconsin. That is three NCAA teams and our only loss is to an elite Michigan State team. Now to the game. It goes without saying that the MVP of the game is Lawrence Westbrook. He scored a career high 29 points including the clutch three to send it into overtime. He then preceded to score 9 points in OT including clutch free throws to seal the deal. I have been less than overwhelmed with Westbrook over his career but he was clutch and put up one of the best single game performances by a Gopher in a long time. Grier against Wisconsin and Pryzbilla against Indiana come to mind.

The other bright spot is the continued development of the Junior College transfer players. They may have scored more against Penn State but I was more impressed with their performance today. Paul Carter pulled in a double-double with 10 points and 11 rebs. He also had a clutch block down the stretch and did a great job defending Landry down the stretch. Bostick continued to showcase his offensive game. He scored 11 points with some impressive drives to the lane in the second half. When he gets aggressive on the offensive end he is quite the force.

A sign that I'm still used to Monson ball. Who thought that the Gophers were done at halftime and when they didn't cut the lead early in the second half? A Monson team would have packed it in and looked forward to the Northwestern game. Not a Tubby team. They will never stop playing hard. In all three road games they have come back from double digit deficits to win the game. This win is due to Westbrook and the work ethic and drive that Tubby has installed in the team.

Other Thoughts
  • What is with the Purdue team? They seem to be the definition of inconsistent. They get crushed by Duke, crush Davidson, soundly beat Wisconsin, and they should have lost tonight to Northwestern. With the Gophers win and their lack of consistency I think the Gophers can finish second in the conference this year. Michigan State is still the runaway favorite but I see no team that is significantly better than the Gophers in the conference.
  • The Don Lucia saga seems to have a happy ending. It has been diagnosed that a twinged nerve caused by infection or inflammation caused the headaches and numbness on the left side of his face. I think this great news should move the Gophers hockey team to a great second half of the season starting this weekend with St. Cloud State.
Stats of the Day
  • 4: The number of Big Ten home losses by Bo Ryan including the loss to the Gophers.
  • 20.8: The 3-pt shooting percentage of the Badgers. They went 5 -24.
  • February 2nd, 2005: Last time a Gopher scored at least 29 points. Vincent Grier did it scoring 32 points against Northwestern.

Your 2009-2010 Minnesota Golden Gophers

In all the excitement surrounding the current Gophers, the future looks even brighter. One interesting thing looking to the future is that the only graduating seniors are JAS and Jonathon Williams but we are bringing in four highly regarded players. JAS and Williams only contribute 21.4 total minutes per game. I doubt the 4 incoming will only be sharing those minutes. The lineup will look quite different. I think Tubby will go with playing ten players regularly, a starter and a back-up for every position. Here is what I see the 2009-2010 Gophers looking like:

Point Guard

Starter: Al Nolen (Jr.) - This is a no doubter. He currently leads the team in minutes with 28.9. If he makes a similar stride that he has made this year from his freshman year he will be a serious contender for 1st team All-Big Ten.

Backup: Devoe Joseph (Soph.) - He has been playing some quality minutes lately for the Gophers adding tempo and quickness on both ends of the court. He needs to work on his shot a little and creating off the dribble but he should be one of the best back up point guards in the Big Ten next year.

Shooting Guard

Starter: Lawrence Westbrook (Sr.) - He will likely come into next year as the leading scorer. I don't see that continuing on next year's squad. He lacks the size of a typical shooting guard but has a good shot and can create his own shot. He might end up more of a 6th man on next years squad but should still get over 10 ppg next year.

Backup: Blake Hoffarber (Jr.) - He has been struggling lately with his shot and confidence but when he gets it going him and Jon Diebler of Ohio State are the best pure shooters in the Big Ten. He draws the opposing teams respect as evidenced in the Penn State game and is capable of getting 20 points on any night. He still needs to work on his defense and other aspects of the offensive game but he should still be a big contributor with close to 10 ppg.

Small Forward

Starter: Damian Johnson (Sr.) - He should be defensive 1st team all-big ten this year and that will carry over next year. He should be the strong senior leader the team will need. He needs to further develop the offensive game but he will be counted on every night.

Backup: Devron Bostick (Sr.) - This is a hard one to call. It should between him and Paul Carter (Jr.). Bostick could also see some time as the shooting guard, but I believe the offensive game that Bostick can bring will lead to him getting more minutes. He seems to be finally coming into his own and gives the Gophers a much needed dimension.

Power Forward

Starter: Trevor Mbakwe (Jr.) - This is based off of the one game I saw of him when he was at Marquette. He was a freshman coming off a torn acl. He is only 6-8 but he was playing Georgetown and held his own guarding Roy Hibbert and grabbing 7 rebounds in 14 minutes. He is averaging 12.3 rebs and 3.4 blocks with 13 ppg in JC. I see him playing very similar to Raymar Morgan of MSU. He will provide toughness and could be a monster down low.

Backup: Royce White (Fr.) - He might be the most talented player on the team. He is currently the 19th ranked high school player according to He might even end up as the starter at the 4 spot but I think it will start with Mbakwe because he is more physically developed and has Div. 1 experience. There shouldn't be much of an adjustment as he from reports already plays Tubby ball. He has a high basketball IQ, plays tough on both ends and does not always need the ball in his hands to put up his numbers.


Starter: Colton Iverson (Soph.) - This obviously comes down to the Twin Towers. To date, he has played more physically down low, rebounds better, and seems to be better with his back to the basket. I think after one season in the Big Ten he could blossom into a 10 ppg and 8 reb player next year.

Backup: Ralph Sampson III (Soph.) - He has the higher ceiling of the two, but he has further to go to get their. He does seem to have a nice medium range game and looks like he might someday be able to stretch that to the three-point line. He will get significant minutes and I look to see him make a huge stride next year.

Who gets left out

Paul Carter (Jr.) - I think he will still see some minutes and will play if Tubby doesn't like what he sees or if their are injuries. He needs to work on his shot. He might see more time as a Senior as a DJ Swat replacement.

Rodney Williams Jr. (Fr.) - He is a highly regarded recruit, but he is seen as raw. He has great athleticism but might take a year to learn Tubby's system. I just don't see minutes for him as a freshman but he could be the starting shooting guard as a sophomore.

Travis Busch (Sr.)
- He has played some good minutes but talent will win out and there is not a spot where I can see him getting any significant minutes to the rejoice of many Gopher fans.

Justin Cobbs (Fr.) - No room for a third point guard, least regarded of incoming recruits. Might be redshirted.

Kevin Payton (Sr.) - Does not play this year, definitely will not play next year.

You may disagree with me, but you can't look at this team and not think they can contend for the Big Ten title next year. They might even be the favorites depending on other programs. Thoughts?

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Wisconsin Preview

#18 Minnesota Golden Gophers (15-1, 3-1) at Wisconsin Badgers (12-4, 3-1)

The Badgers are recognized to be a good team and a legitimate NCAA caliber team. The losses they have had are to elite teams like UCONN and Texas but they have yet to beat a guaranteed NCAA team. They still have done an excellent job of protecting the Kohl Center which is the hardest place to go on the road in the Big Ten. Here is Wisconsin's resume:

Wins to showcase:
  • At Michigan 73-61
  • At Virginia Tech 74-72
Losses to hide from:
  • At Purdue 52-65
  • At Marquette 58-61
  • Ball Control: 10.6 turnovers per game best in conference
  • Defensive Rebounding: Rebound 73.8% of possible defensive rebounds, 2nd in conference
  • Marcus Landry: 12.8 ppg, 4.1 rebs, 1.6 ass
  • Defense: Opponents shoot 42.1% 3rd worst, force 10.7 turnovers per game worst in Big Ten
  • Assists: 12 per game second worst in Big Ten
  • Scoring Depth: Only five players (Landry, Hughes, Bohannon, Leuer, Krabbenhoft) average more than 5 points a game. The Gophers have 8 players.
As you can see the Badger losses are not to0 bad although they looked pretty bad in the Purdue game. Their defense is not at the level accustomed to Badger basketball. They are allowing 59.3 ppg compared to 54.4 last year and 57.9 two years ago. Opponents only shot 38.3 percent last year. This team is still a very good team but they are not as good as the Badger teams of the last two years with Alondo Tucker and Kammron Taylor.

Interesting things to watch:
  • Minnesota players: As usual the Wisconsin team has a handful of Minnesota players. I don't see this as a huge problem as the players don't usually match the Gophers style of play. This current squad has 4 Minnesota players on it. Soph. Jon Leuer (Orono) is the biggest contributor with 9.8 ppg and 4.2 reb. Other players are Sr. Kevin Gullikson (5.8 mpg), Fr. Jordan Taylor (10.6 mpg) and Fr. Jared Berggren who has yet to play.
  • The newcomers playing their first hostile environment. Road games at Colorado St. and Iowa are not exactly the same as what it will be like for the newcomers at the Kohl Center. With Wisconsin's size we are going to need Colton Iverson and RSIII to play strong down low. We also will need the continued growth of one Mr. Carter. This will be the real wake-up as to what a Big Ten road game really is.

If this game was at Williams Arena or a neutral site this would be a different story. I think Wisconsin and Minnesota are fairly equal overall. The problem is that in Minnesota's two true road games (Louisville does not count) they struggled to beat a 5-11 Colorado State team that lost to a school named St. Martins and they shot 34% against a terrible Iowa team that had no offensive game outside shooting 3-pointers. To go and win in Kohl it takes a team of men or a superior athletic team. That is not the Gophers at this stage of the game. I hope I am wrong because I would enjoy nothing more than for the Gophers to win tomorrow, but I just don't see the toughness needed to beat Wisconsin at home.

Badgers 65, Gophers 57

Monday, January 12, 2009

Weekend Recap

This week we saw a lot from the Gophers Basketball team. At Iowa, we saw what it looks like when they win ugly, and against Penn State we saw what it looks like when they win pretty with everything clicking. They shot almost doubled their shooting percentage from the Iowa game with 34% to 62.5% against Penn State. Devron Bostick was easily the star of the game with 19 points. Paul Carter also busted out the offense with 14 points. They both had made noticeable improvements in the games leading up to this getting more minutes and looking more comfortable, but no one would have predicted this type of breakout. I agree with the statement made by Myron Medcalf that the development of the two JUCO players is the difference between the Gophers making the tournament and making some noise in the tournament. The lastest AP Poll has the Gophers ranked 18th one spot ahead of Purdue. They have a big test heading to the Kohl Center to take on the Badgers.

I would like to know what Paul Carter's actual height is. He is listed at 6-8 and there is no way that is true. He is defintely smaller than DJ Swat. I think he is likely more around 6-5 than 6-8. Just like it was discovered that Colton Iverson is taller than 6-10 and at least 6-11 maybe 7-0.

If anyone wondered the affect Don Lucia has on the Gophers hockey team those questions were answered this weekend. That was one of the worst weekends of Gophers hockey ever as they were lambasted by North Dakota 6-3 and 6-1. They dropped to #8 in the USA Today Hockey Poll. They looked flat and seemed to have no interest in even competing or playing hockey this weekend. This team still has the talent and time to do some big things this year but they need to discover the fire and drive again and soon. One big problem is when the top line of Schroeder-Stoa-Barriball is in tact the rest of the team takes the game off. Schroeder or Stoa was involved in all four Gopher goals this weekend. Players like Carman, Hoeffel and White are going to need to start pulling their offensive weight if the Gophers are going to be a contender. On a positive note Lucia will be on the ice at practice today and plans to be their all week.

Bert Blyleven missed out on a trip to Cooperstown once again today. He finished fourth with 62.7% of the votes slightly up from 61.9% the previous year. The inductees are Ricky Henderson and Jim Rice. It is only a matter of time before he gets in but it might end up coming down to the Veterans Committee. Twinkie Town makes a good point in that the focus this year was on Ricky Henderson, and that next year with no stellar additions it might be a year they really push for Bert and get him elected to the Hall of Fame. He absoultely deserves to be in the Hall and it is a shame that he is not their already. Anyone who has ever watched a Twins game knows how much it would mean to him to be elected.

Stats of the Day
  • 11-15: Devron Bostick shooting in the last three games. That is 73.3%.
  • 9.0: Average steals per game for the Gophers. Purdue is second in conference with 7.8.
  • 0: The highest +/- for a Gopher forward who has not played on the first line. It belongs to Mike Carman. Stoa is +12, Schroeder is +9 and Barriball is +3.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Penn State Preview

#22 Minnesota Golden Gophers (14-1, 2-1) Vs. Penn State Nittany Lions (13-3, 2-1)

There are teams in the Big Ten like Michigan State we know are elite and their are teams like Iowa we know are subpar. Penn St. has yet to be placed in the pecking order of the Big Ten. They have perennially been in the basement of the conference not making the NCAA tournament since 2001. They have had some good wins including beating Purdue, however, Purdue was playing without Robbie Hummel and Kramer Berg. Here is Penn State's resume:

Wins to Showcase:
  • Vs. #14 Purdue 67 - 64
  • at Georgia Tech (9-6) 85 - 83
Losses to hide from:
  • Vs. Rhode Island (11-5) 72 - 77
  • Vs. Temple (7-6) 59 - 65
  • Rebounding: 40.5 rebounds per game second in the conference behind MSU
  • Ball Control: 10.9 turnovers per game second least in conference behind Wisconsin
  • Talor Battle: 18.9 ppg, 6.1 rebs, 5.3 ass
  • Defense: Allow 60.7 ppg and opponents shoot 41.2%
  • Depth: After top three scorers, the fourth scorer Danny Morrissey scores 6.1 ppg. By comparison our fourth scorer is Al Nolen with 8.3 ppg.
While Penn State has some talent in Battle, Stanley Pringle and Jamelle Cornley, they are not in my opinion a tournament-caliber team. If the game was at Penn State it would be one thing but they are a team we should beat at Williams. Losing to teams like Rhode Island and Temple at home shows they aren't ready to jump up to the top tier of the conference.

Interesting things to watch
  • Talor Battle Vs. Al Nolen: Two of the best point guards match-up. Nolen struggled to control Kalin Lucas but Battle doesn't have the speed that Lucas does. If Nolen is able to shut down Battle the game will be over quick. Battle last year at Williams was shut out shooting 0-8. If that is repeated this game will be over quick.
  • Blake Hoffarber: Last year Blake put up 29 points in his two games against Penn State. He has been struggling lately but a big game from him would do wonders for the Gophers.

Penn State is a dangerous team. Overall they are average but if their stars get hot they can beat any team in the Big Ten. The key for the Gophers is to jump on them early, let the crowd get into it and Penn State should go away. If Penn State gets going early it will be a long game. The Penn State offense is very perimeter oriented, Minnesota has a lot of defensively talented players in Nolen, Joseph and Johnson. They also should be able to utilize Iverson's blocking abilty in help defense. I think Tubby has this team to focused and determined to get upset but this game will be close. Let's hope the Gophers shoot a lot better than they did Thursday night.

Gophers 65, Penn State 63

Friday, January 9, 2009

Reflections and Ponderances

  • That folks is what it looks like to win ugly in the Big Ten. The Gophers shot 34% from the field but rallied from 13 down to beat Iowa 52-49. I am unable to type this myself so I had my brother write this sentence: Travis Busch was the player of the game. He contributed 10 points including some critical baskets down the edge. It goes to the theory that against nonathletic team Busch is a very solid player but he still brutal when we play teams with real division 1 players.
  • That was not what everyone expected out of the National Championship game but the result was what I expected. Florida was able to slow the Oklahoma offense and they struggled to contain Percy Harvin. What the game came down to though was Oklahoma had the ball inside Florida's 10 twice and got 0 points. If they go into half up 21-7 it is an entirely different ball game.
  • The Gopher hockey team returns to WCHA action this weekend with a rivalry series at North Dakota. We have the full lineup again as the WJC players return. It will be interesting to see how they play in a very hostile environment without the Don to help. North Dakota has been struggling this year due to a lack of scoring and inconsistent goalie. They have been known for prolific scorers from Parise to Toews to Oshie. Their leading scorers are Brad Miller and Chay Genoway. Not exactly fear-inducing. They are coming off sweeping Bemidji State but only by 4-3 both nights and Saturday's took overtime. The weekend before they lost to Michigan State and Michigan Tech. They always get up for the Gophers and are known for their hot second halves. I think the Gophers will tie Friday night and win on Saturday.
  • The Gophers have announced what was seen coming with Kevin Cosgrove becoming the Defensive Coordinator, but with a twist. Ronnie Lee the Defensive Backs coach has been promoted to Co-Defensive Coordinator. This doesn't stir up the excitement in me but neither did the Ted Roof hiring. The problem was that Cosgrove failed in Nebraska and it has been attributed to his lack of defending the spread properly. That doesn't mean he hasn't in his time off figured out how to stop it but that is the future of College Football. I hope for a bigger impact from the Offensive Coordinator who should be announced in the next few days.
Stats of the Day
  • 4-16: Blake Hoffarber's shooting in three Big Ten games. We will need him to turn it around if the Gophers are going to go places.
  • 7: The number of assists by the Gophers team on Thursday night. The team average is 16.9.
  • 7-4: The Gophers record at North Dakota since Ralph Englestad Arena opened in 2001. Have won 4 of the last 6 games.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Preview Extravaganza

#22 Minnesota Golden Gophers (13-1, 1-1) at Iowa Hawkeyes (11-4, 1-1)

This should be interesting as it is the Gophers first road game in the Big Ten this year. On paper it should be an easy win as Iowa appears to be in the bottom third of the Big Ten.
Here is Iowa's Resume:

Wins to showcase:
  • Vs. Kansas St. (11-3) 65-63
  • Vs. Iowa St. (11-4) 73-57
Loses to hide from:
  • at Drake (12-4) 43-60
  • vs. West Virginia (11-3) 68-87 (The size of defeat is the issue not the quality of teams)
  • 3-pt shooting: 1st in conference with 40.9%
  • Free Throws: 2nd in conference with 74.3%
  • Defense: 1st in conference with 55.9 ppg
  • Rebounding: last in conference with 30.9. Second to last has 34.5
  • Size: Cyrus Tate is tallest starter at 6-8, Andrew Brommer is tallest player at 6-9
  • Scoring: 9th in conference with 64.7 ppg
The Gophers so far this season struggle with teams that are athletic and strong on the boards. This is the opposite of what Iowa is, they stand around the arc and lack any size. They would be the type of team they should handle. What the Gophers will need to do to win is similar to when they play Northwestern push the pace and make them play their tempo and guard the perimeter.

Interesting things to watch
  • Minnesota connections: Anthony Tucker is the leading scorer with 11.8 ppg but has been suspended for public intoxication and has been reportedly been fighting mono. It is unknown how much he will play. Andrew Brommer (1.5 ppg 1.2 rebs) was recruited by Dan Monson but once Tubby came in he made it clear Brommer should look elsewhere. Instead we got RSIII and Colt 45. It should be a pleasant reminder of what the talent was before Tubby rolled into town
  • How the newcomers respond to a Big Ten road game. It should be interesting how Joseph, Iverson and RSIII play in a hostile environment. It should be easier for the post players as they will not face anyone with similar size. It will be more important to see how Joseph handle running the point with the crowd on top of him.

This is the type of game the Gophers need to win to clear a path to the NCAAs. They should be able to beat them with their athletisicm and size down low. If the crowd gets to the freshman, the Gophers should be able to rely on Nolen, Johnson and Westbrook. I think this gam might be close for awhile but the Gophers should pull it out.

Gophers 67, Hawkeyes 57

Check out the preview on the Daily Gopher, I will be on their during the game on their live thread.

Here is my thoughts on the College Football National Championship in Miami.
#2 Oklahoma Sooners (12-1) Vs. #1 Florida Gators (12-1)

On paper this should be a great game, but some previous bowl games give some indication on the outcome of this game. In the Alamo Bowl Missouri's offense struggled with Northwestern holding them to 311 total yards. In the Holiday Bowl a mediocre Oregon got 565 yards and beat Oklahoma State 42-31. In the Cotton Bowl Texas Tech gave up 515 yards to Ole Miss (the team that beat Florida) and lost 47-34. Then in the Fiesta Bowl Texas struggled and lucked into beating an Ohio State team that had absolutely no passing game 24-21. That means the average score of the other four top Big 12 teams have lost 33.25 - 29.75. That might not seem like much but they were prohibitive favorites in all of the games.

I think Oklahoma will have offensive success but they have not faced defensive speed like they will see in Florida. Florida has too much speed and athleticism. It will be a fast, exciting, high scoring game but I think Oklahoma will struggle to keep up with Florida. It is important to note one fact that seems to be overlooked in the last 4 BCS games Oklahoma has been in they have lost all 4 being outscored 167 - 103 with losses to West Virginia and Boise State. The last BCS win was a Rose Bowl win over Washington State in 2002.

Prediction: Florida Gators 48, Oklahoma Sooners 38

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Major Changes Coming to Dinkytown

There are major changes coming to the Gophers football program in the upcoming month. Both Mike Dunbar, the offensive coordinator, and Ted Roof, the defensive coordinator, have left the program. The Dunbar move was not surprising. When Tim Davis was brought in from Alabama to install a power running game the writing was on the wall. He became the scapegoat for the offense lack of improvement and losing the last 5 games. The Roof move is surprising. He is leaving to be the defensive coordinator at Auburn. He was highly regarded for the drastic improvement in the defense after being fired as head coach at Duke. I didn't think he would be here long as I'm sure he wants another shot at head coach, but I definitely thought he would be here a few years.

This means Brewster will be on his third defensive coordinator in 3 years and second offensive coordinator. I do have some worries about this news. Will this affect the incoming recruits? Roof recruited a lot of players like recent commit Taikwon Paige, the offensive recruits came for a wide open spread offense like MarQueis Gray and Hayo Carpenter, if the new offense doesn't fit their ability they might leave. I would like to see the spread stay as that is the evolution of NCAA football. They do need to add a running game but once we get depth at the WR spot and Weber and Grey develop the offense should get going.

There are no indications of who Brewster will find to replace them. One thing I have liked about the Brewster is ability to find quality and exciting coordinators. I think it isn't out of the realm of possibilities that Davis will be promoted to coordinator. There will be a lot of changes and where the program heads from this month will have a huge impact on the future and legacy of one Tim Brewster.

Stats of the Day
  • 79th: Minnesota's rank in total defense up from 119th the previous year
  • 91st: Minnesota's rank in total offense down from 48th the previous year
  • 72: rushing yards for Texas in its win over Ohio State. I guess you don't need a running game if you have an All-American Quarterback and more than one quality receiver.
Video of the Day

Here is a video clip of future Gopher Rodney Williams showing of his athletic ability at the Timberwolves Gatorade Shootout. I can't recall when the Gophers have had someone with this leaping ability.

Monday, January 5, 2009

The Hot Stove Re-Ignited

Two big bats found new teams this afternoon. Pat Burrell left World Champs Philadelphia for Runner-ups Tampa Bay for 2 years and 16 million. Milton Bradley found his 76th team in signing with the Chicago Cubs for 3-years 30 million. The Cubs move helps adding a switch hitter with power to play right field instead of the disappointing Fukodome. This does not solve their problems but they should maintain their status as NL Central favorites. I think they could use another starter and middle infielder.

While I like the Bradley signing, I love the Burrell signing. While the Yankees went out and spent a quarter billion dollars, the Rays only spent 16 million and in doing so became a better team than the Yankees. They assured to me the Yankees will still finish third and nothing makes me happier. They have a young powerful lineup and that with the young powerful pitching staff looks impressive. I still think they need to help the bullpen a little.

Here should be their opening day lineup
2B Akinori Iwamura (.274 6 hr, 48 rbi, 8 sb)
LF Carl Crawford (.273 8hr, 57 rbi, 25 sb)
CF B.J Upton (.273 9 hr, 67 rbi, 44 sb)
3B Evan Longoria (.272 27 hr, 85 rbi, 7 sb)
1B Carlos Pena (.247 31 hr, 102 rbi, 1 sb)
DH Pat Burrell (.250 33 hr, 86 rbi, 0 sb)
RF Matt Joyce (.252 12 hr, 33 rbi, 0 sb)
C Dioner Navarro (.295 7 hr, 54 rbi, 0 sb)
SS Jason Bartlett (.286 1 hr, 37 rbi, 20 sb)

The averages may not look good but Crawford and Upton are .300 hitters who struggled with injuries last year. Upton should also hit around 30 home runs evidenced by the 7 he hit in 16 postseason games and 24 the year before. Anytime you have a 30 hr guy in Burrell batting 6th you have a lineup that will do damage.

Also in a sad baseball related not Carl Pohlad, the owner of the Twins, died at age 93 today. He was the owner for the Twins only titles in '87 and '91.

Quick Strikes

  • If the Gophers play like they did against Ohio State they will make the tournament and have the potential to be a Sweet Sixteen team.
  • Devoe Joeseph won that game for us and seems to be taking great strides. There was concern if he could play point guard but he is putting those concerns to rest. Paul Carter and Devron Bostick also seem to be improving.
  • While I still think RSIII has the larger upside, Colton Iverson is a lot further along than him. He plays very physical and is improving on the rebounding. They both need to develop a post game.
  • I have always been rooting T-Jack I think the experiment has to end. This team has a limited time frame with the talent they have acquired they need a quarterback who is ready to get them to the promised land.
  • I have not ever been rooting for Brad Childress and he also needs to go. Him and T-Jack seemed to be in competition on who could cost the team the game more. He threw an interception for a touchdown, Childress doesn't accept a holding penalty that would move them out of field goal range. T-Jack can't complete a pass in the second half, Childress calls a pass play when trying to run out the half that gives Philly a chance to score.
  • There are rumors out there that have Defensive Coordinator Lezlie Frazier geting a head coaching job elsewhere. I think the Vikings should fire Childress and hire Frazier. We can't lose a second coordinator that would be a better coach. We lost out on Mike Tomlin, lets not repeat that.
  • I think Ohio State has a shot to win the Fiesta Bowl tonight. Texas doesn't possess the speed that USC and Florida had that gave them troubles. They did beat a McCoy lead Texas team last year and almost beat the Vince Young team. I think the extra practice will greatly further the development of Terrelle Pryor. I look for him to have a good game.
  • I don't know why I got so much enjoyment out of Louisville beating Kentucky. I should be happy that Kentucky made a mistake and gave us Tubby Smith but I love seeing Minnesota getting better recruiting classes and I pray that somehow we face Kentucky in the near future.
Stats of the Day
  • September 25, 2005: The last time the Vikings passed for 300 yards by Daunte Culpepper against the New Orleans Saints. What a Kick Ass offense Childress put in.
  • 22: The Gophers new rank in the AP poll up from #23
  • 328: Total yards by Darren Sproles in San Diego's win
  • 8-20 78yds: TJack's stats in the the second half

Friday, January 2, 2009

Ohio State Game Preview

#21 Minnesota Golden Gophers (12-1, 0-1) Vs. #24 Ohio State (10-1, 1-0)

Ohio State started off the season very well with wins at Miami and beating Notre Dame in Indianapolis. Then David Lighty (9.7 ppg, 5.7 rebs, 1.9 ass) went down with a broken foot and backup point guard Anthony Crater unexpectedly transferred. Since then they got soundly beat by West Virginia and struggled to beat a mediocre Iowa team at home that was playing without leading scorer and drunk Anthony Tucker. With BJ Mullens (7.1 ppg, 3.6 rebs, .2 ass) not playing like the #1 incoming recruit they lack scoring outside Evan Turner and Jon Diebler.

This is a must win game for the Gophers, they beat Ohio State at home last year and they need this to make their case for legitimacy and a NCAA bid. I think they will need 9 wins and a good tournament run or 10 wins in the conference to make the tournament given the weak non-conference schedule and the Louisville win looking less impressive by each Louisville loss. If they lose this game they will have to win the 10 with only 7 home games left and it is hard to win on the road in the Big 10 especially with a young team like the Gophers have. They need Colt 45 to get extensive minutes and they have to keep Ohio State from getting second chances. They also need DJ Swat to get back to his shut down ways and stop Evan Turner who could take over the game.

I think the Gophers will play with great intensity and desperation after the beat down from Michigan State. I don't see a Tubby-coached team playing otherwise. He does need to limit the rotation and stop playing 10 and get it down to 8. I would like to see JAS and Travis Busch in the warm-ups for the majority of the game. We are facing the Buckeyes at the right time and I see us getting in the Big 10 win column.

Prediction Minnesota 71, Ohio State 67

Other Thoughts
  • Tomorrow is a big day for Gopher football. Two recruits are going to make their decision at the Army All-American Bowl. Bryce McNeal of Breck and Michael Carter from Florida have the Gophers among their finalists. Reports are that Carter will be a Gopher but McNeal will head to Oregon. The game is on NBC at noon.
  • Texas just lost any credence that they should be in the title game instead of Florida. Ole Miss (the team that beat Florida) stomped all over Texas Tech (the team that beat Texas) 47-34 in the Cotton Bowl. Ole Miss had 509 total yards and showed that Texas Tech might have been a little overrated. It also shows that maybe the Big 12 wasn't all it was cracked up to be but that will be decided on January 8th.
Stats of the Day
  • 3,100 : The number of tickets left unsold for the Vikings playoff game on Sunday
  • 243: Yards rushing by Ole Miss against Texas Tech in the Cotton Bowl
  • 44: Number of saves made by Jaroslav Janus in Slovakia's upset win 5-3 over USA in the World Junior Championships ending Team USA's run.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

A Potpourri of Thoughts

  • The Gopher finished thier second season with Brewster in a underwhelming fashion. The 7-1 start was a total mirage and looking back on the season they didn't beat a single bowl team and the best win was the Illinois game which turns out to not be that impressive. I do believe the future looks bright especially if Decker decides to return which isn't a given.
  • The power running game made its debut for the Gophers. While I think it is something we should add, Brewster has to realize to do that it requires a running back and a capable offensive line and currently he has neither. To not be able to run on a Kansas defense shows how poor the running game is.
  • I love the NHL's Winter Classic. It was easily the best sporting event today with the annual USC Blowout in effect. I would love to see the Wild playing at either TCF Bank or Target Field in this game someday.
  • The Gatorade Shower officially needs to stop. It has obviously lost all meaning. The (10-3) Georgia Bulldogs as they closed out a win over a mediocre Michigan State team in the all-important Capital One Bowl showered Mark Richt with Gatorade. This was the preseason #1 team in the country. They were supposed to be playing in Miami instead they got walloped by Florida, Alabama, and even Georgia Tech. If you aren't winning a title don't even think about opening the cooler.
  • On a final note, the Star Tribune is reporting that Don Lucia might miss at least one game due to illness. They are keeping quiet as to what the illness is but it does appear worrisome as they are telling the players to not talk about it and the Sports Information Director says that Lucia isn't sure what the illness is yet. I hope it is nothing serious and he returns to the bench soon. He is one of the best coaches in college hockey and has done a great job running the program and keeping the majority of Minnesota talent playing for the Maroon and Gold.
Stats of the Day
  • 1.86 : Yards per carry for DeLeon Eskridge in the Insight Bowl
  • 413: Passing Yards by Mark Sanchez against the Penn St. defense
  • 239-113-38: The Don's record as coach of the Gophers