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.

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