Friday, February 27, 2009

Covering the Bases

  • I have always held the contention that I thought the Gophers need to win both home games. With Michigan's surprise win over Purdue, it is a fact now and not a thought. In Lunardi's latest bracketology, Minnesota is the first team out and Michigan is the last team in. We have to go 10-8 in conference or put on quite a show in the Big Ten tournament.
  • Trevor Mbakwe has been named the FCAAA Southern Conference Player of the Year. While we have been lilted by other JUCO Player of the Years (Bostick), I am not expecting that to happen with Mbakwe. He isn't great offensively but he should come in and get 8 rebounds a game and 2-3 blocks. We should next year have one of the best interior defenses in the nation.
  • Baseball America has an interview with Eric Decker. In it they describe him as one of the premier athletes in the 2009 draft class. In it Decker talks about how he doesn't have a favorite sport. His future is clearly in baseball and I think there is a slight chance he might not suit up for the Gophers in the fall. I think he would love to play his senior season, but if a team comes along and offers a big bonus it may be hard to pass up especially considering the beating he takes in football could hurt his baseball future. It depends on how he plays this year but I think there is at least a 20% chance he leaves. That would crush any hope the football team has for next year.
  • Due to frustration with the current Gopher hockey team and because I am a masochistic I thought about what the hockey team would look like this year if no one left early. If you can stomach it here is what the team would look like:
Okposo (Jr.) Kessel (Sr.) Wheeler (Sr.)
Stoa (Jr.) Schroeder (Fr.) Barriball (Jr.)
Hoeffel (Soph.) O'Brien (Jr.) Flynn (Jr.)
Lucia (Jr.) Carman (Jr.) White (Soph.)

Johnson (Jr.) Fairchild (Soph.)
Ness (Fr.) Fischer (Jr.)
Bickel (Soph.) Anderson (Sr.)

Kangas (Soph.)
Frazee (Sr.)

It is safe to say I don't think that team would have trouble getting home ice and making the NCAA tournament.
  • It is early but my choice of Danny Valencia as the #1 Twins prospect looks good so far. In two spring training games he is 4-4 with 4 singles and 1 rbi. Wilson Ramos also has showed off his potential by throwing out two Yankees in his only appearance so far. The Twins are 3-0 so far if that means anything.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Illini Game Review

This game was more of a shame than anything else. The effort was there, the intensity was there, the defense was there. They just could not hit a jumper to save their life. They didn't just miss the shots they bricked the shots. There had to been at least double digit shots that didn't hit the rim. It seemed as if the guards were more interested in breaking the rim than making a shot. It was almost comical if it wasn't so depressing. If they shot even reasonably well we could have won that game. It was there for the taking but we didn't capitalize. This does not hurt our chances but I think the Gophers need to win both games at home to close out the season or put on a good run in the Big Ten tournament.

The player of the game is not hard to find in this game. There was not a single thing the Damian Johnson did not do. His line is incredible but it still does not do him justice to how he played tonight. He ended up with 18 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 5 steals and 3 blocks. He was absolutely everywhere. Also playing well were the two freshman down low. Ralph had 8 points and 4 rebounds and Colton had 4 points and 8 rebounds.

While Johnson was the hero we also have goats of the game. Lawrence Westbrook and Al Nolen cost us this game. They combined for 8 turnovers and only 4 points and 1 assist. They did nothing and they caused nothing but turnovers and bricks. To be a good NCAA team you need guard play. Find a team that is elite without a point guard. A lot of people are fed up with Nolen and say that he has regressed. He has not regressed he has just faced the Big Ten. He is not to the point yet where he is an elite point guard. He needs to develop a shot. Also we need him because while he is struggling Devoe Joseph is more of a combo guard and can not run the offense as a starter.

The Gophers are still alive but they have two big games coming up. They have played well at home but the Wisconsin game scares me a lot. Wisconsin needs the win and they are mad about the Gophers winning at Kohl and starting the 6 game losing streak. We will face a very determined Wisconsin team. It helps that we have 5 days to prepare.

Stats of the Game
  • 5-35: Shooting by Gophers not named Johnson, Sampson or Iverson. That is 14%. That is unimaginable. This team lacks a shooter and the problem is that even though the incoming recruits are good none are good shooters so those on the team need to step up.
  • 1-14: Gophers 3-pt shooting. That is 7%. A high school team would put up better perimeter shooting than that.
  • 37-25: The rebounding edge for the Gophers. This was the only reason it was close. The Gophers got 15 offensive rebounds but that is easier with so many bricks.

Thursday Ranting

I don't know whether it is due to the blizzard while it should be spring or not but I'm in the mood for a good ol' rant so here we go:
  • Now this may be because I was laid off from the Minnesota Daily over the summer and they have also been jerking around my buddy in the sports department but the paper is delving into an absolutely sub-par student paper. It is poorly written and the students are just there to be paid and put it on their resume. They proved my point today with an article about how the reason for the Gophers energy on Sunday was the return of one Kevin Payton. Without the Daily I would not have known that the reason for the stingy defense and effort was due to the guy who came in the final minute and has yet to score this year. The title is even worse. Gophers feeling energized as Payton returns to the floor. He is never on the floor unless they have a 20 point lead or it is warm-ups. The argument the article makes is that he talks and is a vocal leader. Anyone can talk. Maybe the Gophers should get Chris Tucker to practice with them. He is probably just as good at basketball and he does a lot of talking. I guess if we are playing in March we all have Kevin Payton to thank.

  • On the Star Tribune the Twins beat writer posted the lineups for the Twins opening spring game against Boston. Here is a sampling of some of the comments:
  • I don't like Cuddy batting 4th not high enough average
  • Why is LNP (Nick Punto) batting 2nd and why is Cuddy in RF?
  • You still want a leadoff-type hitter to lead off and a cleanup-type hitter to hit cleanup. So why bat Morneau third? ST is to make guys comfortable. Why screw with his routine?
  • The idiot (Gardenhire) just couldn't resist but to bat Punto 2nd

  • I do not get the Twins fans who seem to only be fans to complain. I'm not saying I love everything the Twins did but why search for reasons to complain. Punto and Morneau were batting higher to get more at bats before they leave for the WBC. One poster was adamant we were screwing with Morneau by batting him 3rd instead of clean-up. First off he won MVP hitting 5th so I think he can hit anywhere in the lineup. He also didn't complain about Nathan pitching in the 4th. Spring Training wins and losses mean actually nothing and to complain about the lineup means you need either a girlfriend, a job, or a hobby. The complaints about Gardenhire I also don't get. The Twins have won 4 division titles in his 7 years as coach. 2007 is the only year they finished below .500 at 79-83. If you respond but we expect more than you are an idiot. We have had the most consistent success this decade by a team not in New York or Boston. He is coming off a season in which he took a team predicted to finish 4th or 5th in the division, losing Santana and Hunter. He finished with 88 wins for a team that finished last in the AL in home runs and had Scott Baker as the elder statesman on the starting pitching staff. The Twins consistently do better than projections or pre-season picks except for maybe the 2007 season. This team is young, fast, and has probably the best line-up they have had under Gardenhire. So please say the bitterness and armchair managing until at least June.
That helped for awhile I'm sure after the Gophers come out flat against Illinois I will be in the mood for more ranting. We shall see.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Boof Out, Comcast Sucks and Illini Preview

  • As it looked more and more likely Boof Bonser will be out for the season with a torn labrum. This doesn't cause great issues considering his role was a middle reliever and I think Phil Humber can fill that role. It is disappointing for Boof because I think he has the stuff where he could have become a good set-up guy and some day might be a decent closer. I don't think we will ever see Boof in a Twins uniform again and that is too bad because he was a stand-up guy and had a great name.
  • I hate Comcast. I don't know if all cable companies are as ruthless but Comcast is truly an evil empire. First, there was the whole dispute with the Big Ten Network. After enjoying watching every Big Ten game in a very competitive conference and watching the Gophers, I can't fathom not having the Big Ten Network. Now the package I have is suppossed to include the MLB Network. I was looking forward to watching the Twins Spring training game, World Baseball games and more regular season games. One problem, I don't get the channel. Every channel that is in the package comes in perfectly fine except the MLB Network which is currently a black screen. I hate Comcast.
  • Finally here is my Illini game preview
Minnesota Golden Gophers (20-7, 8-7) at #20 Illinois Fighting Illini (22-6, 10-5)

I think it is safe to assume that Illinois is going to try and score 100 points given we held them to 36 points earlier this season. The interesting thing is that isn't even their lowest point total this season. They scored only 33 points at home against Penn State. I think Illinois will come out angry trying to avenge the embarrassing loss and keep their slim hopes of a Big Ten title alive. Here is the Illinois resume:

Wins to Showcase:
  • at Missouri 75 - 59
  • at Purdue 71 - 67
Losses to hide from:
  • vs Penn State 33 - 38
  • at Minnesota 36 - 59
Previous Result
The reason for the win over Illinois was simple. We won the game down low. We outrebounded them 40-26. RSIII got 10 points and 7 boards. Illinois two 7 footers, who average 21.9 ppg and 11.8 rebs, combined for only 4 points and 7 rebounds. That will be the key again if the Gophers are going to pull off the upset and win in Illinois. Illinois is not a jump shooting team and if you can get great interior defense Illinois has trouble scoring as evidenced in the previous result.


The Twin Towers still struggle offensively but they are very good defensively. They block shots very well and are active down low. They won the Illinois game and also were crucial in the Louisville win. If they play well on defense and some guard (Joseph, Westbrook, Hoffarber) gets hot from the outside we could pull it off. The problem is this game is on the road and even though we are on the bubble a loss here does not hurt our chances at all. The biggest issue on the road has been lack of defensive intensity and poor shooting. I don't see that changing in a hostile environment against a very solid team.

Illinois 63, Minnesota 52

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

A Buffet of Twins News

  • The Twins have before anyone has even pitched an inning in Spring Training announced the starting pitching rotation for 2009. It follows as Scott Baker, Francisco Liriano, Kevin Slowey, Glen Perkins and Nick Blackburn. The only suprise is the order with Blackburn pitching 5th but that truly does not matter in the scheme of things.
  • Boof Bonser is going to have exploratory surgery to try and find why his shoulder is bothering him after they found no structural damage in the MRI. He will not be headed north with the club to start the year and depending on what they find he could be out longer. This clears room for Phil Humber to make the roster or even room for Juan Cruz. It is possible we never see Boof in a Twins uniform again.
  • Baseball America has released its Top 100 prospects for 2009 and 3 Twins made the cut. Aaron Hicks was #39, Ben Revere was #59 and Wilson Ramos was #71. The Twins also had 3 last year with two of them being Carlos Gomez and Nick Blackburn. The top prospect is catcher Matt Wieters of Baltimore with David Price the pitcher for Tampa Bay a close 2nd.
  • The final rosters have been announced for the World Baseball Classic. I will do a preview of the Classic next week but the rosters include many Twins. Here are those who will participate: Joe Nathan (USA), Justin Morneau (Canada), Nick Punto (Italy), Jesse Crain (Canada) and Luis Ayala (Mexico). There are also plenty of Twins prospects on rosters. They are: Carlos Gutierrez (Puerto Rico), Luke Hughes (Australia), Robb Hein (South Africa), Tom Stuifbergen (Netherlands), Liam Hendriks (Australia), James Beresford (Australia) and Daniel Berg (Australia).
  • Some thoughts about the rosters. I enjoy the World Classic but I am glad that players such as Mauer, Liriano and Mijares decided not to participate. All three need to be in camp to help us in the upcoming season. It will be hard not to root for Justin Morneau if Canada plays the USA. Also, looking at the rosters I do not get why the Twins seem to be picking up a lot of Australian players. They have 4 guys on the team and I dont't get it. I can't think of one Australian player who has ever contributed in the MLB. The rosters also show the discrepency between countries. On the Dominican Republic team Carlos Gomez and Casilla don't make the team because Robinson Cano, Moises Alou and Hanley Ramirez are there and then Twins prospects I have never heard of like Tom Stuifbergen (turns out he was a relief pitcher on our Rookie team last year) are starters for another team.
  • Before I go I need to mention that the Twins Spring Training season gets underway tommorrow as they face Boston at 6:05. Glen Perkins will take the mound and no Joe Crede will not play tommorrow. The Twins have stated his first game will be Friday. The main interesting note is Wilson Ramos will see some time at catcher tommorrow.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Northwestern Review

It is good to be home. One watching the game on Sunday can not believe that was the same Northwestern team that beat us this year. They did not even appear to be a Division I opponent. They never got anything going offensively and while the Gophers still struggled at times in the half court they cruised to their largest win of the season by 27 points. This team is night and day when playing at home versus on the road. They make shots and play much harder on defense forcing turnovers.

This game did not have a standout player of the game as everyone played well and contributed from Bostick scoring 9 to Busch, Iverson and Hoffarber getting 7. The player of the game is then by default the leading scorer in Lawrence Westbrook. He lead the team with 17 points and went 6-10.

This was a game that we needed to stay alive but it didn't help our chances that much. What did help us the most on Sunday is that Michigan lost to Iowa. They are now 7-8 in the Big Ten and still have to face us, Purdue and Wisconsin. There season is over. The Big Ten is down to 7 possible teams and it also helps because when Michigan shows up for the final game they won't have anything to play for and could just roll over for us.

Next up is the final road game at Illinois. It is a daunting task to go in there and win. It is good news that a win there is not required but if we do somehow win at Illinois we are almost assured a spot in the NCAA's.

It should also be mentioned that the win against Northwestern gave us 20 wins on the season. We now have won back to back years of 20 wins and Tubby has coached 16 straight 20 win seasons. The Minnesota program only has 11 20 win seasons in its entire history and 4 of those are wiped out due to sanctions.

Stats of the Game
  • 9: Points scored by Devron Bostick in 16 minutes. He had scored only 4 points in 62 minutes in the last 9 games.
  • 56.14: Big Ten oppponent's scoring average at Williams Arena this year. Big Ten foes average 67.75 ppg when the Gophers are on the road. That is a huge difference. If you take out the Purdue and MSU home losses opponents are scoring only 50.6 ppg.
  • 29-13: Tubby Smith's record in the NCAA's. For all those who think if we make the tournament we will be one and done. Tubby Smith has lost in the 1st round only once and that was in 1996-1997 with Georgia.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Northwestern Preview

Minnesota Golden Gophers (19-7, 7-7) vs. Northwestern Wildcats (14-10, 5-8)

The word must-win gets thrown around a lot in college basketball, but this is one of the cases where it is actually true. A loss at home to Northwestern would certainly punch their ticket to the NIT. They need to win this game to remain in the hunt for the tournament. Here is Northwestern's resume:

Wins to showcase:
  • at Michigan State 70 - 63
  • vs. Ohio State 72 - 69
Losses to hide from:
  • at Iowa 51 - 56
  • at Stanford 59 - 65
Previous Result
Northwestern while not being a tourney caliber team has pulled off some big upsets beating Michigan State, Ohio State, Wisconsin and Minnesota. They also have gotten close to even more upsets but have collapsed to Purdue, Illinois and Michigan. They are a very dangerous team as the Gophers know all to well. The good news is that the Northwestern show does not travel well. They pulled off the mystifying win at Michigan State but are 2-6 on the road with the only other win against Brown. Also Northwestern shouldn't be a surprise this time around.


The Gophers are very glad to be home. They have only played one home game so far in February against Indiana. They need this game. If they don't come out with intensity and aggression they don't deserve to be a tournament team. The biggest reason for the upset at Northwestern was due to the inability to handle the 1-3-1 in the half court. They looked a lot better when they faced in at Michigan on Thursday. It will also help to have the Barn encouraging them along the way. I think the Gophers will take out a lot of frustration on an inferior Northwestern team that already has it's fate sealed.

Gophers 65, Northwestern 57

Joe Crede is a Minnesota Twin

Bill Smith and the Twins front office awoke from their slumber and made a great move signing Joe Crede to a one year deal. It is a very low-risk high reward deal. It has a 2.5 million dollar base and if he stays healthy and produces he will get 7 million. He fills the one weakness in the lineup outside of Nick Punto at shortstop. There is also reports that the Twins have made an offer to Juan Cruz. The Twins may not have made a lot of moves this offseason but this team is in good shape and has to be considered the favorite to win the AL Central. To perk your excitement here is the potential Opening Day lineup.
LF Denard Span
2B Alexi Casilla
C Joe Mauer
1B Justin Morneau
RF Michael Cuddyer
DH Jason Kubel
3B Joe Crede
SS Nick Punto
CF Carlos Gomez
That is what I think Gardenhire wants but here is what I believe is their best lineup:
CF Carlos Gomez
2B Alexi Casilla
C Joe Mauer
1B Justin Morneau
3B Joe Crede
DH Jason Kubel
LF Delmon Young
RF Michael Cuddyer
SS Nick Punto/ Brendan Harris

Friday, February 20, 2009

Pre-Season Top 10 Twins Prospects

This is my pre-season top 10 prospects in the Twins organization. It is a combination of potential and how soon they can contribute. Unlike most years the Twins don't have much for starting pitching in the minors. The two of the best starting pitchers were drafted this past June. The Twins do have so good prospect however. I will update these rankings throughout the 2009 season.

1. Danny Valencia 3b Age: 24
Last year: .311 15 hrs 76 rbi in High A and AA.
This year: Will start in AA but could end up in AAA
When will we see him: Could be the starting 3b opening day in Target Field in 2010.
Best case pro potential: Mike Lowell
Notes: He doesn't have prodigic power but could be a 20 hr guy in the majors. He has hit for good average and will compete with Luke Hughes for the 3b spot in 2010.

2. Aaron Hicks OF Age: 19
Last year: .318 4 hr 27 rbi 12 sb in rookie ball
This year: Will be the everyday CF for Beloit - Low A
When will we see him: 2013
Best case pro potential: Grady Sizemore
Notes: Has the most potential of any Twins prospect. Was the Twins 1st round pick last year. Baseball America labeled him the best player in Rookie ball last year. He only has a half year of experience so this year will be big to see if the hype is real or if he has a lot of work to do still.

3. Jose Mijares LHP Age: 24
Last year: 0.87 ERA with Twins as September call-up in 10.1 IP. 2.70 ERA, 36.2 IP and 41 SO in minors:
This year: Will be in the Twins Bullpen
When will we see him: 2009
Best case pro potential: Eddie Guardado before injuries
Notes: Excelled as a September call-up last year and should get a lot of work this year as a lefty and will see most likely the 7th inning. With Neshek's injury Mijares could be the closer in waiting.

4. Luke Hughes 3B Age: 24
Last year: .309 18 hr 61 rbi with AA and AAA
This year: Starting 3B in AAA
When will we see him: September 2009
Best case pro potential: Mark Reynolds
Notes: This is a telling year for Hughes. He came out of nowhere last year for a breakout year. This will tell if he was a fluke last year or a developing prospect. He will likely be a September call-up this year and will compete with Danny Valencia for 3B next year. Needs to work on defense and cut down on strikeouts.

5. Anthony Slama RHP Age: 24
Last year: 1.01 ERA, 71 IP, 110 SO, 25 Saves with High A
This year: Will be closer in AA New Britain
When will we see him: 2010
Best case pro potential: Joe Nathan
Notes: Dominated the Florida State league last year. Was named the best reliever in Class A. Could follow track similar to Mijares. Will be in AA next year and could be in the bullpen in 2010.

6. Ben Revere OF Age: 20
Last year: .379 1 hr, 43 rbi 44 sb for Low A Beloit
This year: Starting CF for High A Fort Myers
When will we see him: 2012
Best case pro potential: Willy Taveras
Notes: Had a great year last year flirting with hitting .400 before dealing with injuries. His potential is limited though has he has no power and has a limited arm. Plays very similar to Denard Span. I think he will get passed by Aaron Hicks in the organization.

7. Anthony Swarzak RHP Age: 23
Last year: 1.80 ERA, 7 starts, 45 IP, 26 SO in AAA
This year: Starting Pitcher in AAA
When will we see him: September 2009
Best case pro potential: Scott Baker
Notes: Is the first starting pitcher in the rankings which is unusual for a Twins organization. Was struggling in AA but got called up to AAA and excelled. Was a 2nd round pick in 2004. He could go either way has he lack consistency. He won't be a starter until there is an injury or opening in the rotation. Could help the bullpen in September.

8. Shooter Hunt RHP Age: 22
Last year: 3.58 ERA, 11 starts, 50 IP, 68 SO in Rookie and Low A
This year: Starting Pitcher in Low A Beloit
When will we see him: 2012
Best case pro potential: Matt Garza
Notes: Dominated Rookie ball in 4 starts with a .066 Opp batting average. Tired at the end of the year after pitching in college and minors in the same year. Struggled with control in Low A. Could follow the Matt Garza track and fly through the minors. I don't expect him to end the season in Beloit. I want him to succeed just because he has a great name. This name puts Boof to shame.

9. Wilson Ramos C Age: 21
Last year: .288 13 hr 78 rbi
This year: Starting C for AA New Britain
When will we see him: 2011
Best case pro potential: Bengie Molina
Notes: Has very good power for a catcher hitting 13 home runs in the pitcher friendly FSL. He might need to find a new position as it is currently blocked by Joe Mauer. He could replace Redmond or catch if Mauer needs to change position as he hits 30. They will try to find a way for him if he keeps producing.

10. Angel Morales OF Age: 19
Last year: .301 15 hr 28 rbi in 183 Ab in Elizabethtown.
This year: Starting OF in Low A Beloit
When will we see him: 2013
Best case pro potential: Jason Bay
Notes. Hit a home run every 12.2 Ab last year. Still very young not turning 20 until November. Has a long way to go but should be very interesting to watch him and Hicks in the OF in Beloit this year.

Honorable Mention: Chris Parmalee 1B/OF, Carlos Gutierrez RHP, Kevin Mulvey RHP, Deolis Guerra RHP

The Most Boring Spring Training Ever

With the first spring training game in less than a week a thought occurred to me. This will be the least exciting spring training that I can remember. Baring signing Joe Crede or Juan Cruz there aren't any newcomers to watch. Also there are absolutely no roster battles. The 25 man roster is already set. Here are the 25:

Delmon Young, Carlos Gomez, Denard Span, Michael Cuddyer, Jason Kubel, Justin Morneau, Joe Mauer, Alexi Casilla, Nick Punto, Brenden Harris, Brian Buscher, Mike Redmond, Matt Tolbert

Francisco Liriano, Nick Blackburn, Scott Baker, Kevin Slowey, Glen Perkins, Joe Nathan, Matt Guerrier, Craig Breslow, Jose Mijares, Jesse Crain, Boof Bonser, Luis Ayala/Phil Humber.

That is 25. Exciting. Last year we got to see Delmon Young and Brendan Harris make their debut. We saw Gomez for the first time. We saw him battle with Span and Pridie for the CF job. We saw Liriano come back from Tommy John surgery. This year the most exciting thing will be to see Luke Hughes and Danny Valencia start the battle for the 3rd Base job in 2010. Thank God the World Baseball Classic will be around to at least give me some baseball to care about in March. Don't get me wrong this isn't a bad thing for the team to have continuity but continuity doesn't feed my baseball hunger.

Michigan Review

We have officially have hit zero on the margin of error scale. The Gophers have three home games remaining and assuming they won't win at Illinois they will need to win all three games at home. All three games (Wisconsin, Northwestern and Michigan) are winnable but they have no room for a bad game or a slip up. They have to turn it around but it helps they head back to the friendly confines. It is hard to know how much of the slump can be attributed to being on the road or how much is the struggling of the Gophers.

It is hard to think with the struggles that if the season ended today the Gophers would still likely be in the tournament. There RPI is still 38. They are higher than teams like Gonzaga, Arizona, Texas and Florida . That said I don't think they can go 2-2 and make the tournament unless they make a serious run in the Big Ten tournament.

On to the game itself. It comes down to one simple reason that I didn't think would be a problem. Defense. They had no perimeter defense allowing Michigan to make 13 3-pointers. It is no secret that the Gophers love the blocked shot and so Michigan would penetrate and the whole team would converge looking for the block and he would simply kick it out to a wide open shooter and they hit it. The other issue was getting back on defense. There were multiple times the Wolverines just beat the defense down the court and got easy layups and dunks.

The Gophers player of the game is the same as last game. Devoe Joseph again lead the team in scoring with 14 points and 4 assists. We wasn't as hot as he was against Penn State but still went 5-9 and 3-6 from behind the arc. He got significant playing time with 31 minutes and Nolen only had 18 minutes. I would look for Joseph to start in place of Westbrook on Sunday which would be good because Westbrook is my least favorite player and he showed why again yesterday. This team is lacking a leader and he is an anti-leader. He is selfish with the ball and if he is not scoring he does nothing else, he doesn't play defense and gives no effort what so ever. He got 12 points yesterday but it took him 15 shots to do so. I can't wait till we get more talent next year so Westbrook can fade to the background and we don't need him.

Stats of the Game
  • 28: Points scored by Michigan inside the 3 point arc. 39 points came from behind the arc.
  • 30: Points scored by Zach Novak and Stu Douglass. They average a combined 12.6 ppg for the season.
  • 3.9: PPG by Colton Iverson in Big Ten games. He can block shots and rebound but he has disappeared as a low post threat. Lack of low post scoring is the biggest reason for the half-court offense struggles.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Michigan Preview

Minnesota Golden Gophers (19-6, 7-6) at Michigan Wolverines (16-10, 6-7)

This game is very similar to the Penn State game. Michigan absolutely needs to win this game and should bring their best effort. The Gophers need to show up on the road and a win in Ann Arbor would almost punch their ticket to the tournament. While a loss is not a catastrophe it puts a lot of pressure on winning the home games and would further hurt the sinking confidence. Here is Michigan's resume:

Wins to showcase
  • Vs. Duke 81 - 73
  • at UCLA 55 - 52
Losses to hide from
  • at Penn State 58 - 73
  • vs Wisconsin 61 - 73
  • Free Throws: Shooting 76.2% from the line best in the Big Ten
  • Manny Harris: 17.5 ppg, 7.2 rebs, 4.3 ass
  • DeShawn Sims: 14.6 ppg, 7.3 rebs, .8 ass
  • Shooting: Shoot 42% from the field and 31.7% from behind the arc, both worst in Big Ten
  • Defense: Opponents shooting 43.2% 2nd worst in Big Ten
  • Scoring Depth: Harris and Sims account for 48% of the scoring. Next highest scorer is Laval Lucas-Perry averaging 7.3 ppg and only 4 players average more than 5 ppg in Big Ten games. Conversely, 6 players are doing so for the Gophers.
Every one is aware of Michigan's wins over UCLA and Duke. The problem is that was in the past and the Big Ten season hasn't been as kind. They beat Illinois at home but do not have another decent win. The other 5 wins consist of Iowa, Northwestern and Penn State at home and Indiana and Northwestern on the road. The biggest problem is that if you stop Harris or Sims or even slow them down they are very beatable.


Michigan is a very beatable team and like Penn State, while fighting to make the tournament will likely end up in the NIT. If this game was at the Barn as it will be later this season I would expect a Gophers victory but it is on the road and that changes everything. One important thing is that Michigan plays the 1-3-1 on defense that the Gophers struggled against at Northwestern. I would hope that Tubby has the guys ready to crack it and they don't play it nearly as well as Northwestern does. This game should be a very similar sight for Gopher fans. It will be sloppy with turnovers and poor shooting percentages. I think Michigan's desperation and Minnesota's road ineptitude will be too much.

Michigan 62, Minnesota 60

Other Note
  • Royce White was not named to the McDonald's All-American game. I think this is a shame. The biggest issue I have is that they picked the Wear twins David and Travis. They have the notch of being twins and are both headed to UNC so they got picked but they are ranked 41 and 42 by ESPN and 68 and 69 by Rivals. White is 25th on ESPN and 19th on Rivals. If Royce was headed to a traditional power like UNC or Duke, I would wager he would have been selected.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

More Maresh Setbacks

It is being reported that Sam Maresh has had another setback to making his Gopher debut. Doctors have discovered a tumor on his left leg. There is good news to this story. It is not related to his heart condition that required heart surgery causing him to miss this past season and there is also a very low chance of it being cancerous. It is also not made up of blood vessels but it is causing him pain and needs to be removed. It is tough to see a 19-year old kid face so many obstacles in trying to just do what he loves in playing football. I hope all goes well and I think I speak for all Gophers when I say I hope to see him leading the Gophers on to the field in the first game in TCF Bank and he is in uniform.

In other Gopher football news, Brewster has hired a new Wide Recievers coach to replace George McDonald who left for the NFL. It is Richard Hightower. He spent the last few years as an assistant for the Houston Texans. He played for the University of Texas from 1999-2002 as a defensive back and wide receiver. I think the reason for his hiring is thinly veiled. He is a Texan through and through being born and raised in Houston and he will be used to recruit the Texas area where we have done fairly well under Brewster getting Hasan Lipscomb, Kerry Lewis, Spencer Reeves, and Keanon Cooper. His obvious main objective is to lure Mike Davis up north.

On Gopher Illustrated it has a story about how junior guard Jacob Thomas wants to be a Gopher. He has flown so far under the national radar but is likely the best junior guard in the state and might be the best junior in the state. He is averaging 21.5 ppg and scored 41 against Cooper and Rodney Williams and 30 in his last game while Saul Smith was in attendance. I think he will be a very good player the problem is, in my opinion, whether he becomes a Gopher or not is out of his hands. It is in those of Cory Joseph. He is the younger brother of Devoe Joseph and by accounts might be the better of the two. He is more of a true point guard than Devoe. He is the point guard for the #3 high school team in the nation and along with an offer from the Gophers he has offers from Georgetown, Louisville and Marquette. If he heads to Minneapolis there won't be room for another guard, but if Joseph heads elsewhere you will likely see Thomas in a Gophers uniform come the Fall of 2010.

I mentioned in the previous post about Hopkins making a name for it self on the east coast over the weekend. Well, I wasn't just talking. They are now the #16 team in the nation and in it's coverage of the event listed Royce White as the most impressive player in the event which featured Lance Stephenson (#9 in nation) and Dexter Stickland (#17 in nation). I almost just want this season to end so we can see Royce in maroon and gold. He should come in next year and win Big Ten freshman of the year.

Stats of the Day
  • 0: Minnesota players in the Rivals Top 150 for 2010. There are 5 in the 2009 Top 150 and 2 in 2008. Tubby is going to have to look elsewhere for his recruits like he did in 2008.
  • 87 - 57 : The average score of a Hopkins game this season. When you average beating a team by 30 you need to find a harder challenge.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Baseball Fever and Updates

Gophers basketball delayed it a little but it finally has hit me. I've got baseball fever. February is the worst month in sports. Football is over, NBA and NHL are playing meaningless games, College Basketball is spent just hoping March will show up and same with Baseball. The three readers of this blog will notice a sharp turn in material once March hits. I love Gophers sports but I am married to baseball.

There is a lot of talk about the Twins signing Joe Crede. To me this is a no brainer. This isn't similar to Craig Monroe and Rondell White were we hope we hit the lottery. True he has not played a full season since 2006, but he will only be 31 in April and last year in only 335 ABs he hit 17 hrs. That is a home run every 20 at bats. For comparison Brendan Harris, the current 3rd baseman hit one every 62 at bats and superstar Justin Morneau only hit one every 27 at bats. That is pretty impressive for someone not healthy. In his last full healthy season he hit 30 hrs and batted .284. I think that would work in our lineup, especially since adding him would make Kubel or Delmon Young a 7 hitter or in some cases an 8 hitter. The only lineup weakness would be Punto at shortstop. Even if he does get hurt we do have insurance in Harris, Buscher and maybe Luke Hughes.

Gopher Monday Update

Despite all the doom and gloom surrounding the Gophers squad if the season ended today according to ESPN, they would be a 9 seed playing Dayton. There RPI is still 36 and while that is not great that is an RPI that gets them into the tournament. If they win their home games (Northwestern, Wisconsin, and Michigan) they will be in but a win at Michigan on Thursday will be nice.

Stats of the Day
  • .275 11 hrs 96 rbi: Combined production of Buscher and Harris last year with 652 at bats. In 335 at bats Crede went .248 17 hrs 55 rbi.
  • 41.2%: The Gophers shooting in Big Ten games this year. 2nd worse in Big Ten. Only team worse is Michigan at 39.6%.
  • 33.6%: 3-pt shooting by the Gophers in Big Ten games. 3rd worse in Big Ten. Michigan worst at 29.4%. I think we are in store for another ugly game on Thursday.
Video of the Day

While it is a great video and very funny it is truly humbling to know that a 7' 1" 325 37-year old man is a better dancer than I am or will ever be but enjoy Shaqtus.

YouTube - Shaq Dancing With JabbaWockeeZ! [HD]

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Penn State Game Review

I almost hit this one on the button. I predicted Penn State 67, Minnesota 63 and I was off by one point. So I can't say that I'm am surprised by the result. This is a team that is regressing to what they were supposed to be this year. A decent team that would be on the bubble. Slightly better than last year but not significantly, certainly not a top 25 team. That said while not playing well they still are in good shape to make the tournament. They need to finish 3-2 down the stretch and they have three games at home left.

In an interesting twist the player of the game is also the goat of the game. Devoe Joseph went berserk in the second half. He ended up with 23 points going 8-11 from the field and a whopping 7-8 from behind the arc. He simply could not miss. He became the goat when Talor Battle picked him clean and went down and made the layup to make it a 4 point lead with under a minute left. The last few minutes showed were Joseph is best served. He isn't able to create his own shot especially being guarded by someone as quick as Talor Battle. What he can do is come off screens. So those who think he should see more time at point than Nolen, I think he should see more time as the 2 guard than Westbrook who has disappeared averaging 4.5 ppg in the last 4 games.

This game once again showed the fatal flaw in the Gophers team this season. No one on the team is able to consistently create their own offense. If you take away Joseph's performance the Gophers went 12-38 or 31.6%. That is not going to win you road games. The Gophers can not shoot and no one can make some offense in the half-court. The biggest reason is that neither Iverson or Sampson has developed enough presence down low that the wings have to collapse down on them or double team opening up the wings. It will happen that they will dominate down low but it is not going to happen this year. Even if they make the tournament this team is currently able to make any noise in March, it will be nice to be in the tournament but this is not a sweet sixteen capable team.

The next game will be interesting because it is the same circumstances as this game. Michigan needs this game to keep the tournament hopes alive. The only change is that it is a little more important for the Gophers. If they lose this game they will have to win all 3 games at the Barn. If they win it gives them a little room to breathe.

Other News
  • Hopkins headed to New York this weekend to play in the NIKE Super Six. They dominated a Thomas Jefferson team from New York. It wasn't the best opponent but if you read this blog during the game Hopkins gained a lot of respect for not only themselves but Minnesota basketball. White dominated with 22 points. I think that Hopkins team could beat any high school team in the nation.
Stats of the Day
  • 27: Fouls committed by the Gophers. One major reason for the loss was that all our post players were in foul trouble and could not play aggressively like they normally do. It also allowed Penn State to make 21 free throws. It helped them whether the Joseph storm.
  • 28: Minutes played by Travis Busch a season high. This was a result of the other's foul trouble. While he played ok (4 points 5 rebounds) it is not a good sign when you get that much time out of Busch.
  • 30: Points scored by Gophers not named Joseph or Nolen. We had 9 other players play and they averaged 3.33 points per player. That is unacceptable and down the stretch it was clear the rest of the players were just hoping Joseph would save them and they were not even looking to do something offensively.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Penn State Game Preview

Minnesota Golden Gophers (19-5, 7-5) at Penn State Nittany Lions (17-8, 6-6)

This should be a very interesting game. The Gophers only need to go 3-3 down the stretch to make the tournament. They could even go 2-4 if they win a game in the Big Ten tournament. On the other hand Penn State needs this game. A loss at home and they can kiss the tournament goodbye unless they win the conference tournament. Here is Penn State's resume:

Wins to showcase:
  • at Michigan State 72 - 68
  • vs. Purdue 67 - 64
Losses to hide from:
  • vs. Rhode Island 72 - 77
  • vs. Temple 59 - 65
Previous Result
I think we can basically forget the previous result between these two teams. Bostick isn't likely to sweep in and get 19 points. I would also wager against the Gophers shooting 9-9 from behind the arc or shooting 62.7% all together. The Gophers played out of their mind and had there best shooting game of the year. That being said I do think the Gophers are the better team but this is Big Ten basketball and it doesn't always matter who is the better team.

Their are downtrodden Gopher fans who are depressed about the Gophers losing 4 of the past 7 and two of the wins being less than satisfying against the Hoosiers. It is worse for the few Nittany Lions basketball fans. They have lost the last 3 games all by double digits and have gone from in the tournament to needing to turn it up to get back in. The biggest issue is Talor Battle he is averaging 6.3 ppg in the three losses including 0 against Purdue. He is averaging 17.4 for the season. Al Nolen is not the guy you want to right the ship against so that favors the Gophers.


There are major factors that hurt the chances of the Gophers pulling this game out. They have not played well recently lacking intensity and offensive direction. Penn State desperately needs this game. If they lose this game their season is over. This is a must-win game for the Lions but this is not a must-win game for the Gophers. They still will need to match Penn State's intensity. The final major factor is that this game is on the road. The Gophers stink on the road. They can not shoot and have yet to play a complete game that wasn't at home or a neutral court. I think this is a game the Gophers can and maybe should win but I can't predict them to win until they show me something. I think this just means to much to Penn State.

Penn State 67, Minnesota 63

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


I know it is only Wednesday and I'm not dyslexic. It is Thank God For Indiana. Only Indiana would let us get away with playing the sloppy disinterested game we played on Wednesday. The Gophers gave the ball away 19 times. Indiana responded by turning the ball over 26 times. It was an absolutely brutal game and the Gophers looked nothing like a tournament team outside a run in the second half.

The player of the game is obviously Paul Carter. He put up 22 points, 6 rebs, 1 block and 2 steals. I've remarked before about his lack of shooting and this was evidence of what he can accomplish with his skills given a decent shot. He went 7-13 from the field and more impressively went 7-8 from the line. Until he develops an outside shot he needs to force the issue down low and get to the free throw line. He is actually a 72% free throw shooter.

The other player that needs to be mentioned is Devoe Joseph. He was the only player who played with any effort on both ends in the first half. He ended up with 9 points and 4 rebounds. He played alot as the off-guard with Nolen at the point and I think that is where he is at his best. He still struggles to run the half-court offense, but can play up-tempo, has a good shot and also has the ability to create his own shot. I would like to see him get 20+ minutes a game with half of it as the 2 guard. The next game is an important one at Penn State.

Other News
  • Royce White has been named to the Jordan Brand Classic which will be at the Madison Square Garden on April 18th on ESPN2. This game is not as big as the McDonald's All-American Game but this is a good indicator that he might be a McDonald's All-Star. Only one player (Lance Stephenson) out of the top 10 players on Rivals will not be attending. Even if he doesn't make the McDonald's Game it will be great to see him against the nation's best on national tv.
  • Brett Farve has retired again. I will believe he is truly retired when it is September and he is not on a team. I think it is more that he doesn't want to play for the Jets than he doesn't want to play. I think if the right team came along he would put on the uniform because he has to feed his almighty ego that took a hit by his sup-standard play in New York.
Stats of the Day
  • 14: Steals by the Gophers against Indiana. Nolen lead the team with 4 steals.
  • 24: Points off turnovers by the Gophers. That needs to be better off of 26 turnovers.
  • 8: Points scored by the 3 leading scorers (Westbrook 4, Nolen 4, Johnson 0). They average a combined 29.4 ppg. They shot a combined 2-16. The biggest problem with the team is a lack of a superstar who can put us on his back consistently.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Indiana Game Preview

Minnesota Golden Gophers (18-5, 6-5) Vs. Indiana Hoosiers (6-16, 1-9)

I saw a post by a Gopher fan on CBS Sports that said with the loss to Ohio State this game became a must win. What riveting insight. Whenever the last place team comes into your house it has to be a must win game. When would it ever be ok to lose this game? That said Indiana is coming in at a perfect time with the Gophers coming off two tough losses. Here is Indiana's resume:

Wins to Showcase:
  • Vs. TCU 66 - 56
  • Vs. Iowa 68 - 60
Losses to Hide From:
  • Vs. Lipscomb 69 - 74
  • Vs. Northeastern 42 - 55
Previous Result
The news gets even better because Indiana's leading scorer Devan Dumes has been suspended indefinitely for throwing 3 elbows in the game against Michigan State. He scored 19 points against the Gophers in the previous meeting and is averaging 13.8 ppg on the season. Taking his points out the Hoosiers only average 47.7 ppg. The Gophers conversely average 69.1 ppg. This should be a cake walk. The previous game was close because the Gophers played terrible but it was obvious still that Indiana does not have the talent to compete in the Big Ten. The do always play hard and will give their best effort but they don't award victories soley based on effort.

Interesting Things to Watch
  • Blake Hoffarber: We saw a glimpse of the old Blake Hoffarber in the last game with him busting out for 19 points. It was always thought he would just need to shoot out of the slump and it will be interesting to see if he has come out the other side. An unathletic team like Indiana would seem like a good opponent to keep the good times rolling.
  • Ralph Sampson: This should be a good matchup for Ralph as evidenced by the 13 and 8 he got against them last time. I would look for a possible double-double as he looks to get back on the right track after back to back unimpressive games.

This game should not be close as while Indiana brings the effort it is harder to get that going without the home crowd behind you. They have played teams close at home but have been blown out on the road( 28 at Michigan State, 24 at Ohio State and 31 at Illinois). I don't look for a blowout of quite that proportion but this should remind us more of the Non-Conference schedule. In fact here is a list of teams we played in the non-conference that have a higher RPI than Indiana's 181 : Colorado State (168), Bowling Green (149), Cornell (106), North Dakota State (95), and Virginia (100)

Gophers 75, Indiana 59

Monday, February 9, 2009

News and Updates

  • This broke over the weekend but I haven't made time to discuss it yet but Alex Rodriguez tested positive for steroids in 2003 before the testing program started. He has now admitted that he used steroids from 2001 - 2003 with the Texas Rangers. It was interesting that even those who don't like A-Rod (and there are plenty who don't) were hoping he would break Bonds' Home Run record to clean it up. That will not be the case. It will be interesting to see how he gets treated. It appears clear that players like McGwire and Palmerio won't get into the hall, but it will be interesting how bigger stars like Clemens, Bonds and A-Rod come up when it is there turn. I think it helps A-Rod that he did admit to it unlike Bonds, Clemens and McGwire who either still deny or just won't talk about it.
  • Also if this truly was the only period when A-Rod took steroids I just don't get it. Why did he feel it was necessary? When he signed with the Rangers he became the highest paid player ever. Did he want to get more money? What was the incentive for him to take steroids? For Bonds it was clear that he didn't like being overshadowed by McGwire and Sosa but A-Rod was a star. I can understand those mid-level players taking it to get a nice contract and a job but why would already superstars take steroids. I don't get it.
  • The excitement that the Timberwolves had started building in 2009 came to a screeching halt yesterday when Al Jefferson tore his ACL and will miss the rest of the season. I don't see how the Wolves can compete with anyone if he is out. The positives is that we should get a better lottery pick and this should help the development of Kevin Love as he should be the starting Power Forward.
  • Here is you Monday Gopher update: They have fallen out of both polls as expected losing twice this week. The are ranked 30th in both polls. In the latest ESPN Bracketology they only fell one seed to a 6 seed. We also are still 25th in the RPI. It feels bad to lose 2 in a row but it has not hurt our standing in the slightest.
Stats of the Day
  • 156: Home Runs Alex Rodriguez hit in the 3 years with Texas (a home run friendly park). He hit 125 in Seattle (a pitcher friendly park) in the 3 years before and 119 in New York the three years after.
  • 24 and 12: Jefferson's PPG and Rebs since January. The Wolves were 11-8 in that stretch.
  • 180: The RPI of the Gophers next opponent: Indiana. Right above them at 179 is an 11-10 Murray State team.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Not the Best Weekend

The Gophers basketball team has lost back to back games and the hockey team has lost 4 in a row and is tumbling down the standings. That said the two teams have very different outlooks from here on.

The basketball team is now 6-5 in the conference in 5th place and will not be ranked next week. It doesn't look good but it isn't that significant. Both games they lost are not upsets. It would have been nice to win one but before the season looking at the schedule you would pick them to lose both games and I did pick them to lose both games. The good news is the schedule sets up very favorably. Only one game (at Illinois) looks hard to win but the rest are very winnable. It looks like they should be able to get to 11-7 fairly easily. They will get a nice bounce back game with 6-16 Indiana coming to the Barn.

The hockey team is in a free fall and needs to turn it around or they might miss the NCAA's. They have lost 4 in a row and have fallen from 1st place in the conference to 6th. I would say the schedule sets up favorably also but they were swept by Mankato so the opponent isn't an issue. The problem is very easy to point to - Alex Kangas. He has a save percentage on the year of 89.8% down from 93% last year. He is 9th in the WCHA in save percentage. The Gophers outplayed Wisconsin in both games and outshot Wisconsin 82-53 on the weekend yet lost both games. I can not remember him stopping a decent scoring chance all weekend. The difference was the Badgers scored on every decent and sometimes not even decent chances. I would look for Kent Patterson to start on Friday and might play both games next weekend. The need the goaltending if they are going to turn it around.

Stats of the Day
  • 6-10: Blake Hoffarber from 3 in the Ohio State game. I would like to see him do it in back to back games before I declare him back in business. It was good to see and remember what he can provide for this team.
  • 84% : Alex Kangas' save percentage in the last four games, all losses
  • 36.3%: Paul Carter's shooting percentage for the season second worst on the team. That is not good for someone who plays down low and doesn't even shoot from the outside. He is very athletic and plays with great energy but he needs to improve his shot if he is going to make a serious contribution to this team. We give Damian Johnson a hard time for his ability to shoot but he is shooting 49.4%.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Ohio State Game Preview

#19 Minnesota Golden Gophers (18-4, 6-4) at Ohio State Buckeyes (16-5, 6-4)

This will be an interesting game. I wish I could watch it but I will be at the Gopher hockey game against the Badgers. It will be interesting to see how the Gophers respond to the beat down in East Lansing. It will also be interesting because the Gophers and the Buckeyes are very evenly matched. Neither is the elite like Purdue and Michigan State but they are very good and could beat anyone on any day. Here is Ohio State's resume:

Wins to showcase:
  • vs. Purdue 80 - 72
  • at Notre Dame 67 - 62
Losses to hide from:
  • vs. West Virginia 48 - 76
  • at Illinois 49 - 67
Previous Result
  • Minnesota 68, Ohio State 59
Two of Ohio State's big wins aren't looking as good now as Miami and Notre Dame seem to be headed to the NIT and not the top 25 teams they were supposed to be. In the previous game it was close until a late run by the Gophers in the first half gave them a big lead they did not relinquish. Ohio State has gotten better since then. The highly anticipated freshman are coming into their own. BJ Mullens is averaging 10.9 ppg and William Buford has 15.2 ppg in Big Ten games. They combined for 11 points in the first meeting.

That said I think RSIII can handle Mullens like Tisdale and unlike Suton. When Ohio State is shooting well like they have been lately they are hard to beat so the key to Minnesota will play tough D and not allow an easy shot. The problem is that it is on the road. While the Value City Arena is not intimidating with its fans sitting and thinking about next year's football team but the Gophers have yet to play well in a true road game. Until they do so I can't in good conscience pick the Gophers to win.


Ohio State 77, Minnesota 73

P.S. As I'm writing this the Gopher hockey team is down 2-0 in the second period despite out shooting the Badgers 21-8. It is becoming increasingly frustrating to be a Gopher hockey fan.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Well That Was Interesting

That folks is what it looks like when a Final Four caliber team plays angry. MSU was an absolute buzz saw. Even if the Gophers played great (which they happened to do the opposite of) they still would have lost by double digits. Michigan State was fast and aggressive on both ends of the court and got and did whatever they wanted to do.

There was nothing the Gophers did well in this game. They shot 29%, 25% from 3. They turned the ball 15 times and only had 6 assists. They were outrebounded 38-21 (although it is hard to win when you are missing and the other team never does). There is nothing the Gophers can hang there hat on except that they played even in the second half when the game was over and that Devoe Joseph made some shots.

While this game was extremely hard to watch, in the larger picture this game means little. A loss to Michigan State on the road does nothing to hurt our NCAA chances or seeding. It ends our chances to win the Big Ten but those chances were never real. It was just a bad game. The Gophers aren't the only ones to have letdowns on the road. Duke lost to Clemson by 27 and Wake Forest also lost to Miami by 27 last night. If 'elite' teams can get blown out on the road it is ok that Minnesota lost to a Top 15 team on the road. The difference is how they bounce back. Duke and Wake will come back and play very well in there next game just like Michigan St. bounced back from a loss to Penn St. to lay the wood to Minnesota. This just makes the Ohio State game more important.

Stats of the Day
  • 17 - 16: Points scored by Durrell Summers in the first half versus points scored by the entire Gophers team in the first half. He ended with 21 points in 21 minutes.
  • 32.6%: 3-pt shooting percentage for the Gophers in Big Ten games. Only Illinois and Michigan are worse.
  • 39th: The ranking of the Gophers recruiting class by Rivals. Last years was 17th.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Your 2009 Gopher Football Recruiting Class

This class is not the wow and top 25 class than Brewster brought in last year but there is talent in the class. There won't be a lot of contribution next year but over the 4 years they should make their presence felt. Here is a summary of the commits so far:

Hayo Carpenter - JC WR 5' 11" 175 - Scout 5 stars Rivals 4 stars
Was recruited by everyone. Rivals has him the 13 best JC player in the nation. He runs a sub 4.4 40 and should make the biggest impact next year. Should fit in nicely as the slot receiver next to Decker and Brandon Green.

Michael Carter - #12 CB 5' 11" 154 - Scout 3 stars Rivals 4 stars
This was the signing day surprise. He had committed to West Virginia at the All-American Bowl but changed to the Gophers on signing day. He is the cousin of Gopher standout Tyrone Carter. He needs to get into the weight room but is very talented and could see time as a nickel back this year.

Hasan Lipscomb - #24 RB 5' 11" 201 - Scout 3 stars Rivals 4 stars
He has kind of gone under the radar but he is the recruit I am most excited about. He runs a 4.4 40 and has good size. He played in the shadow of QB Russel Shepard (#3 player in nation) in high school but I think he will come in and back up Duane Bennett as a freshman and may over take him.

Ra'Shede Hageman - #6 TE 6' 6" 251 - Scout 4 stars Rivals 3 stars
He is a physically imposing player. He already is NCAA TE size ready. He is also very athletic and has a very impressive highlight reel. He was recruited by every school including Ohio State and Oklahoma. He might not play much as a freshman learning the system but he should continue the tradition of Ben Utecht and Matt Spaeth.

Matt Garin - #21 DE 6' 4" 220 - Scout 4 stars Rivals 3 stars
A recruit who has moved up a lot this year and has started to get a buzz around him. He looks to have a bright future. Will likely be redshirted to add weight or possibly become an outside linebacker.

Moses Alipate - #16 QB 6' 5" 230 - Scout 3 stars Rivals 3 stars
Has the prototypical size for a QB. Didn't put up huge stats in high school but played for a terrible team and never had time to show off his abilty. There is talk he will change positions but I think he will come in a as a QB. Will be redshirted and will be behind Weber and Gray.

Kendall Gregory-McGhee - #35 Ath 6' 4" 214 - Scout 3 stars Rivals 3 stars
It is unknown where he will play at the next level. He has good size and is very athletic. Could play TE or LB. Will be redshirted to help him find his best position.

Josh Campion - #41 OT 6' 5" 265 - Scout 3 stars Rivals 3 stars
One of many Offensive lineman that were added to bulk the weak spot in the current Gophers team. Will be redshirted to bulk up.

Bryant Allen - #52 Ath 6' 0" 160 - Scout 3 stars Rivals 3 stars
Very good athlete who played QB in high school but will need to change positions. Will likely be a WR but could also play CB. There is talk that he will also walk-0n to the Gophers basketball team. He averages 25 ppg and is a favorite to be Mr. Basketball in Missouri. Won't be a starter but could see time on special teams and at WR.

Kerry Lewis - #41 CB 5' 9" 178 - Scout 3 stars Rivals 3 stars
Will likely play safety in college. With the departure of Tremaine Brock, he might be able to compete for playing time but likely won't see much of the field next year.

Joey Searcy - #43 DT 6' 1" 276 - Scout 2 stars Rivals 3 stars
He might be a sleeper. He might move over to DE but might see time as a DT on third downs.

Brent Singleton - #58 OLB 6' 0" - Scout 3 stars Rivals 3 stars
He will be a safety in college. He de-committed from South Carolina to head to Minneapolis. Won't see playing time as a freshman.

Ed Olson - #67 OT 6' 7" 285 - Scout 3 stars Rivals 3 stars
He has big potential. He could be a back-up this season and should be starting at some point in his career. His brother has already committed to the Gophers as a sophomore and might be the better lineman.

Victor Keise
- #98 WR 6' 1" 160 - Scout 2 stars Rivals 3 stars
One of the first commits to the Gophers. Decent speed. Will need to add weight and strength. Won't see time as a freshman.

Kenneth Watkins - #42 S 6' 0" 185 - Scout 2 stars Rivals 3 stars
Might also play CB but has good speed and might develop. Will redshirt next season.

Brooks Michel - #94 OT 6' 7" 280 - Scout 3 stars Rivals 3 stars
Has very good size and frame. Will add size and likely be plus 300 lbs.

Jeff Wills - JC OT 6' 7" 350 - Scout 2 stars Rivals 3 stars
Not much is known about this prospect but his size gets people talking. He is the guy brought in to show the committment to the power running game. Will be competing for a starting spot on the line.

Eric Jacques - #61 OG 6' 2" 280 - Scout 1 star Rivals 3 stars
Came with Michael Carter in a package on signing day. Did not recieve other similar offers. Will defintely be red-shirted.

Nick Rengel - Ath 6' 3" 225 - Scout 2 stars Rivals 2 stars
Will likely be a DE or Outside Linebacker in college. Has some abilty and will be red-shirted as a freshman.

Dan Orseske - #32 K 6' 3" 195 - Scout 2 stars Rivals 2 stars
Might also punt. Will compete with Eric Ellestad for the kicking job. Will likely be kicking or punting for the team next year.

There it is so far. There may be some late additions as the signing period continues for a couple weeks. Some players might not get in or otherwise not make it to campus by September. I will later show how this class stacks up with other classes in the nation.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

MSU Game Preview

#19 Minnesota Golden Gophers (18-3, 6-3) at #13 Michigan State Spartans (17-4, 6-2)

I am doing this preview now because tomorrow will be devoted to signing day and the Gophers incoming recruiting class. If you would have asked me to predict this game after MSU came in and stomped the Gophers at Williams I would have said MSU would walk, but a lot has change and this could be a very interesting game. A win by Minnesota would be huge and would punch their ticket to the NCAA tournament. Also with Purdue's loss at Ohio State a win at Michigan State would put the Gophers in first place. If you were to predict the Gophers would be playing in February for 1st place you could have won a lot of money. Here is a review of the Spartans:

Wins to Showcase:
  • at Texas 67 - 63
  • vs Kansas 75 - 62
Losses to Hide From:
  • vs Northwestern 63 - 70
  • vs Maryland 62 - 80
Previous Result
There assets are still the same. They have a lot of talent and are one of the best rebounding teams in the nation. However, this is an extremely difficult game because there are things in the Gophers favor and things going against them. I will show how it lays out.

Things in Minnesota's Favor
  • Raymar Morgan is sick. He has walking pneumonia and has been ineffective for the last 5 games. They are 3-2 in those five games. He is a 1st-Team All Big Ten player when healthy. They miss him a lot.
  • Time to prepare. The Gophers haven't played since Thursday giving them 5 days to prepare. Michigan State played Sunday and has only had two days to prepare. You only need to turn to the Louisville game to see what can happen if Tubby has significantly more time to prepare.
  • Ralph Sampson III: When Michigan State came to town he was still a timid jump shooter who couldn't rebound. He had 0 points, 0 rebounds and 4 fouls in 10 minutes against MSU. He has developed into the force that we thought he would become and I don't think the last two games are a fluke like the Mid-January Devron Bostick. His strong defensive presence and improved rebounding will be crucial to the Gophers success.
Things Going Against the Gophers
  • Talent: Even without Raymar Morgan the Spartans have far more talent than the Gophers. Kailin Lucas, Goran Sutton, Delvon Roe, Chris Allen and others are all big time talents with various levels of NBA futures.
  • It is a road game: The Gophers have yet to play a good game on the road. They have either been bailed out by choking (Wisconsin) or complete lack of talent (Iowa, Indiana, Colorado State). They have been trailing by double digits at some point in every road game so far this year. If they are down by double digits to MSU the game will be over.
  • Tom Izzo: They are coming of a very disappointing loss to Penn State and should be playing at home with great urgency and intensity. Add to that the level of respect Izzo has for the Gophers. If you were to ask him who the best coach in the Big Ten is, he will say without hesitating that it is Tubby. He will make sure that this team is ready and will not come out flat.

I have been contemplating all week whether Minnesota could actually pull of the upset in East Lansing. I think they have a very good chance given the circumstances. I think the most important match up is Nolan vs. Lucas. In the first game Lucas schooled Nolen to the tune of 24 points. When MSU struggles it is because Lucas is struggling with his shot and control. If Nolen can force him to put up bad shots and play out of control the Gophers can win this. Their is a possibility but a lot has to go right for the Gophers to come out and I have yet to be impressed with them on the road this year and won't pick them to win a road game until I am. MSU should come out ready and while I think this game will be closer than the one at the Barn I think MSU will pull it out.

Michigan State 79, Minnesota 72

Monday, February 2, 2009

Super Thoughts and Gopher Updates

  • That was a great Super Bowl game, I only have a limited number of Super Bowls I remember but that was the most enjoyable so far. It started slow but what a 4th quarter. The best part was that it was decided by touchdowns and not field goals. There is no comparison between a team setting up to bring out a soccer player to kick a 47 yard field goal and the two Fitzgerald touchdowns and the Holmes touchdown.
  • There is a lot of debate about where the Holmes catch ranks all-time. Like I said I have a limited history but I have it as the best catch of all-time. This article makes the similar argument that a great play should be in the biggest stage and win the game. Unlike Tyree's catch last year this won the game.
  • Vikings fans have always been told that we just need a QB to manage the game given our team to succeed. This Super Bowl proved that is the biggest myth this side of Troy Williamson being Randy Moss. Pittsburgh had the best defense in the NFL only allowing 1 team to have more than 300 yards all season, still they needed Ben all season. They had a total 7 games in which they came back in the 4th Quarter to win. He manages the game for awhile and doesn't put up great numbers but is there when they need him. No matter how good the team is there always comes a point when you don't need a player to make a good play they need them to make a great play and Big Ben does that. A true managing QB is Joe Flacco and he went down to Pitt because he couldn't get it done when they needed him. The Vikings will not go to the Super Bowl until they get a real QB.
  • The Gophers are back into the AP 25 with a bang and are currently ranked 19. They are ranked 22 in the RPI. In the latest ESPN bracketology they are a 5 seed playing BYU. This all is nice but it means little this week because a lot will change this week. We could easily go 0-2 and drop out of the Top 25. Even if we go 1-1 we should be moving significantly up depending on which game we win.
  • The Gophers did receive a bit of good news in that it seems likely that Raymar Morgan will miss the game because he is still affected by what has been diagnosed as walking pneumonia. This is a big deal. He has been affected by this in their last 5 games. They have gone 3-2 in those games losing at home to Northwestern and Penn State. In their 3 upset losses (Mayland, Northwestern, Penn State) they have gotten a total of 5 points from Morgan. With a healthy Morgan we can't win the game, without him we have a chance.
Stats of the Day
  • 546: Yards by Larry Fitzgerald in 4 playoff games. He also had 7 touchdowns.
  • 3301 yrds 17 td 15 int vs. 3213yds 21 td 17 int: Roethlisberger's stats vs. the Vikings QB's this year. Vikings QBs had more tds and only 100 less yards but who would you rather have leading the Vikings.
  • 15.4: PPG by Raymar Morgan in MSU victories while he was healthy.