Friday, January 6, 2017

Path to the Tournament

I can't believe I'm saying this, but the Gophers have a clear, and relatively simple, to an NCAA bid at this point.  I know, I know.  It's the Gophers, nothing is too dreadful to be out of their reach.  But at 14-2, with (according to ESPN) the #5 RPI and #9 strength of schedule the computer numbers are rock solid.  The SoS won't change much since it's all Big Ten play from here, and the RPI will only change dramatically if they go into freefall, which torpedo their chances anyway.  Those are great, great numbers.  The only other teams top 10 in both metrics are Villanova, Florida, and Kentucky.  Whoever put this schedule did a great job, but the team had to come through and they certainly have to this point.

14-2.  Who would have guessed.  And of the fourteen wins they have one over a Top 25 team (Arkansas), three more over Top 50 teams (Purdue, UT-Arlington, Vandy), and three more over Top 100 teams (Northwestern, Arkansas State, Lafayette).  Since the two losses are both against top 50 teams, things look pretty good.  Some of those RPIs will probably shift a bucket here and there, but make no mistake right now, this is a bullet proof resume.

Unfortunately right now only means a good start, and there is a whole big rest of the season left.  I believe the Gophers need 9 conference wins at this point to guarantee a bid.  Eight might do it as well with the computer numbers, but nine would be solid lead pipe lock status.  So let's see how we get there, shall we?

Looking at kenpom, since spreads tend to be pretty close to his estimates or at least within a few points, the Gophers will be favored in 3 games by double digits.  Call these the gimmies:  home vs. Iowa, home vs. Penn State, and home vs. Nebraska.  Those games are far later in the season than I'd like since I'd prefer to bang them out now rather than sweat them when they might become must wins, but those are three easy games.

There are seven more games (7!!!) they should be favored in:  vs. Ohio State, @Penn State, vs. Maryland, @Illinois, @Rutgers, vs. Indiana, and vs. Michigan.  If they take care of the three gimmies, and man, I really do wish those games weren't at the tail end of the season, they only have to go 4-3 in this group.  4-3!

The remaining games are the two vs. Wisconsin, @ Michigan State, @ Maryland, and @ Ohio State and the Gophers have shown they can win on the road already this year, so none of those are out of the realm of possibility.

Let's look at this in even a simpler way.  Kenpom also gives a % chance of victory.  Even if the Gophers only win the games he pegs them at 70% or greater, that still gets them to 8 conference wins, and leaves nine other games to pick up one win - just one!

There are plenty of red flags if you dig into their advanced stats but I am choosing to ignore that now because they have a really, really simple path to make the tournament and they are looking really, really good and are really, really fun.  In case you can't tell, yes, I've bought in.  That never ends well.  Hold on to your butts.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Gophers Lose. Sports are stupid.

I was just going to toss out a couple tweets, but this is probably slightly longer than a tweet, although it won't be the huge word vomit type I post I used to litter this blog with.  Couple things I didn't like about the game, besides the soul crushing loss.

-  The pick and roll.  It flat out didn't work, and they went to it over and over and over and over and over again.  The Spartans hard hedged/doubled the ball-handler every single time, and I can't remember a single time the roller got the ball.  I haven't rewatched because I'm not a weirdo, but it's bizarre that they never hit the roller on a single pick and roll.  Even if Michigan State covered the roller with help defense perfectly there should have been a skip pass that was memorable.

The only success they had with the pick and roll was when the ball handler would go the opposite way from the pick and get to the rim.  I do remember this working with more than one of the guards a few times, but the success rate was just overall brutal.  The team needs to switch things up, and use the pick and roll maybe to start the play, but with some kind of pick/screen action away from the ball to kick start things.  This offense flat out did not work against the Spartans defense.

-  Partially because of the bad offense, and partially because they screwed up like, every single fast break, the assists dropped off in this game.  11 assists on 20 made baskets, or 55%, below their season number of 62% (after this game).  May not seem like much of a drop, but the prior games were 73%, 69%, 71%, and 72% and it seemed like the offense was humming.  So this game was a bit of a fucking record scratch.

-  Where was Springs?  He played 17 minutes but I swear I hardly saw him in the second half or overtime.  I now he's not the greatest, but he's shown he can light it up.  If he's off he has little value and shouldn't play, but he only took two shots and the one he made was a bit of a tough one on a real quick catch and shoot.  On a night where the offense mostly sucked, maybe giving your streakiest shooter more of a chance is a good idea?

-  Reggie Lynch.  Cut the shit.  11 minutes due to constant - CONSTANT - foul trouble.  He's the most game changing player on this team and the team is totally different on both ends of the floor when he's in the game.  Eleven god damn minutes.  Knock it off.  Bakary Konate has turned into a much better back-up than I expected, and he actually did a nice job on whoever that fat guy was who kept scoring, but Lynch is the most important player on this team.  Eleven minutes.  Stop being dumb.

-  I think that's it.  I thought both plays at the end of games with chances to win were fine.  Shots didn't go in.  Free throws sucked, and if we counted up the number of missed front ends of 1-and-1s maybe I'd feel different, but they shot 68.9% in this game, basically their season number (69.2%) and the overall college basketball number (69.6%).  The real problem was the terrible second half offense.  Be more interesting.  And cut the shit with the weave to start every possession.  It's not doing anything but wasting time.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Well. Here we go.

(I'm writing this today because if they lose to Arkansas State everything goes to shit anyway)

Against nearly everyone's expectations, this year's Gopher team is sitting at 11-1 and is in position to sit on the NCAA bubble all season long.  They rank a respectable 46 in kenpom's rankings, which puts them at #7 in the conference ahead of Michigan State and Maryland, among others.  And, I mean, there's a lot of good wins here (though no great ones).

UT-Arlington (#66) - The big warning before the game was this wasn't some typical hyphen school, and they've lived up to the hype with road wins over Texas and St. Mary's.

St. Johns (#99) - They've been completely inconsistent this year, but they did just blow out Syracuse, who might be terrible, but they're a top 100 team so I'm putting them in here.

Arkansas (#44) - It's still the Razorbacks only loss, and they've beaten four top 101 teams.

Vanderbilt (#76) - There's a chance they're really bad, but again, top 100!

Add in Lafayette, Northern Illinois, Arkansas State, and Georgia Southern who are all in the top 160 and this has been the best non-conference season I can remember in a few years.  Last year they had exactly 1 win in the top 100 in non-conference (Clemson). The year before that was also one (Georgia).  In 2014 they had just two.  You have to go back to 2013 to find better non-conference results, when they had five wins over Top 100 teams.  What happened that year?  They beat Michigan State at home in the Big Ten opener and went on to make the NCAA Tournament (and won a game!).  Which brings us to Tuesday.

Once again, the Gophers open at home vs. the Spartans, and this is a game they absolutely need to win if we're serious about making the NCAA Tournament.  Michigan State is ranked #53 at kenpom, and most likely the Gophers will be a short favorite.  The Spartans are 8-5, which is slightly deceiving because they've played a hellacious schedule, but also not deceiving because they haven't beaten any of their top opponents other than Wichita State (#25).  They do have three top 100 wins, but also come in with a bad loss to Northeastern.  This isn't a gimme, but it's a game the Gophers can and should win.

The biggest variable in this game will be Miles Bridges, a much hyped freshman who has been out with an injury, missing the last five games for the Spartans.  He leads the team in both scoring (16.6 ppg) and rebounding (8.8 rpg) and is really, really good.  Obviously this game is much easier if he's out, and I'm looking for easy (tell your sister hi).

But really, this game isn't about Michigan State.  It's about me getting sucked into believing in a Minnesota sports team for the one millionth time, which has resulted in heartbreak about 99% of the time.  I'm trying my best to hold out on any sort of NCAA hopes until after this game, which basically means my entire sports winter is riding on this one stupid game.  Sports are dumb.  Go Gophers.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Gophers vs. Florida State Live Blog

Well I've been pleasantly surprised by this team so far.  Time to find out just how far that will stretch.  They're 9.5 point underdogs here so I'm not expecting a win, but I want to see something good.  Unlike the Southern Illinois game which reminded me A LOT of last year.  Let's not do that again.

19:10 - These baby blue uniforms for FSU.  Come on.

18:24 - Florida State with an aggressive switching scheme on defense.  I like this.  The Gophers need to be able to handle it.

17:08 - FSU 3, Gophers 0.  Not much to say at this point.  The Gophers are all falling back on the shot attempts so there isn't even an attempt at an offensive rebound.  Wonder if that's intentional.

16:34 - Murphy hits two free throws to make it 5-2. He's got a ton of arc on the ball, almost exaggerated even.  Obviously he's worked on his free throws.  Hopefully the rest of team has as well.

14:50 - 7-7 after a ridiculous Coffey 3-point play.  Gophers are pressuring the back court and then falling back into a zone.  I don't remember them zoning much this year, but I drink a lot and lack a significant attention span.

13:12 - 13-12 FSU leads a pretty ugly game so far.  Seminoles basically daring the Gopher roll man to beat them and Lynch hasn't done anything with it yet.

11:59 - Speaking of Lynch, guess who just picked up his dumb second foul?  Which means the Gophers now have to battle FSU's insane size with either undersized inexperience with Curry, or sheer incompetence in Konate.  Could be both!

10:59 - FSU goes with the Tubby Smith style line change.  What could go wrong?

10:43 - FSU up 17-12 after two free throws.  Gophers entire offense right now consists of pick and rolls initiated 40 feet from the basket.  That's not a good thing.

7:54 - 21-20 FSU.  Gophers seem to have found some offensive rhythm using good ball movement.  Even Springs seems to be waiting to find his shot when he's open, rather than doing his chucker thing.  This version of Springs would be a valuable cog off the bench.  FSU's size a big issue for the Gophers right now.  Five offensive rebounds on eight missed shots is unacceptable,  but the biggest problem is when FSU runs a pick and roll the defender on the roller man is coming out to high to double, giving the roller a way to easy path to get deep into the paint.  This is a problem.

6:41 - Murphy, Coffey, and Lynch now all on the bench with two fouls.  Gophers down 1.  Big stretch coming here.

6:05 - Konate hits two free throws to tie it up at 24.  Definite positive from this game is the Free Throw shooting.  Looks like the team identified the weakness (which wasn't exactly difficult) and did something about it.

5:17 - 22 fouls so far.  Refs are a BIT tight in this one.

2:22 - McBrayer 3 to give the Gophers a one point lead.  They aren't exactly looking great, but they're doing enough.  Like your mom.

0:00 - Gophers lead 33-31 at half.  Impressive.  Not that it was an impressive half of basketball, considering the Gophers committed 10 turnovers and 14 fouls while allowing 7 offensive rebounds and shooting under 30%.  That's ugly.  There's no way they should be leading, but a couple of interesting surprises have them ahead.  First is the free throw shooting - Gophers 15 for 20 at the half.  In a game where the refs are calling a ton of fouls that's extra important (FSU is 12-18).  And speaking of fouls, the Gophers lost Lynch, Coffey, and Murphy for huge chunks of the half with 2 each meaning Konate got a lot of run and man, I have to admit, he was good.  He hit four our of five free thows, grabbed four rebounds, a block, and a steal with only one turnover and solid defense all around.  I can't stress how important his play was this half.

20:00 - Barring a massive collapse and a 20 point loss I'm not sure how I come out of this game unhappy.  Oh I know.  They lead by 6 with 30 seconds left and lose while not getting a shot off in the final seconds.  That would do it.

18:35 - FSU coming out with a LOT of energy, scoring all three of their possessions so far with their guards attacking the rim.  This is what they should have been doing the whole game.  Gophers need to force their offense back on the perimeter.

16:04 - Fourth foul on stupid Coffey.  FSU up 42-38.  Their guards are so good at getting into the paint and hitting tough jumpers from there.  It's a completely different Seminole team so far this half, and I can't even blame the Gopher defense.  This is just good players being good.

13:13 - FSU running and scoring, Gophers missing everything.  Currently a 9 point FSU lead.  Finally showing that they're the better team.  Might be different with Coffey, but he's gonna end up with like, under 10 minutes played in this game.

12:05 - FSU dunk after an Ojo block to make it 52-39.  Here's the thing to watch for.  On that Ojo block that basically served as an outlet pass nobody rotated back.  McBrayer drove, Ojo blocked his floater out to nearly mid court, and the two players the furthest down the court were both Seminoles.  That's the kind of little thing that killed this team the last couple years - the little fundamentals.  Haven't seen too much of that this year so far, but interesting how it suddenly shows up right as the team is starting to lose any control of this game.

10:45 - Mason's inability to hit free throws is a problem.

7:52 - FSU 58, Minnesota 49.  I'm probably out of things to say.  FSU clearly the better team, and the Gophers hung tough despite playing poorly and being undermanned due to fouls.  This game gives me hope, but a win over Vandy is now even more important.  Bye.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

4-0!

So the Gophers are 4-0.  It's probably nothing more than building up some false hope and this team's upside is still an NIT invite, but 4-0 feels good, particularly since two of the wins were against teams that aren't probably completely terrible.  With three of the next four games against teams that pose an actual challenge (Arkansas, at Florida State, vs. Vandy in South Dakota) this seems like a good time to check in.  I was at the game against Louisiana (but had my two weiner kids with me so it was hard to pay too much attention), half watched a replay of the game against UTSA on the computer while I was at work, and saw most of the St. Johns game on TV.  Needless to say, I'm clearly qualified to have opinions.  Here are some of those:


1.  I LIKE this team.  The last couple of seasons were made extra tough because there were just too many unlikable players.  I don't mean as people because I don't know any of these guys, but to watch.  From Carlos Morris to Kevin Dorsey to Bakary Konate to Gaston Diedhiou to Joey King to wondering what in the hell happened to DeAndre Matheiu it just wasn't a fun experience.  But I really like this year's team thus far.  I've always said the best college team you could put together would be four mostly interchangeable athletic guards/wings with one defensively dominant big man, and one of those wing types a go to scorer.  I'm getting way ahead of myself I know, and I don't know who will be the scorer guy, but I like this team's makeup and they're fun to watch.

2.  Reggie Lynch is amazing.  I love this guy.  Did you know he's ninth in the country in block rate right now?  That's top 10!  When is the last time the Gophers had an actual rim protector like this? Jerry Holman?  And if you watch him he's more than just a shot blocker, he has an understanding of help defense and can handle a pick and roll and has a good knack for being in the right place.  He's also got an extremely ugly hook shot that goes in once in a while, and I did see him drive to the rim once. Plus he's my son's favorite player.  Only because he wears #22, which is also Andrew Wiggins number, but still, that helps.  Big fan.

3.  Also a big fan of Dupree McBrayer this year.  He somewhere acquired some swagger, befitting his NYC point guard pedigree, and has seen an uptick in shots, shooting percentage, and scoring and his body language just screams team leader out there.  He's putting up pretty amazing numbers efficiency wise right now and doing it while still not committing turnovers which is not what usually happens when you see an increase in usage so I'm expected a bit of a regression at some point.  Still, even if the real Dupree this year is somewhere halfway between last year and what we've seen this year that's a nice leap in a sophomore season.  Plus he somehow manages to be both herky jerky and smooth at the same time, something only a lefty can do for some reason.

4.  The freshmen have looked really, really good.  In the first couple games Amir Coffey was clearly used to being able to do whatever he wanted on the court and forced a few things that don't work against college level defense, but you could see he was on a higher level than most players.  That finally all came together against St. John's with that incredible 30 point night.  He's done a good job so far balancing being the best player on the floor (if not yet technically it won't be long) with not doing too much since that first game.  Hopefully that continues.  And how good is Eric Curry?  He's the one guy on the team where I want to see him be more aggressive.  More than once he's had an opportunity to look for his own shot and just passed the ball of without even exploring that option.  Be aggressive Eric! You're good!

5.  I've been so busy raving about all our shiny new toys I haven't even mentioned the two best players from last year, Nate Mason and Jordan Murphy, and how they've continued to do what they do.  It's easy to take them for granted now while we look at what's changed from last year, but  Murphy is averaging 12 and 8 while shooting 55%, and Mason is putting up a line of 13.5 points, 5 rebounds, and 6 assists per game - those are both really good!  Both of these guys are better than they were last year, and with all the other improvements it's hard not to be optimistic.  Believe me I'm trying.

6.  Ok the one negative so far:  Akeem Springs.  Holy crap this guy is basically a cartoon character how much he completely fits the senior year transfer looking for his own shot to showcase his own value in order to hopefully have some kind of post-college basketball career.  I mean he's taking a much higher percentage of shots while he's on the floor this year than ever before and he's on a much better team now!  Chucker city.  Since he's going to be an inefficient shooting machine, we can either hate him, or embrace him as a Malik Smith kind of guy.  Since I'm in a good mood, I'll do the Malik Smith thing.  Put him in as the first guy off the bench each half.  If he's hitting - yay!  If not, bench him for the rest of the half and give his minutes to Michael Hurt or Ahmad Gilbert.  Win win.


There are a couple other potential issues like the team suddenly not creating turnovers and the usual issues defending the three pointer, but the team is 4-0.  They're 4-0 with two wins over teams who could have beaten them and they're fun to watch.  So I'm going to enjoy this for now.  Mostly because they could be 5-3 after the end of next week and we'll be back in the dumper with a horrible season looming ahead of us - again.  But I'm not going to think about that right now.  I'm having fun.




Thursday, November 3, 2016

Big Ten Basketball Preview 2016 (oh hi!)

Guess what fuckers?  I may be back.  I may also not be back.  I am unsure.  However since I can't quite get in the mood to care about college basketball this year, maybe writing up some basic stuff will get me motivated again.  Who knows.  And what better way than to write a Big Ten Preview, using a magazine as my sole source of information?  This should be terrible.

1.  INDIANA HOOSIERS.  Don't worry, there's no doubt Tom Crean will screw everything else and the Hoosiers will underachieve because that's just what he does, but I like the team in general.  They have a super nice little big man/guard combo in James Blackmon and Thomas Bryant, and any time you have two players on the same team that make me think how sweet that team would be on NBA Jam you know I'm going to overrate them.  Plus I think I read somewhere that this Anunoby guy is suppose to like, make a leap or something.  If Crean didn't screw him all up already.

2.  WISCONSIN BADGERS.  Ugh.  Gross.  The entire team is back from last year to be boring and white, but they weren't terrible so I suppose they're probably the favorite to win the conference.  At least Greg Gard doesn't seem nearly as loathsome as Bo Ryan was.  Still pretty loathsome though.  Just like that traitor Illlikainenen.  I confess that I do like watching Nigel Hayes though.  I actually kind of hope he finally has a three point shot figured out, because that would be fun to watch.  I feel icky.  80% of this team is voting for Trump.

3.  OHIO STATE BUCKEYES.  I actually already put down a long shot future wager on them to win the NCAA title at like 66-1, so I gotta stick with it.  Yeah, it's probably a dumb bet but that's why it's a longshot.  But here's the thing I like.  Remember year after year after year, Thad Matta somehow manages to pull in one of the best classes in the country.  Like every year.  And the really good guys like D'Angelo Russell and DeShaun Thomas eventually leave early for the draft.  But all those other guys stick around, and now they're sophomores and juniors and seniors.  There's a whole group of pretty good players here.  If one (or more!) can step up a bit and become an actually like, super good player this could end up a really good team.  Or I'm a big fat idiot.

4.  PURDUE BOILERMAKERS.  Last year they had three big fat tall guys and things went alright.  This year they have two big fat tall guys and that might even work out better since Caleb Swanigen and Isaac Haas (too many As!!) can ball.  But they still don't have a backcourt and I don't think they have since Lewis Jackson, who couldn't shoot.  But they have Spike Albrecht you say?  I still don't get why this is/was a big deal because, spoiler alert, Albrecht sucks.  He had one good half against Louisville on national tv and suddenly he's good?  He's terrible.  A benchwarmer who got hot, went back to warming benches, and then transferred since his coach knew he sucked.  Now he's going to suck for a new team.  What a huge story!

5.  MICHIGAN STATE SPARTANS.  This is a weird team for Izzo.  He has a killer recruiting class and he's going to need it since there's nothing else here.  He has Tum Tum Nairn, who wouldn't shoot the ball if you paid him, and Eron Harris, who wouldn't stop shooting if you cut his arms off, and then like, a bunch of supposedly good freshman.  I know putting them fifth is just me falling for the hype of POTENTIAL and UPSIDE, but every other team in this league freaking sucks.  I'm serious.  Every team after this one is just terrible.

6.  MARYLAND TERRAPINS.  You know who doesn't suck though?  Melo Trimble.  He's going to be on a bad team, but he's good enough to pull them up this high.  I expect him to shoot approximately one zillion times this year.  That is all I can write about Maryland because nobody knows anything else about any of these guys and if they say they do they're lying.

7.  ILLINOIS FIGHTING ILLINI.  Malcolm Hill also doesn't suck, and also will be in the player of the year hunt.  The difference between he and Trimble is that Hill has a few players back that I'm familiar with.  So why are they below Maryland?  Because I'm tremendously inconsistent.  Looking at this roster Tracy Abrams is probably already hurt again, I liked this Mike Thorne guy before he got hurt, and Maverick Morgan has always been a player who existed.  They have Leron Black too, who I remember was supposed to be a stud but obviously that hasn't worked out too well at this point, but like Nickelback says "It's never too late."

8.  MICHIGAN WOLVERINES.  They could be higher if they managed to not get anybody hurt, which seems unlikely.  Caris LeVert basically missed his last two seasons here, and Gary Walton was hurt for what seemed like the entire year two seasons ago and I know this because I had him on my fantasy team.  Zak Irvin hasn't missed as much time as those guys, but he's been absolutely atrocious and I remember reading it had to do with some injury.  Look, I'm not saying Jon Beilein is intentionally hurting his players, but I'm not NOT saying it either.

9.  MINNESOTA GOPHERS.  This is far more optimistic than most predictions out there, but it's my blog so I can do whatever I want.  Once you get down here most of these teams are terrible.  Like really terrible, so it wouldn't be hard for one of them to jump up and get as high as 8 or 9 and why not the Gopehrs?  They have more experience coming back then the majority of the teams below them, a better recruiting class, and a couple supposedly impact transfers.  So there's upside.  I think a lot of this season depends on Pitino's coaching.  The first year he came here he did a lot of interesting things, particularly on offense, that were refreshing after watching Tubby's teams run nothing but flex over and over again.  Then, for some reason, that died and I couldn't ascertain if they were running any set play at all on most of the possessions.  That works when you have a loaded, athletic, smart team.  Even though I like most of this team, they certainly aren't that.  So let's run some plays!  Have some fun!  Finish ninth!

10.  NORTHWESTERN WILDCATS.  I have no doubt one year soon Northwestern will finally break through and make the NCAA Tournament, but I'll believe when I see it.  Every time they get close they blow it.  And since they wear purple might as well make the ole Vikings comparison here.  But there's no doubt they've risen above perennial bottom feeder status.  The big recruiting splash guy Vic Law looked good his freshman year before missing last year with an injury and I assume he's back.  They probably have a big doofy foreign big guy I can make fun of/fall in love with, and Bryant McIntosh is somehow a really, really good player.  He's so punchable he probably should have gone to Duke, but he's really good.

11.  IOWA HAWKEYES.  If you were a reader of this blog, you may remember at once point I was going to do a thing where I kept track of the best chuckers in the country.  That, and everything really, fell by the wayside, but I've always remember Peter Jok because he popped up on my list because he had a pretty insane usage rate for a bench player while not being a very good shooter.  Well guess what?  Everyone is gone from Iowa except for him.  Now, last year he kept a pretty high shot rate but was actually an excellent shooter, but with nobody else out there to draw defensive attention I'm predicting he goes back to crappy.  Crappy, but high volume.  Buckle up.

12.  PENN STATE NITTANY LIONS.  The only thing I know about Penn State this year is that their best player is Shep Garner, and that makes me smile because his name is Shep.  You know who else's name was Shep?  The weirdo creepy security guard from Above the Rim who played basketball against air with no ball because he once accidentally killed his best friend.  But how can you go against someone who can do this?



You can't!  And he's in work clothes!  Man, Penn State should really go get this guy.

13.  RUTGERS SCARLET KNIGHTS.  Rutgers was bad last year.  Like really, really bad.  Except of course when they spanked the Gophers, which was a really fun game to watch.  They have a large chunk of the team back, which is one hand is good because in theory players get better from year to year, but on the other hand is bad because they were really, really bad last season.  At least they're interesting.  Interesting in that they are wildly inefficient and technically horrible and making baskets, but at the same time play at a really fast pace and put up a whole bunch of shots, while also playing zero defense and if they do manage to make the opponent miss they very rarely get the rebound!  In other words, it's fun to watch other teams light them up.  Not the Gophers, of course, but other teams.

14.  NEBRASKA CORNHUSKERS.  Thank god Petteway and Shields are gone and the Huskers can go back to sucking like they're supposed to.  We didn't invite Nebraska to the Big Ten to be mildly competitive at basketball, we invited them to be good at football and fight to not be in last place in basketball every year.  I was getting pretty sick of them not being completely dreadful and going after many of the same recruits the Gophers were.  Now the natural order of things can be restored.  Also pretty sick of Tim Miles at this point.


Well there you have it.  My completely accurate and well researched predictions for the big ten this season.  As far as this blog, I have no idea how often I'll be posting.  Maybe after most games.  Maybe never again.  NOBODY KNOWS!

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Fare thee well, KG



Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Smell ya Later?

This is not an easy post to write.  And not because I think I'm important or anything dumb like that because I know I'm just another voice in the sea of the internet and that's fine.  Because this is a place where I was able to dump my words for, what, 8 years.  Whether I was writing about the Gophers, or the Twins, or a movie I was watching, or just drunk in a hotel room traveling for work people responded.  And that was the best.  The interacting.  This blog was always a special place for me.

Unfortunately, or fortunately, time moves on.  It sucks up all of us.  It just moves.  Priorities change, even if we don't want them to do. Interests change. And although I am a huge gopher fan, I didn't even know they play Ohio State tomorrow.  That was a huge realization for me.  How can I write about something I no longer obsess about, especially as what can best be described as a niche blogger?

You could say I've cooled because the product is so bad this year, and that's fair.  And who's to say I won't jump back in whole hog next season?  But right now, and all season, and to be fair last season as well, I just don't have it anymore.

In the old days we'd have 10-20 comments on each post. Now I might get 1-2 every once in a while and that's on me.  It's not the same.  It's been obvious for a while, and anyone who has read this shit knows it, I'm checked out.  Moving on.  Being a grown up?

Thank you, those who have read over the years.  Thank you to those who have kept commenting even more (rghrbek, john r) but I just don't have the fire for this.  It's an after thought.  Not a priority.  And not why I started doing this.

I started this right when Tubby was hired, but it wasn't why.  I had always wanted my own place to share my thoughts on the team, for years, and I finally jumped in then.  And it was a great time.  It became my own place.  I had friend, family, and just random fans commenting and it became more than I ever expected, no matter how small it was it became special.  And it always will be to me, and thank you to all of you who cared.  It was a good run.

I got to interact with Amelia, Marcus, Nadine, and Myron.  My thoughts were published in the Star Tribune.  I got to show my parents how cool i was.  I love everything about having this blog, and thank you all who cared.

I will always be on twitter.  But I think this is good bye.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Oklahoma State 62, Gophers 60

I suppose I saw this coming as a loss, which is why I bet Ok State -3, which is why Nate Mason's late lay-up instead of some desperate three clanging off the rim was a double killer.  You either want the Gophers to win, or to win your bet.  When neither happen it just sucks.  Like the team this year.  Anyway, here are 10 things I liked and didn't like (disclaimer: may not get to 10 because meh).


1.  The defense was much better for most of the game.  There were lapses of course, but in general the defense seemed much better both from an effort and a scheme stand point.  The Gophers extended their zone out, way out, compared to usual in order to kind of take away the easy three pointer, and at the same time whoever was the anchor, Bakary Konate or whoever, laid back near the rim to discourage lay-ups.  This forced the Cowboys into taking a lot of long twos, which is what you want.  Considering Ok State shot a worse percentage from both 3 and 2 than the Gophers are allowing on the season I'd say it was a success.  I want to see this exact defense in every game forever.

2.  Kind of related to the effort and scheming on defense, the offense was much more active.  It's like Pitino went into the lab on both offense and defense to change things up, and even though the Gophers shot like poop you could at least see more offense going on.  Lots of off the ball screening, many times with a wing zooming from one side of the court all the way to the other, and far less reliance on pick and rolls.  This helped facilitate a lot more ball movement than we've seen lately and will only make the team better in the long run.  Of course, it's not all ball movement because Morris.

3.  I don't see any reason to play Carlos Morris more than a token amount of minutes going forward.  You can't just bench the guy because it's kind of a dick move to do that to a senior, but he doesn't fit the ball movement offense and just does some really dumb things.  The passing up an open three to pump fake, then starting at the defender, and then shooting now that it's contested.  The offensive rebound followed by fall away jumper that has no prayer of going in.  Taking the ball at the rim in a one-on-four situation.  And the ball stopping.  Always the ball stopping.  Last year, at least, you could point to his defense and high steal rate, but for whatever reason his steals are cut in half this year and he's just not adding anything of value.  On a team that is going nowhere this year, there's no need to play a guy who isn't part of the future if he doesn't help you.  Joey King at least gives you some shooting, even if that's about it.

4.  Keep an eye on this Jordan Murphy character.  His stats, obviously, are eye popping as he put up another double double with 11 points and 12 rebounds, his third in his last four games.  His offensive rebounding is already elite with his quick jump ability and smarts (top 50ish) and his defensive rebounding is great too, mostly based on good positioning.  His offensive game is decent as well, and if he can hit that open three-pointer to keep defenses honest it's going to open up so much more for him - and we're off to a good start there at 3-8 and they look good coming off his hand.  His intelligence is what really sets him apart for me though.  He and Mason ran a pick and roll, but the defender hedged so hard over the top the pick didn't really happen, so Murphy just flipped around and Mason came right back the other way.  It was a smart, smart play.  It resulted in a missed shot of course, but the Murphy/Mason pick and rolls should end up a staple of this team for the next few years.

5.  Speaking of pick and rolls, I loved this one particular play.  Pitino must have worked this one out in the lab because I can't recall seeing it before, but it should be used a minimum of once a half going forward.  Mason has the ball, and Murphy and King set a double pick for him on the wing.  Once he clears the pick, Murphy rolls to the hoop and King pops right out to the wing.  It's brilliant.  It gives Mason three immediate options - drive, hit Murphy diving to the hoop, or swing it back to King for an open three.  Meanwhile the other two players are in the corners to clear spacing and give Mason the option of a kick out if their defenders collapse or jump to cover King.  Really cool play.

6.  Speaking of Mason, man this kid is good.  He is just so under control at all times.  He can drive and score, dish, or pull up and hit a jumper, and he can hit the open three (his shooting will come on despite a slow start).  He took over running the offense this year and although the offense has been iffy at best, that's not his fault.  Then there was a play that didn't work but just showed his court sense and vision.  The Gophers got a rebound and outlet passed it to him, and Morris had broken down court (because OFFENSE OFFENSE OFFENSE is what is in his brain) and without even taking a dribble Mason turned and fired it all the way down court.  The Ok State defender got a hand on it and knocked it out of bounds, but if he doesn't Morris catches it and dunks without having to dribble.  Would have been a thing of beauty.  Mason is a fun watch.

7.  Where was Charles Buggs?  After playing at least 23 minutes and starting in the first 8 games this season (I think), Buggs played zero minutes against Oklahoma State after getting just 8 in the South Dakota State game.  According to Pitino it had nothing to do with discipline or injury, and he simply played the players he though would help him win the game, which included walk-on freshman Stephon Sharp getting 3 minutes (after having had 1 whole minute this season) and little used freshman Ahmad Gilbert 2 minutes (he had 27 coming into the game).  I don't think Buggs is some big game changer, but he's been an extremely efficient scorer this year and has improved on defense considerably from last season.  Considering he'll presumably be around next season, this is a surprising development.  I'd bench Morris way before Buggs.  Also, full disclosure, I didn't even realize Buggs wasn't playing until someone mentioned it on twitter, so....

8.  Dupree McBrayer took Buggs's spot in the starting lineup, and I think I like him.  He needs a lot of polish, and I mean a lot, but there's things here I like.  He does a good job as a secondary ball handler, and even it that role he's actually second on the team in assist rate (behind Mason).  He also leads the team in fouls drawn and free throw rate because he already has a good ability to attack the rim and very smooth and in control when he does it.  Against Ok State there was a play where he drove and the dude set up for a charge and he was able to just slide himself enough to the side to turn it into a block.  Very good play.  Yes, he's had some lapses on both sides of the ball, is too left-hand dependent, and hasn't been able to shoot a lick this year, but I'm ok with that. As a freshman I've seen enough that I'm confident he'll be a solid player down the line.

9.  Kevin Dorsey too.  Yeah him too.  I'm liking how this class is shaping up for the most part.  Dorsey is more polished than McBrayer, which is why I'm more concerned with his shitty shooting than Brayer's shittier shooting since I think if he could hit a jumper we would have seen it by now, but he's a bull getting to the rim.  He's already a master of using his body to draw fouls and is third on the team in FT rate (behind McBrayer and Murphy).  Considering he hits around 80% of his foul shots that's a solid strategy (and gives me hope his jumper will come around).

10.  Next up, Chicago State.  Considering the Cougars are one of the worst teams in the entire country (#339 per kenpom) this needs to be a blowout.  They do nothing at all well.  They do however, hoist a ton of three pointers.  They don't make them, but knowing this Gopher team that's always a bit of a concern.  Their only three wins this season were against non-D1 opponents, and they lost to DePaul by 24, Iowa State by 42, and Northwestern by 42.  They are a terrible team.  Please let this not be close.

Gophers 88, Chicago State 66.





Thursday, December 10, 2015

Everything is Great!

Well, we knew this was setting up to be a bad year, but I didn't expect this.  The loss to Temple, sure ok.  Decent team, Gophers are young and traveling for the first time, fine.  The near collapse against Missouri State?  Ok well they won.  That was a little scary but they managed.  The loss to Texas Tech?  Ugh (and nothing to do with Tubby because if you care about that you're dumb).  Man, maybe this team is even worse than I feared.  Near loss to Omaha?  Yikes!  Well, they managed to win so they're just treading water and should end up not too terrible eventually.  Then the win over Clemson!  Yes!  They're putting it together and Jordan Murphy is going to win the Heisman!!

Then came the past week.  Swept by the South Dakota schools.  So.  Gross.  A loss to SDSU on it's own wouldn't even be that bad, really.  The Jackrabbits have a sweet name, rank 50th in kenpom's ratings right now, and only have one loss on their schedule (though they haven't really beaten anyone).  That alone you could stomach.  But South Dakota is a garbage diaper dumpster fire.  They're 6-3 but have beaten nobody and have some bad, bad losses.  The Gophers had extra chances to get their shit together with the two overtimes and it just never happened.  Then SDSU just completely dominated from the start.  This is so ugly.

The team is just completely clueless defensively.  The rank 229th in defensive efficiency, giving up 1.04 points per possession, and this is against a schedule that features nobody ranked above the top 50 overall - that's really bad!  Here is a list of the power conference teams that are worse: .  That's not a typo.  There is nobody worse.  The only other times since 2002 (kenpom's existence) they've been worse than a 1 were Pitino's first year, the Molinari year, and Monson's worst year - and those were full season numbers which included Big Ten play.  This is just horrible.  Let's check something.  Let's pretend the Gophers finish at that 1.04 mark, which frankly seems pretty optimistic, and see how that rates historically among Big Ten teams.

  1. 2008 Northwestern, 1.075
  2. 2007 Penn State, 1.057
  3. 2004 Ohio State, 1.052
  4. 2015 Indiana, 1.048
  5. 2005 Penn State, 1.044
  6. 2016 Minnesota, 1.041

I mean this isn't just a bad defense, this is a horrific historically bad defense.  If things hold here it's the sixth worst defense in the Big Ten in the last 14 years.

It's so bad that you can't even simply blame the young team right now, you have to take a hard look at Pitino.  I fully supported the hiring at the time, and I have no quibble with the recruiting steps he's taken, but the on court and off court prep work is not coming together as I expected.  When he first got here there were some missteps and weird on court decisions, but you kinda figured that would improve since he was so young and inexperienced and I was willing to give him time.  But we're in Year 3 here, and not only has his coaching not improved, it's possible it's actually gotten worse, and I'm particularly talking about the constant defensive mistakes by the players.  If it's one player then ok, he's kind of a dunce, but it's multiple guys and it's happening often.  Teams don't shoot over 40% on threes against you by all being hot over 9 games.

Hey, I'm not saying to run him out of town or he needs to be fired or anything, but this team really needs to show improvement as the season goes along or there are going to be some hard questions to think about.  Let's hope it doesn't come to that, because I really like the direction the recruiting is heading in.

Next up - Oklahoma State in Sioux Falls, which is some kind of hilarious joke having to traveling to that damn state right after both their schools beat the Gophers.  Oklahoma State is also a bad team, sitting at 5-3 with zero Top 150 wins and their best wins over Long Beach State and Long Beach State who they've beaten twice which is weird.  They're coming off a loss to Missouri State, yes that Missouri State, and have also dropped games to Tulsa (decent) and George Mason (bad).  So congratulations Sioux Falls, here comes some crappy basketball.

The Cowboys don't shoot the three well and they don't shoot it often at all (though I expect both these to change on Saturday).  They do, however, take great care of the basketball (this matters less this year than other years since the Gophers are not creating any turnovers), and they make their two point shots and excel at free throws.  They don't cause many turnovers either, which means the Gophers will have plenty of chances to run offensive sets that don't go anywhere.  This is a terrible match-up.

OSU lost their top returning scorer to injury early on this year, not to mention the other 3 top scorers to graduation, so the cupboard was pretty bare.  They managed a nice, well rounded, spread it out scoring attack with five players averaging between eight and thirteen points per game this year.  Jeff Newberry (13.0ppg) is your do it all guard type, Chris Olivier (12.1ppg) is a low post scorer who is frankly going to eat Bakary Konate alive, Jawun Evans (10.1ppg) is the freshman point guard (4.3apg) and best shooter on the team with Phil Forte on the shelf with an elbow injury, Leyton Hammonds (9.8ppg) scored 20 in his first game back from injury versus Long Beach, and Jeffrey Carroll (8.1ppg) is a person.

This could just be me being pessimistic because ugh, but I honestly think this Gopher team is much worse than I thought, and I also believe Oklahoma State is a terrible match up for this team.  I do believe doors will be blown off on Saturday.

Ok State 88, Gophers 70.