Tuesday, February 12, 2008
No time for a Gopher/Illinois preview due to the sales meeting, but here’s a picture anyway. There apparently are no attractive Illini fans who get their picture taken, so here's an alleged picture of some Bears fans. Gophers 72, Illinois 64.
I wrote this on the plane, due to the fact that my boss was sitting just a few rows away from me. I figured if he glanced back and saw me on the computer, he’d assume I was working and think I was some kind of hard worker guy. Genius, I know. So here you go.
Being about halfway through the Big Ten season, why not grade the Gopher players thus far through the season? I think From the Barn did this earlier in the season, but I’m on a plane, and, as such, can’t really look it up and link to it.
Dan Coleman: The numbers are nice, leading the team in both scoring and rebounding, but the problem is, this is what was expected. Two years ago. He’s now developed where he should have been two years ago. You can blame that on Monson if you want, and he surely deserves some of the blame, but not all. Couple that with his tendency to disappear in big games, and you come out to here. C-
Spencer Tollackson: Tough to grade, seeing as how I expected nothing and have seen, well, almost nothing. He had an excellent game against Northwestern, and has had a good game here and there, but in general hasn’t been impressive. It’s clear he’s worked hard on his footwork and offensive game, as often times the moves are there, he just doesn’t have the natural ability to actually score the ball. A good passer and decent defender for a big man, and much improved at the free throw line since some early season embarrassment. B-
Lawrence McKenzie: Have to give him credit for changing his game, although he seems to have changed it to the point where he’s become completely schizophrenic. He’s either run the offense and distribute McKenzie, or offensively taking over, looking to score McKenzie. If he could find a way to blend those together, he’d be a heck of a player. As it is, he’s half a player all of the time. Playing very solid defense this year helps him out. C+.
Al Nolen: Seeing as how there were rumors swirling after Tubby was hired that Nolen wasn’t a Big Ten caliber recruit, I wasn’t expecting much at all out of him. He’s quickly become a top defender on the team. Clearly the best at taking the ball, although I don’t think he’s the actual best defender on the team, at one point I believe Ken Pomeroy had him leading the country in steal percentage, or at least close to it. Has moments of excellent offensive play, whether knocking down the three or getting into the lane. Still has plenty of freshmen moments, and makes some decisions that look downright Burlesonian in nature, but looks to have an excellent future in front of him. A-
Blake Hoffarber: Another freshman who I wasn’t expecting much from. I’m not ready to say I’m pleasantly surprised by Hoffbauer just yet, as he’s a shooter and that’s it. He’s had his moments, but the remainder of his game isn’t up to speed just yet, to the point where against more athletic teams he’s getting very little playing time, and the Big Ten is just going to improve over the next three years (it has to, right?) I’m very much hoping he develops his game to the point where he can create his own shot, get to the rim, and actually play defense, both on and off the ball, and doesn’t become just another version of Shamala. I do believe he will become a capable player. B-.
Lawrence Westbrook: L-Dub was a guy who you knew had to have the ability to score, as he came in with quite a reputation (PJS has a well done post on him, if you care to find it). He was tentative last season, and I was hoping he would take a step forward in his sophomore year or end up transferring. Happily, he’s done the former, and looks to be an important cog in the Tubby rebuilding machine. This year he’s asserted himself on the offensive end, both inside and out, as well as showing that he’s not one dimensional, becoming the best perimeter defender on the team, both on and off the ball. I expect Westbrook to take another step forward next year, when he’ll be looked upon to score even more, as well as become a team leader. A-
Jonathan Williams: Um, I don’t know? Has he played extended minutes, ever? I suppose I have to rate him kind of far down, as he seemingly hasn’t made any strides since last season. Although I did see him make a left handed baby hook in one game, so I guess that’s something. Still, he’s going to need to develop in a hurry to help out next season, and if this season is any indication, it’s not likely to happen. D
Damian Johnson: Wow. If Westbrook took a step forward this year, DJ took three. Most of last season it wasn’t even clear who was the better recruit, Kevin Payton or Johnson, and now we’ve gotten to the point where one should probably transfer and the other has pretty much locked up a starting role for the next two years. He still has plenty of work to do on the offensive game, as it pretty much consists of layups, put backs, and garbage baskets right now. However, even if his offensive game never develops beyond what is now, as disappointing as that would be, he will still be a valuable part of the team due to his defense, rebounding, and energy. A
Jamal Abu Shamala: I haven’t exactly been subtle in my opinion of Shamala here at DWG, and the Northwestern game isn’t going to change it. Shamala is a shooter, and he’s very good at what he does. But that’s all he does. He can’t play defense, he can’t create for himself or his teammates, and he’s pretty much a liability out there against any team with athleticism. As he showed against Northwestern, he does have a place out there against poor teams who can’t exploit his slowness afoot, which why I still think he would have been better off going to a mid/low major program, but he wanted to play at the U, and I can respect that. I just can’t respect his defense. I guess in fairness, it is pretty much what I expected this year out of him. D-
Kevin Payton: I honestly can’t figure out what led Monson to give him a scholarship, but then again, Scout also gave him three stars. Where is that game? He has to have completely changed, because the Payton that (rarely) gets out there for the Gophers has the offensive game of Miles Tarver, without the defense or rebounding, and makes Kevin Burleson decision making look like Arriel McDonald. Absolutely baffling. He averaged 20 a game in high school, and I have no idea how. Still, when he has played he does show a lot of heart (did I really just write that?) and is a decent defender. Plus, he seems to have accepted his limited role without being a problem. D
Travis Busch: Is anybody else sick of the undersized white kid from Minnesota who works his ass off to get playing time and even though has little to no skill has all the hustle and grit in the world? Anybody else? It’s become quite a sickening and annoying tradition on the Gophers, and Busch is just the latest incarnate. Plus, he wears a shooting sleeve. On his off arm. Go away. F
Ryan Saunders: Unpossible to grade, since it appears he’s never going to actually play. Snappy dresser though. I’m going to give him a grade anyway. F
Tubby Smith: It would be pretty easy to give Tubby an A+, just for the recruiting class. Seeing as how I don’t believe Dan Monson had a class that was ever ranked better than 337th in the NCAA, and Tubby comes in with number 20, that’s pretty amazing. Seems to be a good game coach as well so far. I have some serious questions about some of the lineups he tosses out there at times, but when your talent is so limited, I suppose you have to try things at times that may seem a bit weird. A few times the team has seemed pretty unprepared as well, but it doesn’t seem to be an epidemic, and I feel the blame mainly falls on the players in those cases. A
Rico Tucker: A+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++