Monday, November 17, 2008
Since the Gopher hoops squad definitely didn’t suck this weekend, but didn’t impress me enough to put in the “Awesome” pile, I’m going to use the intro here as my opportunity to run down their play over the weekend.
The first two games, wins over Concordia and Bowling Green, were kind of disappointments. These were not good teams, and the Gophers didn’t look overly impressive. Sure they beat Concordia by 25, but it felt like it probably should have been more, and it definitely should have been more against Bowling Green, a terrible team missing three of it’s top players and whose basic offensive strategy seemed to be to give the ball to Darryl Clements and let him chuck, even though he shot just 37% last season. They finally picked it up in game 3 vs. Georgia State, and even though the final margin was only 60-52, the Panthers were also the best team by far in this thing other than the Gophers and I thought they looked best in this game out of the three..
As far as individual players go, Al Nolen and Lawrence Westbrook have looked absolutely amazing – like all big 10 type players so far. No, they won’t both be on the All-Big 10 team, but they’ve looked that good and both seem to have their confidence at an incredibly high level. Shamala is another one whose confidence seems very high, but confidence doesn’t mean he magically learned how to play defense. Neither did Hoffarber, and his shot has been way off so far this year. In the exhibition games he looked like he might have added the dribble drive to his game, but it seemed to disappear this weekend.
For the new guys, Devoe Joseph absolutely looks like a player despite inexplicably playing just 9 minutes against Bowling Green. Tubby seems to be using him at the point a lot, which is ok, but I hope they find ways to let him play the 2. He can shoot and he can drive, and he's going to be a lot of fun to watch the next four years. Iverson also impressed me. He's raw still on offense, but is an excellent defender already (9 blocks against BGSU) and is physical. He'll have to play a big role right away and looks ready. After being very luke warm on Ralph Sampson early he's winning me over. He displayed some very nice offensive moves against Georgia State on Sunday, and is rounding into shape nicely. Paul Carter is still struggling with his shot, but shows some very good athleticism. I've projecting a Tavarus Bennett type: excellent defense at the top of the zone and point of the press, with an offensive game that kind of comes and goes. As for Bostick, I really don't know what to think. He seems to be getting a bit more comfortable, but still hasn't shown what I was hoping to see. I'm not ready to completely drop my expectations just yet. I'm counting on Tubby to work some magic here.
Overall, it was a very successful weekend with the team going 3-0 to win the tournament, if you want to call a round-robin a tournament. This was about the right level of competition they needed to get tested, but also to work on some things and figure out who fits where. I know I was in the minority when the schedule initially came out, but I'm still very wary of the upcoming road game at Colorado State. The Rams aren't expected to be anything special, but they did beat a Montana team that is supposed to contend for the Big Sky crown by 30 on Saturday. They have a big (6-8, 240) transfer from Ole Miss in Andy Ogide who really made his presence known with 20 points and 14 rebounds. It will be very interesting to see how Iverson and Sampson handle him. I never thought I'd say this, but I wish Jon Williams was available.
And Travis Busch really needs to settle the F down. On to the usual waste of time...
WHO WAS AWESOME
1. Florida Football. I keep mentioning them, but they just keep stomping people to death. This week they won 56-6 over the 24th ranked team in the country in South Carolina. That’s the impressive thing about the Gators right now, they aren’t just beating up on the bottom feeders of the conference, they’re beating nationally ranked teams and beating them badly, as shown by their 51-21 win over then #4 LSU and 49-10 win over then #8 Georgia. They can kill you on the ground or through the air, and if I had to pick a team to be ranked #1 right now, I’d go with Florida. And now they play The Citadel next week. They may hang 100 on them. By halftime. And speaking of the Gators……..
2. Dan Werner. I hadn’t heard of him either, so don’t worry, but look out for this guy. He’s a 6-8 junior forward for Florida, and after getting a chance to watch him play a couple of times this weekend I’m impressed. He was actually a decent contributor last season, playing almost 30 minutes a game and averaging 9 points and 6 rebounds per game. With Florida kind of falling off the radar last season, and most of the press going towards Calathes, Speights, and Jai Lucas you never really heard about him. Even this year, Calathes “gambling”, Lucas transferring, and high profile freshmen took all the focus away from Werner. The Gators played halfway decent teams this weekend and beat both Toledo and Bradley handily with Werner leading the team in scoring in both games with 17 against Bradley and 19 against Toledo. He can score inside with his back to the basket and has a good touch from the perimeter. Remember this guy.
3. UNLV Basketball. There was really only one truly meaningful game this weekend in college hoops and that was UNLV welcoming San Diego to Vegas in a matchup of first round NCAA tournament winners from last season. The Rebels came out on top, 65-60 behind Wink Adams’ 19 points. I’m not entirely certain what to make out of UNLV, but since Lon Kruger got there the program has taken major strides. This season, the Rebels are set up to do some damage, losing just one player from the team that knocked off Kent State in the first round last year, and adding a couple of impact newcomers including transfer from Memphis Tre'Von Willis. The should win the Mountain West, and should end up in decent shape for an at-large if they fall in the conference tournament. This was a good start.
4. Kurt Warner. Won’t someone please stop Kurt Warner and the Cardinals? My lord, they’re throwing it around like the 98 Vikings right now, with Anquan Boldin playing the role of Randy Moss. Yesterday, Warner threw for 395 yards and was at 250 before halftime. Since the team’s bye in week 7, he’s thrown for 381, 343, 328, and now 395 with Boldin getting 186 of that in Sundays game, a win over Seattle. It’s phenomenal, just when I thought Warner’s run was over and done with, he makes a new deal with the devil is having an incredible season. And he looks great, too, especially for 37. I guess when you’re boring and god loving and don’t do drugs and drink and all that you don’t age quite as hard. What a loser.
5. Jimmy Baron. Rhode Island’s guard who had one of the most incredible shooting performances I’ve been privileged to witness in the Rams 82-79 loss at Duke . He scored 24 points on 8-15 shooting, including 8-10 from three. And the Dukies weren’t leaving him open, not by any means. He hit two fadeaway threes with a dude in his face, one shot fake and then duck under the defender type shot, and one from about 30 feet, Jake Sullivan style. Baron is relatively unknown, but he is consider one of the best shooters in the NCAAs, hitting over 40% of his three point attempts the last two seasons, including 48% two years ago. The Rams aren't expected to be much of a factor in a very good Atlantic 10 this season especially losing a couple of very good player off last year's squad, but this game showed they can be deadly on the right night.
1. Kentucky Basketball. There are a lot of Gopher fans out there who enjoy seeing bad things happen to the Wildcats, I think because of the treatment of our new golden god Tubby Smith by the fans of that program. Although I can see their point, I am not one of those fans. Even so, it’s hard not to get a little bit interested when an all-time top program and NCAA contender loses to a team picked to finish at the bottom of the Big South, especially by a score of 111-103. The amount of points isn’t all that surprising, since VMI led the nation in scoring last season and was #2 in tempo, following up on the prior year when they were #1 . They are known for scoring points and creating turnovers, which they did against Kentucky. After losing all three main ball handlers from last year’s team, the Wildcats couldn’t handle the hectic style and turned it over 25 times, and lost despite shooting 54%. I’m guessing UK will get it figured out and end up being in the conversation for an NCAA bid, but with their next game at North Carolina, the Cats are staring 0-2 right in the face, as well as a whole bushel of pissed off fans.
2. Gopher football. Not so much for the loss, I mean a three point loss in Madison would have made me happy if you told me about it before the season, but for the complete collapse, mirroring the season to this point. A 21-7 lead at halftime, and then just absolutely getting their doors blown off in the second half. The entire Gopher offense in the second half consisted of penalties, turnovers, and getting sacked, ruining what had been a very impressive game for the team in the first half. I was actually all ready to write up WR Brandon Green as being awesome after he caught a TD in the first half and another deep ball as well that almost went for another score. He really stepped up without Decker in the lineup this week, too bad the team didn’t bother to play the last two quarters. This should have been the last game of the year, it would have put the crappy capper on what has turned out to be a crappy, disappointing season (yes, you are allowed and should change expectations as the season goes on.)
3. Western Michigan basketball. The Broncos were expected to contend for the MAC title this season, but after their performance in the Charleston Classic this weekend I suppose we can go ahead and scratch that. Out of the 8 teams, WMU finished dead last losing all three of their games to such powerhouses as Texas Christian (sans Brandon Smith), Hofstra, and SIU-Edwardsville. Yes, that’s Southern Illinois – Edwardsville. SIU has two D-I teams now, although it’s just the first season for SIU-E, which usually means they are very sucky at sports, but they managed to knock off the Broncos anyway. MAC player of the year contender David Kool played well, going for 22, 24, and 27, but the rest of the team is total garbage.
4. Brad Childress. Not so much for a loss, as a road loss against a good Tampa team isn't anything to be too upset about, but for the completely unforgivable sin of not getting the ball to Adrian Peterson in the second half. According to the radio, and I'm too lazy to go through the play-by-play and count, Peterson only touched the ball four times in the second half. Four! He's not just the best player on the team, he's the best player by several orders of magnitude, and you can only get him the ball four times? Remember last week when he gained something like 65 or the team's 69 yards on the final game-winning drive? Where was that? Down 3 with the ball and 3 minutes left, they run four passes, none to AP, and turn it over on downs. Then down 6 minutes left, they managed to run two plays before Chuck Taylor fumbles. Taylor! A good player no doubt, but a backup to Peterson for a reason. He proved he can catch and run last week, if not long before, so get him in there and get him the ball. I'm not usually one to rip on coaches, realizing even those that seem kind of dumb (Childress, Tice, Art Shell, etc.) know more about football than I can even come close too, but some things are obvious.
5. South Carolina football. Just watch at about the 30 second mark. Hilarious.