Thursday, March 5, 2009

HUGE Sigh of Relief

A huge sigh of relief was the prevailing emotion last night, at least amongst myself, Dawger, Snacks, and the Old Man after the Gophers nearly let a game they had dominated in every way except point margin slip away.

But then Lawrence Westbrook completed his movie story arch, going from hero to villain and then back to hero (like Anakin Skywalker), shedding the mono/flu/dope-induced haze he's been under for the past month and a half and remembered that he's a half-crazy mo-fo who don't take no shit from nobody and went into, what Snacks calls, "F You Mode." L-Dub scored the last 10 points of the game, and every time he got the ball his mission was clear, get to the rim at all costs, and nobody is stopping me. Much like against Sconnie in Madtown, it worked and the Gophers completed the season swep of the hated Badgers for the first time since 1938.

The Gophers led almost the entire game, thanks to another tremendous defensive effort at the Barn, holding Wisconsin to 33% shooting and turning them over 13 times, a huge amount for a Badger team that doesn't turn it over much. A few lapses, specifically Sampson and/or Iverson on mega-nerd Marcus Landry kept the Badgers in the game when the big guys couldn't get out on Nerdboy and he, the career 37% three-point shooter, knocked down everything in site (until the one that really mattered, eat it nerd!) This is the kind of defensive effort we've seen at the Barn a bunch of times, but the Gophers can't seem to bring it the same way away from home. They're going to need to, not only in the Big Ten Tournament but assuming they make the NCAAs. If they don't, it's going to be a short, ugly dance - like Dawger at a wedding.

When the Badgers suddenly took a five point lead with little time remaining, you could feel the Barn start to deflate, with the game suddenly mirroring the season and heading towards a complete collapse. Then, the heroic Dawger stood up and willed the Williams Arena crowed to it's feet, and Westbrook went into F You Mode and was completely unguardable getting into the lane - which he should have been doing all game. I'm not quite ready to put the Gophers in the Big Dance yet, but with bubble teams dropping games left and right, this is a very big step.

Player notes:
- Ralph and Colton played well, despite their difficulty in guarding Meganerd behind the line, which could be expected. The number weren't eye-popping, but they were the focal point of the offense, as they should be, as the Gophers mainly focused on getting the ball in the paint and staying away from the three-point chuckery that has become an offensive staple. Iverson had a couple of very nice moves, but also a couple of really brutal attempts. He's clearly a work in progress, but as a freshmen he looks really good.
- Al Nolen continues to confuse, and suddenly his defense is going the way of his offense. He did seem a bit more in control and didn't turn the ball over, but watching Trevon Hughes drive right by him was not a pleasant experience. Devoe started over him and played well. He's still a shooting guard playing the point, but he's doing a better job than Nolen right now.
- Jonathan Williams actually got some time, mainly thanks to Colt and Ralph both missing dunks on the same possession.
- DJ is DJ, but suddenly had a jump shot last night. Like, a pullup in your face jump shot we haven't really seen this year. If that becomes a regular thing, he becomes a Big Ten POY candidate next season. I'm serious.
- Blake Hoffarber is suddenly the best point guard on this team. If only he could shoot.
- Finally, and I hate to do this after a win, but I have to question some of Tubby Smith's moves. Devron Bostick was no where to be found, despite the great success he had against the Badgers last time in driving to the basket he was given 0 minutes. Travis Busch instead played three minutes, and fell down twice. I like him only playing three minutes, although it should be less, but why not give those minutes to Bostick and see what he can do? There's nothing Busch can do that Bostick can't, other than falling down and throwing a length of the court pass. I am going to miss Bostick next year. Also missing last night was the genius three man weave on the perimeter that basically won the game in Madison. I don't even remember seeing it attempted. Lastly, when the man-to-man defense was working so well, Tubby inexplicably switched to a zone and Trevon Hughes immediately hit a wide open three. They didn't bother with it again, but I have to question why you would even go to it in the first place when you are shutting them down in the man-to-man.

Even so, it was a win, and an absolute stressful win at that. If the Gophers can beat Michigan on Saturday, that should be enough to put them in the dance.

Especially with what's going on in the NCAA, as another bunch of bubble teams lost very important games last night. Kentucky, Miami, and Virginia Tech all lost and pretty much killed their at large hopes, while Boston College and Florida also lost and damaged their hopes and at the very least hurt their profiles. The only bubble teams that manage to win other than the Gophers were BYU, who was probably already in, UNLV and Texas A&M. With everyone else dropping off, did Northwestern suddenly put themselves on the bubble by winning at Purdue? If they can win at Ohio State this weekend, they maybe. In any case, the Gophers are looking very good right now.

On to the small tournaments kicking off today:

MISSOURI VALLEY: The Mid-Major darling and poster child for multiple bids for smaller leagues from a few years ago, the MVC has fallen on hard times. If Creighton wins the conference tournament, this will be a one bid league this year - and could be if the Blue Jays don't win a few games before falling.
FAVORITE: Creighton. Even though they are the 2 seed, the Jays are still the favorite and are in line for at at-large bid if they falter thanks to a top 40 RPI, a ten game winning streak, and non-conference wins over Dayton, George Mason, and New Mexico.
SLEEPER: Illinois State. The Redbirds got some press as a possible regular season winner this season after an excellent year last year despite losing some good players. They retained their best player, however, Osiris Eldridge, and got some help from a couple of transfers, including leading scorer Chamberlain Oguchi, to give them a very balanced attack.
W's PICK: Illinois State. The Redbirds beat Creighton by 18 earlier this year, and although the Jays are hot, ISU is still the best defensive and rebounding team in the conference - and those things can come up big in tournament situations.

NORTHEAST CONFERENCE: Even though it's one of bottom two conferences in the country, I've always had a soft spot in my heart for the NEC ever since LIU's Charles Jones took a swing at Miles Tarver - that was a pretty fun game.
FAVORITE: Robert Morris. The Colonials were a heavy favorite to get to the NCAA tournament last year, but were upended in the Semis by Mount St. Mary's. They lost two of their top three scorers from last season, but still rolled through the NEC, going 15-3 to win by three games.
SLEEPER: Mount St. Mary's. Can the Mountaineers do it again? They were swept by RMU, but only by a total of 10 points in the two games. RMU has trouble taking care of the ball, and MSMU is decent at turning team's over, so it could happen again.
W's PICK: Robert Morris. I don't see them blowing it two years in a row.

St Joes @ Temple - The Owls are probably out already, but an RPI of 45 and SOS of 33 says they still have a slim chance. Definitely need this one though.
Providence @ Villanova - The Friars got a marquee win over Pitt, but they still need more
Tennessee @ South Carolina - Both teams look good, but the Gamecocks need another marquee win and this is a big chance to get one
Illinois @ Penn State - The Nittany Lions almost certainly need this game
Dayton @ Xavier - Dayton is probably in already, but this would guarantee it
Cal @ Arizona - Cal is probably in, but Arizona is on thin ice and this win would go a long way towards helping.

TOMORROW: American East, Colonial, Metro Atlantic, Southern, and West Coast conference all get it going, and we get our first taste of the afternoon games, at least in conferences that you can bet on.

And for those complaining about the quality of the pictures posted lately, here's an early preview of the Michigan game:


Anonymous said...

Even if you think Minnesota will beat Michigan no Sat. can you pick against them to prevent the DWG jinx, k thanks.

WWWWWW said...

That's the plan.

Dawg said...

The game was unbeleiveable in many ways. The most remarkable being that Old Man W, W and Snacks all stood for the last 3 minutes of the game. I'm pretty sure that had never happened before. Even more amazing was watching Snacks and WWW doing the rouser like a couple of cheer leaders. They were both brimming with school spirit.

The last amazing spectacle of the game was listening to those two complain about the officiating. They finally embraced the homer mentality and were ready to blame the loss on Hightower.

Good times boys. I'm glad to see that a nail biter will bring out the homer in even the most negative fans.

PS Snacks was singing The Hoff's praises as being a complete player. All's he needs is a jump shot.

PPS Cal Ripken Jr. = Poor man's Travis Busch.

Lefty said...

How is DJ going to win the Big Ten POY if Sampson is going to win it next year? Retard!

Dawger, Sally's opens at 9 AM on saturday. Happy Birthday!

WWWWWW said...

I complained about only one call, and also recognized when the Gophers got bailed out later.

I'll never be a homer. NEVER!

you know who said...

Basketball is Fing Gay. LOSERS

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