Friday, February 26, 2010

Gophers head to Champaign. Great.

Yes, the Gophers head to Assembly hall, bastion of shame and losingness, with little to no hope of an NCAA bid.  Hopefully they can maybe pull this one out, if only just to teases us for a bit longer before they lose at Michigan.

1.  Is this a bubble elimination game?  Sort of.  If Minnesota loses, their chances are done.  I think even if they were to win out and make the Big Ten Final and lose there, they still wouldn't get in.  In that case, it's an elimination game for the Gophers.  As for the Illini, they're a bit tougher to read.  Although losing this game wouldn't crush their chances, it would make things more difficult for them, because their last two games are at Ohio State and then home against the Badgers.  If they win even one more game it gets them to 11 Big Ten wins, and with non-conference victories over Vanderbilt and Clemson it's hard to imagine them not getting in at that point.  The RPI is 64 which is a bit iffy, so they'd probably be better off getting two wins.  So no, it's not an elimination game for Illinois, but it would make things a lot scarier for them if they lose.

2.  Is Illinois good?  Well, I picked them 7th in the conference before the season started, so they're obviously better than I thought they'd be, but it's hard to get a real read on this team.  The previously mentioned wins over Vanderbilt and Clemson are both impressive, especially since the win over Clemson was on the road, but they also lost non-conference games to a couple of terrible teams in Utah (RPI 142) and Bradley (105).  In conference play they've mostly beat up on the bad teams, with six of their Big Ten wins coming in season sweeps of Indiana, Iowa, and Penn State, but they also have a couple of really nice wins, one over Michigan State and a very impressive win in the Kohl Center over Sconnie.  I think what it really boils down to is that they are an above average team, and the very definition of a bubble team.  A couple of breaks either way (they won by three or less against Clemson, Penn State and Indiana, and lost by three or less against Gonzaga, Utah, and Georgia) and they could be firmly IN or OUT at this point.

3.  What's going on with McCamey?  One of the biggest concerns I had about the Illini this year was point guard play.  Chester Frazier was no brilliant scorer or anything, but he could run the point, and with his graduation Illinois didn't really have a point guard, and I didn't think McCamey could become one.  He seems to have made the adjustment (mostly) however, and even tossed in a 16-assist game against Purdue last week, his third game with 9+ assists in the team's last five, and he now ranks second in the country in assists per game.  Second in the country.  Think about that one.  However he's still not brilliant with the ball, as his 3.5 turnovers per game are a problem and he's currently riding a four game streak of 5+ turnovers.  I tend to think the turnovers right now have a lot to do with him trying to create, and kind of go along with assists and playmaking (Evan Turner is the worst in the Big Ten at 3.8 per game), so the real key is going to be containing the assists and his ability to create open shots for his teammates while capitalizing on the turnovers, because they will come.

4.  Has Ralph arrived?  I certainly like to think so.  I couldn't have been more proud on Wednesday, up until the part where they lost.  Ralphie went up against the best center in the Big Ten in Johnson, and not only held his own he dominated the matchup.  Johnson ended up with good numbers, but after a hot start he was mostly invisible while Ralph carried the Gopher offense on his back.  I'm very interesting in seeing how he handles Tisdale on Saturday.  Ralph has a size and strength advantage, but at this stage of his development he's still a finesse player which plays in to the taller Tisdale's hands.  Hopefully we see another step in his path towards Big Ten POY and he brutalizes him down low. 

5.  Can the Gophers actually win in Champaign?  They never do, do they?  The Gophers have been playing very well lately and if that keeps up they have a solid chance, but the Illini are no easy pushover, and somebody is going to have to keep Mike Davis off the boards.  I think I can make three solid predictions for the game:

1)  At some point, the Gophers will have a double-digit lead
2)  At some point with ten minutes left in the game or less, the Gophers will have a lead.
3)  When the final gun sounds, Gopher fans are left feeling disappointed once again by this team

Illinois 63, Minnesota 60

As far as the bubble goes, last night Tulsa whiffed on their big chance to get back in consideration by losing at Duke.  Nobody expected them to win, but it was still their last chance, any way you look at it (barring a win in the C-USA tournament which is certainly possible) and you can now officially cross of Louisiana Tech after their loss to Boise.  Cal and Arizona State both won, increasing the chances of two Pac-10 teams making the dance, and Utah State and St. Mary's both won absolute must-have games.


Princeton @ Cornell - If Cornell wins, they all but lock up the Ivy.  If they lose they are tied with Princeton at the top.

Kansas @ Oklahoma State - An OSU win might be enough to put them in.

Cincinnati @ West Virginia - The Bearcats have little margin for error, and a marquee win like this would be huge.

Illinois State @ Northern Iowa - UNI can't afford another loss to a sub-par team.

Rice @ UTEP - Neither can the Miners.

Tulane @ UAB - Same deal for the Blazers.

Ole Miss @ Alabama - Can the Rebels make a late season push?

Arizona State @ Cal - I'm calling the winner of this one IN.

UNLV @ Air Force - Rebels starting to look a bit shaky, if they drop this one they might be out.

Maryland @ Virginia Tech - The Hokies must win here.

VCU @ Old Dominion - Tough game for ODU, but they can't lose another one.

Charlotte @ George Washington - Charlotte is another team that can't lose a game if they want a bid.

Penn @ Cornell - Same deal here, but this takes on even more importance if the Big Red are dropped by Princeton Friday night.

UMass @ Dayton - Dayton is on very thin ice due to a poor A-10 performance, they're another team that's probably one loss away from being dropped from consideration altogether.

Loyola-Marymount @ St. Mary's - LMU beat Gonzaga earlier this month, could they knock St. Mary's into the NIT? (Answer = no).

Richmond @ Xavier.  Both these teams are almost certainly in, but it should be a pretty great game, and the winner moves to definite lock status.

Marquette @ Seton Hall - Bubble elimination game?  Certainly for the Pirates.

Louisville @ UCONN - Both teams will probably make it, but the winner here takes a step up.

Clemson @ Florida State - Similar to the game above, but both these teams are a bit shakier than the two above.

Busy weekend.  Go Gophers.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Let's Move On - Bubble Watch

I can't bring myself to think about the Gophers anymore, so let's move on to something that has nothing to do with Minnesota basketball - the NCAA Tournament, and take a look at the bubble situation like I promised you I would do every day.

Last night there was a lot of bubble related action and your precious gophers weren't the only team who had their dreams crushed.  South Florida's loss to Villanova isn't surprising, but losing by nearly 30 might be enough to keep them out.  Oklahoma State, Virginia Tech, San Diego State, St. Louis, and Dayton all lost games they could have really used to bolster their cause.  None of those five are dead yet, but the same can't be said for Memphis, Wichita State, and William & Mary who all lost must win games and are now in a position where they will need to win their conference tournament to make the dance.

There were also a few teams in must-win situations who came out on top:  Cincinnati beat DePaul, Marquette outlasted St. John's in overtime, UTEP and fellow C-USA bubbler UAB both won on the road, Florida State won in Chapel Hill setting up a huge bubble game against Clemson on Sunday, UNLV beat TCU, and Charlotte stomped St. Joe's.  The biggest win of the night was probably Notre Dame knocking off Pitt, which keeps them alive and boosts their profile with a marquee win, and they did it without Harangody.  Mississippi State also helped themselves with a win over Alabama thanks to Jarvis Varnado's ridiculous 17 point, 10 rebound, 8 block performance.


Tulsa @ Duke. Tulsa is probably not really in bubble contention anymore, but a win over Duke puts them right back in it.

Boise St @ Louisiana Tech.  Tech is almost certainly out of it, but I like them and they have a better chance than Northwestern since they torpedoed their chances, so here you go.

Arizona @ Cal.  Cal might be the only team who could get an at-large from the Pac-10, so if they falter and somebody else wins the Pac-10 tournament, we're looking at a possible one-bid from a BCS conference.

Arizona State @ Stanford.  Of course, if Cal does win the Pac tournament and Arizona State can't finish strong, we could be looking at one-bid from the Pac that way too.

Oregon @ USC.  ESPN's bubble watch doesn't even have USC in the mix anymore, but hell, somebody has to go on a run in this league, right?

Pepperdine @ St. Mary's.  The Gaels whiffed on both their chances against Gonzaga and pulled out of bracket busters which only could have helped, so their profile is pretty thin.  They need to keep winning and hope to get another crack at the Zags in the WCC final.

Utah State @ Hawaii.  The Aggies margin for error is razor-thin thanks to a mostly empty profile, and traveling the long distance to Hawaii is never easy.  Actually that's a myth.  Hawaii is awful this year and is just 2-5 at home in WAC play this year, but either way USU can't afford a loss here.

There.  That was far more fun than thinking/writing/discussing the Gopher game.  I feel slightly better.

And I know what else would cheer everybody up, a new picture of WonderbabyTM

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

I Quit Blogging Forever [***PHOTO UPDATE***]

Ok I don't quit forever, but seriously you guys, I am absolutely heart-broken.  More heartbroken than when my high school girlfriend dumped me.  More heartbroken than when Kelly dumped Zack at the Costume Ball.  If you're the typical white trash, snowmobiling, duck-hunting cretin who lives in this state, try to remember how you felt after the '99 NFC Championship game - that's how I feel now.  In a season that has been nothing more than disappointment after disappointment, the team had one last chance to salvage the season and had it in hand.  Then it slipped away like a fart in the wind.

And for one rare occasion, I'm actually not upset with any of the players.  They absolutely played their asses off tonight.  Ralph was the man we've always wanted him to be.  As Bogart texted me at one point, "Ralph has arrived."  He took on the challenge of going against JaJuan and bested him at every turn.  Devoe stepped up big time and showed what he can do, taking the offense on his back down the stretch.  Overall, just a great game by the players.

But at some point, we need to start thinking critically about the decisions Tubby Smith made, and it's awfully hard for me to come up with a way to not blame him for this loss.

The timeout with four seconds left is your most obvious, and most egregious error.  I fail to see any reason to stop play there, because how often are you going to be able to come up with a good shot with only four seconds to play?  And yes, the Gophers actually ended up with a great shot which Joseph unfortunately missed, but how can we give Tubby any credit for that?  Devoe made a great one-on-one play, and that's all it was, Devoe on his own.  he got no screen, there was no ball movement, there was no pick-and-roll.  It was just Devoe with the ball, make something happen - which he did, but how was it any better than the shot he got before the timeout was called (which he made?)  Tubby called a timeout in a similar situation late last season (Michigan, maybe?) which cost the team the game because they couldn't get a good shot in the halfcourt set.  Earlier this season, he let the team just play, and even if it wasn't the best look, Westbrook hit the jumper to beat Penn State.  Tubby needs to learn to let his team play, especially when the half court offense is so poor.  Awful call.

Perhaps worse, and inexplicable to me, was having Colt Iverson in the game down the stretch instead of Westbrook.  And I'm not even talking about the bizarre airball lay-up thing, because it's kind of like throwing a monkey a Rubik's Cube - what's more likely, that he solves it or humps it?  And I'm not really even a fan of Westbrook, but any jackass knows that he is the only player who can get to the rim on this team, which he showed with thirty seconds left.  He needs to be in the game down the stretch.

And defensively, what does Iverson give you that you need?  I'm boggled.  On Keaton Grant's huge shot with just over a minute remaining (which was a really, really tough shot, I'll grant you) Ralph was the one trying to run out on him.  Why Ralph?  Say Westbrook is in there instead of Colton, then Ralph is on the inside and someone like Damian is closing out on the perimeter.  You think DJ couldn't get there before Grant got the shot off?  And on the game winner by E'Twaun Moore, guess who the defender who got beat on the baseline was, causing the poor defensive rotation?

I won't even mention some of the groupings we saw in the first half.  I mean, I think everybody knows that Rodney, Cobbs, Iverson, Sampson, and Carter isn't going to work out.

No, give credit to Purdue where it's due - both Moore and Grant hit very tough shots, and the Gopher players gave it their all and played a good game.  This one is on Tubby.

You broke my heart.

[*******PHOTO UPDATE********]

I'm updating this to include a couple of really awesome pictures of Ralphie's three-pointer that Dan from Horan Horan Design sent me. He was sitting in front of us with his super fancy camera and was kind enough to share these with me. Very cool shots, and make sure to check out his site.

Needless to say, I was far more pumped up for these at the time than I am now, as I stare at the staple remover on my desk and try to decide if it would work as a cutting tool, just so I can feel again.

Thanks again, Dan.  Great pictures.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Beat the Boilers

Like I said in my post from yesterday I can't believe how geeked out I am for this game, especially since Purdue is probably going to win by twenty.  But I just can't help it.  I can't wait for the game.  I guess I'm a bit like Jennifer Aniston.  She just knows that whatever guy she gets with is going to get sick of her and break her heart, but she keeps flinging herself at dudes anyway.  That's me.  But instead of dudes it means Gopher basketball.  As far as you know.

On to your preview.

1.  Mediocre team that desperately needs a win at home vs. a final four contender - what usually happens?  Well, I detailed in the last post how UCONN beat WVU Monday night in a very similar position to what the Gophers are in.  Checking back to last year, I found nine similar situations, where a team on the bubble is visited by a top 10 team: Maryland vs. #3 North Carolina, Cincinnati vs. #7 Louisville, Georgetown vs. #6 Louisville, Maryland vs. #7 Duke, UAB vs. #4 Memphis, VA Tech vs. #7 Duke, Maryland vs. #10 Wake Forest, Va Tech vs. #2 North Carolina, and West Virginia vs. #6 Louisville.   The bubble team's record in those games:  1-9.  Gulp.  But hey, thanks to UCONN Bubble teams are undefeated in this type of game this year, so it's practically a lock for your precious Gophers.

2.  How good is the big three of Purdue?  Really, really good and getting better.  E'Twaun Moore might be emerging as the real go-to guy on this team and he absolutely took over the game against Michigan State.  JaJuan Johnson has added a 19-foot pull-up jumper to his already Hakim Warrick like game, and Robbie Hummel is steady as they come (except for his shooting slump the last three games which hopefully will continue).  The three combine to score 65% of Purdue's points and grab 52% of the team's rebounds, and Hummel and Johnson are two of the most offensively efficient players in the country according to Ken Pom, and Moore has a higher effective field goal percentage than either of them.  Oh, and Lewis Jackson is back and has seemingly solved his turnover issues from last year.  Yeah, this all sounds real good.

3.  What's been working for the Gophers the last two games?  Offensive flow, keeping the ball moving in the half court, and the high/low.  Against the Badgers they shot 48% while turning it over just 11 times and against the Hoosiers it was 56% and again just 11 turnovers, this time against 23 assists.  That ball movement and just overall efficient offense is leading to a lot of open shots, as evidenced by the team's 14-29 three point shooting in the last two.  Of course, Purdue is a better defensive team (6th in def. efficiency) than Wisconsin (20th) or Indiana (153rd), and I can't envision how the high/low would possibly work against the Boilers and their size, but moving the ball and finding open shots is going to be a huge key - as it is in pretty much every game of basketball since Naismith and his peach basket.

Defensively this new 3-2 zone has been very effective.  Indiana and Wisconsin combined to shoot just 33% from three and 30% from two, and according to Myron Medcalf of the Star Tribune the two teams combined to score just 22 points in the paint.  That's all well and good, and there's not doubt a properly executed zone with good athletes - which the Gophers have - can be a devastating defensive weapon, but Purdue ain't Wisconsin or Indiana.  The Badgers are more reliant on the three for offense than Craig Hodges and Indiana flat out sucks.  The Boilers don't rely on the three, and Moore, Johnson, and Hummel all attack the paint.  We'll see just how good that zone is, and we'll see it in a hurry.

4.  Who needs to step up?  Honestly, everyone.  This game isn't remotely close on talent, so it's going to take effort, smart-play, hustle, and some luck if the team is going to pull this one out.  Hummel has shot just 8-26 in the last three so if he keeps that up it would be huge, but I'm not that worried about the defense, it's the scoring points part that concerns me.  Westbrook is going to have to avoid the temptation to revert back to "the man", and in such a high-profile game you better believe he's going to be tempted.  That's probably the #1 key to the game, how Westbrook plays within the offense.  I mean, Devoe is going to have to play one of his best games of his career, Sampson is going to have to continue his evolution towards Big Man of the Century and check Johnson, Hoff is going to have to find open shots, and there will probably have to be a surprise hero here somewhere, but the Westbrook thing trumps all.  If he's in "showcase my talent" mode, nothing else is going to matter.

5.  Well, what do we think?  I may be amped up for the game and even feeling a bit optimistic, but I am a realist at heart.  Checking, they give the Gophers a 45% of winning this game and predict a one-point Purdue win.  That's probably not too generous towards Minnesota.  I think if the Gophers and Boilers play this game ten times, Purdue wins seven times - let's just hope this is one of the other three.

Purdue 66, Minnesota 62

As far as other bubble-related news goes, two huge developments last night.  The first was Florida notching a huge win by beating Tennessee, and beating them by double-digits.  This is everything the Gators needed, and gives them not only another win, but a big-time signature victory.  They helped themselves out immensely.

Second, and even more impactful to the bubble, Northern Iowa lost to Evansville in a shocker.  Not only was UNI a heavy favorite, but Evansville had lost 17 of its last 18 games and ranked #275 in the RPI going into last night's game.  Prior to this all UNI would have had to do was win their last two MVC games against bottom feeders and it would have locked up a bid regardless of what happened in the conference tournament.  Now?  This is so huge UNI pretty much needs to get to conference final or it's going to be a very nerve-wracking Selection Sunday.  What a huge whiff.

Elsewhere, Louisville didn't get a big win it was looking for against Georgetown but are still probably ok, while Illinois, Old Dominion, and Seton Hall all got wins they needed for one reason or another.  Northeastern had slim, slim, slim at-large hopes, and those are now officially bye-bye with their loss at home against Hofstra.


South Florida @ Villanova - The Bulls have a couple of really good wins (beat Pitt and Georgetown earlier), but because the rest of the profile is pretty weak they could really use another.

San Diego State @ BYU - SDSU is probably about as much of a middle of the bubble team as there is.  They could really use a high-profile win and this chance to beat the Cougars is as good as it gets.

Pitt @ Notre Dame - The Irish are as good as dead, any single-loss probably kills their chances and with Harangody still injured it will probably happen sooner rather than later.

Dayton @ Temple - The Flyers at-large chances are spiraling down, down, down, and they're probably fifth in the A-10 pecking order at this point.  Stealing one from the Owls would help right the ship.

UTEP @ Southern Miss - The Miners lead C-USA, but are on pretty thin ice due to a weak non-conference profile.  They can't afford a loss here.

Virginia Tech @ Boston College - If the Hokies lose here, they're done.

Florida State @ North Carolina - Florida State's profile is good but not great - they can't afford to lose to the craptastic Heels.

UAB @ Central Florida - I think UAB is nearing lock status for a bid, but they still have to win games like this one.

DePaul @ Cincinnati - A loss here ends the Bearcats chances.

Saint Joe's @ Charlotte - The 49ers are another team that can't afford a loss.

Marquette @ St Johns - I personally think the committee is going to reward Marquette for playing so many good teams tight even though they lost them all (Marquette has six losses against RPI top 50 teams by single-digits), but winning a game like this is still a must for the Eagles.

Xavier @ St. Louis - X is already in, but the Billikens are making a late push.  Something like, say, a win over the Musketeers would be an immense help.

Auburn @ Ole Miss - Lunardi says the Rebels are out.  I'm not necessarily agreeing with that, but they definitely have to win out to have a prayer.

Memphis @ Houston - Memphis probably needs to win at least three of its last four and make a run in the CUSA tournament to have a chance.

Wichita State @ Bradley - Any loss short of in the MVC Tournament final ends the Shockers' hopes.

Alabama @ Mississippi State - Varnado and company have an empty profile when it comes to big time victories, so their only chance is win a lot of games.

TCU @ UNLV - The only way UNLV doesn't get in is by losing games like this one.

Sheesh, busy night.  Hopefully the Gophers win and all these other teams lose.

Bubble Watch - 2/23/09

I've been doing a lot of thinking, and I've concluded that I'm a big giant idiot.  I am completely and totally amped up for the Purdue game tomorrow (preview later today if I feel like it).  As in, I can't stop thinking about it and getting excited.  Why?  What has this team done to make me think they have a prayer against a Purdue team ranked in the top five which has won at both Ohio State and Michigan State in the last two weeks?  This is going to be a romp for the Boilers, and yet I can't stop being optimistic - and I'm not even remotely an optimistic person.  I really hate myself sometimes.

Anyway, last night UCONN got the big win they needed, knocking off #7 West Virginia 72-63 and suddenly vaulting themselves back into the NCAA bracket.  Hmmm, let's take a look at UCONN's season:

1. Preseason projections have the team easily making the NCAA Tournament
2. Team fails to live up to projections
3. Team has to deal with off the court drama
4. Team whiffs on chances for good non-conference wins early in the season.
5. Team struggles in conference
6. Team loses on the road to a bottom of the conference foe
7. Team loses to Michigan
8. Team seems to be hitting their stride and gelling just as a top 10 team comes to town
9. Team beats said top 10 team in order to strengthen NCAA bid chances

Sound familiar?  If they can do it, why not the Gophers?

Aside from the obvious, I mean.


New Mexico @ Colorado State - The Lobos are pretty much a guaranteed lock, but if anything can hurt them a loss against Colorado State could.

Georgetown @ Louisville - The Hoyas are already in, but Louisville needs to keep winning.  They're in very good shape so a loss won't hurt and a win probably moves them into lock status.

Tennessee @ Florida - This is a very big game for Florida since they don't have much in the way of marquee wins.  Beating the Vols probably moves them from the middle of the bubble to the top.

Northern Iowa @ Evansville.  The only way UNI doesn't get an at-large is if they crash and burn coming down the stretch here.  And losing to Evansville would be th every definition of crashing and burning.

Illinois @ Michigan.  This is suddenly a very important game for the Illini because it's their last chance and getting an easy win (other than against the Gophers, obviously).

Old Dominion @ Georgia State.  ODU probably has the resume to get in, but they can't afford a loss before the CAA tournament semis.

Seton Hall @ Rutgers.  A loss here ends the Hall's chances.

Hofstra @ Northeastern.  The Bracket Busters loss to Louisiana Tech probably killed them, but if they win out and then lose in the CAA tournament final they'd be in the conversation.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Week in Review - 2/22/2010

Well, I gotta give credit where credit is due:  there is very little to complain about in regards to the Gopher hoopsters this week.  A big win over the completely hated dickholes from Wisconsin followed by an absolute destruction of the horribly horrid Hoosiers.  And they've looked great too.  The offense is finally flowing well, and even Westbrook has reigned himself in and begun playing within the flow.  The two best games this team has played all year were the two they played this week.  If they're going to hit a stride now is the time to do it.  Big time games coming up at home against Purdue and then on the road at Illinois this week, and they absolutely have to win at least one and probably both to have a shot at a bid.  Of course, if they had played this way they wouldn't have lost to Indiana, Northwestern, or Michigan and would likely have won at least one of the Michigan State games and we wouldn't have to worry about it.

This is such a depressing year.  Let's just move on.


1.  Maryland.  At this point in the season you're rarely going to see a team with three games in a week, but due to a postponement after the great blizzard of "aught-ten" that's what the Terps had this week and they managed a very nice 3-0.  First they beat a tougher-than-expected Virginia squad, then traveled down to NC State and beat the Wolfpack (the same team who beat Wake by 20 this weekend), and then rapped up the week with a buzzer beating home win over Georgia Tech.  The Terps are flying under the radar a bit due to a slow start, but since Professor Dirty Beard, Grievis Vasquez, has shaken off an early shooting slump they are one of the better teams in the country.  Vasquez and Eric Hayes give them a very good, very experienced backcourt, and you know what they say about good guards in March.  The front court might be a little weak, but freshman Jordan Williams is starting to figure it out and has picked up double-digits rebounds in his last three.  Very dangerous team.  I'd hate for the Gophers to have to face them in the second round.


Kill me.

2.  Northern Iowa.   The Panthers are definitely the team that helped themselves the most over Bracket Buster weekend, going from "probably getting an at-large bid" to "definitely getting an at-large bid" with their win over Old Dominion.  UNI is now 24-3, but didn't have much in the marquee win category.  The beat Siena earlier in the year, but that had been their only win over an RPI top 50 team.  Mediocre wins abounded:  Iowa, Boston College, Iowa State, Creighton, and Wichita State all fell to the Panthers, but the Siena win was the only big victory, and with two losses to sub-100 RPI teams (Bradley, DePaul) they couldn't really feel safe.  Beating ODU now gives them that second big win, and increases their RPI rating to #17, and barring a complete collapse in the final regular season week they should be just fine, regardless of the outcome of the MVC tournament. 

3.  UTEP.  If you're a dork like me and were really curious to see how Conference USA would shake out with Calipari jumping ship, you have your answer:  UTEP is the tops.  Coming into the season there were a bunch of contenders with Tulsa and Memphis the favorites, UAB and UTEP right behind them, and Marshall and Houston the dark horses.  Well, the Miners have staked their claim to #1 after beating Tulsa in Tulsa this weekend, giving them a sweep of the Golden Hurricane.  With Houston sucking and Marshall being meh it's been a four team race, and UTEP has staked their claim to the top by going 4-0 against the other contenders, and even more impressively three of those wins have been on the road.  The Miners still have games left against UAB and Marshall, and have plenty of work to do thanks to a mostly empty non-conference resume, but if they make the tournament they could be a tough out.  They are really balanced and can hurt you both inside and out, and will make somebody work very hard to advance.

4.  Cornell.  When Andy Bernard U lost to Penn two weeks ago it basically killed their at-large chances which would suck because this team can absolutely knock somebody off.  The loss to Penn and their #307 RPI is Cornell's only conference loss, but with a dangerous team like Harvard in the conference, and the Ivy giving their auto-bid to the regular season champion, things can get dicey.  Luckily for everyone who likes basketball, Cornell took care of business this week, winning at Harvard 79-70 (and then following that up by beating Dartmouth).  The loss is the third of the season for Harvard, and with Cornell having swept the Crimson it effectively eliminates them from the race.  Cornell's remaining games are home against Penn (4-5) and Princeton (7-2) and then away against Brown (4-6) and Yale (4-6).  The only dangerous game is against Princeton who is just 1.5 games behind the Big Red, and lost to them by just three last time they met.  Hopefully Cornell can take care of business, because I can't wait to watch them knock off Wisconsin in round 1.

5.  Ian Poulter.  There is enough going on in college hoops right now where we could fill twice as many places with teams that had good weeks, but I can't just ignore the winner of the Accenture Match Play Challenge - which is Poulter this year.  Ian has always had the confidence to be a great player (I believe his quote was something like "There's me and Tiger, and then there's everyone else"), but his game hasn't quite kept up and he's been stuck at that Tier II level.  He's had plenty of success in Europe, with eight wins on the European Tour, but has yet to pick up his first PGA Victory, and he's played well in majors, including a runner-up finish at the British in 2008, but hasn't quite broken through.  Perhaps this win in the Accenture will get him there, as he beat a nice group of players - Justin Leonard, Adam Scott, Jeev Milka Singh, Thongchai Jaidee (who?), Sergio Garcia, and Paul Casey - and the last two wins over Garcia and Casey weren't close.  Guy is a hell of a golfer, hell of a talker, and hell of a dresser (on Sunday he looked like a walking Breast Cancer reminder in a full-pink outfit).  Could it be, dare I say it, the Year of the Poulter?


1.  South Florida.  For all the talk of bracket-busting this weekend, the biggest burst might have been the bubble of the Bulls (how's that for alliteration?).  They weren't anywhere near in just yet, and were probably on the wrong side of the bubble, but would have every chance to play themselves into a bid with games left against Villanova and UCONN.  Winning either of those, while taking care of business against St. Johns, Providence, and DePaul, would leave USF at 10-8 in Big East play and in pretty decent shape.  But, as Gopher fans have seen time and time again, these types of teams are prone to disappointing their fans and the Bulls are no exception, losing at home to St. Johns 74-58 on Saturday and probably killing any at-large dreams.  USF allowed St. Johns to shoot 59% from the floor and were out 30-22.  Add in Dominique Jones shooting 6-18 and their twin towers Augustus Gilchrist and Jarrid Famous combined to shoot 2-10 and you aren't going to win that game very often.  The chances of South Florida coming to the Barn for a first round NIT match up are rising.  Get excited, Gopher fans.

2.  The Colonial Athletic Association.  Going into Bracket Busters weekend, the CAA had three teams fighting for at-large consideration:  Old Dominion, William & Mary, and Northeastern.  ODU would be taking on the top team in the Missouri Valley in Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls, W&M would travel to New York to take on Iona, #2 in the MAAC, and Northeastern would welcome Lousiana Tech, the WAC's number three team, to their place.  Overall record:  0-3.  Ouch.  ODU should be ok thanks to their wins over Georgetown and Charlotte and 13-3 conference record, but W&M and Northeastern are in trouble.  The Tribe is in better shape thanks to non-conference wins over Maryland, Richmond, and Wake Forest, but a couple of really bad losses also dot their record (Wilmington, James Madison) and it will be interesting to see how the committee treats them.  Northeastern is in the worst shape despite being tied for first in the conference standings thanks to five losses to RPI sub-100 teams, which is hard to overlook.  Personally, I think both ODU and W&M should get in, but all three teams had a nice opportunity to boost their profile, and all three whiffed.

3.  Siena.  It's kind of tough to tell a team that it sucks after they lose on the road to the 13th ranked team in the country, but the Saints needed to beat Butler if they were going to get an at-large bid and didn't despite having the Bulldogs on the ropes early in the second half.  The Saints had played Butler to a tie at the 16-minutes mark of the second, but Butler went on 16-5 run and never looked back, closing Siena out by the final score of 70-53 and effectively eliminated any chance of an at-large bid for the Saints.  Unfortunately, three major offensive cogs (Ronald Moore, Edwin Ubiles, and Alex Franklin) didn't bother showing up on Saturday, combining to shoot 4-27 (not a misprint) and a 7-7 turnover-assist mark.  Maybe the ten AM start was a bit too early for them on a Saturday.  Siena is still the class of the MAAC and should be able to win the conference tournament and grab a bid that way, but I'm sure it would have been nice for them to not have to.  Way to go, slackasses.

4.  Ole Miss.  This week was basically a clinic in how not to make the NCAA Tournament by the Rebels.  With home games against Florida and Vanderbilt they not only had a good chance to get to third place in the SEC, but they could have done it and grabbed a couple of marquee wins in the process - something their profile is sorely lacking right now.  Of course, they are in the "SUCK" portion of this post, so you can probably guess that they lost both games instead and petty much eliminated themselves from at-large consideration.  This is really too bad, because as much as I complain about the Dayton fans at that Dayton bar in Chicago their is really nothing better than being in a bar dedicated to a team and watching that team get bounced out of the tournament.  Since Dayton is looking less and less likely like a tournament team, we might have to look for someone else, and that bar in Chicago is also an Ole Miss bar (as well as Boston College and Notre Dame).  They might not have a single one of their "teams" make the dance, and then we won't have any fans to laugh at.  Except Iowa fans.  We can laugh at them no matter what.

5.  Cincinnati.  It's time to give up the dream of me cashing on that 200-1 bet, because the Bearcats aren't even going to make the NCAA Tournament, forget about winning it.  After a 0-2 week, they are now 6-8 in the Big East and 15-11 overall and are going to have to go on a huge run to close out the season if they want a chance to reach the big dance.  Two very disappointing losses this week against rival bubble teams (at South Florida and vs. Marquette) are going to make it tough, but Cincy still has every chance to make the tournament.  Their four final games include chances against #3 Villanova, #10 Georgetown, and #8 West Virginia, and I'd bet winning two of those (and their gimme against DePaul) would set Cincy up in pretty good shape for a bid.  Of course, two of those three games are on the road and Cincinnati sucks, so it's more likely they'll close out the year 1-3 and then dip out quickly in the Big East Tournament.  The good news is that they would probably be one of the favorites to win the NIT, so they got that going for them.  Also Lance Stephenson would be an idiot to go pro after this year, which basically guarantees that he will.

I'd like to mention one other thing that was awesome, and recommend the book Willie Mays:  The Life, the Legend by James Hirsch.  Let me tell you something, if there is anything you want to know about Mays, this book has it in its 600 pages.  It is very focused, and very detailed, and other than a tendency to drift into mini-essays on the racial issues of the 50s and 60s stays focused on the story of Mays.  I actually wouldn't have minded a little bit more on guys like Marichal and McCovey, but if you are looking for the story of Willie Mays I wouldn't go anywhere else.  Seriously, my appreciation of the guy has gone way up.  Despite all his numbers which I've seen again and again, I never realized how great this guy was.  Hirsch makes it clear that the players, fans, coaches, and media of the day all considered Willie the best player in the world - except of course for the bigots.

Very cool book.  Highly recommended.

Finally, I'm going to debut my own sort of bubble watch thing. It's not fancy, but neither is your mom:


West Virginia @ UCONN -The Huskies looked like they were cruising towards a bid after beating Texas, but hit some road bumps and found themselves on the wrong side of the bubble.  After a successful 2-0 week, including a win over Villanova, they are back in the conversation, and a home win over WVU would go a long way.

And that's it.  So that was pretty anticlimactic.  Ah well, I'm planning on doing a little something like that every day until selection sunday.  But I'm also pretty lazy, so we'll just have to see.

Friday, February 19, 2010

A Good Win

Which is the more interesting story line:  that the Gophers finally played a complete game, or that they played it without Lawrence Westbrook in large part?  I'm fairly certain it wasn't coincidence that the team played their best game of the year in the same game where he sat out for a large chunk of the second half, but I'm not really going to dwell on that right now.  It was a good win against a hated rival, and, as Snacks emailed me this morning, "Now the Gophers have a pulse."  They do indeed, but it's awfully faint.  I think they're still like Wesley before he takes that big pill from Billy Crystal and are mostly dead.

Last night's win puts the team at 15-10 overall, and 6-7 in conference with five games to play - home against Indiana and Purdue, on the road to Illinois and Michigan, and finishing up at home vs. Iowa.  The current team resume is:  RPI of 75, SoS of 37, 2-4 against the Top 25 RPI, 3-5 against the top 50, and 4-8 against the top 100 and are 3-8 in road/neutral games - UGLY.

Assuming the home games against Iowa and Indiana are wins, a dangerous assumption I freely admit, that gives them 8 wins.  Clearly 8 wins won't get them in, and at this point with that computer profile nine won't either, so they're going to need at least two wins out of the Purdue, @Illinois, and @Michigan games.  Yikes.  That would be a tall order for almost any team.  No, I'm afraid it's a classic case of "too little, too late" here.  They're pretty much just fighting for a higher NIT seed at this point.

More than anything else, this wind kind of pisses me off though.  What the hell, you can only get "up" for games against your big rival?  That's retarded.  Every team in the Big Ten is your rival, and every game is a big game.  If they play like they did last night in other games they don't lose to Portland and probably not Miami, they win at least one of the Michigan State games, they don't lose to Michigan or Indiana, and we're debating if they can get to a four seed or not.  Perhaps some would grant the team a pass due to the instability and the other off the court crap that we are all too familiar with, but not me.  If you can't get fired up for every game then what are you even playing for?  Maybe the whole team is just using their basketball scholarship to get the degree they've always dreamed of. 

Talk about your lost season.  What a freakin' shame.  And a year of Rodney was wasted as well.  I'm not sure if Tubby thought he would develop more throughout the year than he actually did, but he certainly would have been well served with a redshirt year.

Anyway, Indiana heads to the ole Barn tomorrow, and any hope at a bid, slim as it is, depends on not losing this game.  So don't lose it.  They've only won three games in the Big Ten season and are mired in the midst of a seven game losing streak, and they've won one road game all year.  You know, if the capacity to care hadn't already been beaten out of me this year, I'd be terrified.  As it is, I'll just shrug either way.

Minnesota 78, Indiana 62.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Half-assed Wisky preview

Here's your precious preview.  Hope you love it.

1.  Who is good on Wisconsin?  Trevon Hughes has reached "unguardable" status and Jason Bohannon is a better version of Hoffarber.  More disheartening than that, however, is Jordan Taylor has become a mini-version of Hughes.  So that's three top-shelf perimeter threats for Wisconsin versus one good perimeter defender on the Gophers.  Joy.

2.  Who is going to be good for the Gophers?  Probably nobody.  Westbrook tends to play well against the Badgers, but Hughes won't have to guard Nolen since he can't read or whatever and instead can shut down Sir Lawrence.  A good bet would be Sampson here since Wisconsin is nothing more than a perimeter team these days, but the one big guy they have is biggish and will be able to push Ralph around.  Maybe his jumper will be falling.  Let's hope.

3.  What should we expect out of Wisconsin in March?  Probably a 4 or 5 seed, and they'll probably be a trendy pick to be upset in the first round by someone like St. Mary's.  But they'll beat them, and then beat someone like Wake in the second round before bowing out in the Sweet 16.  Because that's what Wisconsin does.  They overachieve with limited talent.  Again and again and again.  Must be nice.

4.  Any chance the Gophers can pull this one out?  Pretty unlikely, but the Badgers are extremely reliant on the three-pointer so an off-shooting night would give the Gophers a chance.  Of course, the Gophers can't defend the three to save their lives so I don't see this happening.    

5.  I suppose you have a prediction for us?  It's gonna be cold.  It's gonna be grey.  And it's gonna last you for the rest of your life.

Wisconsin 70, Minnesota 38.


Some Twins OVER/UNDERs

I sort of feel like writing Twins crap, but I'm not really sure what to write.  We're sort of in a dead period here.  The roster is pretty much set, but with Spring Training not even started yet we have nothing to really chew on, short of reports on Liriano from the Caribbean World Series which is apparently real and not made up.

So here are some OVER/UNDER numbers I just made up for each our our hometown heroes.  Get to know 'em.

MAUER:  Over/Under 21 Home runs
MORNEAU:  Over/Under .280 batting average
KUBEL:  Over/Under 88 RBI
CUDDYER:  Over/Under 110 Strikeouts
SPAN:  Over/Under .303 batting average
HARDY:  Over/Under 17 home runs
HUDSON:  Over/Under .288 batting average
PUNTO:  Over/Under .245 batting average
DELMON:  Over/Under 36 extra-base hits
THOME:  Over/Under 350 plate appearances
BAKER:  Over/Under 3.92 ERA
BLACKBURN:  Over/Under 13 Wins
SLOWEY:  Over/Under 25 Home runs allowed
LIRIANO:  Over/Under 23 games started
PAVANO:  Over/Under 186 innings pitched
NATHAN:  Over/Under 39 saves
GUERRIER:  Over/Under 72 games
CRAIN:  Yes/No on Major League Roster on July 15th (DL counts as No)

Once again, I just made these up.  They aren't from Vegas or anybody who knows anything, just from my dumb head.  And I'm pretty rattled right now because I watched LOST last night and honest to god I love that show but trying to figure it out is like hitting yourself in the cubes with a pillow case full of door handles.  And then doing it again every Tuesday.

If enough people actually give their picks in the comment section here below to make it interesting I'll come up with a prize at the end of the year for the winner.  If I remember.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Week in Review - 2/15/2010

If you came here to talk Gophers you came to the wrong place.  Sorry.  I know we bill ourselves here as a Gopher/Twins blog, but we are officially switching over to a Twins/Ohio State blog.  I just don't see the need to cover a team anymore who, over and over again, plays well and can control the game until they suddenly realize they have the lead and go into complete panic/shutdown mode.  It's not particularly fun.  The rest of you chowder heads can continue to torture yourself by watching this abortion of a team.  I'm out.

Until Thursday against Wisconsin.  God I'm such a masochist. 


1.  Purdue.  The win over Iowa on Saturday is no big deal, but the throttling of Michigan State in East Lansing was like whoa.  The Boilers thoroughly beat the Spartans 76-64 and outplayed them all the way around in their own house.  They raked Sparty's defense for 57% shooting and 43% from three, and out-rebounded a damn good rebounding team.  All three of the Boilers' triplets lit the place up, but the big gun on Tuesday was E'Twaun Moore who hit big shot after big shot.  Every time MSU started to make a run, Moore would hit a big shot to start a run right back for Purdue.  This was a huge win, and a big statement.  I'm not quite convinced that Purdue is a Final Four team, but I'm warming up to the idea.

2.  Richmond.  I don't know that anybody had a better week than Richmond, and now they're near a lock for an at-large bid.  The Spiders picked up a monster win at Rhode Island, tipping the Rams 69-67, and then avoided a letdown at St. Bonaventure, picking up the 68-49 victory.  Richmond now stands atop the A-10 standings at 9-2, is 20-6 overall with wins over Florida and Missouri, and with an RPI of 26 it would take an epic skid to knock them out of the tournament at this point.  The A-10 is looking pretty set with Richmond, Temple, and Xavier near locks, Charlotte and Rhode Island squarely on the bubble, and Dayton struggling mightily and looking more like an NIT team.  Ha-ha Dayton, you suck.  Maybe your hippy fans can all go have a good cry together.  I wonder if that Dayton bar in Chicago will be all crowded for their NIT games?

3.  Cal.  It's about time somebody started separating themselves from the pack of Pac-10 mediocrity, and Cal looks like they're the team after sweeping through Washington with wins over both schools this week.  The win over Washington State isn't necessarily a big whoopty-doo, but beating Washington by double-digits is since the Huskies are the only other halfway decent team in the conference (sorry Arizona State, I know you're 8-5 but you still suck).  It's hard to really get a read on Cal.  I mean the Pac-10 sucks worse than the Gophers and Cal hasn't exactly run the table at 9-4, and their best non-conference win was over Iowa State.  On the other hand Jerome Randle, Patrick Christopher, and Theo Robertson are one of the most talented backcourts in the country, and guards win championships.  I'm not really sure what to think, but I'm pretty sure whatever I ended up deciding to do with them in my bracket they'll do the opposite.  

4.  Louisville.  The win over Syracuse in the Carrier Dome on Sunday was very important for the Cardinals not just because of the signature win-ness of it, but also because it cancels out their loss at St. Johns's earlier in the week, not to mention giving them their first win of the year over an RPI Top-25 team and probably taking them from the middle of to the good side of it.  Louisville is a really interesting team this year.  Thanks to Terrence Jennings's complete refusal to improve and try to become the next Earl Clark/Terrence Williams type player, they're basically Samardo Samuels and a whole bunch of guards. 

5.  Ohio State.  I actually had this spot all reserved and typed up for Illinois since their win over Wisconsin in the Kohl Center was the exact huge signature win they really needed, but then they followed that up by getting so blown out by Ohio State in Champaign that I had the give the propers to the Buckeyes.  Seriously you guys, I'm totally not exaggerating when I say that this team is absolutely loaded and playing out of their minds right now.  They've won six in a row after winning two road games this week (Indiana and Illinois), have won nine straight Big 10 games, and are now in a tie for first a top the Big Ten.  They are absolutely a final four contender, and hopefully you listened to me and slapped some cash down on them when they were 75-1 to win the whole thing, because they've moved to 20-1 now.  And man, if I had ever said something like "Ohio State isn't a top 100 team this year" I'd probably like, stop talking.  And not just about sports, I'd just stop talking all together.  I'd feel like I owed the world that much, you know what I mean?  Like, it would just be the right thing to do.


1.  Texas.  In a wide open season it's been difficult to figure out your final four teams.  Kansas is pretty much the only team I'd call a "lock" right now, mainly because I don't trust how young Kentucky is.  One team I had penciled in was Texas even during their recent skid, but after Monday night's embarrassing loss against Kansas it's painfully obvious that this Longhorn team isn't nearly as good as I thought.  I was ignoring the losses at Oklahoma and Kansas State and even the loss to Baylor at home, but this loss was unignorable in it's ugliness - kind of like Sarah Jessica Parker.  And it's not ugly because they lost to the #1 team by 12 at home, but it was the way they lost - absolutely Gopher-esque.  Terrible decisions with the ball, poor defensive effort, not getting back in transition, and missing open shots were the story of the day.  When the #1 team comes into your house and you're supposed to be a Final Four contender you can't turn the ball over 17 times and shoot 37% - you just can't.  I still think they have talent - Damion James is one of the best players in the country - but they are looking like more of a "ripe for a first round upset" team right now than a "sleeper final four team."  And no, beating Nebraska by 40 on Saturday does nothing to change my mind.

2.  West Virginia.  As long as we're talking about teams I had in the Final Four who had shaky weeks, we might as well throw the Mountaineers in here too.  They started the week out by losing at home to Villanova (allowing the Wildcats to shoot 57%), and then they dropped a road game at Pitt in which they led by seven with 43 seconds left, only to end up losing in triple-overtime.  Neither loss by itself is necessarily a huge red flag, but the combination of the two and the poor defense and late game meltdown are pretty telling, and actually remind me of how Huggy Bear's Cincinnati teams nearly always underperformed their seed.  Like Texas, there is still a lot to like with this team and they are still in the Final Four discussion, but now my faith is shaken.  And can a team without a real point guard get to the Final Four?  Jesus, at this rate I'm just going to pick random teams, everybody sucks this year.

3.  Rhode Island.  I mentioned above that Rhode Island is still probably in good shape to grab an NCAA bid - and they are - but they whiffed on a couple of big chances this week.  First, they had Richmond come in to their place and walk out with a two point victory, and then on Saturday they went into Temple and got their asses completely handed to them 78-56 in a game where Temple shot 68.6% - a Temple school record.  I say the Rams are in good shape because they have a good record and a nice RPI, but what they are really missing is any kind of signature win.  They have a couple nice wins - one over Dayton and one over Oklahoma State - but those are the team's only victories over RPI top 50 opponents and winning either of their games this week would have given them another.  With just one more crack at a top 50 team this year (Charlotte), it will be interesting to see how the committee treats them.  Good numbers, but is the profile too empty?    

4.  UNLV.  I don't know if it's the DWG Jinx or just some kind of natural let-down, but just one week after making a huge statement by whooping some Mormon ass they whiffed on two more opportunities to take down their top MWC competitors.  First, New Mexico came to Vegas and beat the Rebels 76-66, and then the Rebs traveled to San Diego to take on SDSU and lost that one as well, 68-58.  Neither of those are bad losses, and UNLV should be able to win their last five to finish out at 12-4 in the MWC and 24-6 overall so they'll be ok, but pretty much a huge letdown week following up that monster win. 

5.  Siena.  Unlike the other four teams on the suck list this week, the Saints might have actually lost their at-large bid with their play over the weekend, in this case a loss to Niagara by the count of 87-74.  What really hurts is that Niagara isn't the good Niagara they've been the last few years - they're under .500 in the MAAC and have an RPI in the 150s.  Although it's just Siena's first conference loss, that might be all it takes to eliminate them from at-large consideration.  They don't have any wins over the RPI top 50 and they whiffed on every opportunity they had in the non-conference schedule to get a big win.  Next weekend is Bracket Busters, and the Saints were lucky enough to draw Butler, but unfortunately they have to go on the road.  No matter, this game has gone from a "would be a really good idea to win" to an "absolutely must-have win" for the Saints.  In any case, at least they aren't the Gophers.  That would really suck for them.

What also sucked was the All-Star H.O.R.S.E. event.  A really good idea, but they've commercialized it and regulated it to the point that it just sucks to watch.  There's like a 30 second break between every shot so Barkley and the TNT crew can yuck it up, so there's no flow to the game at all.  I wondered why they only had three people, and it's because they take so many breaks and there is so much "witty banter" that there's really only about one shot per minute.

Great idea, terrible execution.  Like the exact opposite of the last Indiana Jones movie, which had a terrible script that was executed well.  Neither one works.  Much like this edition of Gopher basketball, which is a terrible idea executed terribly.  Seriously.  This year's team is like that Paris Hilton movie "The Hottie and the Nottie" - just a horrid idea that was awful in its execution.  Jesus, I just compared the Gophers to that movie and I don't think that's being harsh enough.  Remind me why I'm going to the game on Thursday?  Oh, right.  I'm really stupid.    

Friday, February 12, 2010

Gophers vs. Northwestern Preview

Since the next Gopher game is Sunday I probably need to get a preview up here.  I really don't feel like it.

The team is imploding.  They can't play offense.  They can't play defense.  Westbrook is a complete loose cannon who seems to have little regard for the team.  Tubby is insulting his own players and is getting outcoached at nearly every opportunity.  Things are spiraling down-down-down.  Ugh.  Sorry.  I can't do more than a prediction:

Northwestern 90, Minnesota 25.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Swamp Donkey!

 I'm sitting here watching this stupid game, and I wasn't going to type anything up but I'm watching and my blood is boiling and I just can't take it.  Why can't they figure out Michigan's man-to-man?  Why are we still seeing the "line changes" at this point in the season?  Why won't Tubby shorten the rotation when it's clear Iverson can't guard Sims and Bostick, as much as it pains me, doesn't belong out on the floor?  Why does this team constantly refuse to get back on defense?  Why is Ralph so accurate with the lob pass from the high to the low post?  Anyway, we're at the 7 minute mark of the first half and the Gophers are down 19-15 and I'm ready to kill.  It also doesn't help that Snacks is in Vegas and I'm not.  I'd much rather start drinking at 9am and then gamble for 12 hours then go to work.  I hate that guy.

5:51 -  You really can't leave the Hoff open.  This guy is ridiculous.  He's like the white Larry Bird, only if Bird was more like Craig Hodges.

5:16 -  Possibly the best quote ever by Bob Knight "Westbrook gets a little anxious to dribble the ball."  Awesome.

5:16 - Please note:  Blake was a Ginger as a kid.

5:01 - Airball by Stu Douglass on a wide open shot.  And I mean wide-open.  This team really can't shoot.  If the Gophers lose here they should be beyond embarrassed.  Even worse than Northwestern losing to Iowa.  Seriously.

4:22 - Manny almost passes too much.  There was a turnover on a pass to Sims who couldn't handle it.  Although the more I see Harris, the more I'm not sure of him as a pro.  I can watch Werewolf Turner and see how he's going to be a good NBA player, but I don't see it as much in Harris.  He might be, but I bet it will take him a lot longer than Turner.  And Sims is a lock to dominate in Turkey.

2:47 - They are up to 13 Final Fantasys now?  Man, Dawger and I played the shit out of Final Fantasy 7 in college.  Between that, the Star Wars games, NCAA Football, and Hot Shots Golf it's amazing we ever got to class.  Well, maybe one of us didn't, but I still have a degree.  SCREW YOU FOR JUDGING.

1:26 - Picture it:  Breakaway.  1-on-1.  Paul Carter versus Manny Harris, Carter with the ball.  You're picturing disaster (well I was), and yet Carter takes it at him for the lay-in and the foul (and makes the foul shot).  I think it's clear, Carter > Harris.

0:00 -  Good foul Rodney. 

19:25 -  So Devoe can't shoot now?  Awesome trend.  By the way, I'm watching this on Tivo and am fairly drunk already, so that's why this is so retarded.  Like you. 

19:00 -  More missed layups.  Sweet Juniper berries this team can't score.  Just terrible. 

18:22 -  Westbrook goes right by some dumb white guy and two passes later it's a wide open three for the Hoff, which he of course makes.  I really wish they could do that every time.  Also, playing defense would be great.  Nice layup, Sims. 

17:50 -  Musberger just described a Sampson turnaround jumper as "uncomfortable."  As much as I'd like to argue, he was right.  Ralphie really not looking comfy tonight.  Must be the uncoordinated whitey on him.  Being from the south and all, I'm sure white dudes make him extra nervous.

16:46 - Johnson beaten off the dribble as badly as I've seen in his four years by Harris.  Luckily some good help defense creates a miss, but wow.

16:38 -  Every time one of these white dudes for Michigan scores it should probably count double.

16:25 -  Eight different Gophers have an assist tonight.  Wow.  Awesome.  I'm super excited about that stat.  Michigan leads 34-31.

15:09 - Joseph misses another three.  Am I crazy or is he just missing like, all the time these days?  I'm telling you, dude is a shooting guard and when he's forced to play point it messes with his mind and screws up his shot.  You know how there are some guys who can't DH because they need to play the field in order to hit?  And it's 100% in their head but it still seems to matter?  That's Joseph when he has to play point guard. 

14:51 -  Due to some switches, Harris ends up with the ball with Cobbs on him.  He ends up passing it away, and then gets it back, and passes it away again.  Dude, you need to recognize things.  I love Cobbsy and all, but no chance in hell can he stop Harris one-on-one.  I'm not exactly sure if I should blame Beilein, Harris, or just "the system" or what, but that was a huge opportunity.  Why am I worried about this team again?  Other than that they're up 3 right now?

13:21 - Westbrook scores on a nice follow off a Ralph miss, then pickes up a really stupid (and also really ticky-tack) foul 80 feet from the basket.  Since it's his third Tubby yanks him, which causes Westbrook to pretty demonstrately show that he doesn't agree with the decision.  I don't care if you love him or hate him, but Westbrook has got to be an absolute handful to try to coach.  Also a handful:  your sister's boobs.

12:40 - Hoff with another three.

11:50 -  Brutal turnover by Joseph, basically just throwing it right to a Michigan defender.  Michigan is now up six, 44-38.  We're running out of time here fellas.  Not really all that cute anymore.  You might want to go ahead and consider stopping with the suckness.  Please?  I'm mostly kidding about the NIT stuff.  Although the opportunity to see Dominique Jones live does put a little hop in my step, I'd still rather watch the Gophers lose by twenty in the first round of the NCAA tournament.  Come on, retards.  Michigan sucks.

11:20 -  Westbrook back in.  Probably had a good cry.  And we just got about the third or fourth offensive foul called against the Gophers, and they were all kind of brutal.  Sort of some anti-home cooking going on here.  I blame Obama.  Can't trust him, you know.  He's an arab.

11:00 - Hoff misses an open three.  Musberger seems shocked, but I figure that seems about right.  When things come crashing down, they always come crashing down in a big way.  Just ask Metallica.  Hoff just missed another one while I was typing.  Ugh.

9:38 -  Some big dumb guy hits a three for Michigan, and we're now at a 9-point Michigan lead.  This is really quite depressing.  I think I'm going to stop typing.

8:57 - Uh oh.  It's looking like Westbrook has switched into "F You" mode.  He passed that one off, but I could tell it caused him physical pain to do it.  Something good better happen, because it's still a nine point game.  And now they are in the bonus.  That can only help Michigan.

8:31 -  Douglass absolutely loses Westbrook for a wide open layup and the foul.  God this is pathetic.  I'm only posting in British slang the rest of the way.

7:49 -  Bloody Hell.

7:33 - Michigan is shooting 69% in the second half.  These bunch of billy-no-mates are getting rather cheeky with the bunch of blighters who make up the Gopher squad.

6:35 - Thus far these pillocks are at least making their free throws, which gives them a hard chance about it.  Michigan still up six, but they are a bunch of charva, so I haven't given up just yet. 

6:16 -  Harris with a monster three.  Might be the kick in the goonies that ends this one.  And then Rodney turns it over and stands there like a true piss-artist.  Just pathetic.  I'm so glad the second unit is in, especially since they just let Sims hit a wide fucking open layup to put Michigan up eleven.  ELEVEN.  It's fucking Michigan at fucking home.  You are playing for your god damned tournament life you fucking morons!  Honest to christ, somebody give me a reason to believe in Tubby.  I can't come up with one.  This whole year has been a god damned nightmare and he's the man at the helm.  I feel like I'm on the Titanic and Billy Zane has already crashed it into a iceberg and I'm stuck in the freezing water and Kate Winslet is too fat to let me sit on the floating door with her so now I have to die.  BOLLOCKS!

5:14 -  Another Michigan layup.  I'm done here.

2:12 -  I'm just popping back in to mention that Michigan just got another layup.  Seriously, these prats are the worst defensive team I've ever seen, and the fact that they have a good reputation defensively is nothing but piffle.

So I tell the swamp donkey to sock it before I give her a trunky in the tradesman's entrance and have her lick me yarbles!

Seriously.  Tell me why I shouldn't be anti-Tubby.  Tell me.  I see no reason whatsoever to be on his side at this point.  What is the difference between him and Monson?  Minimal, at this point.  Minimal.  We were promised so much more, and I bought it.  I bought it hook, line, and sinker and I've ignored a lot of things that bothered me because "we got Tubby."  F that.  You can have him back.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Hello Manny.

Gopher Nation laid it out pretty simply in his post a couple of weeks ago:  there are three remaining absolute, no doubt about it, nothing else is acceptable must win games.  You need at least one and more likely two wins out of the remaining games, but there are three that if you lose you might as well just pack it in.  This is one of them.  And it's the most dangerous.

Michigan is just 11-12 and has lost to Indiana, Utah, and Boston College and been swept by Northwestern, but you really just can't sleep on this team.  This is essentially the same team that went 21-14 last year and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament.  They also have Manny Harris, who is still incredible and still opened the season with a triple-double.  It's still mind-boggling how bad they are, although keep in mind they did beat UCONN last month.

Obviously, I'm a bit worried here.  Let's just get on to the five questions that I know you are so desperate to read

1.  What's wrong with Michigan?  Well I sort of broke this down a little bit with a post last week, but in a nutshell they are extremely reliant on the three point shot, but can't make it.  They are twelfth in the country in the % of their field goal attempts that come behind the line, with 43.5% of their attempts being three-pointers, but they shoot a terrible 28.9% from there.  How bad is that?  It's 324th in the country and last in the Big Ten.

The best team in the country is Marquette at 42.4%, which means if the two teams played and only shot three-pointers and each got exactly 60 possessions and there were no turnovers or offensive rebounds, Marquette would win 76-52.  That's bad.  And since Beilein is apparently incapable of altering his offensive strategies to fit his players, they lose.  And lose.  And lose.

2.  But Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims were going to be the Big Ten's answer to the Shaq & Penny from NBA Jam.  What happened?  Actually those two have been excellent.  His scoring is up a bit while his rebounding and assists are down slightly, but his turnovers are down as well and he's really upped his steals.  He has also improved his overall shooting, and outside of his three-point accuracy going from below average to "god awful", he's been every bit as good as expected and ranks in the top 10 in points, rebounds, assists, and steals.

Sims has increased his production in pretty much every metric and kept his shooting percentages nearly identical to last year, and ranks in the top six in the conference in both scoring and rebounding.  He's not the problem either.

Stu Douglass is shooting less than 32% from the floor this year.  Laval Lucas-Perry is playing 25% more minutes this year compared to last year, but is scoring less and turning it over more.  Zack Novak, maybe the most likely candidate to jump into third banana status, has stagnated/regressed, and is shooting just 28% from three.  Freshman Darius Morris has proven to be almost zero offensive threat, with more turnovers so far this year than made field goals.

Harris and Sims are going to be major handfuls, but if one of these clowns gets off and has a big game, it could be a long, long night. 

3.  So are the Wolverines the most disappointing team this year?  If it wasn't for the baby blues down in Chapel Hill, I'd say yes for sure, but it's hard to beat a Carolina team that was expected to be a sweet 16 type team but is struggling to even make the NIT for disappointment.  Using my handy-dandy Athlon preview magazine as a guide, we could put Oklahoma up in that range as well, since they were also picked as a sweet 16 team but are going to be lucky to make it to the NIT.  Toss in UCLA and (for me at least) Cincinnati and you have a hell of a starting five of disappointment.

4.  Gopher pick to click?  Which Gopher(s) can we expect to come up big?  Other than none of them, you mean?  Well, if I have to pick somebody I'm going with Hoffarber.  Although the Wolverines season-long numbers don't show them particularly deficient at defending the three, they've been shredded lately, allowing 52% to Wisconsin and 50% to Northwestern last week.  They allowed Jason Bohannon of all people to go off for 18, and he's a poor man's Hoffarber, so I'd expect the real deal (not J.D. Durbin) to have an even bigger night.  The Wolverines are not a deep team, and it takes a lot of effort and energy to keep defending the perimeter when you're playing 35+ minutes.  

5.  So what do we think?  Normally I'm pretty pessimistic, and normally I'd probably pick a Michigan win here.  In fact, I was pretty sure I was going to be predicting a Wolverine win.  Yet instead, I believe I will listen to the words written oh so elegantly on the ample rumps of the lovely young lasses below:  F Michigan.

Minnesota 67, Michigan 66.

In any case, I predict the Gophers control the game most of the way and collapse in the last five minutes.  In this case, I think they manage to pull it out.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Welcome back Jacque Jones?

When I saw the article header on "Twins sign Jones, Invite him to Spring Training" the wheels started spinning in my head:  "Who could this Jones be?"  My very first though was Andruw, but I know he signed with the White Sox already.  Then I thought either Doug or Todd, but Doug retired in 2000 and although Todd retired in the last couple of years, I figured he must be trying to make a comeback.  I was pretty sure it was him.

I never even considered Jacque Jones, which is weird, because I had heard or read somewhere recently that he was looking to make a comeback.  So here we are:  Jacque back in a Twins' uniform, even if only for Spring Training.  How weird.

I can't even decide how I feel.  On the one hand, I remember watching him and how much fun he always looked like he was having, and how fun that made him to watch.  Plus, in the book "Fantasy Land" (which I highly recommend), the author spends a good amount of time detailing a couple of conversations he had with Jacque, and he comes off as every bit the good, fun, upbeat, positive guy he seemed when watching him all those years.  I liked Jacque Jones.  On the other hand, he wasn't all that great a ball player, posting above average numbers just three times in his career, and posted some downright awful numbers in his short Detroit and Florida stints in 2008 - the last time he played an MLB regular season game.  He also hit just .089 in Spring Training last year for the Reds before being cut and signing with the Newark Bears where he got to play with Carl Everett and Tim Raines's sucky kid.

So, yeah, he probably won't make the team, but I'm rooting for him.  I'm going to look at his 10% walk rate in 2008 - nearly double his career number - and hope he learned pitch selection and plate patience.  I'm going to look at his .147 average that year and ascribe it to bad luck and a poor BABIP of just .180.  I'm going to hope he's still a good outfielder.  And hey, he's only 34 and has said he is willing to play at AAA if need be, and he was signed to just a minor-league deal, so he should have pretty much every opportunity to stick around.

Good luck, Jacque. 

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Week in Review - 2/8/2010

You cretins probably don't realize how difficult it is to run a blog, especially when you do a critically acclaimed and widely recognized Week in Review every Monday with an Awesome and Sucks section.  Like, what am I supposed to do about this Gopher basketball game?

They won a road game on a last-second shot:  Awesome.  But it was against Penn State:  Sucks.  They played well enough to essentially dominate the game:  Awesome.  But a serious of mistakes in the final minutes almost let the game slip away:  Sucks.  Huge shot by Westbrook to win the game:  Awesome.  But it wouldn't have come to that if Westbrook hadn't made maybe the biggest of the mistakes down the stretch:  Sucks.

Seriously, I didn't feel any excitement at all after he hit that shot, it was something closer to relief mixed with exasperation.  About the only good thing about this game was Ralph turning into a monster.  Snake once told me I expected too much out of Ralph too soon, and I think he was right.  I was looking for this monster to emerge too early in his career, but I can see the career arch I had envisioned beginning to take shape.  I'm starting to think two Big Ten Player of the Year awards was a bit too optimistic, but one is practically a given - assuming he stays two more years.

Anyway, I think the best strategy is just to ignore this game.  It really means nothing other than now we have to watch a few more games before we can give up on this team.  I'm still looking forward to a few NIT games.


1.  Gonzaga.  The Zags dropped a WCC game to San Francisco two weeks ago, ending their nine game win streak, but if you thought it was some kind of indication that they weren't awesome you are sadly mistaken my buddy friend.  They started out this week with a complete drubbing of one of this season's pretenders to the WCC crown - Portland (Gopher fan:  *cry*), waxing the Pilots 76-49, and then picked up a nice win on Saturday, beating Memphis at the FedEx Forum (that's in Memphis, genius).  Beating the Tigers isn't quite the same feather in your cap it used to be the last few years, but beating a good team, and a good home team, in their place is always a good indication of a tough team.  I don't love Matt Bouldin (GrandSlam's favorite player, FYI) but he can light it up when he needs to.  Stephen Gray is the next Jeremy Pargo, Elias Harris is the next Austin Daye, and Robert Sacre is the most athletic center I can remember Gonzaga having.  I don't think they're a final four threat, but they're closer to that than some of the versions we've seen of the Bulldogs before who were just ripe for a first round upset. 

2.  UNLV.  Right now the Mountain West has probably two guaranteed bids - BYU and New Mexico - and there is probably room for one other team, either UNLV or San Diego State.  The Rebels just took a huge stride towards grabbing that bid, blowing out BYU in Las Vegas in a game that was much less close than the 88-74 score would indicate.  UNLV jumped out to a 15-2 lead to start the game and led 47-18 at one point before letting the foot off the gas.  Former Memphis transfer Tre'Von Willis led the way with 33 points, 8 assists, and five rebounds, following up his 15-8-8 effort earlier in the week against Wyoming.  The Rebels already have wins over Louisville, Arizona, and Nevada in the non-conference season and have already beaten New Mexico and San Diego State to go along with that win over BYU, so assuming there are no major hiccups they are in pretty good shape to grab a bid.  Just don't lose to teams like Air Force or Colorado State or anything. 

3.  New Orleans Saints.  I'm actually pretty bummed about this despite betting on the Saints.  First, because I'm kind of a half-assed Colts fan and it sucks to keep watching the greatest QB of all-time (yeah, I said it) keep losing in the playoffs due to other people's mistakes.  Secondly, the whole "Saints are destined to win to make up for Katrina" crap is mind-blowingly retarded.  Seriously, how stupid are you people?  A Super Bowl is going to make up for eighty-bajillion dollars in damages and a kajillion deaths?  I don't know about you, but I'm pretty sure God still owes New Orleans a whole lot.  And then he goes and has Chris Paul get hurt?  Nice guy, your god.  Anyway, congrats to the Saints.  Sean Payton outcoached Jim Caldwell to infinity, Drew Brees executed perfectly, and that onside kick to start the 2nd half might have been the ballsiest call in history.  This was probably the first Super Bowl in history where I didn't hate at least one of the teams, so I'm happy either way.  But I would have been way happier if the Colts won.  Also the Sidler is probably on suicide watch (he's from Indiana).  Yes, again.

4.  Steve Stricker.  I haven't written a word about golf since the season started back in January, mainly because all the tournaments thus far have had less than thrilling player fields, but this week I have to give props to Stricker.  After two good rounds, Stricker was in a tie with Dustin Johnson at ten under heading into the weekend, both three shots clear of the third place golfer.  Rather than sit back, Stricker got after it again on Saturday, posting a five under 66, the second-best round of the day, which staked him to a huge lead going into the final round, a lead that let him simply coast to the championship with a 70.  It was a very impressive and convincing win over a pretty good field that included Phil Mickelson, Paddy Harrington, Hunter Mahan, Luke Donald, Ernie Els, Jim Furyk, and notorious homo Stew Cink, among others.  It seems strange to say Stricker is the #2 golfer in the world, but it's now official - he is.

5.  Bracket Busters.  The matchups for Bracket Busters were announced this week, and for once they managed not to screw it up.  Of course, as usual there are a ton of matchups and a lot of them include teams like Presbyterian (RPI 318), UT-Martin (RPI 335), and Marist (RPI 337), but the eleven tv matchups are pretty intriguing with 19 of the 22 teams having an RPI under 100.  The highlight is Siena at Butler, with Butler probably ok either way but Siena really needing this win to get an at-large, but there are six other games involving ten other teams that have NCAA At-Large bid ramifications (at-large hopefuls in bold):  Old Dominion at Northern Iowa, William & Mary at Iona, Louisiana Tech at Northeastern, Akron at Virginia Commonwealth, Charleston at George Mason, and Wichita State at Utah State - although both W&M and GMU lost this week, probably ending their chances.  In year's past there was usually one, maybe two games worth watching, but this year there are at least seven.  The only thing really missing is a couple of Ivy League squads in Cornell and Harvard, but I guess the nerds have to nerd it up in their precious library and can't come out and play.  Way to go, Poindexter!  Enjoy your English Lit degree when you're serving my kids fries at a drive-thru on our way to a skiing trip.


1.  Michigan.  If it's frustrating to be a Gopher fan this basketball season, and it most certainly is, try to imagine being a Michigan fan.  Picked by most analysts to be a NCAA Tournament team and in the top five or so in the conference this season has been a huge struggle.  A tough schedule and some poor play led to the Wolverines coming into conference play with a 6-5 record, but with a very good RPI and SOS they had a pretty good chance at a bid if they just played well against conference teams.  However they dropped the opener to Indiana and have been faltering ever since.  I win over UCONN two weeks ago could have been a rallying point for a late season push, but since then Michigan has gone 2-5, culminating this week in a blowout loss at Northwestern and then a blowout at home against Wisconsin, dropping them to 4-7 in the Big Ten and 11-12 overall, aka not even eligible for the NIT.  This is what happens when a coach (Beilien) tries to force the players on his team to play in his stupid everybody bomb three-pointers at all times system when those players can't shoot.  It's like a team of Paul Carters out there just bombing away.

2.  LSU.  Maybe it isn't exactly fair to call out LSU this week since they did play Tennessee and Kentucky, but they had them both at home, lost both, were completely embarrassed by Kentucky (lost 81-55), and it has become impossible to ignore the fact that the Tigers are now sitting at 0-9 in SEC play.  Ouch.  They were just in the Final four in 2006, and made the tournament last year and stretched eventual champ UNC into a damn good game.  What happened?  They still have Tasmin Mitchell, who is one of the best overall players in the NCAA, but everybody else is gone from last year, and the new guys all suck.  Bo Spencer, a three-point specialist last year who shot 40% behind the line, has been unable to move into a more prominent role and is shooting just 28% from three this year.  It's just depressing.  I like my LSU teams to be hyper-athletic and capable of beating anybody at any time.  Not on nine-game losing streaks with a win over Rice as their best of the year.  And did I mention that Kentucky was winning 42-14 at half on Saturday?  Yuck. 

3.  LaSalle.  If you ever want proof that I'm an idiot, you can ring up my preseason LaSalle prediction as your latest in a long, long, line of evidence.  I was blinded in the preseason by a returning super-stud scoring machine (Rodney Green) and a super fancy brand new freshman center (Aaric Murray) and picked them to finish second in the A-10.  Well it turns out they suck, and this week eliminates any doubt.  They had two home games - the first a nice chance to pick off a top team with Rhode Island coming in, the second a simple win over St. Louis - and obviously they lost them both or I wouldn't be here typing this right now.  LaSalle is now 3-6 in the conference, tied for 8th with crap factory Duquesne, and is at 11-12 overall.  Like Michigan, they are now not even eligible to make the NIT since they are under .500.  Sounds like a killer CBI match-up.  Between this and my pimping of Cincinnati it's pretty clear my eye for talent is worse than someone who thought Troy Williamson would be a super star (bogart).  Ohio State better come through for me.

4.  Cincinnati.  Oh yeah, Cincinnati.  The team I pimped as a final four sleeper this year.  Whoops.  They might still make the tournament and all, currently sitting at 5-6 in the Big East with a couple of really good non-conference wins already on the resume, but you can go ahead and forget about them making any kind of run barring Lance Stephenson turning into Carmelo Anthony in the next month.  This week was a pretty good barometer of what type of team we have here.  Good teams beat bad teams on the road and beat other good teams at home.  This week the Bearcats played Notre Dame on the road and Syracuse at home - they went 0-2 and neither game was even close, which tells me this isn't any kind of special team whatsoever, just another lame-o team like so many out there.  Deonta Vaughn has taken about twenty steps backwards, Stephenson has been just ok, Ibrahima Thomas hasn't made much of an impact, and everybody else here is just meh.  I'm so disappointed. 

5.  Reggie Wayne.  If you're looking for a goat for the game, don't bother with Peyton or Caldwell, look to Wayne.  Targeted eleven times he came up with just five catches for 46 yards.  He let a perfect pass go right through his hands at the end of the game which would have been a touchdown (also we could maybe look hard at Pierre Garcon here if we're talking dropping passes).  Most importantly, he slipped on the big Peyton INT that Porter returned for a TD.  If he doesn't slip, that's either a catch or, at worst, an incompletion.  Instead, he slips and can't get back for the ball, and you know the rest.  Yeah.  It's not Manning this time, it's Wayne.  And with Garcon and Collie on board and Gonzalez coming back from injury, it's probably time to trade him while his value is high.  Maybe to like, the Vikings or something.  I don't know, just brain storming here.

Seriously though, I am happy for the Saints.  They're almost impossible to hate, other than the whole "team of destiny" crap and the fact that Reggie Bush is a big piece of crap yet Bogart loves him.  Seriously, he totaled 25 rushing yards and 38 receiving yards in the game.  You know what's even worse?  He covered the OVER with both of those.  Seriously.  Dude sucks.  He's the next Dave Meggett. But he does have Kim Kardashian, so who am I to argue?

And if you aren't excited now, you should start getting excited because it's RIVALRY WEEK on ESPN!  Woo!  What does that mean?  Well, like every other year, it pretty much just means North Carolina and Duke play this week, and then they pretend that a bunch of non-rivalries are rivalries so they can call it a "week."  Whoopy.