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.
WHO WAS AWESOME
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.
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.