Friday, November 5, 2010

Minnesota Gopher Basketball 2010: Player outlook

Much like Tom Cullen I managed to survive Captain Trips, and I also managed to watch the game against Northeastern State on replay on the Big Ten Network (well, three-quarters of it because after that it was like yawn), so here are some thoughts about the players who matter for the year.  Overall, I really think this has a chance to be a very, very special season.  M-O-O-N, that spells Go Gophers.

Maverick Ahanmisi:   He looked pretty shaky in Canada, but was better against NE St.  Early reports made it seem as if he couldn't dribble with his left hand or kept dribbling off his foot or couldn't play point guard, but he didn't look like he was a complete waste.  If he ends up playing a lot of significant minutes that won't be good, but I'm cautiously optimistic he might be an ok back-up by the end of his time here.

Chip Armelin:  The latest Gopher freshman signing for the class and reportedly the most athletic, he looks exactly as advertised - incredible athlete and a bit of a project.  He showed he has a pretty good looking jump shot and is definitely a great athlete, but he was also out of position a ton on defense - mainly because he can't seem to harness his energy and is a bit of a spaz.  Dare I say it, but he reminded me quite a bit of Rico Tucker.  We all know Dan Monson failed to reign in and teach the highest potential gopher of all-time, sad story that is, but with Tubby here now I have faith Chip is going to end up a very, very good player.  Just maybe not this year.

Elliott Eliason:  Reports are that he's going to redshirt, and that makes sense given the Gophers' depth in the paint and the fact that it wouldn't kill him to put on some weight before taking on the big ten wide bodies.  Still, from what I've seen I think he could contribute this year if he was needed.  He seems to have a nice feel for the game and good fundamentals.  Should be a quality player down the road.

Blake Hoffarber:  Blake be Blake.  I think he's turned into just the type of the player a contending team needs.  He's obviously an amazing dead-eye shooter who has developed a hair trigger release, but he's also a very smart player, which leads to good passes, good decisions, and getting more rebounds than a player of his size and athletic ability should.  I'm still a bit worried about him against the more athletic teams and their ability to expose him on defense and/or shut him down on the offensive end, but he's going to be the difference between winning and losing at least once this year.  Could be the next Lee Humphrey.

Austin Hollins:  Looking like he might be the best of this year's freshman, Hollins has shown an ability to play defense, handle the ball, shoot the perimeter shot, and put it on the floor and get to the rim.  Just a really solid all-around game and very impressive for a player so young.  I don't know how he'll hold up to a full season of Big 10 ball because he's still a bit slight, but he's going to contribute this year and be a big part of how far the team can go. 

Colt Iverson:  Iverson has gone from completely uncoordinated oaf two years ago to semi-skilled brutish oaf coming into this year (think Jeff Hagen with less fat and more elbows).  Over the last two years he's added an awkward drop-step to a power layup and an awkward jump hook to a repertoire that used to be made up of "layup" and "dunk", so it was a solid step forward.  I sort of think he's hit his ceiling skill-wise, but with better  fundamentals and more confidence he could probably get himself in the 10 pt/8 reb range by his senior year.  That's about a million years better than I expected, so I salute you, sir.  Also plays the Miles Tarver role by making it clear he'll mix it up if you start effing with the high priced talent.  Probably the most important role he plays on this team, and I'm not kidding.  Still gets most of his points by out-muscling weaker and smaller players, so it will be interesting to see how he adjusts when he goes against defenders of similar stature, something he was unable to do last season.

Devoe Joseph:  This is the scorer right here.  Played limited minutes against NE St. due to an injury which shouldn't be a problem, but from what I've seen he's willingly and ably stepped into the Lawrence Westbrook role of the guy who can get his shot if nothing else is working.  Hopefully this year most of that comes in the flow of the offense and we don't see as much of the "pass it around for 30 seconds, get nothing, and then throw it to the guard and make him get his own shot."

Trevor Mbakwe:  Oh my baby santa jesus.  Built like Deebo but with the athletic ability of Sidney Deane, Mbakwe is going to be an absolute force this year.  I don't know if the Gophers have had anybody with that kind of combination - ever.  I don't know if he has a jump shot, or at least I haven't noticed (probably because I'm too busy drooling), and we haven't seen him have to take his game at anybody anywhere near his skill or size level yet, but I am insanely optimistic here.  Reign Man II has arrived.   

Al Nolen:  I said after last season that if Nolen could do what Eric Harris did, and that's take his game (great defender, great penetrator, good distributor, terrible shooter) and add a dependable three-point jump shot to it he'd be damn near unstoppable.  I haven't seen any indication that it has happened and he wasn't looking to score at all against NE St., but then again he didn't have to because the Gophers could just do whatever they wanted whenever they wanted.  It will be interesting to see how he responds against legit competition when he has no choice but to show he can make a bucket or two.  If he's even a capable outside shooter it can elevate this team another level.  Like Blake, I expect he will be the difference between winning and losing in at least one game this year, although I'm less confident of the the column he can put that game in.

Ralph Sampson III:  I've made no secret of my love for Ralph on here and my firm belief that he can one day be a Big Ten POY contender, and he's shown that his outside touch on the jumper has gotten even better.  I fear he might have a propensity to fall in love with the perimeter a bit too much, and he showed a tendency the last couple of years to completely disappear in games when the opponent's big men were knocking him around a bit, but hopefully he's shed that bit of softness and is willing to mix it up.  With Mbakwe, Iverson, and Walker on the team he doesn't have to be a banger, but he can't shy away from battles under the rim either.

Maurice Walker:  Definitely a big boy, but he looks like he's already slimmed down a bit since Canada and hopefully Tubby can keep him moving in that direction.  He has good hands and good footwork, so less body he has to carry around the more athletic and quicker he's going to be.  Should be solid for 10 minutes or so a game this year, but we won't really know how good or how ungood he will be this season until we see him against a team that has post players who don't get knocked out of bounds by his sheer size.

Rodney Williams:  Still dunks like a crazy person and still hits threes, which are both very good things, but I'm still hoping to see him develop a mid-ranger jumper and/or learn to take the ball and attack the rim.  All the potential in the world is there, and he'll be very good this year, but if he had Austin Hollins' game with his ability he'd be a Big Ten POY candidate right now.  This is not a knock on Rodney, he's still just a sophomore, but I see so much ability and just hope Tubby can help him take it up a notch.  If nothing else, he's looking like a good candidate to be an all league type defender right now.

In case you couldn't tell, I feel a bit too optimistic about the team this year, and it has nothing to do with dismantling NE State.  Every Big Ten team (with the exception of Illinois this year) dismantles their exhibition opponents.  It has more to do with looking at this collection of talent and knowing we have Tubby on the bench to direct it.  Honestly at this point I'm thinking anything less than the Sweet 16 is a disappointment.  I am crazy?  M-O-O-N, that spells homer.


Anonymous said...

" I am crazy? M-O-O-N, that spells homer. "

Lol. Good to see you take A Stand.

Shawn Bradley Guy said...

Why do you have so much love for Ralph III? I've just started reading your blog about a month or two ago, but I just don't see the fascination with him. After two years of playing Division I ball, who has had the better career...Sampson or Iverson? Yes, Tubby starts Ralph virtually every game. But, Colton has had to actually earn his minutes and I think Colton's solid play is consistent in our program's biggest wins last year (Butler, Michigan St, Purdue). Ralph is similar to Westbrook...he gets his numbers against weaker/non-conference competition.

WWWWWW said...

Potential, baby. Potential.

Shawn Bradley Guy said...

Ok, I'll let "potential" slide this year...but, there is no way I'm going to accept that excuse next year when he's going to be a senior and we're still talking about the soft, jump shooting big man that only blocks shots when he's coming from the weak side. Despite all this hate, I do love when RSIII breaks out the fadeaway-line-drive hookshot from about 8 feet out.

WWWWWW said...

Yes, I will be disappointed if he spends most of his time this year mincing about the perimeter like a Rickert.

Black Snake said...

Colton has had a few good games and people act like he is the 2nd coming McHale. His Offensive skills are as polished as a 7th grader, he can't shoot. The only games he stands out in are against teams with no big. Lets face it, people like him because he is a big, dumb white guy. Big, Sexy Ralph own big dopey Colton.

WWWWWW said...

This is beautifully written. Welcome back.