Saturday, January 30, 2010

Where for art thou, Deolis Guerra?

Yes, I know we are in the heart of the Big Ten season, but if I write too many times consecutively about Gopher basketball I start to have heart palpitations mixed with a deep depression, and since I already took every pill in the house (uppers, downers, hallucinagins, antidepressants and sexual performance enhancers all in play) after the Indiana loss, my only possible solace here is to turn to Twins talk.  Since it's not even February yet, optimism can reign supreme.  Maybe.  Until June, at least.

Keith Law of put out his list of the top 100 prospects in baseball, and I'm going to go ahead and give a few comments about those players of which I am knowledgeable enough to speak, and a few that I'm probably not.  Full list is at that link right there above.  If you still have your little heart set on reading about the Gophers, the preview of the Ohio State game is in the post directly below this one.  [SPOILER:  I bet they lose.].

The interesting people, in reverse order:

 97.  Miguel Sano, SS, Twins.  You remember this guy, he's the supposed 16 year old from the Dominican the Twins signed this summer when they shockingly opened up the wallet.  He signed too late last year so there really isn't any way to evaluate him against professional pitching, but he's supposed to have all the tools.  He projects to end up becoming a 3b, which means he'll probably be ready to take over just as Danny Valencia is leaving to sign a 7-year, $140-million contract with the Yankees.

91.  Jose Iglesias, SS, Red Sox.  I mostly just included him because being given that name must have sucked something fierce.  Also, Law says he could end up as an "Adam Everett" at worst.  Dude, that's pretty bad.  I wouldn't be using that as a positive argument.

90.  Jake Arrieta, SP, Orioles.  He finished last year in triple-A and is already 23, so there's a good chance he'll be in the bigs this year.  The Orioles are actually quietly starting to move back in the right direction after many, many, many years of spending stupidly and making really dumb decisions.  They have a nice lineup this year, and a good number of young arms.  If everything works out, they might end up challenging for second in the division sometime in the next ten years.

89.  Kyle Gibson, SP, Twins.  Above average command and control, three good pitches, a lot of groundballs, and a 93 mph heater - sounds like a prototypical Twins pitcher, except this one was projected to be the 10-12th pick in the draft.  The Twins stole him at 22 due to a stress fracture in his arm, but all indications are he's back to normal.  And hopefully not like the Liriano back-to-normal, but a real back-to-normal.

87.  Aaron Crow, SP, Royals.  Could be a Greinke-level monster once he gets to the bigs.  I'm hoping the Royals do something really stupid and end up trading him for like, Alfonso Soriano or something just to get him out of the Twins' division.

73.  Fernando Martinez, OF, Mets.  I think this guy has been on the list for about five years now, but has yet to make any real progress due to constant injuries.  He was the top prospect in the Mets system at one point, but, as Phil Humber, Carlos Gomez, Deolis Guerra, and Kevin Mulvey have shown us, that doesn't necessarily mean squat.

72.  Mike Leake, SP, Reds.  I don't think this is Kelly's dad, since they spell their last name's differently and he'd be far too old at this point.

70.  Austin Jackson, OF, Yankees.  If this name rings a bell it's probably because at one point his name was being bandied about in the Johan discussion all those many years ago, when we were still optimistic that we would end up getting more than two seasons of great center field defense and a whole bunch of flailing about at the plate out of the best pitcher of the 00s.  Well, now he's in the Tigers' system, coming over for Curtis Granderson.  At 23 and with five years in the minors, it's probably now or never.

58.  Tyler Flowers, C, White Sox.  Coming soon to a Twins' game near you.  He might start the year in the minors, but he'll be in the majors at some point and might even end up starting by the end of the year.  His last two seasons he's OPSed .939 and .921 at AAA and A+ ball, although his defense is subpar at this point.

57.  Jose Tabata, OF, Pirates.  This is the main guy the Pirates picked up in the Damaso Marte/Xavier Nady trade with the Yankees, so it would be pretty sweet if he ends up being good.  Plus, I'm still rooting for the Pirates.  I think they're starting to do some smart things, and this would be a big step in the right direction - and it's starting get late on his clock, so a good year this year would be a nice start.

54.  Alcides Escobar, SS, Brewers.  This is why they traded J.J. Hardy.  He should be in the bigs this year, so we'll see if that works out for them.  Well, it pretty much already will when Carlos Gomez turns into the next Tim Raines, but we'll see how the SS part works out.

52.  Hank Conger, C, Angels.  Just wanted to point out that this guy's name is Hank and he's Asian.  That's weird.

42.  Wilson Ramos, C, Twins.  There's no doubt this guy can hit a ton and is a very good catcher as well, as long as he can stay healthy.  If the Twins end up not signing Mauer, he's the catcher of the future.  If they do, he's going to be a very valuable chip - the kind that could be used to grab some valuable help for a pennant race at the trade deadline.  I'm just kidding of course, you know they'll never end up trading him, regardless of what kind of help is available that they would need.

40.  Kyle Drabek, SP, Blue Jays.  Maybe the key to the Halladay/Lee deal, Drabek has a chance to end up as a top-end pitcher if he can recover all the way from Tommy John surgery.  He returned last year and had a very good showing at A and AA ball, so things look good for the kid. 

33.  Chris Carter, 1B, Athletics.  I say first baseman, but it's pretty clear this guy is really more of a DH.  There's no doubt he can hit, though.  He hit 25 home runs in the minors in 2007, 39 in 2008, and 28 in 2009 (while hitting .329/.422/.570).  I would anticipate him starting at AAA, but we should see him in the majors this year - probably taking Jesse Crain deep.

30.  Josh Vitters, 3B, Cubs.  I just get a kick out of this guy because he just hates to walk.  Hates it.  In his minor-league career he's just 26 times in 830 pro plate appearances.  For reference, that's the same amount of walks Carlos Gomez had in his first year with the Twins, but Gomez had 200 less plate appearances, and nine fewer than Delmon Young had, again in about 200 less at bats.  I mean, this guy might very well be insane.

28.  Madison Bumgarner, SP, Giants.  Was a top-5 or top-10 prospect on pretty much everybody's list at the beginning of last year, but has fallen a bit out of favor due to a drop in velocity.  Of course, he looked great in his 10 major-league innings last year, posting a 1.80 ERA and a 1.10 WHIP with a nice 9.0 K/9 ratio.  Velocity drop or no, those are really impressive numbers for a 19-year old major leaguer.  I'm stunned that he's as low as 28th.  Stupifyed, really.  Like a spell from Ginny Weasley's wand.

25.  Zack Britton, SP, Orioles.  Just another young O's pitcher like I was talking about before, although he's probably not quite major-league ready just yet.  

22.  Tyler Matzek, SP, Rockies.  I just wanted to mention him here because he's the top prospect in the Rockies' system and the Rocks are my National League team.  He's brand spanking new, just picked last year right out of high school, so we have no data to look at, but he's apparently already got four pretty good pitches.  Could be the next Jason Marquis - stay tuned.

19.  Aaron Hicks, OF, Twins.  I feel encouraged by having a Twin in the top 20, even if the team's overall farm system is only ranked 13th overall.  Basically the scouting report on this kid is that he's a true five-tool prospect, who, although he has a ways to go to completely realize those tools, has as much potential as anybody, especially for a 19-year old.  He's everything we wanted Carlos Gomez to be.

16.  Aroldis Chapman, SP, Reds.  I smell bust.  Way to blow your load on an absolute question mark, Cincinnati.  Seriously, you outbid the Yankees for a Cuban.  I have a feeling this was kind of like an auction for something you don't really want, but you're sure somebody else wants and you want to keep bidding them up, trying to make them pay more.  Then they stop bidding when you're winning, and you're like "oh shit."

17 & 15.  Jeremy Hellickson and Wade Davis, SPs, Rays.  Just in case you thought the Rays didn't have enough young, potential superstars.  Davis cracked the majors last year and looked good in his six starts and should start the year as part of the Rays' rotation, and Hellickson might join him there after having a very good year in AAA in 2009.

13.  Neftali Perez, SP, Rangers.  The first of three Rangers in the top 13 on this list, and that doesn't even count Elvis Andrus, last season's runner-up for AL Rookie-of-the-Year.  Or Nelson Cruz, who made the all-star team in hi second season.  Or Chris Davis, who took a step back last year but hit 17 homers in 317 PAs as a rookie two years ago.  Or their bunch of young pitching prospects.  How did the Rangers suddenly end up looking so promising?
11.  Brian Matusz, SP, Orioles.  Yet another Oriole pitcher.  Should be in the rotation from the get-go this season.

9.  Justin Smoak, 1B, Rangers.  Another Ranger.  Should be a better fielding, switch-hitting Billy Butler with more power.  I'm already scared.

8.  Dustin Ackley, OF/1B, Mariners.  The second-pick in last year's draft, Ackley is the rare position player who is returning from Tommy John surgery - thus the move from the OF to 1B.  The Mariners have discussed making him a 2B, which with his combination of hitting for average/hitting for power/plate discipline, would have a very good chance of making him a perennial all-star.

7.  Martin Perez, SP, Rangers.  The last of the Rangers.  I've never even heard of this guy, but I thought I should put him in here since I'm all up on Texas's nuts and everything.

4.  Buster Posey, C, Giants.  That's either the best name I've ever heard, or the worst name I've ever heard.

3.  Carlos Santana, C, Indians.  You got the kinda lovin' that can be so smooth, yeah, give me heart, make it real, or else forget about it.  (obvious, but I bet you laughed anyway.  or smiled at least.  I bet you smiled.  Come on.  It was funnier than Leno.  Admit that much you tough-love son of a bitch).

2.  Stephen Strasburg, SP, Nationals.  Putting Strasburg second reeks of either contrarianism or an overreaction to his mediocre showing in fall ball.  Either way, there's little doubt he's going to be a star.  When your downside is as a #2 starter, you know you've got potential.  Of course, there's always the ballad of Brien Taylor, if you need a reminder of how potential doens't always = success.

1.  Jason Heyward, OF, Braves.  I hadn't heard of this dude before, which embarrasses me somewhat, but he ripped the crap out of AA pitching last year, and had a lot of success in a very short AAA stint to close the year.  Law says he'll be a star, so I guess we should pay some attention here.

There's the list.  There were four notable omissions, or at least there were four names that popped into my head without really thinking about it, so I'll touch on them quickly before I close:

1.  Ben Revere, OF, Twins.  Depending on who you ask, he's either a future star (John Sickels has him #2 in the system), or nothing more than Juan Pierre (Law's concern).  I'm sure you're an idiot who thinks Juan Pierre is good because he's fast and hits right around .300, but that's because you're stupid and I wish I was a GM and you were a GM and then I could trade you Pierre and get way too much for him and you'd feel good about it.

God you're dumb.  Anyway, I've seen his absolute upside is Kenny Lofton, which would be pretty good.  Let's all hope for that, and not run around trying to make out wiht Juan Pierre, ok?

2.  Deolis Guerra, P, Twins.  Sigh.  The last remaining piece of from the trading of Johan.  God I miss him so much.  Instead we have this guy.  He doesn't make Law's top 10 list for the Twins, and he doesn't make Sickels' top 20.  He hasn't posed an ERA under 4.01 in the last three years.  FML.

3.  Tim Alderson, P, Pirates.  Notable because this is who the Giants traded to get Freddy Sanchez.  At one point considered a pretty big-time prospect, it seems Alderson has fallen out of favor, ranking #6 on Law's Pirate list and #5 on Sickels' list - not bad, but not as elite as he once was.  Prospect in free-fall, or underrated?  It's the Pirates, so I'm going to go with the free-fall thing.

4.  Scott Sizemore, 2B, Tigers.  I actually only know of him because when I learned Polanco might be available I started doing some digging into the fan/blog world of the Tigers and found out most fans were just fine with getting rid of Placido because Sizemore (who I assume is related to either Grady or Tom) was waiting in the wings.  He broke his ankle like some kind of girl late in the year last season, but he still ranks #6 on Sickels' list and #5 on Law's of overall Tiger prospects.  Expect to be annoyed by him early and often.

So there's your list.  Four Twin prospects can't be bad, especially considering the team is fairly young as is.  The one major criticism I've seen of the Twins' system is that there isn't much there that is ready right now, but it's in decent shape for future years and I have no problem with that.  Of course, if they don't sign Mauer I'll probably just kill myself along with the rest of the state.  They all worship him zombie-like, but I can't fault them because he's really just that good (although most of you cretins worship him for the wrong reasons).  If there is no signing, short of a trade to Texas for Teagarden, Andrus, Smoak, and Perez, I am pretty sure I'm just going give up and move to either New York or Pittsburgh.  At least you know enough to either believe or give up in those states.  I'm sick of these games here.  It's like taking some broad to the drive in, you don't know what you're getting.  I'd rather take the slut or the good-girl, not some middle of road confusing person.  I dont' know if you can tell, but I suspect you can, I've been getting progressively drunker as this post has gone on.  At this point I've already given up and am trying to figure out ways to trade Mauer and Morneau for more prospects.

"Are you guys ready?  We better get going if we're going to stay ahead of the weather."

Thursday, January 28, 2010

F the Buckeyes

That's a terrible post title, but I couldn't really think of anything else because I'm so damn tired.  Seriously, I'm exhausted.  I probably have mono.  Or AIDS.  I haven't had any gay sex lately or hugged Magic Johnson, so it's probably not AIDS. 

1.  Is Ohio State more of a "final four" team like you said, or "not a top 100" team like Dawger said?  It should be obvious at this point that any time Dawger and I disagree, you just take my side and you'll be good, and this is just another example.  Since the Gophers beat them at Williams, they have won at Purdue, vs. Wisconsin, and at Iowa and lost at #12 West Virginia by 6.  The team's RPI this year is 41, they're ranked 14th by Ken Pomeroy's numbers and 20th and 24th in the two polls, and are 12-3 when Evan Turner plays.  I'll admit "final four team" might be a little bit strong, but "not a top 100" team is just plain old ludicrously stupid.  Much like everything else that comes out of Dawger's mouth.  You can still get them at 75-1 to win the National Championship.  I recommend you throw a $5-spot on it.

2.  So just how good is this Evan Turner?  If you can get past the fact that he turns it over a ridiculous four times per game he's pretty damn good.  His 18.4 ppg ranks third in the Big Ten.  His 9.9 rebounds per game ranks first in the conference, and his 5.5 assists ranks second.  He's also tied for fourth in steals per game at 1.7 and is twelfth in blocks at 0.9 per game.  All this while shooting 55%, good for fourth in the Big Ten, and he's a guard.  The team is 12-3 with him, including wins over Purdue, Florida State, and Cal, and is just 3-3 without him with a loss to Michigan.  He might legitimately be the best player in college basketball this year, and if he hadn't gotten hurt would be a legit National Player of the Year candidate.   

3.  Tell me about the rest of guys, but be quick about it.  I don't have all day. Fellow wings David Lighty and William Buford are basically knockoffs of Turner, and both can carry the team if they need to.  Lighty scored 18 in the second-half alone this week against Iowa, and Buford played his best game of the year last weekend against West Virginia with 22 on 9-13 shooting.  Jon Diebler is the only player in the conference with more three-pointers made than Blake Hoffarber this year, shoots 44% behind the line, and has hit five or more threes in a game seven-times already (and can get his own shot).  Finally, manning the paint is Dallas Lauderdale, who is an offensive retard but leads the conference in blocked shots and is a pretty intimidating force in the middle - good thing the Gophers don't have anybody who can drive into the paint anyway.  

4.  How is the post-Al Nolen point guard thing going?  Well Justin Cobbs has been a non-factor.  He played just four minutes against Michigan State because he was way, way, way, way too freaking hyper resulting in two turnovers in those four minutes.  In the next game against Northwestern he played better, putting in 12 minutes of work and getting almost nothing on his stat line, good or bad.  I didn't notice him for his good play, but didn't notice him for bad either.  Devoe Joseph had a great game against Michigan State with 16 points and 7 assists against just 1 turnover, but kind of disappeared against NW with just six points and four turnovers.  So, in a word, pretty uneven.

I'm encouraged because both Joseph and Cobbs have shown flashes the past two games, but they'll need to play even better if there's an NCAA bid in the future.  Ohio State doesn't match up well against quick point guards because there best guys are bigger wings and their only "true" point guard is a gigantic douchebag.  I just don't know if either of our guys would be classified as a "quick" point guard.  As usual and in every game the rest of the year, point guard play is going to be a huge key.

5.  This would obviously be a huge win for the Gophers, is there any reason to believe?  Not really.  Ohio State is almost as good defensively as the Gophers, but are a far, far better offensive team - one of the best in the country (16th in offensive efficiency).  They can thrive either in the halfcourt or in an up-and-down fast-paced game and have not only the best player out of the two teams, but maybe the best two or three.  I'm hoping the Gophers can keep it close to the end and find a way to sneak a win out somehow, but I think a blowout is more likely (and not the good way).

Ohio State 74, Minnesota 62. 


Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Good Lord Lazy

(pic added, just for Snake)

14:00 - Watching the game on tape delay, and I wasn't going to type up anything or live (taped) blog this, but it's time to say lazylazylazylazylazylazylazylazylazylazylazylazylazylazylazylazy.  Sampson walks through the paint while a shot is in the air.  Westbrook walks out to defend his man.  Johnson lets the dribbler go right past him in transition.  Hell, Hoffarber has looked like crap defensively but I'm actually more proud of him than anybody else because at least he's trying, he just doesn't have the ability.  Seriously, this a pathetic effort.  I try harder to listen when Mrs. W is talking about The Biggest Loser, and god knows I'm not trying very hard.

12:02 - I don't hate aggessive-brook, but jesus christ he drives me batty some times.  There's a difference between being aggressive and just throwing up anything.  You aren't Glen Rice.  You don't have a "zone" like that.  Calm the hell down.  Of course, there are times where it's needed.  I'm just saying.  Not right now.

11:40 - we finally hit a tv timeout, and I'm pretty sure we just went all the way to the under 12 without a break.  I could be wrong.  I've had a few drinks.  We had a work thing (thus the reason I'm watching this on Tivo).  Oh, you want to know what I had?  I went with the Buffalo Ribeye (that's bison, not buffalo sauce, which I already had to explain once tonight) with fingerling potatoes and a couple absolut tonics.  No salad, because the communist restaurant we went to didn't have caesar salad.  What the F?

11:23 - Huh.  So even if you miss a timeout, they just give back to back ones even if you're under 12 minutes already.  Interesting.  I guess the Marines and the National Geographic Channel aren't just gonna sell themselves.  (NOTE:  I love the Nat Geo channel.  Naked Science and Hooked! are both awesome).

11:00 - I think Mrkovic has had his shot blocked six times already.  No joke.  I should also mention here that Northwestern isn't running that queer zone.  I'd bet anything they bust in out to start the second half.  Also Mrkovic just had his shot blocked again, this time Rodney rejected it so hard Mrkys boyfriend died.

9:20 - Nobody in history has missed as many close-in shots as Paul Carter.  It's not possible.

8:37 - By the way, the T-Wolves were down 40-16 after the first quarter tonight.  It's the only time a Minnesota team has been outscored by 24 points in one quarter.  Not counting Gopher football.  *rimshot*

7:20 - Bostick for three!  I'm telling you, he'd be the leading scorer in the Missouri Valley, not counting that dude from Drake.   

5:56 - Tie ball game at 21 after a Damian dunk.  That's two fantasy points, bitches.  And a Westbrook three gives the team the lead after a steal off the press that for some odd reason wasn't run at all against the turnover prone Spartans.  But we aren't allowed to question Tubby.  Forget I said that.

5:31 - Shurna dunk.  That's two fantasy points, bitches.

4:45 - By the way, if you haven't yet, check out the recruiting class Pastner is bringing in at Memphis next year.  It's so good that I am pretty sure I'm going to write a post about it at some point, but if you want a preview check it out.  It makes the Fab Five or this year's Kentucky class look like your typical Monson class (Minnesota, not Gonzaga).

4:15 - I have no idea what this offense is, but two Gophers just made the same cut, from the same spot to the same spot.  I'm going to assume that's not correct.

3:25 - Holy crap the Twins actually signed Thome?  Awesome.  I love this.  Snacks and I had a nice email conversation about this today.  They play Thome every 3rd game or so against righties (sitting Delmon and putting Kubes in left) and use him as a big bat late off the bench for anyone of their constant myriad of light-hitting infielders and it works very well, depending on price, which I haven't seen yet. 

3:00 - a bunch of steals and some points happened while I typed that.  Gophers now lead 31-23.

2:55 -  one year, $1.5 million with another $750k in possible incentives?  Freakin' steal.  I love this.  Please don't be old and suck.

1:00 - Carter misses another tip inside.  He's cursed.

0:45 - I see why Northwestern ranks so awful in getting their shots blocked on offense.  They just don't care who is around.  Any of those crazy white boys is willing to just take the shot at any time no matter who might be lurking.  Gotta be honest, not sure that's a winning strategy.

0:02.4 - Quote from Gardy "I don't expect him to come off the bench and be a .400 hitter. I expect him to come off the bench and be a threat," Gardenhire said. "He looks like stinkin' Babe Ruth. He swings like Babe Ruth. We've seen too many fly against us. Now let's see some fly for us."  I love it.  Let's let this moment be a philosophy shifter.

HALF - Gophers lead 33-25.  At this point you'd probably be thinking everything is going swimmingly.  Gophers lead by more than half of what they were favored by and really dominated the back half of the first half, so everybody be happy and dance and eat hot dogs.  Well guess what, Gomer?  We still haven't seen that queer little press, so let's not start making out with each other while the green guy watches from the corner just yet, k?

19:45 - There's the zone, and they work the ball inside and get an easy six-footer from DJ.  Beautiful.  Perfect, even.  Why can't I believe it'll be that way every time?

18:50 - Northwestern gets three shots that possession, which is embarrassing all by itself, but somehow airballs two of them.  I'm smelling rout.

17:49 - Ben Sheets got more than $8 million for one year?  Yamma hamma, it's fright night.  Interesting, and expensive, gamble, but say he is back to his old form and they can ship him out at the trade deadline to a contender?  Could be genius.  Probably not, but could be.

15:35 - Gophers handling the zone inexplicably well.  A lot of ball movement, good use of Ralph in the high-post (I'd bet he already has a season-high in assists this game, and a lot of penetrating the gaps (*thatswhatshesaid*)

15:05 - Gophers go with the second-unit crap, and for some reason Carmody pulls the zone off and goes back to man.  If ever a group of ballplayers was begging to be passively 1-3-1'd it's these guys.  Cobbs?  Williams?  Carter?  Bostick?  One ballhandler in the group and he's an overexciteable (yet full of promise) freshman.  And you want Iverson to play your high post?  If he doesn't end up scoring a bucket on an attempted lob pass at some point this year I'll be a monkey's uncle.

14:42 - Shurna heating up.  That's like 3 three pointers this half, and the lead is down to six.

13:41 - Bostick throws the lob to an open Williams that sails into about the 13th row.  When he is pulled, immediately, from the lineup Tubby calls him right over to talk - what do you say here?  Next possession and Hoffarber tries the lob to Williams and it's another misfire and another turnover.  See, now this is where you need to put a stop to this shit.  It's only a six-point lead, you can't be farting around like you're playing open gym against a bunch of guys in backwards hats who wear gold chains to play ball.  This needs to be a timeout/chewout situation.  He got Bostick out of there in a hurry, but golden boy Hoffarber is still in the game.  Could Tubby be a racist?  He did coach in the deep south, Oklahoma, and Kentucky.  I assume those are the three racist capitals of the world.  I think they got to Tubby.  It certainly explains a lot about why Busch played so many minutes last year.

12:18 - Fun rant and all, but it's now a four-point game.

12:04 - two point game after a Wildcat steal.  At least Tubby has the decency to call the timeout right away instead of waiting for the tv stoppage like a whole bunch of other idiots always do.

11:01 - Devoe and Johnson discuss who should guard "Juice" on the inbounds play, even pointing and making hand gestures.  Then they both leave him, giving him a wide open three-pointer without him even making a cut (or, actually, so much as a step) and he, of course, knocks it down to make it a 42-41 Gopher lead.  This team is going to kill me.  Literally knife me to death in my sleep.

10:05 - At least Ralphie is showing some aggression tonight, continuing to slowly develop into the player I always said he'd be before I turned my back on him a few weeks ago.  Bad fan?  Or master motivator?  Just because he's ignored my facebook friend request doesn't mean he doesn't read this blog every single day.

9:20 - Devoe throws it away against the 1-3-1 (7th team turnover of the half) and the Wildcats get the ball back down just two.  I'm afraid to watch.

8:29 - Alternating shitty possessions before Ralph gets open for a monster dunk.  He'll probably end up breaking a backboard at some point.  If Tiny Gallon can do it, why not Ralph?

7:57 - Carter misses a layup on the break.  I'm not even kidding.  That guy needs to go back to 6th grade gym class with Mr. Jones where he made you shoot layups over and over again, and then when he finally let you play three-on-three and you had to guard some massive girl who had six inches and sixty pounds on you would call you for a foul if you so much as hand-checked even a little.  And I swear it was just a handcheck, no hanky panky.  Although, now that I think about it, that might have been a golden opportunity.  God I was a dumb twelve-year old.

5:57 - Cobbs back in and Northwestern is once again in a man defense.  It's like they're scared of him.  Pretty sure the only entity that needs to fear Cobbs is the backboard.  Oh, and Juice hits a three right over him when he closes out weakly and lazily, and we're tied at 48.  They lose this I'm not going to a game the rest of the year, and it's time get after Tubby.  No joke.

5:08 - Shurna to the line after a DJ turnover.  My good buddy and occassional hockey guy Snake has a theory that Damian is on the take, and sometimes it seems to make sense.  For all the little things he does really well, he also does a whole lot of little things wrong.  Watch him carefully sometime, it's true.  Shurna makes 1.

4:45 - Hoff for three, Gophers by two.  I'm starting to think if Hoff was standing in Dinkytown taking volunteers to give him handies I'd be second in line (behind the Dawger.)

4:09 - Hoff for three again.  That's nine straight Gopher points for him.  I'm pretty sure I'd be first, and with a variety of lotions. 

3:15 - Lest you thought this was over, Nash hits a three, then a steal on a shitty Devoe pass leads to a Nash layup and we're back to a two point Gopher lead.  At least my Northwestern +10.5 looks good.  Unlike that shot Devoe just chucked up there that missed everything but the backboard.  Good lord does he clench at the end of close games.  I hope Corey doesn't have that same trait, or he's going to go to the podium to announce his decision and instead of saying "UCONN" he's going to blurt "UMASS."  It's funny cause UMASS sucks.

2:30 - Hoff for three on a great great great pass/decision by Westbrook on a play where I would have expected him to force his own shot.  Very impressed by that play.

2:20 - Terrible defense by Devoe, completely losing Shurna, but that was at least nullified by a nice DJ lay-in on yet another great pass by Ralph.  I knew this was going to the wire.  61-56 Gophers.  And we've seen our first "HOFFARBER FACTOR" graphic ever.  Congrats?

1:21 - According to "Chad Ford", Greg Monroe isn't a lottery pick this year.  That's the dumbest thing I've ever heard.  There are four good picks this year:  Monroe, Wall, Favors, and Turner.  Who wants to bet the Wolves end up at three or four, but take somebody like Ed Davis?  I'd bet anything.  Except my vodka.

1:21 - I just looked further (dont' worry, game is paused) and Ford has Monroe as the #23 prospect behind guys like UNC's John Henson, who looks like a 6-10 Tayshaun Prince, if Prince was scared of contact, and Willie Warren, who is too small to play the 2 and too shitty to play the point.  This is baffling to me.  I'm baffled.  I suppose I'm better off watching the end of the game instead.  But I'm terrified.  I almost want to just skip to the end.  I won't.  I can't.  I'm going to watch the whole thing because I'm strong.  I'm like the Sojourner Truth of gopher bloggers.

0:55 - Joseph misses a wide open three with the Gophers up three.  You cannot miss that shot when your #1 skill is three-point shooting.  You cannot.

15.6 - Northwestern gets a terrible shot and misses, rebound out of bounds to the Gophers, but not before Juice goes right by Joseph.  Thanks to terrible decision making he kicks it out instead of scoring somehow.  Looked a lot like somebody playing a video game and hittng the wrong button.  Whatever, we'll take it.

10.6 - Devoe misses the front-end, but Hoff snags the O-board and gets fouled.  Remember what I said above?  Double it.  Blake makes both and we're looking at the rare team win and wager win.  Nice.

3.5 - Juice hits a forty-footer and we're looking at a two point game.  Not even the Gophers can blow this, right?  RIGHT?

3.5 - I want you to know that Cartier Martin scored 20 tonight for Golden State.  Apparently anybody can put up huge numbers in that offense.  Suck it, Curry (and, by extension, Dawger).

3.0 - Westbrook free throw good.  Carmody timeout. Hoffarber montage.  Westy free throw.  Ballgame.

It wasn't exactly impressive, but at this point I'm not really looking for style points.  Just win the game.  And they did.  I'd write more but I'm tired.  This team is exhausting.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Oh Snap, here come the Wildcats!

After the world's worst Minnesota sporting weekend I almost forgot that we now get to welcome Northwestern and their boring ass offense and amorphous blob of an unsolvable zone to the Barn.  Since no matter how hard I try to ignore this fact it won't go away, we might as well hit up a preview of sorts, eh?

1.  If Kevin Coble's hurt, why is Northwestern better this year than last year?  Mainly because Coble v. 2.0 is on the scene in the form of John Shurna.  He's gangly and awkward, yet fundamentally sound and effective all at the same time.  He was a three-star dork coming out of high school and wasn't heavily recruited and had a pretty non-descript freshman year but has exploded this season, more than doubling his scoring average (from 7 to 17), rebounding average (3 to 7), and assists (1 to 2.5).  Probably roid related.  Solid player (and also a member of my fantasy team, the Rick Rickert All-Stars).

Shurna isn't the only Wildcat to make a major leap this year.  Point guard Michael Thompson, who has inexplicably started going by the moniker "Juice", has increased his scoring by about 50% while increasing his assists and decreasing his turnovers and has already dropped 20+ against three good teams (Purdue, Notre Dame, NC State).  Jeremy Nash, the reptillian-like head to the aforementioned amorphous blob, is suddenly scoring almost ten points a game as a senior after averaging less than 3.5 througout his career and is stealing nearly two balls a game.  He's a major pest.  Add in major contributions from freshman Drew Crawford and it's easy to see why not only are they an NCAA contender this year, but could be real threat next year as well.

2.  Can you tell me more about this Crawford fella?  Sure.  Crawford, like most Nor'westerners, was a three-star recruit, but unlike most of them he was heavily recruited with offers from Wake Forest and Oklahoma State but chose to sign with the Wildcats due to his experience with one of the team's assistant coaches who coached his 7th grade AAU team and academic reasons (he had a 4.2 GPA in high school and scored 31 on his ACTs).  He's already made an impact at third on the team in scoring, rebounding, and three-pointers made and is a very versatile player at 6-5.  He can go off huge, with games of 35, 25, and 22 already this year, but can also be shut down (6 games of under 5 points).  Containing Crawford is going to be huge tomorrow.  Although Shurna and Thompson are the big guns, Crawford might be the most dangerous.  Like a sub-machine gun. 

3.  So who are the keys for the Gophers?  It seems pretty obvious if you ask me, and that's Devoe Joseph and Blake Hoffarber.  Joseph is the new point guard, and will be the main man responsible for dealing with that zone.  I like this, because a good way to beat a zone is to penetrate the gaps, and although Nolen could penetrate, he sure couldn't finish - just like you.  Devoe will have to balance dribble-penetration and smart passes with getting his own shot - not easy against the Wildcat zone, but I have faith.

As far as the Hoff goes, I am sure you remember how Dawger's boyfriend Jamal Abu-Shamala lit up Northwestern every time they played.  There are two reasons for that:  it's a zone and it's not an athletic team.  Well, they still play zone, they still aren't overly athletic (even with Crawford now), and Hoffarber is ten times the player Shamala was (and that might be low).  He should be able to get his shots early and often, and if he is still red hot could knock this game out in a hurry.

4.  If Minnesota manages to pull this out, is this going to end up being a win over an NCAA Tournament team?  Well, probably not, but there's a shot.  If Northwestern loses to the Gophers, that drops them to 3-5 in conference play and 14-6 overall.  Currently sitting at 56th in RPI (9 spots ahead of the Gophers) and 74th in Strenght of Schedule, they'd certainly have their work cut out for them.  They do have a signature win over Purdue and a whole host of medium-good wins (NC State, Iowa State, Stanford, Notre Dame), so I'd bet 9-9 in the conference would have a shot to get them in.  They still play Indiana, Iowa, and Penn State all twice so winning all of those gets them to 9-9.  It's not likely, but it's possible.  FYI that would mean the Gophers have a whole three wins over tournament teams.  Joy.

5.  In honor of the nerds, can you break this down numbers-wise?  Northwestern ranks 62nd in the country in offensive efficiency, 94th in defensive efficiency, and 288th in tempo.  The Gophers rank 63rd offensively, 12th defensively, and 68th in tempo.  The Wildcats biggest strengths are taking care of the basketball (24th in not turning it over), defending the three (opponents shoot just 28% against - 19th in the country), and shooting the basketball (84th in effective field goal %).  Minnesota's weaknesses are getting offensive rebounds (173rd), allowing offensive rebounds (176th), and defending the three pointer (117th).  The Gophers' strengths are causing turnovers (8th), defending the two-point shot (15th - just 41.8%), and causing steals (7th) and blocks (7th).  Northwestern's weakness are getting offensive rebounds (256th), getting their shots blocked (245th), and defending the two-point shot (205th - allowing 48.6%).

What's all that mean?  The teams matchup fairly well, and this could be a tight one.  Will Blake's hot shooting overcome a Wildcat defense that defends the three-pointer well?  Can Devoe (and Westbrook) get inside the zone and create opportunities?  Will the Gophers interior defense stifle the Cats inside players?  I don't know, but I know that things like "desperation" and "seriously need to win this one" actually go a long way in college basketball.  Plus, they're a bunch of nerds.

Gophers 70, Northwestern 64.

Week in Review: 1/25/2010

TAILS NEVER FAILS!  What the hell, who calls heads?  I thought everybody knew this.


1.  UCONN.  Last week UCONN lost to Michigan, their third straight, and everybody was like lol wut?  This week the Huskies have finally started turning it around starting with a convincing win over St. Johns and culminating in a huge win on Saturday, and upset of #1 Texas in Storrs - all with their head coach gone for medical reasons.  The St. Johns game was billed as a possible upset due to Calhoun's leaving and the uppitiness of St. J's, but UCONN had no trouble, winning 75-59 behind big days from Kemba Walker (17 pts on 7-12 shooting), Stan Robinson (18 on 7-9), and Jerome Dyson (21 on 8-14).  That same trio did it again against Texas, combining for 68 of the team's 88 points in the upset.  I think this is a pretty dangerous team that's flying under the radar right now.  That three game losing streak wasn't pretty, but this is the same team that hung right with Kentucky on a neutral court and at Duke and Georgetown this year.  Pay attention.  

2.  NC State.  The results of Saturday's game at Maryland are irrelevant, the Wednesday win over Duke is huge for this program and the fans, who I can only assume were starting to question Sid Lowe in a very large way.  With Duke and UNC reaching dynasty statuses and Wake kind of coming and going but always being relevant, NC State was suddenly the black sheep of the Raleigh-Durham triangle.  The Wolfpack haven't been to the NCAA tournament since 2006, have only reached the sweet 16 once in the last twenty years, were 2-9 in the last two years against fellow Raleigh-Durham teams, and haven't had a player you have heard of since Julius Hodge.

Luckily for the once proud program, it appears that this win wasn't just a fluke, and they are finally heading back in the right direction with talented freshmen PF Richard Howell (double/double vs. Clemson) and SF Scott Wood (31pts vs. Florida State) and one of the best players you've never heard of in PF Tracy Smith who is averaging 17 pts and 9 rebounds per game this year and should be back next year since he's just a junior.  Add in a great recruiting class Lowe has secured for next season, I predict the Wolfpack to be back in the NCAA Tournament next season.

3.  Purdue.  A three-game losing streak and a .500 conference record made this a very big week for the Boilers, and they responded.  The 69-59 weekend win over Michigan in West Lafayette wasn't that big a deal, especially since Beilein had suspended Manny Harris for the game due to "an act of unsportsmanlike conduct" at practice this week (which I can only assume involved bitch slapping Zack Novak).  The real big win came on Tuesday, with Purdue going into Illinois and coming out with a 84-78 key road win over the Illini.  Lose that game, and they're suddenly 3-4, lost 4 in a row, and everything is shaky.  Instead, everything is back on the right track for JaJuan and friends.  That was a must win against Illinois, and they went out and took care of business.  

4.  Syracuse.  They keep winning, this week over Marquette at home and at Notre Dame, and I was quite wrong about Wesley Johnson who is actually an absolute beast (22 and 8, 22 and 15 this week).  Must be nice to root for a team that wins.

5.  UAB.  Another team that just keeps winning, and they're doing it in dramatic fashion.  Earlier this year they beat Middle Tennessee State on a layup with 12 seconds left, Arkansas on a dunk with one second left, and SMU by one after coming back from being down 24 in the second half, but this week may have been the most dramatic yet.  The Blazers beat Southern Miss and Marshall both by one point, and both on Aaron Johnson buckets with 7 seconds or less remaining.  The Marshall win was huge, coming on the road against a fellow C-USA title contender and unbeaten Herd, leaving UAB tied atop the standings with just Tulsa.  Non-conference wins over Cincy and Butler will hold up, and the team's only two losses were road games, so they are set up in decent shape for an at-large.  Their next three games are against fellow contenders Tulsa, UTEP, and at Memphis and if they can win 2 of the 3 things look very good.  


1.  Vikings.  Forget about the 4th and 1 call (probably correct), the pass interference call (brutal), or the Meachem catch call (beyond brutal), the Vikings pissed this game away in about 20 different ways.  Take your pick between the fumble, the fumble, the fumble, the 20 men in the huddle call, or the beyond stupid Favre interception at the end of the game.  Seriously, if he just tucks the ball and runs he probably has 8-10 yards of room (and this is probably intentional and the way the play was designed) and Longwell gets a chance to win it from 48 or so (although he'd probably just miss).  That gunslinger mentality that Favre kept the lid on all season finally came back to bit the team in the ass, and that's an awfully big bite.  Like a dusky shark. 

2.  Gopher basketball.  Thoughts located here.  I don't have the energy to write about this again after watching that Vikings game.

3.  Marquette. The Golden Eagles were pretty much everyone's poster child for the potential NCAA tournament team who had bad luck and whose record didn't reflect how good they really were this year.  They were 11-6, but their losses were mostly close and mostly to good teams.  A loss by four to NC State after leading by 11 at the half.  A loss by 1 to Florida State on a Soloman Alabi jumper with twelve seconds left.  An insane loss by one at West Virginia on a ridiculous buzzer beater by Da'Sean Butler and two losses to Villanova, both by just two points.  Well, forget all that.  Marquette lost to DePaul Wednesday night in what was DePaul's first Big East victory in their last 25 tries.  That's not a misprint.  It was the Blue Demons first conference win since January 3rd, 2008 - Johan Santana was still Minnesota Twins' property.  Safe to say that Marquette isn't a good team that had some bad luck anymore.  They may play some good teams tough, but not being able to close against a good team and losing to a crap team isn't exactly a positive sign.

4.  Washington.  Another week, another Pac 10 team spiraling out of control, bringing the conference down with it.  This time it was the Huskies, at one time the favorite to win the league, who had an absolutely disastrous road trip to Los Angeles.  On Thursday they dropped a game to UCLA on a last second half-court heave, and then got absolutely destroyed on Saturday by USC - losing 87-61.  Seriously, the Pac-10 is going to get one bid this year outside of the conference tournament winner, and if Cal ends up winning that then there is a very real chance they only get a single bid.  Barring any prolonged winning streaks, at this point the only teams with a chance are Cal, Washington, USC, Washington State, and Arizona State.  Cal is pretty much already in, but there are major flaws with everybody else - especially USC, since they have a self-imposed postseason ban right now.  Washington has dropped to 3-5 in the conference and lacks any kind of signature non-conference win.  Washington State is just 4-4 in the Pac, but again, has nothing resembling big win, and Arizona State - second in the conference at 4-3 - just got destroyed by Arizona at home.  So, yeah, this conference is garbage.   

5.  Wichita State.  I wrote about the Shockers last week and how they were angling for an at-large but needed to avoid losing the games they should win and needed to net a big one somewhere.  They got their big one, knocking off Conference Stud Northern Iowa, and were looking very good and I was all ready to write them up as being awesome this week.  Instead they farted it all away.  I happen to know our very own Rockies Guy is a big Drake guy as well, so he should be proud of his boys for beating the piss out of the Shockers (78-64) and single-handedly putting an end to their at-large aspirations (as they did to Illinois State the weekend prior).  Alls well, though, because it's fairly clear to me at this point that Wichita State has a destiny - a destiny to come to Williams Arena this year.  Mark it down - March 16, 8:00pm, Williams Arena - Gophers vs. Shockers.  CATCH THE FEVER!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

This Not a Moral Victory

If you had told me on Friday that the Gophers would lose by just a single point to the #7 in the nation Michigan State Spartans the day after Al Nolen was suspended from the team due to academics I probably would have told you that I would be pretty happy with that results.  But not today, and not like this.  This is no moral victory, this is an epic collapse, and perhaps the death knell of the season.

The Gophers dominated that game, controlled that game, and owned that game.  The only problem came when they suddenly realized it.  Suddenly a frantic, scrambling pace that was playing in the Gophers' favor was slowed as the team tried to work the clock, always a dangerous move for a team that basically plays like a pick-up team at the YMCA in the half-court.  Predictably, the offense degenerated into a series of poor possessions dominated by one-on-one play and terrible decisions while Michigan State continued to chip away at the lead, finally taking it on a Kalin Lucas pull-up three - the mirror of a shot Lawrence Westbrook missed just thirty or so seconds earlier with the game tied.  To be honest, MSU deserved to have the lead several possessions prior to that but a couple of very poor shots as the shot clock wound down actually ended up falling for the Gophers.  Even with a couple of breaks and a dominating first 35 minutes of the game, they can't get it done.

I'm sure there are positives here.  Devoe played very admirably after being forced to become a point guard thanks to Nolen's brain and Cobbs being just a wee bit too amped up today.  Ralph played well - he missed more shots than I'd like but was at least taking them (although he needs to develop some moves in the post and should based on how good an athlete he is).  And I loved the shortened bench (Carter played 14 minutes, the rest of the bench guys played 4-7-4-4) - just because you allegedly have depth, doesn't mean you necessarily have to play everybody.  I'm very encouraged by giving five guys such a huge portion of the minutes.

These things are all well and good, but in a season of wasted opportunities and missed chances this one weighs the biggest.  Not only would this give the team another signature win to go along with Ohio State and Butler, but it would have wiped out the Indiana loss and kept the team above .500 in the conference.  Instead they are a 12-7 team who is heading towards a date with the NIT in what has to be one of the most disappointing Gopher seasons in recent memory.

Friday, January 22, 2010

2010 Big Ten Recruiting

I'm sitting here being totally awesome and interesting on a Friday night perusing with my exciting life, and I noticed that the ESPN recruiting rankings were updated today.  I have no idea how often they are updated, but it seems a stroke of good fortune that they are hot off the presses.  I might as well share.  Here are your top Big Ten freshmen for 2010 with their overall ESPN ranking:

#2 Jared Sullinger, PF, OHIO STATE - I caught a bit of one of his high school games, he's going to be a superstar from Day 1
#7 Josh Selby, PG, INDIANA (possibly) - if the Hoosiers snag him it will be a big help towards fixing that program
#12 DeShaun Thomas, SF, OHIO STATE - nicknamed "The Diesel", basically a lefty Evan Turner
#21 Cory Joseph, PG, MINNESOTA (possibly) - pleasepleasepleasepleasepleasepleaseplease
#23 Jereme Richmond, SF, ILLINOIS - supposed to already be a total lockdown defender at four positions
#24 Adreian Payne, PF, MICH STATE - amazing athlete
#30 Trey Ziegler, SG, MICHIGAN (possibly) - can also play the point
#31 Keith Appling, SG, MICH STATE - scorer
#55 Meyers Leonard, C, ILLINOIS - big dopey white kid
#61 Russell Byrd, SG, MICH STATE - another dopey white kid, but this one is supposed to be an incredible shooter
#72 Crandall Head, SG, ILLINOIS - Luther's brother, same athleticism
#73 Lenzelle Smith, SG, OHIO STATE - combo guard who can shoot, but is a bit of a chunk
#80 Evan Smotrycz, PF, MICHIGAN - no way a white kid with that name ends up being good
#92 Tim Hardaway Jr., SG, MICHIGAN - yes, the son

Geez, this entire list is basically Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, and Illinois.  I'm more than a bit surprised there is no Purdue on here.  Wow.  And the Gophers really need to get Joseph.  Really, really, really need him.

No Better Time for a Big Win

With all kinds of messy, confusing news coming out of the U, such as Nolen's ineligibility and Royce White practicing with the team, and nearly a week between games it was easy to forget the Gophers still play basketball.  But they do, and they're back at it again this weekend against Michigan State.  Yes, again.  These two teams played just eleven days ago, but it seems like an eternity.  Since that game, the Spartans have taken care of two mediocre opponents at home, while your beloved Gophers lost in truly dreadful fashion to the mighty Hoosiers.  I don't want to think about that, so let's get to our five questions:

1.  How will no Nolen affect the team?  Well I just wrote about this yesterday, so you can go ahead and read that, but basically either Devoe or Cobbs will need to take a huge step forward.  One is a freshman, the other is a shooting guard, so neither seems particularly likely.  The team does catch a bit of a break getting a chance to break those two in at home instead of on the road, but they also catch the opposite of a break because they immediately go against Michigan State and captain annoying Kalin Lucas.  The lost might be felt most in terms of turnovers, however.  The Spartans have been a turnover machine for much of the season, and the Gophers are usually excellent at turning teams over, especially at home, and I am pretty sure Nolen is directly responsible for half the TOs the Gophers force.  So yeah, that part really sucks.  The good news is no matter what happens, Gopher point guard shooting can't possibly get worse.

2.  Last time I said Ralph would be the key, how about this time?  Anybody stepping up and becoming an offensive threat would be a key, but I don't see any reason to believe Ralph is more likely than any other handful of Gophers.  He did show some increased aggressiveness against Indiana and got to the free throw line 15 times (making 11) but who on that team is going to stop him?  Red flags are everywhere when he only grabs five rebounds in 37 minutes against that team, not to mention how he was outmuscled, outhustled, and outworked last time they played the Spartans not only by big bruisers like Draymond Green, but by guys like Durrell Summers, too.  I'm not counting on him.

One thing I just thought of that might mean I'm stupid but I'm not sure is what about a little bit of Devron Bostick action?  He was huge last year in the big win at Madison when the team needed some offense and I know he's shot like crap this year but he had a really nice game against Iowa in limited time and showed flashes against Purdue as well.  Maybe it's time to give him some confidence, tell him to go play and he won't get yanked immediately if he makes a mistake, and see what he can do.  You have a better idea?  If they can cover up for him on defense his offensive game might be what they need.  I don't know.  And yes, I know I'm grasping.

3.  The Spartans really struggled against Iowa in East Lansing, what does that mean?  It means the Spartans aren't invinceable, but we pretty much saw that when the Gophers made the game close at the Breslin Center.  It also means that their ranking of #6 in the country is ridiculous right now.  Better than West Virginia?  Duke?  Georgetown?  No way.

I think they still have the potential to be that good, but until Kalin Lucas starts shooting better and the team starts taking better care of the basketball they are vulnerable.  The Gophers just need to take advantage.

4.  Tell me about Turnovers?  The Spartans have been a turnover prone squad most of the year, averaging around 15 a game, and the Gophers have been in the top ten nationally at forcing turnovers.  So what happened last time they played?  Sparty only turned it over 8 times and won a close contest - the type where a few more turnovers might have made the difference.  In their next two, Michigan State then turned it over 16 times against Illinois and 15 against Iowa - two teams that are absolutely wretched when it comes to forcing them (220th and 278th in the country).  This is the biggest advantage the Gophers have, and they absolutely will need to force several more than 8 if they want to pull the upset.  The press should be used all game and home court will help, but with the absence of Al Nolen the team might not be able to get it done.  Damian needs to come up big.

5.  Are the Spartans beatable at the Barn?  Absolutely.  I said it in the last preview, I said it above, and I'll say it again - I'm not impressed with Michigan State this year, or at least not as impressed as I had expected to be.  The 16-3 and 6-0 records look good, but they've struggled with some mediocre teams, their only good non-conference win was over Gonzaga, and with the exception of the home win over Wisconsin nothing in the conference record stands out as particularly impressive.  With the Gophers hanging close at the Breslin I was anticipating calling this a Gopher win.  However the loss at Indiana raised some serious questions, and Nolen's suspension raises quite a few more, so I just can't see it.

Michigan State 68, Minnesota 63.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

NIT Bound!

Al Nolen has been ruled academically ineligible with a "slight glimmer of hope" that he will play again this season.  Which basically means he is out for the year, which sucks.  According to the report, Nolen is appealing the process due to "extenuating family circumstances" which affected his academic performance in the first semester.

As much as I bag on Nolen this is a huge blow to the Gophers.  There's no doubting his defense (and the offense it creates off steals and turnovers), which I think is the best of any perimeter player in the conference, and his ability to get in the lane is a valued asset on this team (leaving aside how he seems to have no idea what to do with the ball when he gets there half the time).  There are no other penetrators on this team.  Westbrook is pretty much the only other guy who can get by his defender off the dribble (I'm not ready to credit Devoe with that just yet) and you know he's not exactly looking to distribute the basketball - he's a pure scorer.

You know how you get annoyed several times each time you watch the Gophers and have to watch the offense just pass the ball around the perimeter until the shot clock winds down and some poor bastard ends up chucking a 25-footer with a man all over him with :02 on the clock?  Expect more of it.  Who is going to run the point?

Devoe has been forced into point guard duties before, and I know he wants to play there to help any NBA aspirations he has, but he's a shooting guard at this stage of his development.  He stepped up huge against Indiana and I was hoping he was finding a rhythm and was about to bust out, but if he has to play point, I'm not feeling it anymore.  He just doesn't seem as comfortable.

We're going to find out in a hurry what the team has in Justin Cobbs.  He's looked good in the action he's seen so far this year, but he's about to be in a whole new world.  I like him, I just don't know how much faith I have in him just yet.

Either Nolen's appeal is granted, Cobbs grows up in a hurry, or Devoe magically transfroms his game (or Bryant Allen joins the team and is ssecretly an all-world point guard), or we'll get to watch someone like Illinois State or San Diego State at the Barn in March in the NIT.

You want a silver lining?  The possible development of Cobbs and/or Joseph could pay dividends next year, and this lessens the amount of "line changes" we will have to see in games.  If you don't, there's no doubt this season is a total mess.  High hopes derailed by legal issues, a frame job by Deebo, incompetent "police" forces who take forever to investigate things, shiny and irresistible pants at Macy's, and tests that are just a little too diffiicult.


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Tuesday Talkings (mostly Twins signing talk, plus a little racism)

With no Gopher game until the weekend I should probably figure something else out to blog about this week.  I also haven't done the random writing whatever strikes my fancy post in quite some time.  The perfect storm!

-  First off, don't forget to play this awesome time-waster of a game. It's basketball on the computer, so it's like basketball for white people. So far since I posted yesterday it's been played 45 times and I'm still the champion. I'm like the Blake Hoffarber of fake basketball. Try to beat me, I dare you. Come on, you're really not all that important at work, trust me. Just don't forget to put in a nickname so you can claim credit for your pitiful score.

-  Speaking of basketball for white people, there's some not-at-all-rednecky guys trying to start up a basketball league for white people.  According to the league's founder, "Moose" Lewis, "people of white, American born citizens are in the minority now" and the whiteys only league is a league "for white people to play fundamental basketball, which they like" rather than a league like the NBA which is just "street ball" played by "people of color."

This guy is a genius.  A likely sociopath, but a genius all the same.  Are you telling me you wouldn't want to watch a league where Blake would be an athletic superstar?  Or watch Kirk Penny take David Grim to the hole?  And imagine someone like Ryan Anderson in that league?  He'd be like the white Larry Bird.  Granted this idea is about sixty years too late, but who says we can't turn back the clock?  Look at John Travolta or Julio Franco.

Credit given to With Leather, which is where I saw the story and also where I ganked that sweet image from above. 

-  Ok, with news from 1950 out of the way now we can get to the real important stuff:  all those Twins' signings today.  In case you missed it, the team signed all 8 of its arbitration eligible players today.  Let's look:
  1. Brendan Harris, 2 years/$3.2 million.  Interesting that Harris got two years on his deal, and it's good for him because he gets about a $1 million raise over his salary last year.  I'd feel a lot better about this if he was the team's #1 utility guy but you know that's going to be Punto.  Since Gardy refuses to play Harris at second and Hardy is hear now the Twins are now paying $1.6 mil per year for either a backup utility player who will get 250 at-bats which sucks or for their starting third baseman which sucks because that means Harris is the starting third baseman.
  2. Carl Pavano, 1 year/$7 million.  That feels like an awful lot to pay Pavano, but if he stays healthy he's good for 200 innings and although his ERA was high last year it probably shouldn't have been because his secondary pitching stats were all pretty solid and his xFIP (Fielding Independant Pitching, sort of a way to attempt to quantify what you would expect a pitcher's ERA to be based on his secondary stats) was a nice 3.96.  Fangraphs actually pegged his estimated value at $16.5 million last year and estimates it will be $13 million this year.  Seems high, but if he stays healthy and pitches like he did last year that $7 million will be a steal.
  3. J.J. Hardy, 1 year/$5.1 million.  Pretty much a no brainer after picking him up for Gomez and the Twins probably saved a little money by not going to arbitration.  Even in a down year, and last year was way, way down, he's probably worth more than $5 million, so this is a good deal for the Twins.
  4. Matt Guerrier, 1 year/$3.15 million.  Heath Bell just signed a 1-year/$4 million deal with the Padres, and it's hard for me to believe Guerrier is worth anywhere near what Bell is.  But then you look at the numbers:  2.36 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, a league-leading 79 games and 76 very good innings, and I suppose he is worth quite a bit.  A classic case of passing the numbers test but not the eye test, and since I'm a numbers guy I have to approve of this one, even if his middle name is Olson.
  5. Delmon Young, 1 year/$2.6 million.  If he has that breakout season $2.6 million is a steal.  If we keep saying "if he has that breakout season" over and over again, eventually those "low-salary" seasons are going to add up to a whole lot of wasted time.
  6. Jesse Crain, 1 year/$2 million.  $2 million for a player who hasn't been good since 2005?  I still have no idea why they offered him arbitration.  Let him go and I almost guarantee the Royals would have signed him, then the Twins get to light him up 18 times or whatever.  Win/win.
  7. Francisco Liriano, 1 year/$1.6 million.  Good thing they didn't give him an Evan Longoria deal after that hot start in 2006, huh?  Still, similar to Delmoney, if he does come all the way back $1.6 is a steal.  Expect fluff pieces about how good Liriano's looked to start flooding in all spring training.  Oh wait!  They've already started (scroll down a bit, the actual article from pioneer press is already in the archives).
  8. Pat Neshek, 1 year/$625k.  Pretty good living for never pitching, no?  Is he ever coming back?  Is he even still alive?  Did he change his name to Clay Condrey and start pitching overhand? 
Overall, pretty good signings I suppose. Nothing to blow your skirt up, but outside of the Crain signing (and the second year to Harris) nothing I'd quibble with.  Just get Mauer signed and then we can all be happy.  And also sign somebody to play third base.  And not Melvin Mora, somebody good.

-  I feel like I should probably apologize to Andy Rautins.  I know somewhere on this stupid blog I called something like "a shooting specialist who can't shoot" and although that might have been true in the past (37% field goal shooter his first three years) it certainly isn't anymore and he's a huge reason the Cuse are 18-1 and a viable national title contender.  He's increased his shooting percentage to 46%, including 41.7% from three (#2 in the Big East amongst players with at least 100 attempts), and he basically runs the offense for the Orange in the halfcourt.  Perhaps most telling, he's averaging the same amount of points as last year in the same amount of minutes but is taking 1.5 less shots per game and has upped his assists from 3.0 per game last year to 5.1 this year, good for fourth in the Big East.  That, my friends, is how you take the senior year leap.  Eric Harris did it.  Travarus Bennett did it.  Damian Johnson is trying to do it.  And Lawrence Westbrook can go to hell.

-  Finally, I've read two very disappointing books in a row ("Pirate Latitudes" by Michael Crichton which I would give a 1/10 and "Altar of Eden" by James Rollins which I would give a 5/10 but usually his books are at least an 8 so that's why it was a bummer) so I'm think I'm going to branch out and give this book a roll.  I'll keep you posted, but it sounds pretty interesting.  Plus I am a pretty big fan of sports gambling.  Biggest downside here is that it could make me want to quit my job, leave my family, and move to Vegas.  Or is that the upside?


Bored at work?  Home?  Church?  Looking for something to do?  Try this game.  It's just shooting baskets.  Pretty fun, but it can get awfull frustrating at times (Imagine Al Nolen shooting in an empty gym, probably like that).  My best so far is 150.45, and I've broken 140 a handful of other times but I've totally lost it lately.  It even keeps stats from everybody who comes from this link so make sure you "Edit Player" and put in a name in if you want to be on the high score list (of course my 150 game was before I created the DWG group).  Go play.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Week in Review: 1/18/2010 (Alternate Title: WTF?)

They lost to Indiana?  How does that even happen?  Especially after forcing overtime with a semi-miraculous comeback?  I suppose I can see just falling asleep.  I mean Admiral Ackbar even warned that it was a trap, so I can't forgive, but I can understand getting submarined like that.  But to come back and force overtime and then choke it away?  Once you get to OT your superior talent is supposed to win out.  What's that?  You don't think they have superior talent?  I think you might be right.  More on that later.  For now my rage is such that I can't even get upset that Mike Redmond is gone.  Let's just move right along. [NOTE:  most of this was written before the Gopher loss.  You'll be able to tell which parts were written after.]


1.  Sid Rice/Brett Favre.  I saved this spot just for a Vikings win and now we have one.  But the Gophers' lost, and now I can barely bring myself to care.  Woopity doo, now you can go get destroyed by the Saints and the bottom 50% of IQs in the state will all kill themselves.  Good for Favre for not going negative gunslinger and throwing three or four picks, good for Sid for becoming "equivalent to Larry Ftiz" according to Snacks, and good for the Vikings for winning.  Sorry, but I just can't care after that pathetic Gopher performance.  

2.  Ohio State.  Evan Turner comes back, and suddenly the Buckeyes are what I thought they were and proved it in a big way this week, winning at Purdue and then following it up by beating the Badgers in Columbus.  Turner carried them over the Boilers, putting up 32 points and 9 boards, but the win over Wisconsin might have been more impressive because although Turner played ok, Lighty and Buford really carried the team.  Those three, along with the shooting of Jon Diebler, are about as good as it gets anywhere in the country.  Maybe they don't have a good enough big man or a true point guard and that might hurt them in March, but I still say these guys are legit final four contenders.  

3.  Syracuse.  I'll be honest, I've kind of been waiting for the Cuse to drop off because I just don't think this year's team is nearly as talented as they have been in year's past - and even last year.  Who would have thought losing Eric Devendorf, Paul Harris, and Jonny Flynn would make a team better?  From what I'm reading this year's version is really buying into the "team" concept and really play well together, something that has been an issue with Boeheim's teams in the past (I'm looking at you, Donte Greene).  Whatever the reason is, it's definitely working, and going into Morgantown and beating a really freaking good West Virginia team is really impressive and is the step that finally convinced me that this is a legit National Contending team.  They're very balanced (seven guys score 8.6+ points per game and five grab at least three boards), they have nice inside/outside flow, penetrating guards, and good outside shooters, and have a legit star in Wes Johnson.  Look out for the Orange.     

4.  Pitt.  I really, really dislike doing this because I think Pitt is my third most hated college program after Wisconsin and Iowa, but the Panthers are for real and are almost certainly going to make the NCAA Tournament to be boring for yet another year.  They had two monster wins this week, beating UCONN in Storrs in what might have been the most impressive win of the season thus far, and following it up with a big comeback and then win in overtime against Louisville.  They are now 5-0 in Big East play (including road wins against UCONN, Cincinnati, and Syracuse) and Ashton Gibbs has turned into a super star.  At least he's not as annoying as Brandin Knight or Carl Krauser or LeVance Fields.  Although that's not saying much. 

5.  Jarvis Varnado.  When I drew the first pick in my Fantasy College Basketball League, my heart said to take Varnado, the F/C from Mississippi State who blocks shots the way Dawger tosses out stupid opinions, but my head got in the way and said take Harangody - the safe pick.  He was the leading returning scorer from last year and was guaranteed the be the focal point of the offense.  Well, I should have taken Varnado.  This guy is incredible.  He notched his second triple-double of the season (and 3rd or 4th of his career, I'm too lazy to look it up) on Thursday in a win over Arkansas with 17 points, 12 rebounds, and 10 blocks, and then followed that up on Saturday with a 14-14-6 performance against Georgia.  He is currently leading the nation in blocked shots (this would make the third straight year), and increased his rebounding this year to 11 per game (from 9) and his scoring to 14 (from 13), all while increasing his shooting percentage from 55 to 62 percent.  Such as stud. right now projects him as the 29th overall pick this year - that's a steal.


1.  Gopher basketball.  WTF?  I just don't get it.  I'm just glad I missed most of this game.  I have a feeling if I had watched this whole game I'd probably have to kill myself.  Serious question:  are we allowed to question Tubby now?  I know we weren't allowed to before, but we have to get to now, right?  And how does Verdell Jones get to the line 19 times?  And how does a team get out-rebounded 40-29 and give up 17 offensive rebounds?  Does any of this make a lick of sense?  Oh wait, sure does when you realize this team belongs no where near the NCAA Tournament.  I'm pretty sure I'm going to just stop watching games.  This is going to become nothing but a "bad movie live blog" blog.  I hope you'll stop by anyway.  I'm just so sick of being a Gopher basketball fan.  Not sure I can do it anymore.  Colton Iverson is terrible.  Tubby Smith is getting outcoached in damn near every game.  Just as Ralph is maybe coming into his own a bit, everybody else takes a step backward.  Westbrook disappeared again, and this time he took Nolen with him.  Does anybody else think it's time for Tubby to pick his 8 guys and just go with it?  Depth is great, but when it comes at the expense of developing players, chemistry, and familiarity with each it's no longer an asset, but a detriment.  I think we're at that point.      

2.  Purdue.  Time to start worrying?  Probably not quite just yet, but this was a terrible week for the Boilers who are suddenly a second-division Big Ten team.  Final Four teams don't usually have weeks where they go 0-2, particularly when their two games are a home game and a roadie against a lower division conference foe, but that's just what Purdue did.  They lost a barnburner at home to Ohio State, which is acceptable since the Buckeyes are also a final four caliber squad, but followed it up with a loss to Northwestern which raises some questions.  Are the Wildcats really that good?  Are the Boilers really not that good?  Was this just a fluke?  Why have the Boilers suddenly lost three in a row after starting out 14-0?  The answer to all these questions is that they are ignoring JaJuan Johnson, which is the worst decision since sliced bread.  Johnson hasn't gotten more than seven shots in a game during this losing streak, while Moore and Hummel continue to chuck it up.  Refusing to get the ball inside?  Does Tubby coach Purdue now too?

3.  North Carolina.  Well there's really no way around it anymore, the Tar Heels are effed up this year and have now fallen to 1-2 in the conference after losses at Clemson and at home against Georgia Tech this week.  Neither of those losses are bad if you are a "normal" team, but for UNC alarm bells should be dinging like a Gaydar around Steve Esselink - there are some major problems.  Larry Drew might not be a big time point guard and freshman Dexter Strickland isn't ready to take over yet.  Ed Davis and John Henson are seemingly lacking some sort of motivation/mental toughness.  Deon Thompson is a really, really dumb player, and Marcus Ginyard and Tyler Zellar are both battling injuries.  The Ginyard thing might be the biggest deal, since he could be the senior leader that the team really needs.  In any case, the Heels now have some serious work to do if they are going to make the tournament.  

4.  Wichita State.  I know the Shockers were starting to eye up an at-large bid at 13-2 with a win over Texas Tech on the resume and no bad losses, but they can't afford to drop games like they did on Saturday at Creighton.  This isn't the Creighton program you remember, this is the Creighton program that is now just 10-9 this year and has lost to teams like Indiana State and Iona already - in other words, this is a bad loss.  The MVC isn't strong enough this year to send more than Northern Iowa + 1 team max to the dance, and that +1 is either going to be the Shockers or Illinois State if either of them can rip through conference play (assuming no major upset winner of the conference tournament).  The games against mediocre road teams are a good tester between a tournament team and an NIT team, and Wichita failed this test.    

5.  Penn State.  You lost to Iowa, dude.  Remember in Eurotrip, how the twin brother and sister accidentally end up making out because they have too much absinthe, and then after that it doesn't matter what the brother said because Cooper alwasy just says, "YOU MADE OUT WITH YOUR SISTER!"  That's what this is like.  Only far more embarrassing.  Talor Battle must be just seconds away from going postal at all times.  His teammates shot just 38% while he shot fifty.  Ugh.  This is just terrible.  I know they're good for football and that their is talk of expansion, but has anybody thought about booting PSU back out and returning the Big Ten to ten teams?  I'm serious. [NOTE:  I wrote this entry before the Gophers decided to lose to Indiana.  That is far more embarrassing.  It's not close.]

I also want to put you on notice regarding Avery Bradley, the freshman point guard for Texas.  I wasn't able to put him in the awesome section if though I wanted to because he put up a pretty big stinker on Saturday against Texas A&M, but I got to watch him on Wednesday against Iowa State and he is awesome - if it wasn't for John Wall he would be the best freshman I've seen play this year.  Check him out.

Also I can't wait to check out the Gopher Hole.  I can't wait to see how people spin this.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Sad Day for Twins Fans

It is with a heavy heart that I report Mike Redmond, backup catcher extraordinaire, has signed with the Cleveland Indians and will no longer be a Minnesota Twins.

Most often described as a "gritty", "hustley" prankster,  Redmond may have been completely terrible at the plate and only registered one season better than league average in the five years he played with Minnesota and never broken more than 272 at-bats (all while playing terrible defense with an arm worse than Johnny Damon's) but nobody could keep a clubhouse looser, and we all know how important chemistry is on a baseball field (how he never won an MVP is beyond my reckoning.)  Best known for taking batting practice naked, running around the clubhouse naked, and jerking off teammates when they were in hitting slumps, Redmond will be hard to replace and the team may suffer next year without him around.

I'm kidding of course.  That guy sucks and he annoys the crap out of me.  Good riddance.  If they picked him over Jose Morales as the backup to Mauer again I was going to have to drive to Bill Smith's house and go Mark David Chapman on him.

-  Hell, as long as I'm here I might as well mention a couple of other Twin-related stories, but these both actually bum me out (and weirdly are both Padre related).

First, and this was pretty much a pipe dream from the start, Heath Bell resigned with the Padres for 1-year/$4 million.  I never really expected the Twins to go after him, and especially after they picked up Clay Condrey (as if he's the answer), but I still hoped.  Actually at $4 million for one year for a team that will struggle to win 70 games you can pretty much guarantee Bell will be available right around the trade deadline.  Expect a bunch of teams to show interest, me to get excited the Twins might get him, and then Bell to end up on the Red Sox.

Second, the Glen Perkins for Kevin Kouzmanoff rumors are done since the Pads dealt Kouz to the Athletics.  Kouzmanoff heads to Oakland for two mediocre outfielders, including Scott Hairston who played mediocrely for San Diego already from 2007-half of last season, and Aaron Cunningham who has hit .211 in 133 career at-bats since being drafted in 2005.  This is the third time both of these guys have been traded.  You're telling me Perkins wouldn't be more attractive than these two clowns?  Seriously Smith, Perkins isn't good.  His upside is a middle reliever.  You should have made this trade.

But none of that disappointment can compare to no longer having Redmond around.  My soul hurts.  Who will be the naked Twin now?  Hopefully J.J. Hardy, he's one sexy son of a bitch. 

Pay Attention to the Admiral

Although most of the sport-watching eyes of the state will be tuned to the Metrodome and the playoff game between the Vikings and Cowboys let's not forget that your beloved Gophers have a little bit of a tester pretty much immediately following that game - at Indiana.  Normally Indiana isn't someone to worry about, especially since the Gophers have handled bad teams this year with little trouble, but sandwiched between two Michigan State teams with the second one coming at home, it's very possible the Gophers could fall into the trap of looking ahead (and behind) and sleep on a Hoosiers team that would love to pull off an upset, if only to give the faithful something to cheer about. 

Once again, the critically acclaimed five questions:

1.  How bad is Indiana?  Bad.  Like, really bad.  Last year's team was 1-17 in the conference and was an embarrassment, and I'm not sure this team is that much better, particularly after losing leading scorer and probable future star Maurice Creek with a broken kneecap (holy god does that sound painful).  If you were optimistic you could say the eight losses are slightly deceiving since the Hoosiers have played some good teams, but then you would also notice that they lost to George Mason, Boston U, and Loyola-Maryland and realize you were lying.  They rank 127th in the nation according to Ken Pomeroy's stats (and remember, most of the year they had Creek), one of the worst rankings amongst the big conference teams, and are 177th in offensive efficiency and 105th in defensive.  They are projected to win only one other conference game (home vs. Iowa.)  So pretty bad.

2.  Is there anybody we have to worry about?  Freshman swingman Christian Watford is the team's leading scorer (outside of Creek) and has scored in double-figures in every Big Ten game (season average = 12.8).  He's mainly an inside/driving player and at 6-9 he could be a problem - but the Gophers have Damian Johnson.  Last year's leaders, Devan Dumes and Tom Pritchard, have essentially disappeared.  Verdell Jones is their second leading scorer, and there's no way Nolen can't handle him.  I have no idea how they are going to score points.  They'll be lucky to get to 40 against the Gophers.

3.  How are the Gophers going to dominate?  Other than with their shut down defense against that crappy offense?  Fine, we'll get more specific.  Indiana turns the ball over often (244th in the country), gets the ball stolen often (225th), and has their shots blocked regularly (301st) - these are all things the Gopher defense excels at (turns - 6th, blocks - 6th, steals - 6th).  The Gophers also defend the perimeter well, and Indiana can't shoot.  As long as they are able to keep guys like Watford and Jeremiah Rivers from dribble-penetrating they should be able to hold the Hoosiers down. 

4.  What about on offense?  I expect a lot of points in transition off turnovers and missed Indiana shots.  It should be obvious to everyone by now that this Gopher team sucks in the half-court, so they need to get out and move and keep the game up-tempo.  That plays into everyone's strenghts - Hoff can get open looks, Ralph's biggest advantage on other centers is his athleticism not his strength, Nolen, DJ, Westbrook, Devoe, and Paul Carter are all better when they are running.  Indiana likes to play a fast pace so this should play into the Gophers' hands.  My biggest concern would be if the Hoosiers get back and turn this into a bunch of set possessions, something Minnesota sucks at. 

5.  So what's pissing you off about this Gopher club?  Other than the inability to score in a half-court set?  Let's see: 

Nolen still gets into the lane too often with no clue what he's doing. 

Westbrook still loses focus and loses his man without the ball too much, not to mention disappearing on offense at times. 

Hoffarber is relied upon to be a huge part of the offense, but can't get his own shot and the team doesn't do a good enough job of getting it for him. 

I'm still debating if Colton Iverson is a Big Ten center and wish Rodney Williams would be more assertive. 

Ralph is far, far too passive at times and refuses to make plays when he should (did you know there is a thread at Gopher Hole talking about how well Ralph played against the Spartans?  Those people are looney tunes over there). 

I don't know what Devoe is doing, but he seems completely caught between a point guard and a shooting guard.  He's like Ronzonni in Bad News Bears in Breaking Training when he was caught between his Catfish Hunter and his Warren Spahn.

Is that enough for you?  Throw in the fact that I'm confused by a lot of Tubby's decisions, and to say I'm worried about this team is an understatement.

Not so worried that I think they will fall to Indiana, however.  The one and only good trait this team has demonstrated consistently this year has been their ability to take it to bad teams and not let them stay in the game.  Even with all the trap implications and a road game, they should roll.

Minnesota 75, Indiana 53.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Sue Come to Mariucci

The puck drops on Gopher Sioux weekend tomorrow night at 7 PM. By the end of this weekend the Gophers will either have a prayer of home ice in the WCHA Playoffs or be dead and buried. This weekend could also determine Don Lucia's future behind the bench. With a solid weekend against our #1 rival Lucia could remove some of the heat he is taking from fans. If the Gophers get run off the ice the fans will be chasing Lucia out the door.

Since WWWWW steals all his ideas from other people, sources and sites, I have decided to do the same. I am stealing WWWWWW's “five things about the game" idea. Here are my top five things to watch for this weekend.

1) Gophers attack or lack of attack- If the Gophers are going to win a game or two this weekend they have to score 3 to 4 goals each night. That won't be an easy task because they struggle to score 3 goals vs. crap teams like Tech, Harvard and Bowling Green. To make matters worse, North Dakota is one of the top defensive units in the country. UND goalie, Brad Eidsness, is a good goalie but not great. If the Gophers settle on shots from the blue line all weekend Eidsness can sleep his way through the series. The top line for MN (Schroeder, Cepis and hopefully not white) need to chip in some even strength goals this weekend. Schroeder needs to start producing instead of counting the days until he turns pro. If he gets shut down like he did back in October the Gophers are in big trouble. I am just hoping here, but consistent production from one of the bottom three lines would also be nice. This all equals bad news for the Gophers.

Did you know the telephone pole is North Dakota's state tree?

2) Power Play- The Gophers power play has been brutal all season. Its like watching the gophers basketball team in a half court set. Part of the issue is the talent level placed on the top unit. There is no reason why MN's top unit isn't made up of Hoeffel, Schroeder, Cepis, Ness and Fairchild. They can do what ever they want with the 2nd unit, but I will cut myself if I see Tony Lucia or Jake Hansen logging major power play minutes this weekend. The Gophers should get plenty of PP chances this weekend, especially on Friday. North Dakota will try and knock the Gophers around early on Friday to set the tempo. As long as players like Flynn don't draw stupid retaliation penalties the Gophers should get some early chances. They need a minimum of three PP goals this weekend.

What has 24 teeth and breathes with it's mouth open? The front row of a UND hockey game!

3) Tony Lucia- Before you fall off your chair laughing, hear me out on this one. Lucia is the one player who seems to get under the skin of North Dakota. His game is suited for this series because he will throw his weight around, can play shut down hockey and he likes to run his mouth. He also has some history with North Dakota. Tony piss pounded Kaip (I think that was who he fought) after a Saturday game two years ago. Last year he baited Green into jumping him in the face off circle. Lucia skated away and left Green looking like a complete retard as the refs pulled him to the penalty box. although nothing really happened up in North Dakota earlier this year, the hot rumor was the Sioux wanted a piece of Lucia. If Tony can be a pest all weekend he could draw lots of attention and plenty of penalties.

Why does the wind blow so hard in North Dakota? Because it also can't wait to leave the state.

4) Goaltending- Alex Kangas needs to be a savior this weekend. If he gives up a goal it needs to be a good goal. Enough of the fluff goals. Kangas also needs to make a couple saves he has no business making. I can’t remember the last highlight reel save he has made. Eidsness is not known for gift wrapping goals so the Gophers can’t be giving away any free ones. I would give Wonder Baby to a band of North Dakota gypsies to see the Kangas of 2008 return this weekend. -Side note- You can add goalie handling and lack of goalie development to my list of MN coaching complaints.

Fact- In North Dakota it is still legal to shoot an Indian on horseback, provided you are in a covered wagon. "That explains the logo."

5) Heart- Just play 120 minutes of solid hockey this weekend and I will not be completely miserable. Honestly, our #1 rival is coming to town. People are openly questioning the players heart. The coach is getting hammered by fans and media. This is the perfect storm to rally the troops and play inspired hockey. If they can’t do it this weekend lets board up the arena for the rest of the season because it is over. God Damn this team pisses me off!

Why are date rape numbers so low in North Dakota? Livestock can't talk!

My Predictions- Sioux win 5-2 on Friday and Gophers win 3-2 on Saturday. Also, Chicks with guns are hot!