Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Game Preview: Gophers vs. Iowa

I assume at this point I don't need to tell you that this is pretty close to a must win game for the Gophers in order to avoid another bad loss on the ole NCAA Tournament resume (Iowa RPI is 121).  I also shouldn't need to tell you that despite being a bad team Iowa is dangerous - along with their win at The Barn they also won at Wisconsin and beat Michigan at home, three very good wins.  Of course for a dangerous team they are just as likely to completely lay an egg and are currently on a three-game losing skid that includes a home loss to Nebraska and allowing Indiana to break 100 on them.  In short, you really have no idea what you're going to get with this year's edition of Iowa basketball.

Well actually you know you're going to get a really terrible defensive team that plays at a high tempo so the opportunity will be there for the Gophers to score a lot of points.  One of the only things Iowa does defensively at even a mediocre level is defend the three-point shot, and the Gophers don't rely much on it so who really cares.  The only real concern is when Iowa switches to that aggressive 1-3-1 (and they will because it basically swung the game in Minneapolis) will the Gophers be able to handle it?  They shredded Northwestern's similar zone by attacking the gaps and getting inside the perimeter, and if they do that same thing against the Hawkeyes they'll score a ton of points.  I fear they turn the ball over like crazy, because that's another trait of this team.

That's it.  That's the whole thing, the whole preview.  If the Gophers play good, smart offense, make the right decisions, move the ball, and attack the zone they'll probably end up scoring 90+ points and Iowa's offense isn't good enough to score any where near that many points against a Gopher team that's pretty good defensively.  The tops Iowa can probably score here is in the low 70.  Which means if the Gophers play like a bunch of scared little bunny rabbits against the zone they probably lose 72-65 or something.  I choose to believe in this team for some reason.  I probably should write a bunch more but I just got my ass kicked gambling-wise for like the 15th night in a row so I don't really feel like it.

Gophers 83, Iowa 70.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Week in Review - 1/30/2012

 So I'm going no introduction.  Suck it.


1.  Gopher Basketball.  The basketball gods giveth, and they taketh away but in this case in the reverse order of that.  The Gophers lost a game they probably should have won when the played the Illini in Champaign and then made up for it by winning on Saturday when they should have lost, and would have if Meyers Leonard had just backed out of the way.  In any case, the Gophers are now 4-5 in conference play and would probably sneak into the tournament if it started today, which means they're in good position assuming they don't screw things up, making this week a monster.  They head to Iowa and then to Nebraska, two winnable road games that are more than just winnable, they're must wins.  I've been hurt too many times by Gopher teams and women to be fooled again, which is why I'm not buying into this team until after this week.  If they can win two road games they need to I'll go ahead and buy in.  Until then consider me cautiously optimistic.

Two players who deserve extra praise following the Illinois win are Chip Armelin and Andre Hollins or Andre Westbrook as he is known when I talk.  Armelin was the hero of the first half and basically the reason the Gophers went into half-time with a lead thanks to his energy, fearlessness, an accurate jumper, and a couple of great passes including a Magic-esque fake behind the back drop-off on a fastbreak.  Armelin was awesome.

But Andre Hollins might have been even better in the second half and overtime.  The Gophers had a pretty easy time of it in overtime and Andre Hollins was the biggest reason, and seriously how much does he remind you of Russell Westbrook?  I can't be the only one who sees this.  Not a great shooter but has the ability to get hot, with the strongest part of his game his ability to get to the rim, which is a strength because he's willing to take it in there against anybody.  I suppose that could describe Joe Coleman as well, but Hollins kind of looks like Westbrook too.  I don't know, but with Hollins and Coleman maybe this team has a future after all.  Stay tuned.

2.  Kevin Love.  I figured he'd sign, I guessed he'd sign, but until it happens you can't ever relax, especially in a place that has seen all non-Twin beloved figures bolt and/or force their way out at some point, but now Love is ours.  For at least three years, and I think that's the best part of this deal for both sides.  Love is a smart dude who knows what he's doing, which is why it wasn't surprising when I read an article pre-lockout about him and how he and his agent were putting 90% of his income or something into an account not to be touched and he was just living off of 10%, which is really what everybody in pro sports should do but almost nobody does.  He continued his smart behavior by going with the 3-year opt out clause in his deal, which basically says, "Yes, I want to play here and build a winner but if that's not happening and the team isn't doing what it's supposed to I want out" which, again is a smart way to go about things.  Plus, now the Wolves absolutely have to work to build a team around him or he can just take off.  Three more years of Love + Rubio + Williams.  How good can they be?  I have no clue yet, but I am damn glad we will get to find out.

3.  Detroit Tigers.  Well shit.  Just when you think the Twins have a chance to be relevant (V-Martinez out for the year, White Sox trading everything away) the Tigers go and sign Prince Fielder.  Part of me wants to point out that giving a 9-year contract to a guy who is in the kind of shape Fielder's in and who only has one real skill (hitting) who is 29 years old probably means the last couple of years of that contract, at a minimum, are going to be a burden.  But I'm also smart enough to recognize that the part of me that wants to point that out is really nothing more than just a jealous asshole because this freaking sucks.  Fielder and Cabrera give the Tigers two of what, the five best hitters in the game?  And Avila and Peralta can hammer the ball as well.  If Delmon Young's figured out or if Brennan Boesch or Austin Jackson ever do that lineup is going to be sick, as if it isn't already.  And although there's plenty of questions behind Verlander, Fister-Scherzer-Porcello has a chance to be pretty solid.  Detroit's not a runaway favorite in the Central or anything, but they're clearly a favorite.  Just a great move that says, "F money, we're going for it" and the kind of thing the Twins would never, ever do in a million years.  Is the Chili Davis signing the biggest FA move of our lifetime?  Am I forgetting anything?  I'm moving to Detroit.

Just kidding.  I don't want to get shot.  Unless I do it myself after the Gophers lose to both Iowa and Nebraska.

4.  Lou Diamond Phillips.  I'm guessing most people don't watch Celebrity Cook-Off but for me if it's a cooking competition I'm pretty much watching no matter what, and LDP beat out Coolio to take this one down, although both of them would have been worthy champions.  Labamba was more refined, while Coolio had his own ideas and his own recipes which apparently worked well (mayo on cheesy bread?) but these two were definitely the two best cooks who took it seriously.  Joey Fatone can knock out Italian food but has zero range and zero creative skill, and there wasn't another cook besides those three who seemed worthwhile (Aaron Carter was one and his big dish was a macaroni salad lolololololol).  So nice work Lou for a good season where I actually learned stuff.  I look forward to not hearing your name again for 10 years or so until you resurface playing an Indian Chief is some sort of fancy movie.  Probably Sitting Bull or some shit.  With Ashton Kutcher as Custer.

5.  Iowa State Cyclones.  One of the most enjoyable basketball experiences I've ever had was going down to Ames for the first time (Snacks is a graduate and I was visiting him) and going to Hilton Coliseum and watching a good but not great Cyclones team take down a Kansas team that I think was ranked #1 going into the game, including seeing Minnesota's own Jake Sullivan pull up from 35-feet on a 3-on-2 fast break and nail a 3 (no joke, that was probably the coolest thing I've ever seen on a basketball court in person).  This weekend the Cyclones did it again, knocking off the Jayhawks 72-64, once again behind a native Minnesotan.  This time it wasn't a under-recruited, short little whiteboy with a deadly jumper who is in range from anywhere on the court, but a tatted up, nationally recognized top recruit with some mental problems and the kind of well-rounded game where he leads the team in points, rebounds, assists, blocks, and is 0.2 behind in steals.  Seriously I don't know if you've seen him yet this year but Royce White is really, really, really good.  Really good.  Put him on this Gopher team and they're an automatic NCAA team.  Put him and Mbakwe on this team and you're talk Sweet 16 team with upside.

God dammit.


1.  Ralph Sampson.  It's official, the Gophers are now actively winning games in spite of Sampson.   5 points and 5 fouls with only three rebounds and couldn't be bothered to block a shot.  Not only was he crappy in measurable things, but he just got crushed by Meyers Leonard who had at least two and maybe three offensive boards on missed Illinois free throws that he got by just leaning on Ralph and moving him too far under the rim to do anything about it.  And Sampson just let it happen again and again.  Several times Sampson didn't even look interested, like the one time I specifically watched him and when Illinois took a jump shot he just stood there while Leonard went right around him and grabbed the o-board.  The guy had six offensive rebounds for the game and I'm fairly certain all six came against Sampson.  In a career full of disappointing games and poor effort, this one really took the cake.  Elliason is a better option at this point.  You may consider my heart-broken.  Just like when Emma Stone dyed her hair blonde.  Why Emma?  Why?

2.  San Diego State.  The funny thing, and I guess it's not really funny but whatever shut up, is that I actually had SDSU teed up as WHO WAS AWESOME after they went into Wyoming and rolled an underrated Cowboy team that was starting to look sleeperiffic.  I know beating Wyoming, even in Laramie, isn't usually impressive but trust me that was a really good win, not to mention SDSU was 18-2 in a year when they had lost four starters and the core of a sweet 16 team and weren't supposed to add up to much.  Probably the biggest surprise (pleasant surprise) of the year.  And then they roll into Fort Collins and just get smoked by the Colorado State and getting out-played in every way possible.  Big deal?  No, not really because the Aztecs are basically in the tournament no matter what, especially because collapse is nearly impossible since the Mountain West is meh this year, but just a hugely disappointing loss.  Why I care so much, I couldn't begin to tell you.

3.  Bruce Weber.  I have no idea how this guy still has a job.  He's one of the worst game coaches this side of Rick Barnes, and nobody does less with more than Weber.  When is the last time he actually exceeded expectations?  I know he did well at Southern Illinois (recruiting better than the rest of the conference, naturally, since that's the one thing he excels at) and he had a good start at Illinois with Self's players including that Final Four, but since then they've been garbage, right?  I mean I know they've made the NCAA Tournament like 4 of the 6 years since then and as Gopher fans we'd kill for that level of success, but based on the recruits he's bringing in that's pathetic, especially since they've only won two tournament games in that span.  I guess that's what happens when you hitch your wagon to fat non-point guard with no real point guard skills Demetri McCamey for four years and don't bother to, you know, recruit another point guard for four freaking years.  See you probably thought I wouldn't ever be able to work in another dig at McCamey, but then BAM! there we are.  Did you know he did 0 bench reps at the college hoops draft combine.  Zero.  Should have made it a donut eating contest.

4.  Central Michigan Chippewas.  Not that this week at 0-2 was particularly bad for Central Michigan because they plain old suck at 7-13 and have lost five straight, but it's time to call attention this because I thought they were supposed start getting more gooder.  Remember two years ago when Trey Ziegler was the #28 recruit in the country and had offers from Arizona, Duke, Michigan State, Michigan, and UCLA amongst others?  And then remember how he passed up all those opportunities in order to play for his dad at CMU?  Yeah, apparently it didn't matter because 10 total games last year and might be worse this year.  Ziegler leads the team in scoring, rebounding, and assists for the second straight year, but who cares because they're terrible.  It's basically the same story from the same year as Ray McCallum who ended up going to Detroit to play for daddy, but at least they're showing some signs of improvement - this Ziegler thing is a nightmare.

5.  Phil Mickelson.  Lefty is a bonafide stud when it comes to Torrey Pines.  He's won there three times in his career, he has 8 top-fives including a solo second here last year.  He's played at Torrey Pines 22 times on the PGA Tour, grew up playing on this course, lives like 5 minutes away, and hasn't missed a cut there in 10 years.  So how'd he do this weekend at the Farmers Insurance Open?  Natually he shot a +5 on Thursday, the day when over 2/3rds of the field went under par, and then missed the cut.  What an asshole.

Also I totally missed this which is why it's just getting mentioned here, but apparently Kyle Stanley didn't win the golf tournament today, despite having a 3-shot lead going into the last hole.  I was watching the end, but after he laid up on his second shot on the par-5 eighteenth hole to about 75 yards I figured it was over and clicked off.  According the words that other people typed, Stanley spun his approach shot right off the green, then on his second try put it 45 feet away and 3-putted (!!!) from there to end up going to a playoff with Brandt Snedeker who won after Stanley missed a five-foot par putt on the second playoff whole.  Jesus.  I'm damn glad I flipped the channel because if I had watched that I would have alternated laughing and feeling depressed to the point where I'd probably become the Joker.  By the way, did you know in the comic books there's a whole subplot where Joker rapes Commissioner Gordon's daughter?  Seriously, comic books are way fucked up.  I'm scared of comic book fans, for realsies.

Also I really should have mentioned the Magic as a team who sucked.  They're in the dumpster at this point.  Zero chance Howard finishes out the year there.  Howard for Beasley, Webster, Williams, and Wes Johnson works under the cap.  Just sayin'.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Game Preview: Minnesota vs. Illinois

This afternoon for lunch we went to this really cool authentic Mexican deli-type place where you could order our tacos or burritos or whatever you wanted with any one of a whole bunch of different meat choices, and I noticed that among those choices were beef tripe, beef tongue, pork stomach, and beef head.  Now, I really like trying new foods - not that long ago I had wild boar with escargot as an appetizer - and usually if there's a new type of meat (to me) on the menu I'll give it a shot.  I've never had anything like those, and I figured I could handle tongue because I know a lot of people consider tongue to be quite tasty, so that's what I was going to have.  Then I got to the counter and I ordered the adobo carnitas.  I'm such a sissy.

I opened with that because I have very little reaction to the loss at Michigan State because as I said in my preview post I didn't really care because I expected them to lose and the game essentially meant nothing as far as their NCAA Tournament hopes since I knew there was no chance they could pull an upset.  And also because I missed 90% of the game running around getting my car stuff figured out and then a torturous experience picking up dinner for the family at Zantigo that took nearly 40 minutes somehow.  But now the real season begins.  Now it's do or die time, starting with Saturday against Illinois.

Illinois is on a two-game losing skid after dropping a home game to Wisconsin and a roadie at Penn State, but are still in pretty good shape at 15-5 and 4-3 in conference thanks to big wins over Ohio State and Gonzaga and only the Penn State loss sitting in the "bad loss" column, even if it is understandable to lose a road conference game.  They certainly are ahead of the Gophers in the conference pecking order, but they may need this game as badly as Minnesota does because their next game is against Michigan State, and if they don't beat the Gophers they may be looking at a 4-game losing streak and sub-500 league record.

And make no mistake, Illinois can absolutely win this game.  If the Gophers' home losses to Iowa and Purdue don't tell you they can lose at any time, Illinois's wins at Maryland and Northwestern and neutral site victory of Richmond let you know the Illini don't shrivel up and die on the road.  Both teams are extremely evenly matched which you'd realize if you subscribed to kenpom.com and looked them up, so this one is going to come down to execution and mistakes, but if you wanted to take one thing to look at and concentrate on to decide how this game was going to go down, I'd point you towards the Illini's three-point shooting.  Actually the #1 deciding factor will probably be if Tubby decides to give a crap about this game or not, but the 3-point shooting thing is definitely #2.

The Gophers' issues with defending the three under Tubby Smith are as well known as they are perplexing, but as a refresher they allow opponents to shoot 35.8% from three, which ranks 218th in the nation - not good.  Normally I would say that's ok against Illinois because they're not a particularly good shooting team, hitting just 32.9% on the year (ranks #222) and no real great shooters, but teams continually get more of their points from three against the Gophers than they normally would, simply because they're open more often.

Plus, Illinois does have a tendency to fall in love with the shot and they have just enough mediocre, high-volume shooters that they have a high likelihood of somebody getting hot, and sometimes thats all you need.  Like in the Illini's win over Ohio State when Brandon Paul completely lost his mind and hit 8-10 from three (he's a 35% shooter this year and that includes that game) en route to 43 points and basically won that game for them.  D.J. Richardson was 4-7 in their win over Gonzaga.  Sam Maniscalco was 5-8 in their win over Maryland.  And most of their losses have come when they shoot too many threes and nobody makes them: 7-25 vs. UNLV, 4-16 vs. Missouri, 5-21 vs. Purdue, 7-22 vs. Penn State, and 3-12 vs. Wisconsin.

So that's your real key here.  Hope they shoot a lot of threes (given the Gophers' defense this is likely), miss a lot (less likely), and hope nobody gets hot (even less likely).  I have, of course, not mentioned the Illini's best player, center Meyers Leonard, but that's because he's gonna do what he does.  He's gonna go for 12-20 points and 6-10 rebounds and that's that.  I also expect that, because he and Ralph are similar, finesse type players who both lack the ability to just take the other out of the game, those two will cancel each other out like last time.

Other than the 3-point thing the other big thing the Gophers need to do is force turnovers.  Illinois still struggles with point guard (as they have since Chester Frazier graduated) and rely on an undersized shooting guard (Maniscalo) , a small forward (Paul), and a freshman (Tracy Abrams) to handle most of their ball-handling.  Abrams playing time has really increased since conference play started and I'd assume he'll get most of the ball work (he he) on Saturday, but he can be a turnover machine at times and struggled against the Gophers in Champaign (5 TOs). 

Pressure on the ball-handlers and shutting down the 3-pointer are your keys to the game.  If they can continue with the attacking, aggressive, get-in-the-lane offense they've showcased the last 3 games they'll be able to score against Illinois, but if they let the Illini get off from 3 and play that shitty stand around crapfense they did against Iowa and Purdue Illinois will win this game.  As Fred Durst once said, you gotta have faith.

Minnesota 62, Illinois 56.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Game Preview: Gophers vs. Spartans

This game is non-interesting in an interesting way, and I mean that because it's the only game left on the schedule where I don't really care if the Gophers lose.  Obviously I hope they win, but going into East Lansing to play one of the better Spartan teams of the last few years is not a real great recipe for success and I harbor no illusions about their chances of winning (I'd put this around 1.2% - Ken Pomeroy says 11%).  Every other game the rest of the year is either a must win (every home game besides Mich State and Ohio State), a great chance to steal one on the road (@Nebraska (may be a must win), @Northwestern, @Iowa), or a good opportunity to grab a real quality victory (@ Wisconsin, Ohio State, Michigan State).  This is the only game left where a loss really doesn't represent any kind of negative hit or loss of a positive hit.

Draymond Green, Branden Dawson, and Keith Appling are all better than anybody the Gophers have.  Michigan State ranks #8 in both offensive and defensive efficiency while the Gophers are outside the top 50 in both.  Look at this link.  Look at it.  Green means good, red means bad, and neither means average.  Do you see any red on there?  No.  It's like the United States in the 1800s after all the Indians had been wiped out or whatever happened.  I don't know because I don't read books because I like to live life not read about it nerd, but I know that the Spartans rank higher than the Gophers in nearly every single metric you can think of.  Especially couches set on fire. 

I mean, I don't really want to oversell Michigan State here, but Draymond Green averages a double-double while still being in the top 10 in the Big 10 in assists.  They go 8 deep (and I mean actually 8 guys not like Maverick or whatever) and even managed to get Austin Thornton to be a quality contributor (side note:  this guy looks just like Bogart).  I'm pretty sure Brandon Wood kind of sucks but he'd be the leading scorer on the Gophers.  Sparty hasn't even come close to losing at home this year.  The closest any team has managed to stick is Lehigh who lost by 9 (and I assume Sparty was all like meh for this game).  They beat Florida State, who has since beat both Duke and UNC, by 16.  They beat Indiana by 15 and both Iowa and Purdue by nearly 30.  Yes 30.  They're a force.

I was going to write a whole bunch more on this, but after I started this post we had to go car shopping because my piece of shit car has broken down 3 times in the last two weeks and now I'm the owner of a spoiler-less Honda Civic.  Ballin'.

You jelly, brah?

Anyway, I can see the Gophs keeping this one semi-close and I don't think they'll get blown away like Nicole Eggert in that movie called Blown Away, but I don't think they ever seriously threaten either.  I'd love to be wrong.  Plus then I'd know what Dawger feels like all the time.

Michigan State 80, Minnesota 70.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Week in Review - 1/18/2012

So do you think we'll hear a little bit of talk about a rematch, revenge, redemption, etc. the next couple of weeks?  Hey, at least David Tyree will probably get to be interviewed on TV again.


1. Joe Coleman.  No, I'm not actually giving all the credit to Coleman for the 3-game winning streak, but it's easy to notice that the streak started when he was put in the lineup. Coleman has an aggressiveness and a fearless streak to him that's pretty unique on this team (although I think Andre Hollins has some of it too, but just doesn't have the skill level to pull it off just yet), and it seems to be rubbing off a bit, particularly on Austin Hollins, but on pretty much the entire back court - even Maverick, although I'm not sure if that's a good thing.  I'm not sure if it was that more aggressive attitude or betting coaching by Tubby (who did, by the way, seem very engaged in the game for the first time in far too long), but when Northwestern went into that 1-3-1 I was ready for all kinds of collapse, but they handled it well.  I'm not saying they carved it up like a Thanksgiving taco buffet, but they were definitely more aggressive going into the gaps than the last several hundred years (and seriously, it's not a "trap at half court" 1-3-1, so you don't need to treat it that way).  Add in the defensive effort and this was one of the team's best games of the year.  The latest bracketology is out on ESPN.com and they currently have the Gophers in as an 11 seed.  I'm not sure they're there yet and there's plenty of work to do, but make no mistake, the Gophers are all set-up to disappoint.  Prove me wrong.  Please. 

2.  Timberwolves.  I didn't even know I missed the Timberwolves.  The wife and I watched the end of their big win against the Clippers, and when Kevin Love took that shot I put both arms in the air and when he hit it I turned to Mrs. W and said "Hell Yeah" or something similarly stupid, but the point isn't that I said something stupid, it's that I said anything at all (plus that arms in the air thing).  When is the last time I reacted to anything the T-Wolves did with anything other than laughter or indifference?  I have no idea.  I can't even remember the last time I got irritated.  Hell I can't really even remember the last time I watched an entire game and I've watched all or nearly all of three or four this year already.  I hate to jump on the Rubio bandwagon and give all the credit to one guy, but he makes them fun to watch, even in a loss, and he's made them a much better team than last year.  Even if the upside is an 8 seed an an early exit (and that might be pushing it), they're relevant, they're talked about, and they're entertaining.  What more could you ask for after the hell that team has been?

3.  Missouri Tigers.  After Saturday's win over Baylor I have now narrowed my possible National Champ pick to Kentucky or Missouri (Ohio State and Baylor are my other 2 Final Four picks right now) because that win answered every possible question I could have about the Tigers.  And really there weren't many questions, just two:  could they win against a tough team on the road (only road wins this year are Iowa State and Old Dominion with neutral court wins over Illinois, Notre Dame, and Cal) and how would they handle a team that could match there athleticism but with more size like Baylor (Ratliffe is Mizzou's only contributor over 6-6).  Just an awesome team.  And I'm trying to think of anybody else, but Phil Pressey has to be the best point guard in the country right?  I know you can get into the scoring point vs. pure point and Pressey probably isn't as good in either category as guys like Ashton Gibbs (scorer) or Kendall Marshall (pure), but combine the two and add in his elite level defense and I think he's gotta be the guy.

4.  Florida State.  Wow.  So after a last second three knocked off Duke in Cameron on Saturday, Florida State's last four games are the win at Duke, a win over Maryland, a win over North Carolina, and a win on the road at Va Tech.  All four impressive in their own way, but the win at Duke and the thrashing they gave UNC (remember they won 90-57) are two of the more impressive wins by anybody this year (although I'd give the nod to the Mizzou win referenced above).  What's even better for the Noles is that they've always been a great defensive squad (top 5 in defensive efficiency the last 3 years), but in their last few games the offense has shown up.  90 points vs. UNC?  84 vs. Maryland?  75 vs. Duke?  In all three cases that's a top 2 score against, put up by what was supposed to be a pretty crappy offense.  And since I don't really watch many FSU games I can't really pin it down, but it seems like a different Seminole is stepping up offensively in each game.  With that defense and there pretty good guards the Seminoles have March sleeper written all over them.  With a sharpie.  One of those cool glittery ones.

5.  Victor Cruz.  Yes, El Juegito finally gets a mention.  See, I'm a huge Hakeem Nicks fan, so I could easily convince myself that everything Cruz did was fluky.  Like when he burst onto the scene in Week 3 with 2 long touchdowns he only had one other catch and so obviously that was just a fluky lucky day.   Then after an 8 catch, 161 yard day he followed it up with a 2 for 12 day, so yeah, no worries, clearly just a fluke.  Then, and I'm just realizing this right now by looking at his game log, Cruz went the final 10 games of the season with at least five catches 9 times and at least 90 yards seven times with a 5-44 game in week 16 his only clunker.  He ended up 5th amongst wideouts in receptions this year and third in yards, not to mention tied for fourth in touchdowns.  Crazy.  And after his 10 catch, 152 yard game this weekend against 49ers where he was basically their only offensive weapon I'm finally ready to admit that he's pretty damn good.  He's no Hakeem Nicks, but he's a lot better than I've given him credit for.


1.  Billy Cundiff.  So let's get this straight -  your defense manages to keep one of the best offensive teams in the league under control, your much maligned QB keeps you in the game and then, miraculously, manages to drive your team all the way down the field and into chip shot field goal range to tie the game and you shank it worse than Dobby got shanked?  It was practically an extra point and I think Cundiff missed it further to the left than how far away the spot he kicked from was.  But, I guess that's what happens when you trust a kicker from the Missouri Valley Conference, because everyone knows that other than UNI's upset of Kansas a couple of years ago the MVC has never produced anything that didn't suck.  Plus this guy was Dawger's kicker on his fantasy team, so between the curse of Dawger (which is a real thing, just ask Darren McFadden, Josh Freeman, Rodney Williams last year, or basically any Twin) and the Drake thing this guy was pretty much screwed.

2.  UCONN Huskies.  Add the Huskies to the list of team's in free fall.  The warning signs were there after UCONN lost to both Seton Hall and Rutgers earlier in the month, but since Ryan Boatright was shut down by the NCAA they beat Notre Dame, but have now lost their last two - a home game vs. Cincy and on the road at Tennessee who is terrible.  What's funny is Boatright, who I desperately wanted to be a Gopher, plays the fourth most minutes on the team while the two starting guards, Jeremy Lamb and Shabazz Napier, play the most minutes.  So basically this team is three guards + Andre Drummond and that's it (actually the rest of their guys would beat the Gophers, but you get my point).  So what do you get if you take something with four legs and chop one off?  A Def Leppard drummer, the guy who killed Indiana Jones's wife, or a really funny looking dog, that's what.

3.  New York Knicks.  Wow, what a shocker that Knicks are 6-9.  See, getting two superstars (or more) on one team is definitely a good way to build a winner in a hurry, but you can't just slap any superstars together or you end up with a broccoli and poop sandwich.  Lebron and Wade don't necessarily make sense, but Bosh does with either and those two are so good and so special it works.  If Deron Williams and Dwight Howard end up together it makes sense, and if both end up with Nowitzki it makes even more sense.  Outside of the ball-hogging, bitching, and raping Kobe and Shaq made a ton of sense.  Pierce, Allen, and KG, the first of the superteams, made sense.  But Amare and Carmelo?  No.  Chris Paul and Amare, yes.  But not this.  Two guys who need the ball at all times and are terrible defenders who also take up almost all your cap room and reduce you to using Landry Fields and Toney Douglas as your back court.  I thought the Tyson Chandler signing was genius, but not even he can save this defensive wasteland.  God the Knicks are just worthless.  The only city in America who puts NBA as their #1 sport and this is the crap they get.  It would be sad if so many New Yorkers weren't abrasive A-holes.  Or at least that's what TV has led me to believe.

4.  Michigan Wolverines.  Thanks a lot, assholes.  So all the talk about how the Big 10 is the best conference in the land and how it's not only good it's deep and that's why things like Indiana losing to the Gophers and Illinois losing to Penn State and Nebraska beating Indiana happen, and then one of the supposed better teams in the conference has a rare chance to prove how good they are in mid-season and the Wolverines lay and egg and lose to Arkansas, a bottom third SEC team with no chance at an NCAA bid.  Actually, I was starting to kind of believe the hype so really this just did me a huge favor by reminding me that outside of Ohio State and Michigan State the big 10 always sucks in the tournament so now maybe I can win the bracket pool instead of tearing my stupid bracket up by 6pm Thursday night for the 10th straight year.

5.  Northwestern Wildcats.  Pardon my french, but what the deuce was that?  I can't even decide the most perplexing part between John Shurna's suddenly inability to even come close to hitting a free throw, Luka Mirkovich only playing 10 minutes and most of it in garbage time, or why Dawger was terrified of Dave Sobolewski (as he wrote in the comments of my game preview) when they guy is some kind of cross between a ball boy and a lesbian with a game more on par with Maverick Ahanmisi than somebody anyone needs to be afraid of.  Give the Gopher defense plenty of credit because they did a great job, particularly in taking Drew Crawford basically completely out of the game, but Northwestern surely didn't do themselves any favors.  Not to mention that now gives them four losses in their last five games, and although they can't quite be counted out of getting their first ever NCAA bid, it's not looking super duper likely at this point.

Of course, all this pales in comparison to the real story of the game, which was that I was selected to do that thing where you pick between the four kinds of lotteries and then whichever one you pick has a certain amount of Gopher 5 tickets behind it and then you win them and stuff.  So they come get me at half-time right after the alumni came out there for what I swear was the 4th time this year, and bring me over down by the baseline where we sit in the second row and they tell me we're going up on the floor at the first TV timeout of the half, which is the first clock stoppage under 16 minutes.  Ok, fine.

Then, after explaining the bit, they bring over this hideous orange Gopher 5 shirt and tell me that I have to wear this because the sponsor is there and well, that's the bit.  Ok, fine.  So I look at it and it's a Large, which usually either means it will fit fine or be way too tight, depending on the brand.  Of course, this doesn't stop somebody from behind me from yelling "better get that guy a double-XL!" and when I turn around it's some old dude who had to have been at least 90, and he's giving me this big smile and so I laugh and I'm like, "good one, old dude."  So whatever, I put it on and it's super tight but I'll live.

I was at the game with Bear and Snake and they kept telling me I had to shtick it up and be funny and they kept saying that when it was my turn to talk I needed to say something like "I'll take the scratch-offs" which was ok I thought but I couldn't think of anything else until right before they called me up there I had an inspiration.  So when it was my turn and they're like, "what's your choice?", I said, "In honor of my personal hero, Luka Mirkovich, I select Northstar Cash" and then I looked over and he was looking around so he definitely heard his name.  It was awesome.

Look how loved this guy is.  And now he knows for sure who his #1 fan is.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Preview: Gophers vs. Northwestern

First, drop whatever you're doing unless you're holding a baby or working with plutonium (1.21 JIGGAWATTS!!! - side note:  I bet that's Jay-Z's favorite unit of measurement) and go here to read four awesome Gopher fans be realists.  Matt from Fringe Bowl Team, FrothyGopher aka G'Swan from Still Got Hope (ha ha suck it TRE), and myself were invited by the From the Barn dudes to have a virtual roundtable type discussion about the Gopher hoop team.  The results were predictably cynical, yet moody.  Also predictable?  It was more entertaining than anything I've ever written, so stop being such a douchebaby and go read it.

Now, onto the business on the table, and that's Sunday's game against Northwestern, and as depressing as it is to talk about this only 7 games into the Big Ten schedule, this is a must win game.  Yes, it's a must win game.  Of course, since Northwestern has followed the Gophers' plan of not beating, nor scheduling games against, any quality opponents and then starting the B10 season at 2-4, it's close to a must win game for the Wildcats as well (although in their defense the Iowa and Purdue losses by the Gophers are far worse than anything Northwestern has done so far).  Since these two teams desperately need this one, you can expect an intense, well-played game with crisp execution and a maximum effort and focus on every possession.

I'm just kidding.  These two programs are the most likely in the conference to play like dickheads in a big game and are equally likely to rise up and crush some poor fools (Minny over Indy, NW over Mich State) so basically anything could happen in this game and it wouldn't surprise me.  But what could we see?  Let's look.  Join me on a magical adventure.  Levar Burton is here too.

The first thing I have to tell you is I really don't know much about the Wildcats this year.  Every time I sit down to watch one of their games it's at their place where that weird ass purple court (where the entire area betwixt the paint and 3-pt line is this weird purple but not quite a solid purple) eye rapes me and I can't really look at if for more than a few minutes at a time.  So I'm only going to discuss three players who I know quite well and ignore guys like Dave Sobolewski and David Curletti and Alex Marcotullio because I have no idea who they are, even though Sobolewski spent a week on my fantasy squad.

First up are Drew Crawford and John Shurna, and honestly they're like, the only two who actually matter because they score over half Northwestern's points and are top 3 in everything else.  They can both do basically anything and everything.  Crawford does it in a smooth, suave, athletic way and is kind of a poor man's Ray Allen without an immortal jumper and Shurna does it in the nerdiest way ever that is reminiscent of the weird kid who was always at the park shooting at those chain nets and double rims with his rubber ball who never had an ounce of teaching but still managed to be pretty decent.  There's no reason the Gophers shouldn't be able to shut down Shurna but let's be honest you could say that about every game he's played this year.  the guy is just a nerdtastic machine who makes Kevin Coble look like Brad Pitt.  But he gets it done.  And Crawford is a straight up stud.

Normally if there's a team who relies on two dudes this much I'd say just do everything you possibly can to stop those two but I assume Northwestern has a shit ton of white dudes who can shoot based on some of those names and since the Gophers have little to no idea how to defend the three-pointer that would probably be a bad idea.  Also Northwestern has that zone which sometimes gives the gophers fits and I'd totally go into it but there's something I really want to talk about and I can't think about anything else so let's just go:  Luka vs. Ralph.

Luka Mirkovich is the least mobile person I've ever seen.  His defense is very similar to this lamp I'm sitting next to.  His best offensive move is somehow using his fat slowness to trick the guy guarding him into thinking he's not actually moving and then suddenly make a lay-up.  If he and Stephen Hawking had a good ole fashioned athletic face-off the line would be Luka -120.  If Ralph and Luka played one-on-one there is no good reason Ralph shouldn't win 11-1.  And yet.

This what I want to see and it's my own fault for caring about Ralph so much when I've metaphorically fallen down the stairs so many times because of him, and yet I'm back for more like whatever Charlie Sheen's wife's name was.  Please Ralph.  I shouldn't even give you another chance but this is it.  Line drawn in the sand.  Must win game.  At home.  Crowd wants to get behind you.  Going up against a tree with glasses.   Please Ralph.  Give it to me.  Give it to me how I like it.  Stop being such an asshole.  This is your time. 

Also I have no idea why I wrote that Levar Burton thing earlier.  I'm not sure that made much sense.  But really, not much about this post made sense.  I'm very tired and you're annoying me.

Gophers 66, Wildcats 65.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Monday Musings

So dumb.  I actually had a Week in Review about 90% done and all typed up.  I saved it before bed last night with the intent of finishing it off this morning, except when I went there it was gone.  Completely gone.  So I'm just going to do this thing instead where I type stuff that you end up reading for some reason.

-  Good win for the Gophers Sunday winning in Penn State.  It's not so much a great win because Penn State is any good (spoiler:  they aren't), but more because losing at PSU right after rescuing their season would be exactly the kind of thing the Gophers would do.  Also I should say that when I say the Gophers "rescued" their season after beating Indiana all I mean by that is they shifted the season from a epic flameout to what will probably end up being a disappointing season, but they still have a chance to do something at least.  So yeah, I'm not exactly throwing a party just yet but at least they managed to beat Penn State.  God I was so convinced they were going to lose.  Thank god I'm stupid.

Now the Gophers are 2-4 in Big 10 play, and at an absolute minimum they're going to need to get to 9 wins to even get within sniffing distance of an NCAA bid, especially because Virginia Tech - their one hope for a quality out of conference win - keeps sucking.  With 12 games to go that means they need to win at least seven more.  Here are the easy wins left on the schedule:  Nebraska at home.  That's it.  Everything else is going to at least be a little tough; HOME: Northwestern, Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan State, Ohio State, Indiana, and Nebraska.  AWAY: Michigan State, Iowa, Nebraska, Northwestern, and Wisconsin.  Yikes.  They're gonna be favored in what, 3 games?  Maybe four?  It's long ass road to those 9 wins, and I'm not even sure 9 would get there.  Looking like another long year.  I need a vacation.

-  Elsewhere in a rare move the Twins made that I actually like they signed reliever Joel Zumaya to a one year deal for $800k (with incentives that can double that), but it's a non-guaranteed deal so if his elbow (which you may remember exploded in a game against the Twins) isn't all the way back they can just cut him easy peasy lemon squeezy.  Good deal.

He's been hurt a lot since bursting on the scene in his rookie year of 2006 - he hasn't thrown more than 39 innings in a season since then - but if he can somehow stay healthy he could end up being a real bargain.  Zumaya has always been a flamethrower (his average fastball for his career has been 98.5 mph, topping at an average of 99 his last two years and he's struck out a batter an inning for his career) and like many of that ilk he's struggled with his control.  2010, however, was different.  Although he was still throwing hard and still striking people out he also had gotten the wildness under control, slicing his walk rate basically in half and was developing into a dominant reliever pre-injury.  Big fan of the signing.

-  Sticking with baseball, why the hell would you trade a 23-year old pitcher who already has one of the best fastballs in the league and has already proven himself to be a #2 type pitcher and if he ever fully developed a second pitch he could end up a full on ace.  I know Jesus Montero is thought to be one of the best hitting prospects in baseball and he definitely hit well when he was up with the Yankees last season but it was just 69 plate appearances and how is that all the Mariners got for Michael Pineda?

If Seattle was dead set on trading Pineda and his 171 high quality innings Montero would have been a nice centerpiece to the deal, but there should have been at least a couple more prospects thrown in.  Now Seattle has a nice middle of the order future with Dustin Ackley, Montero, and Justin Smoak but they're pitching is suddenly pretty thin again behind Felix.  And the Yankee rotation just went from crazy shaky to Sabathia, Pineda, Hiroki Kuroda (who they signed like, 3 minutes after making this trade), Ivan Nova (who finished ahead of Pineda in the ROY voting last year), and their choice of Phil Hughes, Freddy Garcia, or A.J. Burnett.  You know the worst part?  And of those three pitchers the Yankees get to choose from as their #5 would be the Twins' ace.  I'm going to go lick a car battery now.

- No matter how disappointing the Gophers' hoops season might be to you at least it's not as bad as what's going on with Pitt.  The Panthers have been dominant in their own way over the last several seasons and were expecting more of the same this year, starting the year ranked #11, but things haven't exactly gone according to plan.  An 0-3 week with a 20 point home loss to Rutgers leaves Pitt in dead last in the Big East at 0-6 and currently riding a 7-game losing streak that started with a home loss to Wagner.  Wagner!  There's no doubt the Gophers' season has been a bit of a disappointment but it's nothing like what Pitt fans are going through.  This year Pitt is hands down the most disappointing team in the NCAA and it isn't remotely close.  They're just like The Phantom Menace.

- What's more sweeter than a Packer season ending early?  Nothing.  Absolutely nothing.  Suck it, Packers. 

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Gophers vs. Hoosiers Live Blog

I'm not exactly certain why, but I'm going to live blog this game.  I'm a bit nervous because I fully expect that three-eighths of my body will be covered in vomit by the end of this and let's face it I'm not 28 anymore so that's not cool, but I'm going to do it anyway.  I had a work sponsored happy hour earlier and am now armed with five Coors Light silos and a giant vat of Mrs. W's delicious vinegar dill cucumbers so I'm feeling confident.  Confident I'll be done with this post in less than an hour, but I'm now committed so let's see I guess.

20:00 - Ahanmisi not in the starting lineup tonight.  It's like we've already won.

20:00 - I love how everyone is so confused about Tubby being 0-4 in conference and how it's a miracle.  It's not a miracle when you don't care.  It's like, it's not a miracle that I have no Wild pennants in my house.  It's just that hockey is for idiots and I don't give a crap.  Kind of like how I imagine Tubby feels about this job.

19:38 - Welch's slow feet commit a foul.  He's now officially slower than small white dudes.

19:34 - Rodney bringing the aggressive getting his own board off a miss and converting it into a 3-point play.  I'm feeling like it might be a Rodney night.  Not sure if Indiana really has anybody outside Oladipo who can handle him.

18:48 - Indiana attacking the paint early.  What a weird concept.  Speaking of such, what percentage of Mbakwe's shot attempts were off of offensive rebounds?  Gotta be like 80, no?

18:16 - 8 seconds on the shot clock and the Gophers hadn't crossed the 3-point line yet.  Austy Hollins takes it to the rack and gets a lay-up. MORE OF THIS MORE EARLIER PLZ!

17:40 - Coleman gets it in the paint and makes the lay-up.  7-4 Gophers.  What's will all this paint action?  I haven't seen anything like this since Bear and I were firing paintball guns out our windows at each other at 2am back in high school.  Ok, they were staple guns, but same thing.

16:58 - Zeller finds himself in a breakaway situation and Ralph chases him down and gives him a good hard, clean foul to prevent the lay-in.  The exact kind of foul he needed to throw Lewis Jackson's way against Purdue.  I don't know if I should be more frustrated or encouraged.  Maybe this is like when Zack learns he's native american and half-asses his assignment and the professor is all like "dude" and then he goes to talk to Chief Henry and gets all serious and is all like "I'm running Zack."  Now that I look at it, I'm not really sure how that relates but Saved by the Bell references are always a hit.

15:38 - Ralph scores in the paint to make it 11-8 Gophers.  Yes, in the paint.  I assume he got lost.

15:15 - #1 for Indiana isn't Jordan Hulls is it?  Cuz #1 is freaking terrible.

14:35 - Zellar lay-up, Ralph grabs it to throw it in to the guard guy, half-ass lobs it without paying any attention and Zeller steals it and scores again.  12-11 Indiana.  Time-out Gophers.  Uh oh, Rexy, I don't think this one has the distance.

13:17 - I should mention I'm watching this on tape delay on account of my stupid kids, and it's 9:02 right now and my phone just buzzed with a text.  I'm too scared to check it, seeing as this is about the time the game would have ended.  I know, I'm stupid.  But what if?

12:33 - Will Sheehey checks in.  I had no idea he was white. Kind of a Lew Ford moment for me here.

12:12 - Joe Coleman to the rack.  Blocked by Zellar, but at least he's got the stones to take it inside.  I dislike an awful lot about Coleman's game, but for a freshman there is a ton I like.  I can't wait to watch him not develop at all over the next 3+ years and/or transfer after year two.

11:44 - Christian Watford goes down with an apparent ankle injury.  Not to sound like a callous dick, but I hope he's out for the game.  Just the game, nothing serious or anything, just maybe take the night off.  You've had a good year, you deserve some rest.  Maybe bring a cheerleader or team booster back with you.  Crack open a nice bottle of wine and maybe eat some grapes or whatever.  Have a nice relaxing evening.

10:36 - Holy fuck.  Zellar just dream shaked Ralph resulting in an uncontested hammer dunk and I'm not sure Ralph's figured out where the ball is yet.  Wow.  Seriously that's gonna be a sportscenter thingy.  Which means the Gophers will show up on the plays of the day for the second time this year.  Huzzah!

9:45 - Chip for 3 (Gophers 19, Indiana 18).  guess how much room he had and how much time he took to take the shot:  wrong.  The answer is zero.

9:02 - Ahanmisi to the rack for a lay-up.  Where the shit was all this against Iowa and Purdue?  I swear to god if they win this game I'm going to be more pissed than happy.

8:02 - Wide open three for Indiana and he goes clang city.  Got to assume those will fall eventually.  Just like the 3 Maverick just hit to open up a 26-20 lead for the Gophers. Then Verdell Jones missed an open 8-foot jumper.  And just now as I'm typing Chip hits another three.  It's 29-20.  I hate this team for what they do to me.  I hate them so much.  I should be in bed right now.

7:04 - I forgot to pause it when I went upstairs to get a beer and it's 29-23 now.  That is all.

6:34 - Couple more text messages trickling in.  Perhaps this one is closer than I thought in the end.  No chance Gophers can win.  None.  God I hope I'm wrong I think.  I'm so tempted to read them.  What if they aren't even about basketball?  Maybe it's some hot chick texting me pictures of her boobs and I'm ignoring it?  I think I'll resist for now, but it's close.

6:04 - Fucking awful charge call.  And another text comes in.  Interesting.

5:21 - Indiana continues to clang open threes like a wrestling team an open gym.  If that continues and never mind because Jordan Hulls (who is indeed #1) just buried a 25 footer in Chip's face.  Nine point lead now down to one.  Waaah waah.

4:24 - Joe Coleman either lost an eye or a contact.  I'd write more but I was trying to fast-forward to half-time and this made me stop so I'm kind of annoyed.

3:52 - Fast forwarded to far.  Indiana now winning, mainly because the Hoosiers switched to a zone and the Gophers are all like oh my god I'm so confused until just now when Austy hits a 3 to give them back the lead so that was good.

3:01 - Rodney dunk.  Nice to see you again, sir.

1:49 - Watford's back and just missed a really stupid shot.  Keep it up.

0:12 - Oto, while the team has the shot clock off and is playing for one shot, puts up a three with 12 seconds left and airballs it.  Yikes.  There is so much wrong about that play I'd actually be a little bit stunned if he gets off the bench in the second half.

0:00 - Gophers lead 37-34 and my phone is absolutely blowing up (and I'm still ignoring it).  This is either going to be a heartbreaking loss or a heartbreaking win, if you know what I mean.  And if you don't you're stupid.

0:00 - Am I drunk or is that Gary Williams as part of the Big 10 Network half-time show?  Gary Williams?  The Maryland guy?  What the hell?  That doesn't even remotely make sense.  Maybe they should pull in John Chaney and Rollie Mossimino are available.

19:18 - Well this will shock you, but Julian Welch missed another lay-up (he did get fouled but it was one of those sissy fouls where you're supposed to make the shot).  If you take Welch and a 3rd grader and have them do a lay-up contest who wins?  Welch of course, but it's probably a little too close.

18:32 - Zeller gets it on the block against Sampson and for some reason goes for the fade-away jump hook instead of doing anything remotely aggressive - and misses.  Welch takes it to the rack and makes it on the other end and Gophers now lead 43-34.  The amount of rim attacking in this game has now convinced me that Tubby (well, probably whichever assistant he gets to do the actual gameplanning) reads this blog.  I'm definitely the only one who had that idea ever.

17:00 - Rodney misses a weird off-balance lay-up kind of thing badly and scarily, but he took it to the rim from the top of the key.  This is definitely a concerted effort by the Gophers to get to the rack.  Nicely done.  I try to get to the rack as often as possible as well.

16:42 - Verdell Jones just hit all backboard on a wide open 3-point attempt.  That kind of night so far for Indiana.  This is going to be crushing when the Gophers lose.

16:32 - Will Sheehey has a little bit of Punto to 'em.

15:51 - The announcers point out that Jordan Hulls hasn't played this half and wonder what his status is.  I'll tell you his status - he sucks.  Been a long time since I've been this unimpressed by somebody who was supposed to be awesome.  Jordan Hulls, the Dave Matthews of Indiana basketball.

14:30 - Zeller dream shakes Ralph again, less effectively but still makes the shot, then Oladipo steals the inbounds pass and gets fouled.  Misses both free throws.  I can't decide if this is an omen that it's the Gophers night or a sign that they're falling apart.

14:01 - Wow, Austin Hollins is having a hell of a game after taking it right at Zeller and making the lay-up to make it a 47-40 Gopher lead.  Must be rough for Lionel to have to watch his kid sit on the bench while his nephew lights it up.  And he just hit a real nice pull-up J to make it a NINE point Gopher lead.  I'm starting to think unthinkable things.  Can't wait to have my heart ripped out.

12:25 - Rodney lay-up.  51-40 Gophers.  I don't know who this team is that I'm watching.  All they do is attack the rim/paint.  It's a whole different team.

11:50 - Hey there's Hulls!  Watford just missed a jumper off a Hulls' pass.  Pretty sure it was Hulls fault.

10:54 - Coleman drives and draws the help in the paint so even thought he missed the shot nobody was there to block out Rodney for an easy tip in.  Gophers 53-45 (Indiana scored while I was typing).  I'm going to be honest here, if the Gophers lose this it's going to break my heart even though I thought they already broke it.  They're playing exactly how I want them to play (on offense) and Indiana is missing shots.  This has to be it.  It has to be.

9:22 - Moving pick called on Indiana (John Thompson would be so proud).  I happened while Hulls had the ball.  Pretty sure he fucked up and Watford was trying to fix it when he got called for the foul.

9:00 - Williams with a lay-up (again) and a made free throw for kicks.  They are just slaughtering Indiana in the paint which is exactly what they should do since Zeller is their only inside presence of note.  I have no idea who this team is.  It's like that movie where who you think somebody is isn't because they're someone else.  The Hot Chick.

8:43 - Look at these cucumbers.  You want these.  If you tasted these you would punch your wife or boyfriend in the face for not making them:

8:18 - Eliason just hit a 16-footer to make it 58-51 Gophers.  This was after like four straight Indiana points.  I repeat:  Eliason just hit a 16-foot jump shot.  Like, he made it.  This is not the Hoosiers night.  Until it is, of course.

8:00 - Jordan Hulls just missed a three.  He's 90% of the reason they're losing.  He's like a white Russ Archambeau who plays the whole game.  Also Julian Welch is really, really good when he gets in the lane not counting those times when he blew the game.  You know how Ralph is really a fancy pants nancy boy perimeter player in a 7-footer's body?  I think Welch is the opposite.  If they could swap bodies like Jamie Lee Curtis and Lindsay Lohan in that movie or whoever else in those 4000 other movies based on that same basic premise I think everybody would be happy.  Plus they'd get to sleep with each other's girlfriends and wouldn't really be cheating. 

6:10 - Jordan Hulls just tried to take a dive on a lay-up to draw the charge, but it wasn't called and the gopher guy who I think was Chip missed the lay-up but because Hulls was on the floor the Gophers got the offensive rebound and scored.  Hulls, single-handedly ruining the Hoosiers' season.

4:11 - Trade Oto.

3:22 - Sampson misses a hook shot, naturally (did you notice that Sampson is almost an acronym for tampon?) but Coleman gets not one but two shots at a tip-in and makes the second to put the Gophers up 66-59.  They're up 7 with 3 minutes to go.  I'm semi-hyperventilating.

3:11 - Rodney just fouled out.  So that's pretty shitty.  I've always said this whole "foul limit" thing was pretty fascist.

2:42 - Not to hammer this point home too much like I was Sid Hartman or jesus's dad, but I have no idea what team I'm watching tonight.  Welch misses a lay-up (naturally) and Osenieks, filling in for Godney, gets not one but two chances at a tip-in, making the second one.  It's like they somehow get how close the season is to slipping away.  Maybe should've figured that out a game (or two) earlier, but this is the team I had been expecting to see this year.

Please don't blow this.

2:19 - Welch misses another lay-up which, and I'm not joking, makes four in the second half alone.  Serioulsy.  Remember that joke about how he'd beat third grader in a lay-up contest?  Not so sure he wins anymore.  This is an epidemic.  If they lose this that will make three games he's blown this year.  He's like the Jenna Jameson of basketball.  Because of the blows thing.  Get it?  Whatever shut up.  I'm semi-drunk and a little bit delirious.

1:42 - Sampson knocks down a 17 footer to make it 70-62 Gophers.  They can't blow this, right?  Right?

1:27 - Hulls misses a three.  What an anchor.  Terrance Simmons like.

0:50 - Mav misses a free throw but Colmean ends up grabbing the board.  Probably Hulls' fault.

0:40 - Gophers turn it over on the inbounds play giving Indiana a lay-up and the foul.  This is the kind of shit I don't need.  Gophers up 71-68.

0:39 - Indiana fouls and the announcers are debating whether they should have, which is stupid because if you don't foul you might not get the ball back until there are only 4 seconds left in the game.  Announcers are all dumb. All of them.  Might as well just let women do it.

0:30 - Coleman hits both FTs (I love you) then Indiana hits a three (not Jordan Hulls) to cut it to 73-71.  Blood pressure rising.

0:29 - Hulls fouls Coleman who makes both free throws.  That's on you, Hullsy.

0:17 - Zeller goes for the lay-up and Hollins's's fouls him.  What.  The.  Fuck.  Once he gets inside the three-point line just let him go.  Good god.  Talk to Uncle Lionel one of these days about making smart plays.

0:02 - Hollins makes two, Hulls passes to the wrong guy who misses, and Welch is at the line for two.  Make one and we're looking at ball game and a very serious how the hell did that happen situation.  Like when Pam Beasley got boobs all of a sudden.

0:01 - Did that mother fucker miss both?  Of course he did.  Jesus H christ Julian Welch makes Lebron look like Larry Bird with this clutch shit.  He needs to be nowhere near the court in the last 3 minutes of any close game.

0:00 - Gophers win, .  Perfect storm my friends.  Gophers finally learned they need to attack the basket the same night Indiana stopped making jump shots.  Not taking anything away from it, it was a great win for the home town team and a great feather in their cap, but I don't think we can start talking NCAA Tournament yet because they dug themselves such a huge hole, but wow.  Just wow.  I didn't remotely see this coming.  If they play like this the rest of the way they can win a ton of games.  Don't forget Indiana beat both Kentucky and Ohio State in this same building.  I think I'll have more thoughts later or next week or tomorrow or something, need some time to fully process this.  I can't remember being this stunned.  They led this game pretty much wire-to-wire.  Obviously they need to do a whole hell of a lot more, but this win saved the season.

I'm gonna go to bed.  Joe Coleman is my hero.

Also suck it Sidler.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Gophers vs. Hoosiers Preview

So the 0-4 Gophers head to Bloomington to take on the 3-1, and 8th ranked, Indiana Hoosiers.  This, my friends, is not going to be pretty.  Of course, it's nearly impossible to look at these two teams without comparing the coaches since both Tubby Smith and Tom Crean came on at nearly the same time, encumbered with the hopes and dreams of their respective fan bases that they could turn around struggling programs.  Tubby got a nice head start with a very stellar first recruiting class (and a year advantage), but while his players have either left or never developed to their full potential, Crean's kids struggled for a couple of years but have really started to come together this season with the addition of Cody Zeller, one of the best recruits ever signed by the Hoosiers.  At present, the Gophers are struggling through a second straight lost season (barring a miracle turnaround), while the Hoosiers have turned into one of the better teams in the country with wins over the #1 and #2 ranked teams this season.  Kill me now.

There are about a million reasons why this is going to be a blowout, but all you really need to know is that the Hoosiers are the #1 three-point shooting team in the country at 47.6%, and the Gophers rank 287th defensively against the three, allowing 35.7% shooting this year.  About the only hope they have is that Indiana doesn't shoot a high volume of threes normally, but I have a feeling that's going to change on Thursday.  With Christian Watford, Jordan Hulls, Derek Elston all shooting 50% or better and Will Sheehey checking in at 44% with Verdell Jones at 35% it's going to be raining threes all game long (note: Sheehey has been hurt and I have no idea if he's going to be back and I refuse to look it up because it really doesn't matter - he wasn't there for the wins over Ohio State or Michigan either).

Of course, the natural tendency then would be to game plan to stop the three-pointer, but since Tubby couldn't seem to make it happen against Purdue or Iowa (whether the fault lies with him or the players' execution of said game plan) I don't exactly trust they'll pull it off against Indiana.  And how could you?  The only way would be to trust Ralph/Eliason/Ingram to handle Zeller one-on-one and there is zero chance that will happen.  The only team he's remotely struggled against this year was Michigan State, and they have like 100 big athletic guys to throw at him where the Gophers have approximately zero.  You could say this is a great opportunity for Ralph Sampson to step up and help this team in his senior season, but then you'd be an idiot or some kind of weird Rip Van Winkle guy who just woke up and missed this entire season of Gopher basketball and in that case I would envy you.

Oh, and Indiana is also pretty good defensively, particularly at forcing turnovers.  Which is the Gophers' biggest offensive weakness, at least among things that are measurable because as far as I know there is no stat for how often four offensive players stand around doing nothing while one guy dribbles the ball or how many times a shot is taken with under 5 seconds on the shot clock after the ball fails to cross the three point line during a possession.

Seriously, this is going to be a slaughter.

Indiana 90, Minnesota 64.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Gophers something something

This is where I said I'd write something, huh?  Well I don't know, I'm not particularly feeling up to it but I'll give it a go as long as I'm watching this college football championship thingy anyway.  I will preface this by saying I brought WonderbabyTM to the game, and although she was very well behaved (and even made it up on the scoreboard with uncle Snacks) I still had to keep her entertained from time to time so I did miss some plays here and there - and thank god for that.  She also disappointed me by continuously telling me "I want to high five Goldy the Gopher" but that's not relevant right now.

So were do we start?  How about with the defense, which was the absolute biggest problem with that shellacking Purdue put on the Gophers at home (AT HOME!).  Yes, the same Purdue team that just lost 65-45 at Penn State just beat the Gophers 79-66 at Williams Arena in a game that wasn't remotely that close.  I don't even know how to explain just how sad that is, but it was basically a complete defensive breakdown.  The problems defending the three-pointer have been a running narrative of Gopher basketball since Tubby arrived so I'm not going to rehash that here except to say yeah, some of those threes were awfully tough shots (deep, quick trigger, etc.) but they were still made on the Gophers defense so you can't excuse it.  Even worse, however, was the complete inability to stop penetration by Lewis Jackson. 

Now, I do get that somebody that little doesn't make it in the Big 10 without being lightning quick and being able to handle himself in the paint so it's not surprising the Gopher guards struggled to stay in front of him, but I didn't figure he'd get to the paint every single time he felt like it.  And what really bothered me was where the hell was the interior help?  Lew Jack is 5-9 and even though he's one of my favorites in the Big 10 amongst opposing players even I can recognize there is no way in hell he 20 points on 8-11 shooting because he's a FUCKING TERRIBLE SHOOTER.  Every time he got by the guard somebody needed to get in his way and either force him to shoot a pull-up or dish it somewhere else, you can't let him keep getting lay-ups because even girls can make lay-ups.  At the very least if he's going to keep going at the rim somebody needs to put him on his ass at least once.  Not maliciously, not flagrantly, and not by making a dirty play or anything but a good ole-fashioned hard foul.  He's like 140 lbs. he's going to go flying if you just put a body into him hard.  If only the Gophers had a 7-foot senior who could make such a play.

Yeah, that's right.  Ralph Sampson may have just played his most worthless game ever.  Not only was he invisible on defense to the point where a god damn child sized player was making lay-up after lay-up in his paint on his home court, but he was disinterested on the offensive end as well.  He took three shots.  Three god damn shots.  He grabbed all of three rebounds.  He was so worthless Tubby only played him 13 minutes which now qualifies as the only good call Tubby's made all year.  It just baffles me.  Your senior year, a game where you absolutely need a win or your last season in college will almost certainly go down as a failure, and a home game in front of a crowd that knows how badly this win is needed and would readily jump up behind you and you basically don't even leave the locker room.  He gave the team absolutely nothing on either end. 

Which brings us to this team's offensive issues, and despite a decent offensive effort against the Boilers this team is still in a lot of trouble.  Basically it boils down to that they just aren't skilled enough.  Rodney Williams is really the only one on this team with any kind of discernible skill, and it's "jumping."  The rest of the team is basically interchangeable, and not in the "everybody is good and can do it all" kind of way Calipari's old Memphis teams or Huggins' WVU teams when they were good were built.  Everybody is just mediocre at basically everything..

Really, even somebody as nondescript and Brian Cardinal-ish as D.J. Byrd has a skill that nobody on the Gophers can match in his shooting prowess.  He's hitting 44% from three this year, and that five-for-five first half was enough to basically bury the Gophers.  Can you see anybody on this team matching that first half at any point?  I sure as hell can't.  Nobody on this team is a good enough shooter to pull that off.  And that goes for basically everything.  Nobody is a great shooter.  Nobody is a great ballhandler.  Nobody is a great penetrator (although I can see Andre Hollins possibly getting there someday).  Nobody is a great scorer (maybe Coleman in the future?).  Nobody is a great passer or distributor or facilitator or whatever word you want to use, and outside of Williams nobody is a great athlete.  Perhaps the worst part of this is how the three-pointer is such a huge and important weapon in the college game, as Purdue shoved down all our throats, and the Gophers not only don't have an elite shooter, I'm not even sure they have an average one.  Oto Osenieks is the only chance they have but Tubby seems pretty freaking committed to keeping him on the bench.  Much be reverse racism or something, I don't know.

So what to do?  With this season basically lost at this point it's time to take the guys who have shown the aggressiveness and effort to deserve more time along with any flashes of ability because there isn't much here.  Coleman did a nice job last night of being aggressive and trying to score and although he was only 4-13 shooting he did put up 13 shots.  On a team where nearly everyone's first, second, and third instinct is to defer, that's valuable.  Coleman needs to start the rest of the way. 

I think Andre Hollins should be starting as well.  No, it's not an ideal situation because he still has a tendency to get a little bit out of control and his decision making is sub-optimal most of the time he's still the best option for this team's future.  He does lead the team in turnover percentage, but he's not much worse than Ahanmisi or Welch, and with every passing day Ahanmisi proves he's not a Big 10 caliber point guard (nice line last night:  0 pts, 3 asts, 2 tos).  At this point in the season I still haven't figured out Welch.  At times he looks like a brilliant floor leader, and other times he seems overwhelmed by the game (not surprising based on his history at UC-Davis and then JuCo).  In any case, it's clear this team is more than one year away from contending for anything meaningful, so at best Welch is a stop gap.  Giving him a lot of run in the back court will help take some of the pressure off Andre Hollins so I like keeping him in the lineup.

So that gives you Andre Hollins, Welch, and Coleman in the lineup, and obviously Rodney should be there too.  Williams has really taken a step forward since Mbakwe went down and he was forced to play more in the paint, and he was a rare bright spot last night (19 points, 14 rebounds, and maybe most impressively 15 shot attempts).  He's attacking the rim, going after every rebound with gusto, and even attempting to have some semblance of a mid-range game (it's not working that great so far, but I commend him for the effort).  He's easily the team's best player, both in terms of overall potential and current ability, so there's really no reason why he should ever be off the floor.  If he doesn't lead the team in minutes in every game the rest of the year Tubby should be fired immediately.

As far as a big guy in the lineup your guess is as good as mine.  I never in a million years thought I'd say this but this team, and I, really miss Colton Iverson.  You know damn well that he would've done something to at least make Lewis Jackson think twice about coming at the rim again, and even though I would never exactly call him skilled Elliott Elliason makes him look like Hakeem Olajuwon out there.  It turns out he was a capable Big 10 big man, which is exactly what this team doesn't have any of.  So I guess you continue to start Ralph and if it's a game where he decided to show up you give him plenty of run and if not you just go small (and Elliason gets his 10 minutes per game either way).  I don't know.  I give up.

The last guy worth mentioning is Chip Armelin, who I don't want in the starting lineup despite my thinking he's the team's second best player.  I love his energy coming off the bench, plus if you take my starting lineup suggestion there is nobody in that second unit capable of scoring and so you need a guy like Chip with them to get the offense going.  So I like him coming off the bench, but playing a ton of minutes.

So that's what you go with:  Andre Hollins, Welch, Coleman, Williams, and Sampson (by default) with a healthy dose of Armelin.  That group at least gives you a bunch of guys who are going to be aggressive, who are going to try to score rather than just pass the ball around the perimeter until the shot clock runs out.  Hollins, Welch, Coleman, and Armelin can all penetrate, and although there isn't a great shooter in this group it's not like you're exactly leaving a great shooter out of the rotation or anything.  Plus Austin Hollins is probably the best shooter outside of Osenieks on the team and he should be the second guy off the bench, and if you're going against a defense where you need his shooting you can just play him more.  Simple. 

I don't know.  It's a lost season at this point anyway, but concentrating your playing time amongst those guys gives you some chances to be in games as well as giving a couple of guys who are probably your future plenty of chances to improve and develop.  Or whatever.  This all just sucks anyway.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Placeholder: Week in Review

I will have a Week in Review post up Monday night-ish so keep your shirt on unless you're a chick in which case send pics.  Seriously I got home from tonight's game and there were like 400 people at my house and I'm now too drunk and apathetic to bother writing anything.  I will say, however, it's very nice that the Gophers already broke me so I could watch tonight's drubbing without wanting to kill myself.  So just hold on to your panties, post will be up soon.

Spoiler alert:  TEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEBOWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!111

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

I Almost Quit this Blog

I almost quit this blog tonight, or at least switched to all Twins Royals all the time after tonight's embarrassing loss to Iowa, but luckily some sanity kicked in.  As I was dropping off the Old Man, Bear, and Snacks after the game Bear flipped me off and Snacks threw some sort of crumpled up paper at my head and said, "Don't take it so hard, you're not on the team" and you know what, he's right.  I grew up with this team.  I've been going to games since I was born, the Clem years happened as I was becoming a basketball player, and the Final Four run happened my second year of college when the games became "EVENTS" and everyone gathered together to watch the games in tiny dorm rooms and professors of night school classes let everyone out early if there was a game that night.  So yeah, I sometimes get a little too wrapped up in this program, and that was exacerbated by the hiring of Tubby Smith (and starting blogging about this team at that time probably didn't help).

I had been through the disappointment of Rick Rickert, I had been through the Kris Humphries debacle, and I had been through the 9 win season or whatever it was that felt like I was stuck in Punxatawney.  I had made my peace with the program as what it was, and it was fun.  I still remember Shamala going off against Michigan at the end of yet another lost season, and it was fun.  Then, out of nowhere (particularly considering it was in the internet age) Tubby was hired.  And then he found Ralph.  And Devoe.  And kept Rodney and Royce, and expectations were raised, and I thought the program was on it's way to NCAA invites every year with some upside.  And that is why I got sucked so far in I could barely see my way out, like the Millennium Falcon and that giant purple space worm.

Honestly I'm not sure why it took so long, but tonight really hammered home to me that getting so let down by this team/program was my own fault.  I was becoming everything I hated about sports fans because I was giving too much credit where it wasn't due.  I should have known better and it's all my fault.

I had been mentally preparing a truly epic diatribe full of venom and vigor basically attacking everyone and especially Tubby and Ralph, but thanks to Snacks' comment (and Bear's rude genture) I'm backing off and going to approach the rest of the season the same way the team is - lackadaisical and without a plan.  I mean, tonight's game made it clear the team suffers from a lack of talent, a lack of coaching, and a lack of effort - what is there to write?

All three of those things can be directly tied to Tubby Smith, and if that wasn't enough for you just take a look at the game tape and watch how baffled the players were once Iowa went into their zone.  One or two possessions could be chalked up to the players being surprised or confused, but when an entire half goes by and the team still has no idea what to do or where to go that squarely falls on the coach's shoulders.  How many possessions did the Gophers have against it and how many times did anybody attack the gaps?  I can remember exactly one time and Joe Coleman scored when he did it.

But you know what?  I'm going to stop here.  I need some perspective and so I'm going to let this go for now, but may write more later in the week.  It's clear to me now that I was expecting the Tubby Smith from the Tulsa and Georgia and maybe sorta Kentucky days, and I think we got a different one or something.  Or maybe Minnesota is a wasteland for college basketball.  Either way, we're going in a different direction here at DWG.  Kindler, gentler, and more relaxederer.  At least until the next game.

Seriously though, poor effort, poor execution, dumb play, and no game plan make baby jesus cry.  The team has nearly zero Big 10 caliber talent, piss poor coaching, and the center is the gooiest, softest center outside of a Caramelo.  I plan to finish out this year in a more positive light, but it ain't gonna be easy.


Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Game Preview: Gophers vs. Hawkeyes

This is the part where I'd usually say something like, "oh great it's Iowa, they suck who cares no preview" and then make a classy dismissive wanking motion with my hand, but they just beat Wisconsin in Madison.  Yes, granted Wisconsin is criminally overrated this year, but winning in Madison is tough to do for any team that doesn't have Lawrence Westbrook, so perhaps Iowa is worth investigating further - the team, not the state.  The only thing could in the state is the casino's have craps - get with it, Minnesota).

The reason it was so easy to dismiss Iowa up until that upset was because they had done nothing positive all year and piled up all kinds of negative losses.  The home loss to Campbell by 16, blowouts by Creighton and Clemson, and losses to Iowa State and Northern Iowa had the Hawkeyes looking like a laughing stock but they've started to pull it together in recent weeks having won four of their last five (including that win at Sconnie) with the only loss being a three-point squeaker at Purdue.  So what's going on?

For one thing, the team has become more Fran McCaffery's team than Todd Licklighter's.  Where Lick played at a torturously slow pace, McCaffery actually has Iowa as one of the faster teams in the country.  The season before McCaff took over Iowa ranked 321st in tempo.  Last year he had them at 102, and this year they're all the way up to 40 making them the fastest team in the Big 10 by a considerable margin (besides them only Indiana ranks in the top 100 at #97).

Of course, the key to playing fast is to take care of the ball and/or force your opponent to make mistakes.  Although Iowa remains mediocre at forcing turnovers, just like last year, they have made a marked improvement in taking care of the ball.  The Hawkeyes turned it over on 22% of their possessions last year (255th in the country), and have made a massive positive swing this year, turning it over just 16% of the time (12th in the country).  No Hawkeye averages more than 1.8 TOs per game, and the guards have been excellent - Bryce Cartwright, a TO machine last year with 3.3 per game, has nearly cut it in half with just 1.8 this year (of course his playing time has been reduced as well, but percentage wise he's improved), Matt Gatens is always a rock with the ball but has been exceptional this season with under a TO per game despite handling the ball quite a bit, giving him the 25th best TO rate in the country, while two other ball-handlers (Roy Marble's kid and Josh Oglesby) are also in the top 25.

The Hawks still can't shoot very well and don't play very good defense, but they are awfully good at being smart with the basketball.  Since one of the ways the Gophers have been able to have success this year is by forcing turnovers, this particular statistical match-up will be one of the biggest keys of how the game goes tomorrow.  Of course, that explains why Iowa is better than last year, it doesn't explain what's changed over the last few games to take them from laughing stock to semi-dangerous (not dissimilar to Ronald Miller in the white version of Can't Buy Me Love).

I'm slapping the role of Miller onto Roy Devyn Marble, who has gone from after thought to focal point of the offense, taken a team that was basically completely dependent on Matt Gatens, Melsahn Basabe, and the chuck-o-rama that is Bryce Cartwright and made them a more balanced team that's harder to stop, and has suddenly become the Hawks' best player.  This post from a Hawkeye blog called The High Porch Picnic breaks down Marble's improvement for you in great detail, but essentially he's been on fire shooting, has moved away from the three-pointer and made the mid-range jumper his own, and his team has responded by getting him the ball more often and he's being more aggressive when he has it.  

So now you add an emerging star in Marble (look at these lines:  18pts, 8 rebs, 5 assist vs. Boise; 21/4/5 vs. Iowa State; 17/1/6 vs. Purdue) to the consistently steady Gatens (has averaged betwen 10.8 and 13.3 ppg his entire career) who can do a little bit of everything (12 boards against Sconnie, 20+ points three times this year), and the explosive Basabe (at least 14 pts and 8 boards in each of his last four games; 3 double-doubles this year) and suddenly you have a really nice base of a team.  If they get anything at all from Cartwright (17pts, 5 assists, 1 TO vs. Wisconsin) or the new kid, freshman Aaron White (18 vs. Wisconsin and Boise) and Iowa is a legit threat, as Wisconsin found out.

On the other hand, one big win doesn't suddenly make a bad team good, Iowa got the best game of the year from two players (Cartwright and White), out-rebounded Wisconsin by five, and the Badgers were a stupid flukey 3-28 from three-point line and Iowa still only won by seven.  Not to mention that this team's losses to Iowa State and Northern Iowa both happened post the Roy Marble breakout.  I'm inclined to believe the win at Wisconsin was more a fluky convergence of Wisconsin's worst game of the year and Iowa's best game of the year, and anything similar to this result is likely unrepeatable.

That said, I hate when bad teams have confidence and then get to play a team with a shaky offense and bad three-point defense.  What happens if Iowa gets out to a 9-2 lead?  What if the game is tied with 3 minutes to go?  I don't want to see the results.  Please Gophers, jump out early and keep an 8-10 lead the entire game.  You should be good enough to do that.  Nobody wants the torture, we all want a 20 point blow-out so we can leave early and get home before 11:30.  Please.

Minnesota 81, Iowa 67.

Oh and also go to hell, Iowa.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Week in Review - 1/3/2012

I was considering doing a "Year in Review" post, like similar to the usual week in review but covering the whole year.  But then I realized that would require me writing about things that happened like, months ago and years of heavy drinking and glue sniffing have made my memory really similar to that Memento guy and so I said eff it.

And really, other than highlighting an awesome guy and a sucky guy from the Gopher game on Sunday I don't really have much to say about the Gophers' two games this week (partially because I didn't watch most of the Illinois game.)  They were expected to lose both games and did, while not embarrassing themselves in the process.   What I'm really not sure what to think about are how the team has had chances to win both games and blew them both.  If Julian Welch makes two free-throws, or even one, rather than missing the front end of a one-and-one in regulation against Illinois they probably win that game (certainly with two, maybe with one).  If Welch makes an open lay-up in the first OT, they might win that game.  If Rodney Williams knocks down a wide open three-pointer against Michigan we head to overtime.  And if the team gets a good shot instead of a shot clock violation on their second-to-last possession, maybe the result is different (this one I blame on Tubby - nice playcall).

On the one hand, they were in both games and absolutely could have won either or both.  On the other hand, they won neither and failed to capitalize on any of the opportunities that came their way.  Since they weren't expected to win either game I'm going to choose to make no changes to my opinion of this team as a deeply flawed squad that has enough ability to be in the hunt for an NCAA bid as long as they make no mistakes (like losing to Iowa - suck it, Badgers) and win a game or two that they probably shouldn't.  They had chances to steal two of those wins this week and whiffed.  Hopefully they find a way to take advantage next time.


1.   Ricky Rubio. Moral victories are for grandmas, sissies, and liberals so I'm really glad they beat the Mavs because I'd feel kind of weird talking up Rubio if the Wolves were sitting at 0-3, but I'd probably do it anyway because oh my god Ricky Rubio is so awesome he makes me crap my pants. Dude sees the court like a mofo.  No, seriously, he's incredible.  The way his head is always up and some of the angles and passes he sees are un-freaking-real.  A lot of point guards can make a great pass hear and there, but I've seriously never seen anyone like this since Magic Johnson.  Yeah, you heard me.  Name another PG that sees the court the way Magic and Rubio did/do?  Stockton?  Every single assist he had was on a pick-and-roll and was the exact same pass (you can look it up).  Paul?  Please.  Nash?  Poor man's Rubio.  He's just so good.  We'll see about his defense and shooting in the future, but his passing is like whoa.  Plus Ricky's even contagious because I saw Beasley pass up an open jumper to try to find a teammate for a lay-up against the Mavs.  No, seriously it happened.  Of course he turned it over by throwing it into traffic, but, like self-exploration, it's the thought that counts. [and then tonight, after I wrote this, they go and dominate the Spurs in a game they led wire-to-wire.  Can you say playoffs?  I'm seeing playoffs.]

2.  Alamo Bowl.  If you like stuff like defense and tackling you probably hated the Alamo Bowl and are also probably like 60 years old and drink sherry because that was freaking awesome.  Baylor 67, Washington 56 in mother effing regulation are you kidding me?  A bowl record for yardage, touchdowns, points, and "are you freaking kidding me" moments - how could you not love it?  Baylor had three guys rush for over 100 yards, while Washington QB Keith Price waited until this bowl game to have the best game of his career, throwing for 438 yards and 4 TDs and rushing for three more scores.  Fun fact:  This was just Price's second career game with 300+ yards, second game with 4 TDs and no picks, and those 3 rushing TDs were the first 3 of his career - not his first 3 TD game, the first 3 rushing TDs ever.  Just a crazy entertaining game in every way, and anything that gets cranky curmudgeons all up in arms whining about the days of leather helmets and 6-3 ball games ok in my book.  Suck it, grandpa.  Go listen to some Mellancamp.

3.  Trey Burke.  Son of a whore is this kid good.  I don't even think I can blame the Gophers for this one because so much of what he did was just knocking down shots after creating space for himself.  Obviously he's not going to shoot 8-11 from the floor very often, but his 46% from the field so far this year is pretty solid for somebody who takes as many mid-range jumpers as he does, particularly for a freshman, and his 76% free throw accuracy this year says he's probably going to be a very solid shooter who is just going to get better.  Which depresses me immensely.  You know where Burke was on Rivals Top 100 list?  #142.  You know where Andre Hollins and Joe Coleman were?  #110 and #121.  I like some of what I've seen from those two, but they are NO WHERE near Burke.  God damn Beilein.  

4.  Spencer Hawes and Kyle Lowry.  This is more representative of any player who is having a crazy good start to the NBA season but Hawes and Lowry stand out to me because Hawes is averaging 12.5 rebs per game so far and Lowry is leading the league with 11.5 assists per game.  You know in a shortened season with basically no training camp you're going to see some weird things, and I suppose you could have seen Lowry coming, especially with Aaron Brooks out of the picture, but Hawes?  Guy had the look of a career back-up and another big white stiff since he came out of Washington, and is suddenly shooting 68% from the floor after being a 47% career shooter with career highs in points and that massive jump in rebounds (career just 5.6 per game).  Did he suddenly get it?  Doubtful.  It's not like he had anybody blocking his development, so I'm going with fluky fluke.

5.  Indiana Hoosiers.  How can I possibly leave them off after the beat Ohio State, which now means they've beat the #1 and #2 teams in the country this season (or that's what they were ranked when the Hoosiers beat them).   What's most amazing to me is that it's basically the exact same team from the last couple of years when they were terrible.  The only real change was the addition of Zeller, and although I'm really impressed with him (as documented somewhere within this stupid blog), he shouldn't be able to just suddenly make a terrible team good.  Did Jordan Hulls and Verdell Jones suddenly become good?  No, of course not.  So I don't know.  Maybe Zeller is that good.  Maybe Tom Crean deserves a hell of a lot of credit.  Maybe it's the whole Victor Oladipo thing.  I don't know because I haven't watched Indiana yet this year, but I'm thinking I should probably want to do that.


1.  Ralph Sampson.  Have you ever seen a big man more passive when he gets the ball on the block?  It's like that center in that Simpsons episode about soccer - wing passes to center, center holds it, holds it, holds it.  Every time just looking to pass, waiting for the double team.  Almost hoping for that second defender like a chubby 17-year old girl staring at the phone just hoping that really cute boy will call (ok fine, chubby dude and cute girl and it was me, you happy now?).  I looked at the box score for that Illinois game that I didn't really watch and saw Ralph had 19 shot attempts.  19!  How is that even possible?   What happened?  That's a career high in shot attempts, the first time he's hit double figure attempts this year (you cannot make a big enough question mark/exclamation point combination for that one), and just the second time in his career he's topped 14 FGAs in a game.  The last time?  Last year against Illinois when he had 17 attempts.  I'd say he must like the matchup against Illinois but their front line is completely different this year so you fucking figure it out.  I give up on this mess.  He now joins Voshon Lenard's senior year, Michael Bauer''s senior year, Rick Rickert, Adam Boone, and Antoine Broxsie on the most disappointing Gophers ever list.

2.  Brock Lesnar. As you know if you pay a shockingly creepy amount of attention to the things I write you know that I used to be like way into boxing and am trying to get back into boxing and/or UFC or MMA or whatever you call it.   Well I watched it again on Friday night and I saw some fairly entertaining undercards (Nate Ortiz omg hi 2 u) and then the main event happened and oh my Tebow.   I wish we were having an actual conversation right now because I'd be all like "did you see that" and you'd either be like "yeah dude wtf" and we'd high five or you'd be like "no dude, what happened" and we'd high five.  Basically Lesnar came out, clearly didn't want to be there, looked terrified like a little bunny, got kicked in the ribs, fell down, and instead of trying to get up he just covered his face with his hands either to cry or to try to block the 83 haymakers the other dude landed on his noggin before the ref mercifully ended the fight (maybe both).  Then he quit the sport.  It was, well, not very impressive to say the least.

3.  Wisconsin Badgers.  Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha.   OMG.  hahahahahahahahahahahaha.  Iowa?  You lost to Iowa at home?  Oh my god so awesome.  I knew the Badgers sucked this year.  3-28 from three.  Awesome.  And Iowa isn't even good at defending against the three-pointer.  Nice offense, Bo Ryan.  You know it's ok to drift inside the arc from time to time, right?  So awesome.

4.  Pitt Panthers.  For whatever reason, behind Wisconsin, Iowa, and Duke on my most hated basketball schools list sits Pitt, so this pretty epic collapse they have going on is yet another loss, this time to Cincy, and this time at home.  That loss follows an embarrassing home loss to Wagner and a road loss at dreadful Notre Dame.  You may recall that Pitt started the year ranked 10th and won eleven of their first twelve games, so this is quite the slide.  Turns out when you forget how to shoot, don't take care of the basketball, and play terrible defense you end up losing a bunch of games.  Hell, at least the Gophers play defense (sort of).

5.  Florida Gators.  Since I consider Florida to be a legit sleeper to win the NCAA Tournament their loss earlier this week against Rutgers, one of the worst teams in the Big East, was a bit troubling.  Both teams are pretty heavily backcourt dependent, so you'd think this would play right into the Gators' hands, but it wasn't meant to be.  Although Florida's guards (Brad Beal, Kenny Boynton, Mike Rosario, and Erving Walker) scored a total of 55 points it came on just 18-53 shooting, they turned it over 15 times to just 10 assists, and they allowed Rutgers guards (also four dudes) to score 74 points on 31-57 shooting and they dished 15 assists to just 7 turnovers.  I know they say Rutgers gym is a tough place for visiting teams to play (and I only remember that from way back when Quincy Douby was there and the team was decent), but this shakes my confidence in my sleeper team a little.  On the other hand it's tough to believe all four of those guards will play poorly on the same night again.  It would be like lightning striking twice, although if you ask that dude from The Great Outdoors that happens all the time.

I was gonna put something else here but it's really late and I'm still watching this damn Fiesta Bowl so I don't feel like it anymore.