Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Here we Go! (Conference Tournament Previews)

I live blogged the second half of the Gopher/Badger game so it that's what you're here for you sicky just scroll down.  But there's more important things to deal with.  Yep, here we are, the most wonderful time of the year.  I love the small conference tournaments that really kick-off March Madness, and they're getting started this week.  Here's a quick look at the tournaments that start today, as well as a couple that have already gotten going.  Yes, because I'm that kind of a nerd.  I don't really care what you think, I love this crap.

Same story as the last several years, where Belmont is a legit sleeper to pull a first round upset, but due to conference strength as well as the Bruins inability to snag a big-time win, they'll need to win the conference tournament in order to gain a bid.  Although I'm not really sure why they have such a good rep, in four tournament appearances they're 0-4 with only that one-point loss to Duke in 2008 being close.  Of course, that'd be why they have that rep, because 99% of America loved them, if only for that brief window where they were in position to knock off the devil's team.
Favorite:  Belmont, duh.  They shoot the ball well and don't turn it over, two traits pretty unique to the Bruins within the A-Sun.  Plus they're incredibly balanced with six players scoring at least 9.0 points per game, which means a rough night for one player won't screw them.
Sleeper:  Mercer.  Nobody is really close to as good as Belmont, but Mercer finished 13-5, Belmont swept them but merely by a combined 5 points, and the tournament is being held in Mercer's gym (where Belmont won by 1 after scoring the final 3 points in the last 31 seconds).  Plus the Bears can at least kind of play defense.
W's Pick:  Belmont.  Not only are they more talented than the rest of the conference, they're loaded with upperclassmen who won't be intimidated by playing on the road. 

BIG SOUTH (started Monday):
Nobody plays defense in this conference, which at least makes things entertaining.  According to kenpom.com's defensive efficiency metric, only Winthrop at #189 even ranks in the top 200 in the country.  That's at least fun, if not effective.
Favorite:  UNC-Asheville.  The Bulldogs rolled through the league with a 16-2 mark, and with stellar guards Matt Dickey and J.P. Primm they have the guard play you need to get through a tournament.
Sleeper:  Coastal Carolina.  A handful of team's in this conference have some surprising wins this year (CC over Clemson, Campbell over Iowa, Presbyterian over Cincy) but the Chanticleers are the only team who sustained any success following that win, finishing second in the league (plus Presbyterian isn't fully D-I eligible yet, and doesn't get to play. Sad).
W's Pick:  Asheville.  Primm and Dickey are seniors and, along with fellow senior and third best player Chris Stephenson, give the Bulldogs a great core back from last year's tournament championship team.

Obviously the big story here is Murray State, a team that could lose in the first round of this tournament and still secure an NCAA at-large bid.  What that means is that teams on the bubble need to be hoping and rooting for Murray to roll to the championship.  Which also means this is all irrelevant to a Gopher fan.  Kill me.
Favorite:  Murray State.  Maybe they don't have a string of super impressive non-conference wins (although Southern Miss, St. Mary's, and Memphis are a good string), but they've pretty much rolled through the OVC. 
Sleeper:  Morehead State.  Yes, Tennessee State is the only team to beat the Racers this year, but I think in order for an OVC team to knock them off in this tournament it's going to be someone with some talent who gets hot from three and shoots a boatload of them.  Morehead is the best candidate to do so.
W's Pick:  Murray State.  No other team is this far above it's conference mates in talent, ability, execution, and basically everything else.  It would be a major upset for anybody else to win this.

I can't really think of a single semi-interesting thing to say about the Patriot League, but it is worth noting that the Patriot ranks as the 22nd best conference in the NCAA according to kenpom.com.  The Ohio Valley, where your precious little Murray State squad plays, is ranked 24th.  So there.
Favorite:  Bucknell.  You remember Bucknell, right?  Slightly dangerous squad who the Minnesota beat to open the season and made everyone at least assume the Gophers wouldn't be terrible?  Yeah, I hate them too.
Sleeper:  Lehigh.  Speaking of kenpom.com, his metrics actually rank the Mountain Hawks as the better offensive and defensive team (and overall as well, obviously).  They also beat Bucknell at home and lost by just three on the road.
W's Pick:  Lehigh.  I want there to be as few NCAA Tournament teams the Gophers beat as possible because otherwise you're going to be dealing with dingleberries running around talking about how the Gophers beat this crappy small conference team who won a bid.  No thanks.

The biggest talking point when BYU moved over to the WCC was that adding the Cougars would help make the league stronger, and could even boost it to a three-bid league (with Gonzaga and St. Mary's).  It might work.  The Zags and Gaels are already in, but BYU still has work to do.  They probably need to win a couple games in the tournament here, and if they can get past Gonzaga in the semis that might do it.
Favorite:  St. Mary's.  The Gaels won the conference regular season title by a game over Gonzaga, splitting the home-and-home with the Bulldogs in the process.  The health of Stephen Holt, the team's third-leading scorer, who missed the final three regular season games is a big issue.
Sleeper:  Loyola-Marymount.  The Lions, who finished fourth in the WCC, can be very, very good (wins over St. Mary's, BYU, St. Louis, Valpo, and UCLA) and can be very, very bad (losses to Columbia, North Texas, Morgan State, and San Diego).  You could say they're a bit of a two-face.  If the coin comes up positive they have the ability to win this and steal a bid.
W's Pick:  Gonzaga.  They finished second in the league, but with seven wins in their last eight and no issues with pesky Loyola Marymount, the Bulldogs are the league's best, and with the league's staggered tournament format (Zaga and SMC get byes to the semifinals) they only have to win two games (for contrast, Loyola would have to win four).

HORIZON (started Tuesday):
League is wide open this year in sharp contrast to the last couple of years where Butler dominated.  Also, for those college wonk idiots who are picking Butler to win this tournament you're idiots.  Butler sucks this year.  Other than winning 5 out of 6 to close the reg. season they've been terrible.  The win over Purdue was their only good win this year (also winning @ Cleveland State is ok I guess) and they've lost to like everybody.  Seriously if you read someone who picked Butler to win the Horizon you should track them down and stab them in the mouth with some sort of pointy stick.  Also I'm writing this one after watching Gophers/Badgers whilst the rest were written early tonight, so you know, I'm pretty drunj.
Favorite:  I don't know.  I completely lost track of whatever window I had open that had the tournament seeds.  I think it's Valpo.  they used to have Bryce Drew and lost to Loyola Marymount in bracket busters.  That's all I know.
Sleeper:  Detroit.  I think they did pretty ok this year but I like them because they have Ray Maccallum.  And former Indiana guy Eli Holman.  I think.  That might have been last year.
W's Pick:  Anybody but Butler cuz Eff those guys, am I right?  They made last year's championship suck.

something something

Gophers vs. Badgers: Second Half Live Blog

Sure why not?  Kids are gone and the wife and I hit the bar across the street for happy hour since the weather was so crappy, and well, it's 4 hours since then.  So yeah.  Let's go.

20:00 - Wisconsin couldn't shoot, and Ralph Sampson was super aggressive and assertive on the defensive end.  I fully expect these things to continue.  Also Andre Hollins is clearly a future star, and I do actually expect that to continue for two more years (because he'll go pro after his junior year, obviously).

20:00 - How long is this god damn half-time?  I mean jesus, is this the super bowl?

19:46 - Jordan Taylor misses a wide open, and I mean wide open, three pointer.  That seems to be the gophers' most effective defense tonight - just let Wisconsin suck.  And the whole state does, amiright?  I mean, if you put Wisconsin and Iowa into the Large Hadron Collider you'd just get this massive ball of drunken hick douchenss that you could then launch into outer space with some kind of giant water balloon sling shot, right?  What?

18:58 - Gophers going clang clang clang like the little engine that could.  The Nick Punto of trains, you know.

17:52 - Wide open three for Berggggrren, who misses (might have been Brewsewitz).  It's working!!

17:38 - Announcer guy: "sometimes this Gopher team just doesn't think."  Amen, brother man.

17:24 - Saul smith is yelling at someone on the Gopher bench.  I assume that isn't good.

16:31 - Rodney Williams seems very upset with officials like, all the time lately.  He might as well be a Gopher fan with all the bitching, particularly the dude who sits right next to us who has, almost literally, no idea what a foul is and isn't.  And for the record, Williams fouled him with the body, even if the block was clean.  Gophers 25, Wisconsin 22. 

16:04 - 12-2 run by the Badgers to tie the game up.  Never saw this one coming.  Might just watch the Walking Dead.  Yeah, the writing might be meh and the dialogue might be Lucas-esque and the actors might be woodenish, but you know, zombies and shit.

15:19 - Brusewitz misses an open three.  Genius strategy by Tubby.  Just let 'em shoot.  Just like that dude at the Y who thinks he's all like whoa but really kind of sucks and you just let him shoot all game and he keeps missing and then he makes one and looks at you like "you can't lay off me son cuz I'm gonna hit it every time" and that's when you know you got 'em because he's going to just keep chucking and missing and you don't really have to expend any energy on defense anymore so you can save it for when you have the ball and light some chumps up.  I love that guy.

14:20 - Sconnie misses a free throw but gets their own rebound.  Lol.  Doesn't matter though when Gasser misses an open three point shot.  Still 25-25.

13:44 - Joe Coleman goes with the Rick Vaughn impression and throws it through the back of endzone at 99mph, looking for I assume a teammate.

12:53 - Now this play right here illustrates why Rodney Williams can be so frustrating.  Gets the ball at the key, sees Berggren or some fat white guy on him so he takes it right past him, uses excellent body control to avoid the charge when Brust (might be Gasser) slides over, and makes the easy lay-up.  Incredible quickness and athleticism.  Just amazing.  But three years in and no jumper?  Might be easier to handle if he had the aggressiveness he showed on that play more than once a month.

12:43 - Has Julian Welch played tonight?  I watched the pre-game and 1st half on the treadmill with no sound so if they said anything I didn't hear it, but I can't remember seeing him tonight.

11:57 - Andre Hollins goes up for a three and has it tipped and it heads straight out of bounds.  Austin Hollins completely sells out and sacrifices his body to attempt to save it (even though it's going to be Gopher ball) and just tips it enough to make sure it's Wisconsin's ball.  If I could sum up the season in one play I'm pretty sure that's it.

11:57 - By the way, shout out to Mrs. W who, besides being hot, put together our new treadmill all by herself yesterday.  Good woman.  Also a great cook.  Second best in the house.

11:57 - Technical foul on Tubby, which is actually good to see.  Actually turns out Hollins' didn't get his shot tipped, he actually got his arm smacked which caused the airball (and should have been a foul) so my bad to Austy.  I shouldn't have doubted a kid whose cousin's dad is an NBA coach.

11:15 - It's now 32-27 Wisconsin.  Sweet.

9:05 -  This game is kind of putting me to sleep.  Now 34-29.  Also Josh Gasser is a girl.

8:53 - Ralphy!!  Hammer dunk!!  Doesn't count because he was fouled on the entry pass, but still.  Deezam.  Not sure on the spelling on that one.  Do like this "getting back into the paint" stuff.

8:52 - Osenieks 1-2 from the line.  Isn't he supposed to be a shooter but hits less than 50% from the line?  Am I wrong here?  I hope so, because that don't make no sense.

8:23 - Brust for 3.  Huh. Maybe the whole "let 'em shoot" strategy isn't the best one.  And that move by Andre Hollins was just ridiculous. Just went right by Jordan Taylor and then right at one of those fat Sconnie dues and made the lay-up.  Hollins is going to be a star.  Watching him kind of reminds me of watching LeSean McCoy.  That either makes total sense to you or is really stupid.  I vote for makes sense.

7:40 - Missed Badger free throw, Badger board, Taylor three-pointer, 41-32 Badgers.  Any of you basketball nerds know where to find how often a team gives up an offensive board on a missed free throw?  Pretty sure the Gophers lead the nation.

7:11 - Two made throws give Sampson 1,000 career points.  I remain underwhelmed.

6:47 -  Another made three for the Badgers and I'm pretty sure Andre Ingram just blew his knee out again.  Poor dude.  Actually he looks less knee-blowout-y now.  Hopefully he's ok.  Based on the nearly constant transfers out of this program you never know, he could be a starter next year.

6:01 - Oto probably just traveled on a fast break lay-up attempt, which he missed, and then tipped in his own miss.  I'm trying to decide if that was pretty or ugly.  Since I've had a couple beers let's go with the beer goggles and call it pretty.

5:08 - 44-36 Wisconsin.  I wish I could just fast forward.  This is the kind of game people make fun of nationally.

4:54 - I honestly have no idea which one is Bruskewitz and which one is Berggren.  Also Brust vs. Gasser is a challenge.  I can pick out Ryan Evans though, thanks to all that time misspent watching Kid N Play movies in my youth.

3:45 - Either an amazing touch pass by Williams or a fortunate bounce leads to a Sampson dunk.  46-40 Badgers.  If this was any other B10 team I'd say they were at least in it.

2:42 - Andre Hollins takes a very aggressive, but not ill-advised, three pointer; Williams grabs the o-board by outjumping everyone, misses the putback, gets back up quicker than anyone else to grab another, gets fouled, and makes both free throws.  That is exactly what Gopher fans need to concentrate on for next year.  That hole sequence actually looked like a good, confident team.  Also, if you're scoring at home, I'm now writing effusive praise for a sequence where the gophers shot 1-3 from the floor.  Also they just showed a graphic that the Gophers have 3 assists tonight.  Which, I suppose, isn't that bad when you consider I think they have about 8 field goals.

1:21 - Austin Hollins travels for no good reason whatsoever. 

0:41 - Announcer guys aren't making much sense with their reasons, but the overall point is sound - the Gophers could really use an actual point guard.  I love Andre Hollins, but, well, I don't know.  I mean I guess he could be an actual point guard in the scoring point vein, but I think the team would be better if he could just be the scorer.  They need a Darren Collison to his Russell Westbrook.  Good thing they have both a good point guard on the current roster plus one of a quality pedigree coming in next year.  The future is bright!

0:00 - Gophers lose 52-45.  Sucks because the Gophers really needed this to land a top NIT seed.  And thanks a bunch for not covering Badger asses.

Gophers vs. Badgers Preview

I have to be honest.  I had no idea that Gophers vs. Badgers game was tonight until I logged into sportsbook.com this morning to check on all the lines for the night and saw it was up (Badgers -9.5, FYI).  The whole time I spent writing the week in review post last night (below this one) I had no idea they were playing.  So this is going to be short.

As it should be.  The Badgers are peaking right now, as their win at Ohio State shows, while the Gophers have basically given up on the season.  As I wrote, the body language of the players and of the coach against Indiana tells me they've all checked out, and just want the season to be over at this point.  Sure, there were a few players who still seemed to have the fire and want to win, but in general the team was just sluggish and unemotional (how much does that sum up four years of Ralph Sampson) and I'm not sure Tubby moved more than a handful of times in the entire game.  In order to win at Kohl you need to be fired up, and I don't think that's going to be the case.

At this point the "do or die" fire is an afterthought, because they should have had that same mindset against Indiana and at the end of the Spartan game and it didn't happen, so there's no reason to think it happens here, especially on the road.  There's no point in going over individual players or matchups, not to mention you always know what you're getting from Wisconsin.  They never look all that talented on paper, but no matter how evil Bo Ryan is he is pure genius when it comes to finding lightly recruited players who will fit his system and getting them to buy-in 100%, and that's what they have again this year.  The Badgers are peaking, while the Gophers want to run and hide.

Wisconsin 66, Minnesota 50

Monday, February 27, 2012

Week in Review: 2-27/2012

I have no idea what to say or how to say it.  We've been down this road again and again and written this same recap again and again.  That was just an embarrassing loss, particularly when the season was on the line (as thin as that line may have been) and it was a home game against a team you've already beaten on the road.  To get absolutely blown out in a must-win home game sends pretty much the loudest message possible to the committee that you don't belong in the NCAA Tournament.  Even winning out the last two and making a run to the conference tournament final probably isn't enough anymore, but we don't really have to worry about it because there is zero chance this team can win at Wisconsin.  They've checked out.

I don't think they've checked out on Tubby, but they've certainly checked out on this season.  The body language says it all, and Ralph's 1-11 shooting performance on Sunday basically sums it up.  This is a defeated team, and Tubby feels it as well.  At this point these two games need to just end, then lose in the first round of the b10 tourney, and start planning for next year.  It's clear the players just want this season to end, and I can't blame them because it's been miserable these last couple of weeks.  But I'm not on the fire Tubby bandwagon, even if I've been critical of his game coaching abilities.  I remain critical of those, but he deserves one more year, but it's a make or break year.  If there's another season that goes similarly to this one, it's time to move on.  The important thing is to build a program, and if he misses another NCAA Tournament, well, there's no building going on.  One more year, Tubby.  Show us why we were all excited when the hiring was initially announced.  This is just sad.

I mean, look at Notre Dame this year.  Both the Gophers and Notre Dame received exactly one 25th place vote in a poll to start the season (Gophers in the AP, Notre Dame in the coaches).  Both teams lost their best player for the year, a senior power forward, early in the season (like Mbakwe for the Gophers, Tim Abromaitis led the team in both scoring and rebounding when he went down).  Neither team had any kind of real impact freshman coming in, so post-injury both schools looked to be in trouble.  But, where the Gophers have struggled and floundered and canceled out any flashes of brilliance with some terrible outings, Notre Dame has played together, executed well consistently, and completely bought in to Mike Brey's system and is 20-10 overall, 12-5 in the Big East, and a lock for the tournament.  Look at these two teams.  It's hard to say Notre Dame is significantly more talented, if at all, than the Gophers, and yet look at the results.  Unsettling, at best.

We move on....


1.  Iowa State Cyclones.  Well, for those of you out there who were complete idiots and were saying Fred Hoiberg was some kind of moron for collected talented yet troubled transfers (and you know who you are) how about you pour some Bacardi 151 in your butthole and chase it with a match?  Because Iowa State just won at Kansas State - the same K-State who just beat both Baylor and Missouri on the road - to move to 11-5 in Big 12 play and 21-8 overall.  They're now tied for 4th with Baylor in the Conference and have now 100% locked up an NCAA bid.  While the Gophers need a miracle.  I'm moving to Ames.  Plus they got craps there.

2.  Purdue Boilermakers.  While every other Big 10 team who was chasing a bid goes down faster than your mom on prom night, Purdue is taking a stand and doing what needs to be done like full grown men.  I'm just kidding about that sentence by the way, it's intentionally douchey (except for the mom joke, that's all me).  Anyway, while everyone else is pooping on their heads, Purdue went into Ann Arbor and beat Michigan, a team that was undefeated at home this year, was ranked #11 in the polls, #10 in the RPI, and #21 in kenpom's ratings.  That, my friends, is the definition of a signature win and puts Purdue firmly into tournament lock status.  And you know how they won?  Because Terone Johnson shot 9-12 for 22 points and carried the offense.  You know the last time an unsung-y Gopher like Johnson stepped up to carry the team to a victory?  Caddyshack.  Cue rimshot.

3.  Kansas Jayhawks.  I kind of feel like I've been underrating the Jayhawks all year, mainly because they're a two-man show and also because I hate them and have hated them since that little wiener Jeff Boschee was running around being wienery.  But they're about to win the Big 12 for the 9th straight year* after beating Missouri, and that win was a freaking ballsy ass win because they were down 19 and came back against an incredibly good team.  And Thomas Robinson?  Holy hell is this guy good.  He's nearly flawless in the low post, and because Missouri only has one low-post kind of defender in Ricardo Ratliffe (who, by the way, is completely awesome in his own way) they chose to single cover Robinson all game and he put on a clinic.  Now, this is hyperbole of the biggest fashion so don't jump down my throat, but watching him I actually was reminded of Hakeem Olajuwon.  I know, I know, but I was.  I can't help it.  Guy's legit.

4.  Miami Hurricanes. I've said it before and I'll say it again, I'm always impressed with teams on the Bubble who go out and get that big home win that they need (mainly because I don't know if I've ever seen it from my favorite team), and Miami did just that this weekend, taking down the #16 Seminoles 78-62 to jump up and likely grab themselves and NCAA bid.  Most impressive is that they did it without starting center and double-double guy Reggie Johnson, who was ruled ineligible by the NCAA due to some minor infractions that will hopefully be resolved quickly.  Not to mention that even without him they managed to put up 78 points on the usually defensively studly Seminoles, the first time a team has scored that much on them since January 7th.  Pretty sure Miami sucks and won't win a game in the tourney, but at least they're most likely going to make it.

5.  South Florida Bulls.  Speaking of college teams from the state of Florida who picked up huge wins with bubble ramifications over the weekend, USF knocked off fellow bubble team Cincinnati on Sunday and can pretty officially no longer be ignored.  The game wasn't pretty with the Bulls winning 46-45, both teams having just one player score in double figures, and the two teams combined to shoot 6-30 from 3-point land, but USF did what they needed to do and got a big victory.  South Florida is now 11-5 in the Big East, has bumped their RPI up to 45 (right behind K-State), and now has a 4-1 record against teams between 40-100 in the RPI.  Of course, they are also 0-7 vs. the RPI top 40 and have three losses against sub-100 teams, but closing out the season at 11-4 is pretty solid.  You'd have to think if they can finish out 1-1 (@Louisville, vs. WVU) and then win their Big East Tourny opener they'd be in - a far cry from the team that started the year 7-7 and lost to Penn State (among other craptastic squads).


1.  Seton Hall Pirates.  Are you shitting me Seton Hall?  So they beat Georgetown for one of the most meaningful bubble wins this year and it's all like oh hell yes sweet what a great win awesome to see a team actually step up when they have to.  And how do they follow it up?  By losing at home to freaking Rutgers.  Rutgers of the four conference wins and #149 RPI.  Seriously, I mean if this doesn't completely wipe out all the good they did by beating the Hoyas it's damn close.  I swear to god this is exactly what I expect from the Gophers or Northwestern, not a real team from the Big East.  Shaheen Holloway is probably rolling over in his sports grave.

2.  West Virginia Mountaineers.  Even though there are plenty of teams doing everything they can to avoid getting invited to the NCAA Tournament, I don't know if anybody is doing a better job of tanking than West Virginia.  On January 21 they were 15-5 and 5-2 in the Big East after beating Cincinnati.  Since then they've gone 2-7 (with one of the wins taking overtime to beat Providence).  This week may have been the worst, first going to Notre Dame and getting beat by 30, then taking on a Marquette squad that suspended three starters for the first half, building an 11-point half-time lead, and then blowing it and losing by one.  A team that looked like an easy lock for the NCAA Tournament a month ago is now completely floundering, and with just games vs. DePaul and @ South Florida left a 2-0 finish is now an absolute must, and they might need a win or two in the Big East Tournament to get in.  Seriously, if Huggins is going to find a way to cheat he might as well get started pretty quick.

3.  Florida Gators.   Jeez this seems like a very Florida-y week in review, which I guess is kind of appropriate since I'm going to Florida for a family vacation starting next Tuesday and that's kind of on my mind, but it's been a very Florda-centric week for being awesome and sucking so here we are.  Anyway, the Gators continue to show how vulnerable they are because of their reliance on the perimeter jumper, and Georgia took advantage taking them down 76-62 with the Gators shooting just 5-23 from three.  39% of Florida's points come from three-pointers, the 3rd most in the country, and 44.6% of their shot attempts come from behind the arc (6th in the nation).  Even though they do shoot them well (39.4%, 16th in the country) relying on something that can disappear in any given game, combined with a pretty bad defense (94th in Defensive efficiency) is a recipe for any early March exit. 

4.   Ohio State Buckeyes.  Obviously there are varying degrees of sucking because I would kill your mother if it meant the Gophers would even approach Ohio State's success, but for a team that was/is supposed to be a national title contender there are some major concerns right now, with Ohio State 2-3 in their last five games including two home losses (to Michigan State and Wisconsin, but still).  The Buckeyes were supposed to cruise to a Big 10 title and even with Michigan State having a tremendous year they should still be the class of the conference, but all of a sudden they're showing a whole bunch of chinks in their armor (wait, are we allowed to say that?)  Buford has just been plain off most of the year, Craft hasn't turned into anything on the offensive end, and suddenly Sullinger is disappearing in games (17 total points in the last two, plus 1-7 from the free throw line when he's a 74% shooter this season).  Still plenty of talent here and they're probably still one of the 10 best teams in the country, but suddenly an early round loss in the tournament doesn't seem like the impossibility it once did.

5.  Cal Golden Bears.  I don't know why I obsess about the Pac-10's mediocrity so much, but it's just mind boggling that a conference with schools like UCLA, USC, Washington, Cal, etc. can be so bad at basketball for so long.  Every year there's a point where it looks like the Pac-12 might only get one bid, and although I don't think it's actually happened yet it's amazing how close it gets every year.  And once again this season just when it looks like both Cal and Washington are safe, Cal goes out and gets destroyed by Colorado 70-57.  Both Washington and Cal will probably still get in and everything, but jeez man, it's just amazing how much they suck.  Also, in a semi-related note, with all the conference realignment going on I think what makes the most sense is for the Gophers to move into the Pac-12.  It's common sense, really.

With conference tournaments starting up this week I need to get to work on the small conference tournament previews, so you'll have to do without your pithy outro this week.  You know, the outro nobody reads because they've usually bailed on my post halfway through or so because it's too long and/or boring?  Yeah, that.

* = I made this up because I was too drunk tired to actually look it up

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Bubble Watch 2-23-2012

You know what's weird?  I'm incredibly relaxed now.  I suppose I should thank Tubby for refusing to call a play for the final five minutes of the game and for the players to commit 5 turnovers without hitting the rim with a shot once down the stretch.  Really though, coming down to the end didn't it seem like Michigan State's gameplan was "keep attacking the rim" while the Gophers game plan was "let's use the entire shot clock and hope we get enough stops so time runs out before the Spartans catch up to us"?  But I've moved on.  I feel good today.  No Gopher tournament stress bugging me.  Even the pinched nerve in my back feels better.  Nice.

The sports world does move on, however, and these ads aren't going to click themselves to make me some bank, so I have to write about something.  Luckily there are two awesome things right around the corner - The NCAA Tournament and the start of baseball season.  I thought I would write about baseball, tearing apart Twins' strategies like this one (why why why why would you hamstring your bench by carrying a third catcher because you're worried about a situation that almost never happens and really isn't that big of a deal when it does happen?  So Twinsthink here it's almost criminal) or discussing MLB Season Win Totals (Reds over 86.5 and Padres under 73.5 are locks), but it turns out my brain is only slowly moving over into baseball, so first we have to deal with the NCAA Tournament, and that means another Bubble Watch.

Yes, I realize this is far less meaningless now for any Gopher fan, but that also means it's that much more enjoyable to write/read because you don't have to stress out about it.  Failure is relaxing.

Locks from my last bubble watch who stayed locks (rationale for some of the more questionable ones here is at that link) (34):

ACC (4):  Duke, North Carolina, Florida State, Virginia
Big East (6): Syracuse, Marquette, Georgetown, Louisville, UCONN, Notre Dame
Big 10 (5):  Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Indiana, Wisconsin
Big 12 (4):  Missouri, Kansas, Iowa State, Baylor
Pac 12 (1): Cal - although they close with three road games and a loss in any makes them shakier
SEC (3):  Kentucky, Florida, Vanderbilt
Mountain West (3):  UNLV, SDSU, New Mexico
Atlantic 10 (2):  Temple, St. Louis
Others (6):   St. Mary's, Wichita State, Creighton, Gonzaga, Murray State, Long Beach (both Memphis and Southern Miss are back on the bubble

Teams that have moved to lock status in the last week(4):

Big East (1):  Seton Hall.  Yes, that win over Georgetown was that big, much like a Gopher win over Michigan State would have been.  An RPI of 30 and a SOS of 26 to go with an 8-8 record against the Top 100 is a solid resume.  Plus, assuming they don't lose both of their last two (vs. Rutgers, @DePaul) the Pirates are a 20-win team.

Big 12 (1):  Kansas State.  Funny how I called K-State a terrible team in my last bubble watch and since then they've won at Baylor and at Missouri.  That's two road wins against RPI Top 15 teams in the last week, which also gives them "how you finish the season cred" and you know those two victories are going to stick in the minds of the committee.

SEC (1):  Alabama.  More than the win over Tennessee, the announcement that JaMychal Green was being reinstated is what bumps Alabama back up to a lock (even better, they knocked off Arkansas on the road tonight without him).  Without Green they were certainly capable of going on a 4-game slide to end the year and miss the tournament, but with him back I don't see it, especially with Auburn and Ole Miss still left on the slate.

Others (1):  Harvard. It's time.  The Crimson are now a game and a half ahead of Penn with an RPI in the mid-30s, a 6-2 record against the RPI Top 100 (thanks to a sweep of Yale who now ranks #100), and only one bad loss (to Fordham).  Barring a monster collapse, I don't see them getting stiffed.

That gives us 38 "locks" according to me.  With 37 at-large bids, assuming one of the lock teams wins the autobid for the ACC, Big East, Big 12, Mountain West, Big 10, SEC, Atlantic-10, Pac-12, Ivy, WCC, Missouri Valley, Ohio Valley, and Big West that means there are still 12 bids up for grabs.  The contenders:

Strong Case:

Purdue - The Boilers are awfully, awfully close to wrapping up a bid, but I can't quite bring myself to put them all the way in yet but I'm not even sure why.  They're basically in, but something's holding me back (mainly because I don't want to go back and delete/edit what I already wrote).  Seriously, even if they lost at both Michigan and Indiana they're going to beat Penn State at home which gives them 9 conference wins and 19 overall wins.  Hard to see any way they don't make it in.

Washington - The Huskies are lacking in top end wins (just 3 top 100, zero top 50) like every other Pac-10 team, but they've taken care of business in league play at 12-3, and although they don't have a shot at picking up a big win in their final 3 regular season games, all three are on the road (Wash State, USC, UCLA) and winning two of those three gets them not only to 14 league wins and 21 total wins, but a 6-5 road record.  Take all that together, and Washington should be in solid shape.

Colorado State -  The Rams are weird because their computer numbers are through the roof (RPI 25, SoS 5) because looking at the resume you wouldn't think they're that great, but they've dominated teams from RPI 70-100 (5-2 record), and after beating New Mexico this week that gives them two top 30 wins.  They have two more chances for monster wins, @SDSU and vs. UNLV, and winning either basically locks them in.  I'm as surprised as you are.

West Virginia -  A 17-11 record when your SoS is #7 is outstanding, but they're fading with a 2-6 record in their last 8, even if none of those losses is particularly egregious (except maybe the loss at St. John's).  Everything is still pretty copacetic here, particularly if they can manage a home win vs. Marquette Friday night, but even if they lose that win and manage to win their last two (DePaul, @South Florida) they're probably sitting pretty.

Memphis -  Last week's loss to UTEP was enough to knock them off of lock status, but they bounced back with a destruction of ECU.  Memphis's next two are @Marshall (RPI 51) and home vs. UCF (#60) and if they win both of those you can go ahead and mail them a bid.  Even if they only win one and at least reach the C-USA Championship game they're probably ok, but they should probably consider winning both for kicks.

In the Middle:

Miami - The Canes didn't do themselves any favors by losing at Maryland this week, but they still control their own fate with a home game vs. Florida State this weekend.  Beating the Seminoles would give them a second RPI Top 20 win to go with the big upset at Duke, and it's exactly the kind of game a bubble team needs to take care off to get themselves where they want to be (like Seton Hall).  In Miami's case I don't think beating FSU would lock it up, but it'd be a big jump up.

Cincinnati -  Shit I just realized I didn't type anything here because I was waiting for the results of their game against Louisville.  With a really high RPI that doesn't put them in, and it might not even put them in the "Strong Case" category.  That SoS is just terrible at 147 (and 325 in non-conference SoS) and the loss to Presbyterian (RPI 260) is a nightmare.  The committee seems to hate teams who schedule like shit out of conference, so that's another hurdle for Nick Van Exel U.  Better win out, including a home game against Marquette, to feel anywhere near safe.

South Florida -  ESPN calls the Bulls one of the most interesting at-large cases ever, and it's hard to disagree.  The RPI (49) and Sos (36) aren't great but aren't bad either, and the 10-5 league record is outstanding.  USF, however, has only one good win (over Seton Hall RPI 30) and four losses to sub-100 RPIers, but none since December 14th.  In fact, the worst team the Bulls have lost to since then is Notre Dame (RPI 33).  With games remaining against Cincy, @Louisville, and West Virginia they have three shots to add Top 100 wins.  I'm kind of excited to see how this works out.

Mississippi State - Up until Feb. 11 the Rebels were cruising:  19-5 record, 6-3 in conference, no losses outside the RPI Top 100, and a 7-5 record against the top 100.  Good shape.  Then a three game losing streak with losses to Georgia, LSU, and Auburn led to nearly a must win against Kentucky, where Mississippi State looked every bit an NCAA Tournament team but couldn't get the win.  Now they badly need to win at Alabama this weekend and then close it out by beating South Carolina and Arkansas to take the pressure of having to make a run in the SEC tournament off.

Southern Miss - The Golden Eagles were basically a lock a week ago, but back-to-back losses to Houston (RPI 215) and UTEP (RPI 129) have made things much more questionable.  Normally I'd put Southern Miss a level down from here based on a typically weak C-USA, but even after those losses somehow their RPI sits at #17 (a sparkling 9-3 record against the top 100 has a lot to do with that).  They probably can't afford any more slip-ups until the C-USA Championship game, and the regular season finale at Marshall (RPI 51) looms large.

Middle Tennessee State -You don't hear much about them, but the Blue Raiders (what? lol) are running through the Sun Belt like a red hot scimitar through some tendons.  Twenty-three total wins already, 4-3 vs. the Top 100, and a 10-3 road/neutral mark are all definite positive signs. No marquee wins (best win is over #59 Akron) and no real games scheduled against marquee teams (toughest opponent was Vandy with Akron #2) make things rough.  MTSU needs to get to the Sun Belt Championship to make this interesting, but any loss prior to that probably does it, which is a shame because this is a good team.

VCU - The CAA is a bit tricky this year, because although VCU (and Drexel, see below) have gaudy records and the CAA is usually a pretty solid conference, the RPIs are a bit lacking (both in the 70s).  You can't rule either of them out and both won their Bracket Busters match-ups, but neither has any remaining shot at a top end win either.  If VCU (or Drexel) wins out and at makes the conf tournament championship they're definitely in contention, but both squads would do well to just win the whole thing instead.

Drexel - The Dragons are a bit different than VCU because while VCU has been consistently mediocre all year, Drexel started the year shitty and is now the greatest team in history.  They started the year 2-4 and have now gone 22-1 including stomping Cleveland State in Bracket Busters.  They have three bad losses but two came before December 4th and they're 4-0 vs. the RPI Top 100 since December.  VCU And Drexel have nearly identical resumes, so the CAA Tournament looms huge for both. 

Iona -  Truth be told I'm not nearly enough of a bracketologist to know if Iona has a real shot here, but to me they should.  The RPI is just fine at 44, they're 22-6 overall and rolled the conference at 13-3.  They don't have any top 50 wins but they're a very nice 6-3 against the RPI Top 100, and they absolutely pass the eye test especially if you saw them roll Nevada in Bracket Busters.  The real issue here is two RPI sub-200 losses (Hofstra, Siena) and admittedly that's a big black mark.  Still, I'd consider Iona a tournament team who effed up twice rather than an imposter.  I hope they make it.

In bad shape:

Minnesota - You know what's going on.  The only reason you can't drop them off is because they still have opportunities to grab marquee wins that most bubble teams aren't lucky enough to have.  If they can beat Indiana at home and win at Wisconsin (and not blow the finale against Nebraska) that may very well be enough to get them in.  I wouldn't hold my breath.

Northwestern - Their loss this week to Michigan was a pretty big back-breaker.  Like Minnesota, however, they still have a chance to boost their profile immensely with a home date vs. Ohio State coming up on Feb. 29.  Win that and it should send them in, assuming they don't lose at Iowa or Penn State - a dangerous assumption indeed.

Texas - Similar to the teams above, the Longhorns have whiffed on chance after chance after chance to get that big win.  They've played 11 games against the RPI Top 50 this year, which is really good, but have only won 3 of them.  They also don't have any horrendous losses, which is pretty much what is keeping them alive, but they probably have to win at Kansas in about a week and a half in order to get in.

Oregon -  The Pac-12 is horrible this year, which makes it a bad conference to be in when you have a mediocre profile, but Oregon is still hanging around due to having the second best RPI in the conference (52) and a 17-1 record against the RPI Top 100+ (ie only one bad loss).  A win over Colorado next week would give them another Top 100 win which would really help.

Arizona -  The Wildcats have a similar profile to Oregon, but with more Top 100 wins (5 vs.2).  That would probably rank them above Oregon, but the Wildcats are basically done for marquee win chances with just games vs. USC (RPI 241), UCLA (134), and @Arizona State (238) left to go.  Arizona's best bet is to not screw up, make it to the Pac-12 championship game, and hope enough other teams screw up.  Of course, winning the Pac tourney is the actual best bet, but we're not assuming things here.

Oral Roberts -The Golden Eagles are an interesting case, because their RPI is decent (47), you can't argue with a 16-1 conference mark, and although they only have one bad loss (UTSA), they don't really have anything to balance it out with no Top 25 wins and just a 3-3 record against the Top 50.  I don't think they'll get a bid, but after the win over Akron in Bracket Busters they're definitely interesting.  If they make the Summit League Final and lose to South Dakota State (RPI 63) they have an outside shot if enough other team's falter down the stretch.

Belmont -  I don't really think Belmont has much of a shot here, but the 21-7 record, and #68 RPI mean you can't completely rule it out, although it would take a whole lot of collapsing by others.  The Bruins have two Top 51 wins (Middle Tennessee & Marshall) but weren't able to get any real marquee win despite a pretty decent schedule.  They most likely better win the A-Sun Tournament, but if they win their last remaining regular season game and then get to the final before losing to say, Mercer (RPI 118) they'd probably get at least a little consideration.

It's Over (9):

NC State - blew a 20-point lead at Duke, got blown away at Florida State, and then couldn't hang with UNC at home.  Three chances to get a big win and three whiffs.

Illinois -  The blowout by Nebraska is enough to end their hopes, but with the tailspin they're in their could easily be three more losses tossed on pre-Big 10 tournament.

Xavier - If the Musketeers can manage to win at St. Louis next week and enough other team's falter they may be able to crawl back into consideration, but as it looks now their loss to UMass spells their doom.

St. Joe's - Similar computer numbers to Xavier, but St. Joe's now has four bad losses after dropping a home game to Richmond this week.  Not even a win over Temple on Saturday can get them in now.

George Mason - The CAA teams, as noted above, are in perilous enough position, but GMU's loss to Northeastern on Wednesday is one bad loss too many and pushes their RPI to 91.  No chance.

Weber State - I have no idea why I had them in the bubble watch initially, what with the RPI of 74 and SoS of 294 and zero wins over RPI top 90 teams.  Probably because my wife and a some of her relatives attended the school.  Despite that kind of pull, they have no at-large shot at all.

Davidson - The game against Wichita was their last gasp and they not only came up short but they didn't even come close.  Kind of a shame because their win at Kansas is one of the best wins of anybody all season, but it's pretty much the only positive thing on this resume.  Also not a shame because Davidson annoys the piss out of me.

Nevada - Pretty similar to Davidson but without the Kansas win.  They may have had a little life if they could have squeaked out a win over Iona in Bracket Busters but alas, it was not to be.  A weak WAC did them no favors this season.

Akron - The Zips have a great MAC record at 12-1 and no bad losses to speak of, but they also lack quality wins and needed to beat Oral Roberts in Bracket Busters to remain in consideration.  They didn't.

So that's where things sit.  As far as the Gophers go, they need to win out in the regular season.  It's that simple.  And I'm super confident that will happen.  Can't wait.  Awesome.  Joy.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Preview: Gophers vs. Sparty

Last night, a floundering team who had NCAA at-large aspirations at one point had a gigantic home game against an opponent ranked in the top 10, the type of game that can take a so-so tournament resume, or even a weakish one, and suddenly vault the team towards the top of the bubble.  That team would be Seton Hall, who came out on fire and smoked Georgetown by 18, shooting a blistering 61% against a very good defensive Hoya team and showing that this is a team that gets it, and wants in.

Elsewhere, Colorado State, who was barely clinging to the bubble and whose only chance of getting in was grabbing some marquee wins as the season winds down, jumped up at home and took down one of the hottest teams in the entire NCAA by beating New Mexico behind inspired play by a back-up forced into heavy action due to injury, who responded with a double-double.  Virginia won at rival Virginia Tech to lock-up their bid.  Kansas State put up one of the best wins of any team this year by winning at Missouri to put them in great shape.  So it is possible for a team to respond positively in these situations, despite what us Gopher fans have seen year-after-year.

Of course, there are also teams who go the other way.  Northwestern lost what was pretty much a must-win home game (blowing the advantage gained after beating Minnesota, which I predicted on my twitter account), NC State couldn't handle UNC in a game they had to have, Xavier lost at UMass to end their at-large hopes, and Mississippi State came up just short of upsetting Kentucky in a game that would have put them into position for a bid.  So it can go either way.  So what about the Gophers against Michigan State tonight?

Sadly, I have a feeling they're going the wrong way.  Michigan State is an elite team both offensively and defensively.  They've won five straight, 7 of the last 8, and recently beat both Ohio State and Purdue on the road.  Draymond Green is an elite big 10 star, despite some argument in the comments section of one of my posts a few days ago, and when you watch him you'll see a guy who completely controls the game.  He's basically their point forward to start the offense, but gets involved in the paint once the ball starts moving.  He's had 8+ boards in 13 straight games and notched a double-double in four of the last five. Unlike a lot of players who become the main guy for their team, he's actually having a better shooting year than last year, including career highs in 3-point and free throw percentage.  He's a stud, and he's got plenty of help.

Keith Appling has settled into his combo guard role, scoring in double figures in 12 of the last 15 games (although it's worth noting he's 3-29 from 3-point land in the last 10 games).  Freshman Branden Dawson has gone from slow-starter to supremely confident inside scorer, hitting 10+ points in 6 of the last 8 and he demolished Purdue.  Adreian Payne and Derrick Nix are a terrific center combination, and Payne's defense is a difference maker now that he's figured out what the hell he's doing.  And, along with Green, they have three other shooters in Brandon Wood (36% from 3), Travis Trice (41%), and Austin Thornton (42% and also he looks just like Bogart, FYI) who should all have a field day.

Simply put, this team is too big, too disciplined, too strong, and too athletic.  They have enough talent to make the Final Four and, like usual with Izzo's teams, they're peaking at the right time and the Gophers are in their way.  In order to pull this off, the Gophers will have to play a near flawless game with something approaching the 60% shooting Seton Hall threw up last night, and looking at this roster I just don't see how this can possibly happen here.

Michigan State 74, Minnesota 57.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Week in Review: 2-20-2012

 Jesus what a completely pathetic defensive effort.  You name it, the Gophers did or didn't do it.  They didn't close out on shooters.  They got confused on their defensive scheme which led to not switching when they were supposed to and open lay-ups for Northwestern.  The continually went under screens instead of over the top and then made no real strong effort to get in a shooters face.  They got lost on back cuts.  They allowed offensive rebounds like candy, including on missed free throws which should be grounds for a lawsuit in some way I don't know I'm not a lawyer.  A five foot nothin' lesbian ball boy was able to get to the rim at will.  Just a completely putrid effort.  Combine that with an offense that seemed confused in the second half and completely went away from what worked in the first game and the half (can anyone actually tell me why they completely quit going inside when it's the whole reason they won the first game?).  Credit Northwestern with playing better defense and knocking down all those wide open shots, but this was a truly terrible game by the Gophers.  Now they need to win 2 of the next three (Michigan State, Indiana, @Wisconsin).  LOL.  Can't wait for baseball!


1.  Murray State Racers.  I've gone on record here as saying I'm not remotely a believer in Murray State, but after they waxed St. Mary's with ease in their Bracket Busters game on Saturday I've definitely seen a bit of a tick in the "I believe" direction on my "Do I believe in Murray State"-inator which I always wear on my wrist.  They just completely dominated the game from beginning to end, and St. Mary's is a very good team.  They did turn it over 15 times, but overcame that by shooting the lights out and winning by 14.  I can't quite throw my support behind them yet as being for real and I'd love to see them play one more good team to get a real sense of how good they are, but sadly they won't play another good team until the tournament.  The tournament which, by the way, they are an absolute lock for now no matter what else happens. 

2.  Other Bracket Buster winners.  Besides Murray State some other teams picked up very big wins this weekend.  Wichita State moves into lock territory after knocking off Davidson, while VCU (beat Northern Iowa), Drexel (crushed Cleveland State on the road), George Mason (over Lamar), Weber State (over UT-Arlington) and Iona (beat Nevada) all jump up from "probably not" to "we better take a look" status thanks to their wins.  Their were some huge wins outside of Bracket Busters as well, and probably none bigger than Kansas State's win over Baylor which is absolutely a monster for their profile.  Middle Tennessee State continued to roll through the the Sun Belt (they can afford zero losses prior to the Sun Belt Championship game), while South Florida has now moved to 10-4 in the Big East after an easy win at Pitt.  The overall profile is still a bit lacking but you can't ignore them anymore.  And finally, although they're not in consideration for an at-large, Loyola Marymount had a huge week, beating St. Mary's and then winning their Bracket Buster match-up against Valpo and that now gives them three wins over RPI Top 50 teams.  Which is pretty much their entire resume, so yeah.  Oh, and Harvard beat Yale, so that was good too.

3.  Oakland A's.  When I first saw the news that the A's had signed Yoenis Cespedes, the cuban defecting outfielder and supposed superstar, I was just stunned and was wondering what the hell Billy Beane was doing.  I mean, a team that basically just gutted it's entire roster outbidding everyone else to get a Cuban dude who has never faced major league quality pitching?  Bizarre.  But when I really stopped to think, it actually makes a lot of sense and is a worthwhile gamble.  They got him for 4 years/$36 million which is far less than it was originally thought he'd sign for ($50 mill+), and because of their situation they don't need him to come in a play right away and he can take some time in the minors to assimilate himself.  The A's suck now, but are primed to be a contender in a couple of years thanks to a farm system Keith Law ranked as the 9th best in baseball (and that was before this signing) with five guys in Law's Top 100 including three pitchers who project as top of the rotation type guys.  Add some hitters, like Cespedes, and Oakland becomes a contender.  And seriously, would you rather have Cespedes and his potential at $9 million per year, or Cuddyer at $10+?  Cespedes is basically a bargain - a gamble, but a bargain.

4.  New Mexico.  I'm not entirely certain if a team has EVER had as good a week as the Lobos just did.  There are two teams considered as "elite" in the MWC - San Diego State and UNLV.  New Mexico, due to a couple of shitty early season losses (to New Mex State and Santa Clara) and losses to both those teams, was considered a step below.  Well no more, because this week alone the Lobos beat SDSU at their place by 10 and then stomped UNLV at home by 20 to lock up a bid to the NCAA Tournament and assure the Mountain West will be sending three teams (at least) once again.  They're awfully good, and have a great point guard who can control the game in Kendall Williams, plus a star in Drew Gordon (finally) who put up 27 & 20 against the Rebels.  Hopefully they don't run the table and then win the MWC Tournament, because I want them to have a lower seed for sleeper potential.  

5.  Tyus Jones.  Jones scored 45 points in a game against some team earlier this week to go along with 7 assists, 7 steals, and 7 rebounds.  He also received a scholarship offer from Duke.  That now means the Gophers are competing against not only Ohio State and Michigan State but now the freakin' Blue Devils, and Jones has zero interest in staying home and the Gophers' continual mediocrity isn't going to win him over any time soon.  If you still believe Jones may end up a Gopher, just remember Naadir Tharpe who looked like he was all set to join the Gophers before Kansas suddenly swooped in out of nowhere with an offer which Tharpe accepted within the week.  The Gophers, at present, simply cannot compete for that type of player, and when that player is from here and they still can't get him it just reinforces how big of a wasteland the program is right now.  Man do I miss Clem.  Sure he cheated, but at least he made the team relevant.  I'd kill for relevancy.  I'm going to light matches and see how long I can hold my finger in the flame, just so I can feel something.


1.  Ralph Sampson.  I truly believe this is the last time I'll ever write about Sampson because I think we're pretty much done here.  Whether it's his fault or Tubby's (well, probably both) nothing has changed since Day 1 and I think even his most ardent supporters, yours truly, have realized that he's going to go down with Rick Rickert as the biggest disappointment in team history.  His numbers are virtually unchanged from his freshman year.  He wasn't progressing as much as anybody had hoped, but there was a bit of a progression so you could still hold out hope he would have a monster senior year, and when Mbakwe went down the door was wide open.  Rather than going through, however, Ralph timidly shut it and, with a shrug of the shoulders, said "No thank you." 

He's never shown any drive or any aggressiveness, and never improved in any way (in fact he's regressed in every possible way other than shooting percentage).  He never refined his hook shot, nor added a second move in four years.  Seriously he never added another move.  And, for all his outside shot promise, he never delivered on that either.  I suspect Ralph had the talent, but spent his off seasons not in the gym, but playing nintendo or dominoes or dungeons and dragons or whatever kids do these days.  His downside should have been Sam Perkins, but he never even got there.  This pretty much sums it up.  I'm just pissed I didn't think of it first.

2.  Illinois Fighting Illini.  As disappointing as the Tubby era has been, at least he's not Bruce Weber.  After a pretty rough home loss to Purdue on Wednesday that made four straight defeats and a record of 1-7 in their last 8, Weber gave interviews where he sounded alternately confused (bad look for a coach) and defeated (even worse) and his boss gave an interview where he pretty much went out of his way to say Weber was still his guy.  So, naturally, rather than rallying around their coach and coming out all fired up against Nebraska the Illini did what you'd expect them to do and rolled over like a bunch of two-bit hookers.  I mean they lost to Nebraska by 23 and it wasn't even that close.  The Huskers had walk-ons in with like 3 minutes left in the game.  Brandon Paul shot 1-7 and scored 2 points.  Terrible game, and it's basically guaranteed that Weber is gone after this year.  Illinois has a continual pipeline of talent in Chicago so they'll always be dangerous, so as a Gopher fan I'm very sorry to see Weber go, because with him at the helm you always knew you never had to worry about the Illini. 

3.  Conference USA.  When I did my bubble watch I counted both Southern Miss and Memphis as IN along with a group of other teams with the caveat that none of those teams could handle more than 1 more loss.  Well, C-USA, poised to possibly get more than one team in the dance for the first time since 1998*, just kicked itself square in the balls because both Southern Miss and Memphis - the only two teams in the conference with at-large chances - both lost to bad teams this weekend.  So Miss lost to Houston and their RPI of 220, while Memphis got dropped by UTEP (RPI 149).  If both teams manage to get to the C-USA championship game without another loss I'd expect both to still get in.  But if either picks up another loss things are going to be very dicey.  I was feel bad for C-USA.  It was formed to compete with the big boys and was competitive for a bit, but then was completely raided, is now losing Memphis, and will dissolve and form with the leftovers from the Mountain West and is going to be just completely brutal.  Don't forget, Cincinnati, Marquette, and Louisville all used to be C-USA schools, and now the jewel will be what, Marshall?  UTEP?  Gross.  This is like being the black sheep of your family and then quitting your shitty job to join a cult.  And not one of the good ones either, more like one that forbids group sex (which I assume is the only reason anyone joins a cult). 

4.  Mississippi State Tigers.  Remember like, not all that long ago when Mississippi State was 6-3 in SEC play and had a non-conference win over West Virginia (RPI 37) and no bad (RPI sub-100) losses and everything was hunky dorey?  Well a three game losing streak has included losses to Auburn (RPI 123) and Georgia (RPI 107) and they're now 6-3 and in a wee spot of trouble.  They have four games left before the SEC Tournament and one is home against Kentucky and another is on the road at Alabama (which is a very tough game if their dudes are reinstated).  And it's sad because any team with Dee Bost, Arnett Moultrie, Rodney Hood, and Renardo Sidney should coast to a bid - I mean there's a reason this team was ranked 15th at one point this year.  Although Sidney is still way fat and his game has taken a pretty significant step backwards this year, so that doesn't help.  Of course, beating Kentucky this week will solve all ills.

5.  NC State Wolfpack.  This week was a monster of the Wolfpack who were right on the cusp of the bubble and just needed a marquee win or two to push them towards the top, and the opportunities were there with a game at Duke and then a home contest against Florida State.  Everything was looking good as NC State raced out to a 16-point lead at the half and were up 19 with 11 minutes left to play, but then they remembered they aren't supposed to win at Cameron and the refs also must have gotten a little jolt in their brain implanted microchips because Duke ended up winning thanks in part to 16 free throw attempts in the final 10 minutes compared to just seven for NC State and three NC Staters fouled out.  So that sucked, but even worse they let that hangover drift into Saturday's game against FSU and got their doors blown off.  They still have UNC at home this week, but that's their last chance to get a real good win prior to the ACC Tournament.  They're looking like they're a year away, and I say that because their recruiting class next year contains Rivals recruits #6, #23, and #55 and ranks as the fourth best in the country for 2012.  And yet Tubby's class for that year contains two 3-star guys.  It's like impossible to follow college basketball as closely as I do and not get depressed at least three times about the Gophers.

Two additional quick points and then I'll shut-up:

1.  The Gophers weren't the only team who took their NCAA bid hopes and pissed all over them this week.  Other than Illinois, Miss State, NC State, and the C-USA teams mentioned above, you also had Davidson (loss to Wichita) who is now done along with Akron (loss to Oral Roberts), and Nevada (loss to Iona).  Long Beach is still in pretty solid shape as long as there aren't any major slip-ups, but if they had won at Creighton (lost at the buzzer) they would have punched their ticket.  And a few major conference teams, although not killing their chances, hurt them badly including Texas (got smoked by a shitty Oklahoma Stat team) and Arizona (lost to Washington).  That win for Washington moves them to12-3 in the Pac-10, but the conference is so incredibly shitty that doesn't guarantee them a bid, not even a little.  I read somewhere that the Pac-10 overall was something like 2-25 against the RPI Top 50 outside of conference.  That's ridiculous.  So bad it's like Tubby Smith's record against them since coming to the Gophers. lol.

2.  I really like the A.J. Burnett trade for both sides.  The Pirates add a veteran arm who undeniably has some talent to a rotation where almost nobody can name a single starter while not giving up any prospects of particular note while the Yankees pay for most of the contract.  The Yankees get rid of a guy who clearly struggled with both the AL East and the NY spotlight and saved enough in the process to turn around and sign Raul Ibanez - a RH DH they desperately needed.  And Burnett gets out of New York into a non-pressure and no lose situation, not to mention he gets out to the AL (and specifically the AL East) which can only help.  win-win-win.

* = I completely made this up because I didn't feel like actually looking it up

Thursday, February 16, 2012

A Look at the Bubble

With the Gophers somehow still tenuously clinging to a bid (or being right on the cusp) according to most projections, I thought it might make sense to look at the bubble with a more critical eye.  ESPN does a very good Bubble Watch each Tuesday, and you can probably find one at any reasonably sized, sports-related website, but I'm going to take a harder, more project-y look than the cautious look most other sites take.  To put it another way, rather than avoiding projecting where teams will end up at the end of the season, I'm going to go right ahead and project my ass off.  So here we go.  Joy.

IN (4):  Duke, North Carolina, Florida State, Virginia - FSU's loss to BC and Virginia's loss to Clemson hurt, but both teams should be ok in the end
BUBBLE TEAMS (2):  NC State, Miami - Neither team is in very good shape right now, because between the two of them Miami's win over Duke is the only good win either team has.  Plenty of chances coming up to grab a bid though.

IN (6):  Syracuse, Marquette, Georgetown, Louisville, UCONN, Notre Dame - Although both UCONN (late swoon) and Notre Dame (slow start) have some issues that make them less than true locks, both have enough on the board (UCONN computer numbers and a win over FSU; Notre Dame great play in the Big East including four wins over ranked teams) that it would be pretty stunning to see either miss out.  The Irish are probably safer, but UCONN has five games left including Pitt, Nova, and @Providence.  Even if they lose their other two (vs. Marquette and Syracuse) as long as they win those they get to .500 in the Big East which would be enough combined with the rest of the profile.
BUBBLE TEAMS (4):  Seton Hall, West Virginia, Cincinnati, South Florida - The Hall and West Virginia are spiraling down, Cincy has to overcome a brutally bad non-conference schedule that included losses to Presbyterian and Marshall, and South Florida isn't even considered a bubble team by the ESPN guys (although with an RPI of 57 and a 9-4 Big East record, even with a thin resume other than that I have to include them).  There's a very good chance none of these Bubble teams get in, although if SHU can go 3-1 to close out (@Cincy, G-Town, Rutgers, @DePaul) they're probably good.

BIG 10:
IN (5):  Michigan State, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana - although Wisconsin still sucks
BUBBLE TEAMS (4):  Minnesota, Purdue, Illinois, Northwestern - these four teams are bunched so tightly it's hard to even pick an order, although after beating Illinois on the road to get to 7-6 in the conference you'd probably have to put Purdue on top (and Illinois on the bottom).  With so many locks, rpi-hogs, and ranked teams in the conference it's going to come down to who can grab those chances to knock off a top team and get a quality win.  The only game left between two of these four bubble squads is Saturday with the Gophers going to Northwestern (huge game) so reaching up and taking down a giant when the opportunity presents itself is how these teams will have to make their mark.  (mmmmm.....maker's mark)

BIG 12:
IN (4):  Missouri, Kansas, Baylor, Iowa State - I might be being a bit optimistic with the Cyclones, but two guaranteed wins left (home vs. Tex Tech and Oklahoma) mean ISU will get to 20 wins and at worst a 10-8 conference record with a decent RPI and no truly bad losses.  The other bubble teams in the Big 12 are pretty weak, and I can't see only three teams getting in so I'm giving the Clones the nod.
BUBBLE TEAMS (2):  Kansas State, Texas - both of these teams are terrible and will lose in the first round if they sneak into the tournament.  Other than K State's win over Missouri there's not much here.  K-State also beat Alabama, while Texas has wins over Iowa State and Temple and the two teams split with each other.  Just not much to work with.  Both have two chances for big wins left (Texas: @Kansas, vs. Baylor, K-State: @Baylor, @Missouri) and if either wins one of those and the games they're supposed to win they'll probably be in, but the point remains - these teams stink.

IN (1):  Uh, nobody?  I'll put Cal in here because their RPI is significantly better than everyone else in the conference (#38 vs. mid-60s), an easier schedule the rest of the way (only 1 game versus a bubble team and it's at home), and a 5-4 record vs. the RPI top 100.  But really, nobody looks good here.
BUBBLE TEAMS (3):  Washington, Arizona, Oregon - These teams all have terrible RPIs, very few (if any) good wins, and some bad losses, but you still have to consider them as possible tournament teams because if any of them win out you're looking at things like 15-3 or 14-4 conference record and even in a down Pac-12 (again) that's tough to ignore.  Each team only has one tough game left with Washington and Arizona playing each other on Saturday, but there are enough road potholes here that it would be super easy for all three to slip and miss the tournament.

IN (3):  Kentucky, Florida, Vanderbilt - it would take a monumental collapse for Vandy not to make it in, and Kentucky and Florida are pretty much deadlocks
BUBBLE TEAMS (2):  Alabama, Mississippi State - Bama would have been a lock but suspensions to like, the entire team led to a loss to LSU and a home loss to Florida (a win in that one would have sealed the deal).  They're still in ok shape, but with their two best players still suspended indefinitely the bad losses could start piling up.  Miss State's back-to-back OT losses (to LSU and Georgia) have them going in the wrong direction, but a win next week at home over Kentucky would cure everything, and they have the talent to do it.

IN (3):  San Diego State, New Mexico, UNLV - Rather than taking a step back from a very successful campaign last year, the MWC might be stronger than ever, at least at the top.  All 3 of these teams are solid locks.
BUBBLE TEAMS (1):  Colorado State - Although the overall profile doesn't scream tournament team, the computer numbers are weirdly strong #28 RPI, #5 SOS.  But the main reason to consider the Rams on the bubble is they have games left against New Mexico (home), SDSU (road), and UNLV (home).  If they can somehow manage to go 2-1 in those (and beat #66 Wyoming at home) and combined with those computer numbers they're suddenly a bid stealer.  NOTE: This probably won't happen.

IN (2):  Temple, St. Louis - Temple is solidly in, and although St. Louis isn't quite as certain at this point the Billikens are almost guaranteed to win three of their final 4 (Fordham, @Rhode Island, Xavier, @Duquesne) which would get them to 12-4 in the league and 24-6 overall.  With a current RPI of 22, that'll do it.
BUBBLE TEAMS (2):  Xavier, St. Joseph's - The Musketeers season tanked hard after the brawl vs. Cincy and although everybody seemed to waiting for them to recover they just never did and pretty much have to win their last five (including @St. Louis).  I'm including St. Joe's here because of the decent RPI (#48) and their win over Creighton, but they basically have to beat Temple on Feb 25th (and win everything else) to have a chance.

IN (8):  St. Mary's, Wichita State, Creighton, Gonzaga, Murray State, Southern Miss, Memphis, Long Beach State - because of the terrible conferences these teams play in any one of them falls off with more than 1 more loss, but because I'm projecting forward I don't really see that happening to any of these teams (note: odds are it WILL actually happen to one of these teams, I just don't know which one but I have to bet I'd go with one of the C-USA squads).  St. Mary's home loss to Loyola-Marymount this week was surprising, but that's three wins for Loy-Mary over RPI top 50 teams, so it's certainly not a bad enough loss to cause any panic.
BUBBLE TEAMS (12):  Harvard, Middle Tennessee State, Drexel, VCU, George Mason, Iona, Belmont, Davidson, Weber State, Akron, Oral Roberts, Nevada - Most of these teams have gaudy records, but most also have some seriously major flaws in their profiles so they're really only included here for shits and giggles.  Harvard and Middle Tennessee State probably have the best shot with Harvard nearly a lock.  The Nevada/Iona bracketbuster game on Saturday is basically an elimination game as is Akron @ Oral Roberts, and the results in that event for Drexel (@Cleveland State), Davidson (vs. Wichita), George Mason (vs. Lamar), and VCU (vs. Northern Iowa) will go a long way towards bumping teams up or bumping them down and out.

So where does that leave things?  Well, thanks to expansion, there are 37 at-large bids and I'm calling 36 of them locked up already.  However, assuming a team with an at-large resume wins each of the conferences that puts several back in play.  Say North Carolina, Syracuse, Ohio State, Missouri, Cal, Kentucky, UNLV, Temple, St. Mary's, Creighton, Murray State, Southern Miss, and Long Beach all win their conference tournament that means there are 14 bids up in the air right now and I currently have 32 teams on the bubble for those 14 bids.  But if we go a step further and assume Harvard, Middle Tennessee, Drexel, Iona, Belmont, Davidson, Weber State, Akron, Oral Roberts, and Nevada all win their conference tournaments that puts them out of the running for a bid, so suddenly it's 22 teams for 14 bids.

So your direct competition, Gopher fans, are these 21 teams:

North Carolina State
Miami (FL)
Seton Hall
West Virginia
South Florida
Kansas State
Mississippi State
Colorado State
St. Joseph's
George Mason

The outlook is actually far more optimistic than I expected when I started doing this exercise, because some of these teams (St. Joe's, Colorado State, the Pac-10 teams, the Colonial teams, South Florida) are in far worse shape than the Gophers, so I can suddenly see why they seemed to still be in or on the cusp in most bubble watches.  What this tells me is that despite everything the Gophers are still in control of their own destiny.  Beat Northwestern, win one of the three middle games, and close it out with a win over Nebraska and get to 8-10 in this conference this year with a couple huge wins and good computer numbers and that's probably enough this year.  Lose to Northwestern and it's a bit tougher, but on the flip side there's also an opportunity here to close out 4-1 and wrap up a bid pre-B10 tournament.

Seriously, just do it for once.  Just one time.  Take the chance at a bid, capitalize on it, and just run with it and be safe and relaxed on Selection Sunday because I'm going to be in Florida and I don't want to stress out.  I just want to fish, watch the Twins a little bit and pretend they might be good, drink, read, and fish.  That's it.  There's no need to be dicks about this.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Ohio State

1.  I'm not going to recap this right now because I'm kind of drrrruuunnnnnj.

2.  I might not recap this later because meh but I promise I will try to remember to do it.

3.  I know people have been saying this for years and years, but after tonight I am 100% on the Rodney Williams has a retarded amount of potential train.  He was basically unguardable tonight.  He needs to be in the gym this summer every day taking 1000 jump shots per day.  Adding a jump shot to the rest of his skill set?  And what if he added a left hand drive as well?  Oh my god.  I'm gonna think about that when I give my wife her valentine's day present.  :wink:

Mini-Preview: Gophers vs. Buckeyes

I suppose I should write a preview here.  Can't imagine why, so it'll be short. 

Ohio State is one of the best teams in college ball, but as long as William Buford keeps playing with his head up his rectum and continues to not bring his jump shot to the games they are vulnerable.  The problem is they aren't exactly vulnerable to a team like the Gophers.  Even if Buford fell off the bus getting to the arena and broke his face off and couldn't play they'd still be a prohibitive favorite.  They are one of the best defensive teams in the country, and for an offensively challenged Gopher squad every point is going to be a struggle.  I did read somewhere yesterday that Ohio State's guards and big men struggle with ball screens (I think it was on Grantland.com), but unfortunately the Gophers don't really have the guards to take advantage of that.  Something to keep an eye on, because if the Gophers manage to stay in this one it's going to take having at least one guard (Dre Westbrook?) and at least one forward/center (Rodney?) running the pick-and-roll to near perfection.

Offensively there is also a tiny bit of good news.  The Gophers biggest weakness, as we all know for years and years, has been giving up too many open 3-pointers and Ohio State is a terrible shooting three-point team, especially with Buford apparently shooting left-handed or something.  But that's it for good news.  I have no idea how they're going to handle Sullinger with one guy who is too passive and one guy who is too clumsy and slow.  I fully expect we'll see a large dose of Andre Ingram tonight because Ralph and/or Elliason will be on the shelf with foul trouble.  I do hope Rodney Williams matches straight up with DeShaun Thomas, because I would actually love to see that matchup and see how Rodney fares.

So if the Gophers figure out a way to limit Sullinger, get some offense out of Ralph, Rodney can slow Thomas, and they can use ball screens to get in the lane and get good shots, they can hang.  I'm not expecting any of those things to happen.  I expect to see Aaron Craft and company be all over the Gopher guards in the half-court, causing a turnover-fest, and I expect them to feed Sullinger the ball where he will either score or find an open teammate for a shot when they double him.  Whether or not those shots go down will decide if this is an easy Ohio State win or a complete blow-out.

Ohio State 68, Minnesota 52

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Week in Review - 2/13/2011

There are no word about the Gophers, or at least nothing more than a throwaway line here and there, in the below post.  Mainly because they didn't play this weekend.  I ripped off about 1,200 words after the loss to the dirty dirtball Sconnies, and I don't really feel the need to do it again when nothing has changed.  Plus there was only one comment left after that post where I poured out my heart and thoughts and so you asshole don't deserve any more.  You're lucky I post at all.


1.  Kentucky Wildcats.  I'm now starting to think that worrying about Kentucky being a young team and/or having a less than elite in-game coach doesn't really matter because good god thee guys are just not fair.  What did Kentucky do this week?  Well, they demolished their top contender in the conference by 20 (Florida, more on them later) and then went into Vandy, a pretty tough place to play, and beat the Commodore, probably the third best team in the conference.  They've got unstoppable inside scorers (Anthony Davis, Terrence Jones), three-point shooters (Doron Lamb, Darius Miller), slashers (Jones, Michael Gilchrist), shot blockers (Davis, Jones), and lock down perimeter defenders (Miller, Gilchrist).  Their "weak link" is point guard Marquis Teague, and he'd be the best player on 90% of college teams.  Just sick.  I have no idea how they're going to lose in March.

2.  Austin Rivers.  He's still got too much of a tendency to go one man show, and when he has the ball on the break you know he's taking the shot 80% of the time, but holy crap was Rivers awesome against North Carolina.  29 points with 6 three-pointers and everyone was big, including the game winner right in Tyler Zeller's stupid face.  Reading what some fans of both teams have written and this might be the "best" win by Duke in this rivalry, coming at Chapel Hill versus one of UNC's most talented squads, at least in recent memory.  And they basically did it because Austin Rivers' decided to breakout.  I think going pro after this season will be best for everyone involved because Rivers game is an NBA game and he's struggled trying to adjust playing within the constraints of a tight system rather than, "go get 40 Austin", but man, he is the real deal.

3.  Wichita State Shockers.  I don't usually like to talk about the Missouri Valley on account of it sucks so bad, but Wichita's win over Creighton this weekend was truly a thing of beauty.  See, at the beginning of the year Wichita was supposed to be this year's MVC darling, a team with a shot to knock off some good squads, have a successful conference season, and roll to an easy at-large bid with a chance to make some noise.  Then they lost to both Alabama and Temple in Puerto Rico and everybody was like, meh, while Creighton raced out to a 21-2 start and has everyone's darling Doug McDermott and was like Lindsay Lohan stealing everything Rachel McAdams had.  But then Wichita went to Creighton and completely destroyed the Blue Jays and no Creighton has lost three straight while Wichita can put this win with their win over UNLV and good computer numbers and are probably more likely to make it at-large than Creighton.  So suck on that, Lohan.

4.  St. Louis Billikens.   I'm guessing reading about St. Louis doesn't exactly rank in the top 5 of anybody's favorite things to do list, but it' rare you see a team take care of business like they have and have jumped from the lower-mid bubble to near the top of it.  The Billikens won on the road this week at both St. Joe's and LaSalle, two teams in contention for the Atlantic 10 crown, and now sit at 8-3, just a half game behind Temple, and that followed up a week where they beat St. Bonaventure and Dayton, two other teams towards the top of the A-10.  Their non-conference strength of schedule is awful (213 in the country) but they do have win over Washington, Oklahoma, Boston College, and Villanova - not exactly the 1927 Yankees but a better lineup than the Gophers' can show.  And they're trending up.  Fully expect Majerus to finally be back in the big dance.

5.  Cal Bears.  Ye, the Pac-10 is still horrible and yes, there's a good chance it's a one bid conference, but that's exactly what makes a team actually going out and doing something worthwhile notable because nobody ever does it in this league.  The Bears went on their road trip through Southern California and won at both USC and UCLA (their RPIs are 228 and 121, but remember it's the Pac-10 so we're on a different curve here).  This now brings them to 10-3 and 20-6 overall, and at least getting near the middle of the bubble.  Oh, and in case you're wondering Justin Cobbs had 28 point and 10 assists in those two wins.  (Also noteworthy:  Oregon also was 2-0 this week.  Devoe had 29 points and 7 assists.)  It's so funny I'm going to stab myself in the ankle with the bayonet I have sitting next to the couch.


1.  Florida Gators.  Bit of a rough one for the Gators and those who at one point listed the Gators as a sleeper Final Four team.  First, on Tuesday, the had a big chance to make a statement going into Lexington to play the #1 Kentucky Wildcats and walked out 20-point losers, and then on Saturday they took a home gimme win vs. Tennessee and somehow ended up losing by five.  Actually I shouldn't say somehow, because it's pretty obvious than when a team is as dependent on the three-pointer the way Florida is (6th in the country in % of points coming from behind the line) when the shots aren't falling they're screwed.  The Gators 17-56 from behind the arc in those two games, significantly worse than their season mark of nearly 40%.  And a special shout-out to Erving Walker and Bradley Beal, who, along with Kenny Boynton, are basically the entire team and were 1-11 from 3 against Kentucky and 2-11 against Tennessee.  That reliance on the three makes them both a threat to make a run in March and an early upset candidate.  Guess I'm going to have to guess right.

2.  William Buford.  Buford actually had a pretty good game earlier in the week against Purdue (29 points on 10-17 shooting) which hurt the narrative a bit but he's been absolutely awful lately other than that game, and saved one of his worst for their big loss against Sparty, shooting 2-12 with 3 turnover (to 1 assist) for a grand total of 4 points.  Looking back, outside of that game against Purdue the last time Buford shot 50% or better in a game was the first game of 2012, and he's shot 29-104 in those games, and has had 29 turnover versus 21 assists.  Ohio State is really good and are absolutely a title contender, but if Buford doesn't get it figured out there's no way they're getting past the sweet 16. 

3.  Baylor Bears.  I still like these guys a lot, but after they lost to both Kansas (at home) and Missouri (on the road) this week it might be time to take a harder look.  Because they've now been swept by both those teams, and considering there are only three really good teams in the Big 12 (with apologies to Iowa State) that means that Baylor hasn't had a good win in quite some time.  There's no doubt they're still a very good team with the resume to prove it (wins over Kansas State, Miss State, West Virginia, St. Mary's, BYU, and San Diego State), but there are alarm bells ringing all over the place after those two sweeps.  Worth noting that Perry Jones scored 5 points against Kansas on 1-8 shooting and 4 points on 2-12 shooting against Missouri, which means he's only broken double digit scoring once in four game against these two teams.  I'm going to go ahead and not do anymore research and just assume he's a choker in big games.  Join me, won't you?

4.  The Grammys.  I'm thrilled they chose to award the Foo Fighters with basically every award they were up for, but I can't forgive them for slighting Wiz Khalifa for best rap performance and song.  You're seriously going to give the Grammy to Jay-Z and "Mail it in" Kanye for Otis over the masterpiece Black & Yellow from Wiz and give the other one to some collaboration with like six singer/rappers?  Joke.  I suppose I should just be happy it was nominated, but it should have won, but the politics of not giving a grammy to such a power collaboration probably made this inevitable.  The grammys used to mean something and be about the music but, much like when they stopped eating the groundhog in Punxatawney, we live in a sissified society.  Shame.  Check it:

5.  Murray State and Harvard.  I'm going to lump these two schools together because they both have an outside chance at an at-large berth, both stumbled this weekend (Murray lost to Tennessee State or Tech I'm not sure but I'm not looking it up and Harvard lost to Princeton), and both should probably do everything they can to win their league.  Harvard still looks pretty good with only one Ivy loss, and now that I look apparently Murray State is a lock to get an at-large according to ESPN so maybe I'm stupid.  I'm sorry, but how exactly are they a lock?  Even at 21-1 their RPI is 57 (Gophers are 54, FYI), Strength of schedule is 292, and non-conference strength of schedule is 132.  They only have four wins over the RPI top 150, and the two best are over Memphis and Southern Miss whose RPIs are top 25 but everyone know they suck.  One more conference loss and I say ship 'em to the NIT.  Plus maybe then I'll get to see them live at Williams' Arena, score!

Oh, and in case you're wondering if you missed him, no, I didn't write about Jeremy Lin because oh my god will you people shut up.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Wisconsin is Hitler

Just got back from the game.  I'm not even going to attempt to make this an organized post.  Just a bunch of thoughts.  So away we go for fun times.

1.  I hate Wisconsin.  I mean I really hate everything about Wisconsin.  I hate their stupid team, and their stupid players, and their stupid evil coach, and their stupid fans, and their stupid cheese obsession.  The only good things about Wisconsin are Spotted Cow Brewery and that you can play craps there.  Honestly if the ground opened up and swallowed the entire state (sans Turtle Lake) in a giant fire of aids the world would be a better place.  And the fans, oh my god.  Yes, you're allowed to cheer for your team when you're visiting another arena, but you are not allowed to stand up and yell, "Yes Jordan Taylor!" after every made basket and draw attention to yourself in a way that would be obnoxious even if you were rooting for the home team, and especially not if you're going to where some gay tie-dyed t-shirt that apparently says Wisconsin on it like some kind of dirty hippy.

2.  The last play.  I completely agree that putting the ball in Andre Hollins's hands was the right call.  He had been the best player for the Gophers the entire second half and deserved to have that chance.  What I don't understand was the time out called in order to have him go 1-on-1 with four guys standing still.  Give him a pick, or, when he first makes his move, run a screen away from the ball somewhere, because Hollins going against Taylor is rarely going to work.  Taylor is one of the best defenders in the league (although Snacks disagreed with the rebuttal "nuh uh") so they're not going to double to help.  The whole success of the isolation drive comes either from the dribbler beating his man and either getting to the rim or drawing the defense and finding and open man.  Calling the timeout gave Wisconsin's evil coach a chance to drill into his players brains (literally?  maybe) to not leave their men, and even though Sconnie's players are dumb, like all good Nazis they're great at following orders.

Hollins had a great game.  He stood up to Jordan Taylor and several times got the better of him, especially on the defensive end.  It was a breakout game for a possible future star and he was extremely fun to watch.  But at this point in their respective careers he's not going to beat Taylor very often.  He's just not, especially with nothing else going on away from the ball and the team being completely dependent on him to create the offense.  Plus, why call a timeout to call that play when you could just as easily yell "Andre go 1-on-1 when the shot clock gets down to 8 seconds."  Calling the timeout just gave the Dr. Robotnik a chance to remind his drones to stay home (note I haven't watched the last play because I'd rather have Jon Lovitz piss directly into my eyeballs, but if anybody doubled at all it came super late).  That "play" was just never going to work. 

The best chance they had was when they were stalling and running the clock and Taylor switched onto Rodney Williams.  Someone has to recognize that, whether it's Rodney himself, Hollins, or Tubby (especially him) and get Williams's ass into the paint.  At worst you end up with a slightly scrambling Wisconsin defense as they figure out who should be where, at best you end up with a mismatch and get Rodney the ball, in a game where he was practically unguardable because Wisconsin is slow and are assholes.  But nobody saw it, there was no real play called, Dre did his best in a tough situation, and that was that.

3.  It's easy to think about the bad, but there was some good at least, beyond even Hollins and Williams having really good games, and the big call-out for me was the defense.  Yes, Wisconsin hit too many three pointers, but after their 3-3 start they went just 6-20 and that included a couple of prayers by Taylor and Gasser that really shouldn't have gone in.  They played good,  physical defense and against a physical team and got the better of them most of the time, especially Hollins.  To use a stupid, annoying phrase that idiotic announcers overuse but fuck it I can't think of anything better right now, they punched the bully in the mouth and the bully well, didn't fall down because Sconnie still won, but they definitely held their own.  This point would feel way better if the Gophers had managed to eek out the win.

Which brings me to another positive, which is the comeback - failed yes, but still, they did fight back.  Also I just realized I'm talking about a moral victory and I really don't want to do that so let's move on from that part now.  Instead I'll just mention that the Barn was rockin' and the crowd did a great job.  It was funny because we were talking about Williams Arena before the game and wondering if a young kid who had never been there would be impressed.  And after the game we realized the problem with the Barn isn't the Barn, it's that the product has been so stale and mediocre the atmosphere just wanes of it's own volition.  Put a good product out there and the place rocks and there's no better place to be in college basketball except like Cameron and Phog Allen and you know, sweet places like that.

4.  Speaking of volition, I heard both Spencer and whoever that other idiot is mention that the Gophers should have had momentum going into overtime but I disagree.  When they blew their chance at the regulation I sure as shit didn't think, "they got this."  It was more like, "that was their shot, now we're hosed."

5.  And not to get back to the negative but what do you expect from me, but the Gophers were just awful in OT.  The offense degraded into playground ball where whoever has it just puts their head down and heads to the basket consequences be damned, and I'm sorry but the Gophers seem to be missing a guy like Hot Sauce or Half Man Half Amazing or Skip to my Lou.  The Gophers did a great job taking the ball to the rack in the flow of the offense all game, but lost their rhythm in OT.

6.  Sobieski vodka is the goods.  Nostrovia!  Also Maverick Ahanmisi has no business being on the court in a Big 10 game.  Chances I go to the game Tuesday:  10%.

7.  Oh, and forgot to mention that Ralph's OVER/UNDER on sportsbook.com for points + rebounds tonight was 11.5.  That is absolutely embarrassing for a senior 7-foot starter on a major college team.  AND HE DIDN'T CLEAR THE OVER.  If he had accepted my facebook friend request I'd totally defriend him right now.