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!
WHO WAS AWESOME
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