Well that was a pretty impressive victory, and one I did not expect. I'm not surprised the Gophers knocked off Florida State, I figured they had a decent change, but I definitely wasn't expected them to take control of the entire game and win by 9 in a game that wasn't remotely that close.
Sure, Florida State might be down a bit this year, what with the loss to South Alabama and all, but they also scored wins over BYU and St. Joe's in route to winning the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic and those teams are likely to at least be in the mix for an NCAA bid this season. Their RPI isn't very good right now (136) but a loss to USA will do that and by the time the conference season gets going this is going to end up being at least a top 100 win for the Gophers, and you can never have too many of those. Not to mention that doing it in Tallahassee, the place where top ranked UNC and Duke teams have lost multiple times, makes it that much better.
Florida State certainly didn't help themselves out by missing a lot of the open looks they managed to get, but give a lot of credit to the Gophers for forcing FSU out on the perimeter taking jumpers rather than getting to the rim. Other than a few very nice drives by Snaer and Terrance Shannon grabbing 8 offensive rebounds the interior defense was incredible. The Gophers somehow finished with just six blocked shots but I think 3-4 of them came in the first ten minutes and did a good job pushing the Seminole offense outside - not a strength of theirs. I'm starting to believe this is the best Gopher defensive team I can remember.
Offensively they were impressive as well, moving the ball quickly and crisply and knocking down open shots. The three guards all are showing they can score when needed, with Austin Hollins the jump-shooter, Joe Coleman the pure scorer, and Andre Hollins the streaky hot guy. Take those three and add in Rodney Williams and this offense is humming. I can't get over Rodney transformation. It started last year, hit a stride at the end of the season, and has continued into this year. He just looks and plays so confidently. When he gets the ball on the perimeter now instead of quickly passing it on to a guard he's always looking for that lane to get to the hoop, as if he has finally figured out nobody who is big enough to guard him is quick enough to guard him. I'd still like to see him posting up a little bit more, but FSU did a good job of taking away the post up game from the Gophers last night, luckily it didn't matter because the guard play was still good. Twelve total turnovers for the team was an improvement as well. Clearly it's an area that still needs to get better, but that was a step in the right direction.
As good as the team looked and as solid as they've been this year I am still concerned about Trevor Mbakwe. I just don't get what's going on there. It's not just the numbers, it's that he just doesn't seem like the same player and I don't mean physically. He doesn't seem into the game. Last night he made a lay-up and got fouled in a big spot and showed absolutely no emotion (the Ralph Sampson plan, apparently). I don't know if it was more of a "been here before" or a "I'm bored" but he was an emotional leader last season and I would have thought he'd have a bigger reaction in that spot. Hopefully I'm over-complicating the issue and he's just still working himself all the way back, but he's going to be the difference for this team and how far they can go. With him playing the sixth man, bench big guy this is a very good team. If he can get back to even close to what he was last year and take Elliason's spot in the lineup (although he played quite well last night) that could elevate this team to "great" status. Yeah, I said it. I didn't get to see the Stanford game but I had heard that he looked like his old self in that one, which is even more of a concern then that he didn't seem up for this game. Maybe he was tired (he is super old, after all). Maybe he's frustrated coming off the bench. I don't know. Turn him loose Tubby. Let him start and play 30 minutes and let's see what happens.
All-in-all, a really good win. How FSU plays in the ACC this season will determine just how good, but I'd be pretty shocked if this didn't end up as an RPI Top 100 victory. The team played really well and Tubby showed, as he did against Memphis, that he knows how to shorten the bench when it's needed, something I can't recall seeing in past years. Maybe he senses what I do, that this is the team he can really do something special with. That's my feeling, and I'm not optimistic by nature. With only two meaningful games left before the B10 season starts (vs. SDSU, @USC) the Gophers have a real shot to enter Big Ten play at 12-1 (not uncommon for them) but with three likely Top 100 wins (FSU, Stanford, Memphis) and three others that could get there (SDSU, USC, Richmond). Not a bad start. However this isn't the first time a Tubby Smith led Gopher squad has gotten out to a fantastic start in November. Hopefully this one ends up a little differently.