Tuesday, November 13, 2012

What did we Learn from the Marathon?

Unfortunately I couldn't make it to the Gophers latest butt whooping of Toledo but that doesn't stop me from having a couple of quick thoughts on the team and yes it feels a bit weird to have concerns about a team that's 2-0 with wins by 36 and 26 but here we are.  I have 3.

1.  I want to know what's going on with Trevor Mbakwe.  His line looked better in this Toledo game (6 pts - 7 boards - 2 blks) but he still only played 14 minutes which is the same number of minutes he played in the game against American.  Is he still hurt?  Is this some sort of punishment?  I'd really like to know.

2.  Nineteen turnovers against Toledo?  Gross.  Loyola-Illinois, who is terrible, turned it over just 15 times against Toledo.

3.  Is Andre Hollins ok?  Maybe all the expectations are getting to him and he's pressing a bit (2-15 shooting so far, 4 TOs vs. 1 assist vs. Toledo) or maybe he's got something else going on in his head that's hurting his concentration (the shooting, plus five missed free throws already this year vs. just nine all of last season).

 It's early and the team is winning, but all three of these need to get figured out before they start playing real games or they're going to be in trouble.  This Thursday's game against Tennessee State is a losable game, so they may as well start playing better ASAP.  The defense and rebounding have been absolutely outstanding, however, and that's a very good sign even against this level of competition.  Small sample size and all, but kenpom rates the Gophers as the 8th best defensive team in the country statistically (includes rebounding) and that does take quality of competition into account (for example, American shot 24% against the Gophers and 53% in their next game against Quinnipiac - that bodes well for the Gophers). 

Also, in case you were unaware somehow, ESPN just did a 24-hour college basketball marathon.  Thanks to a flexible work environment that allows working from home and the miracle of internet access I was able to take in a decent amount of it.  Here's what I thought was worth noting.

1.  I watched the first half of Youngstown/Georgia (not part of the marathon) and figured Georgia's first half performance (3-24 shooting) would be the ugliest thing I saw all week, but I was wrong because West Virginia looked absolutely god awful in getting destroyed by Gonzaga.  The Bulldogs also looked pretty good and definitely had something to do with it, but WVU just got destroyed on every level.  Gonzaga had open shot after open shot (52% Shooting, 56% from 3) while WVU just threw up bricks (shot 27%, 11% from 3) and I saw at least two times in the first half where a Mountaineer 3-point attempt hit the backboard before it hit the rim.  I'm sure WVU will end up being not this terrible since they're relying on three transfers to pretty much carry the team this year and that always seems to take a while to gel, but that was one of the ugliest performances I can remember watching from a team that was supposed to at least be in the mix for an at-large bid since every Gopher game ever.

2. Kendall Williams (New Mexico) is a stud PG.  I didn't stay up late enough to watch this one after WVU put me to sleep, but Williams put up a line of 17 pts - 6 rebs - 7 assists - 0 turnovers.  Nice. 

3.  The Gophers could have used Siyani Chambers.  The freshman point guard from Hopkins ended up at Harvard because that was basically the only school that recruited him and oh my did he look good against UMass, nearly leading the Crimson to a big upset playing all 40 minutes and finishing with 14 pts, 5 rebs, and 7 assists to just 1 turnover and even more impressive than the stats was just watching him.  He completely controlled the game when Harvard had the ball (his defense, on the other hand, was pretty atrocious).  It got to the point where UMass won the game by doing everything possible to keep the ball out of his hands when they ran their press and then the Harvard dopes turned it over twice in the final minute leading to a pretty surprising comeback win for the Minutemen when it looked like this game was in the bag for Harvard.  Anyway, this kids poise and ability to run an offense was shocking considering it was just his second game ever.  I know we think we're in good shape with Andre Hollins, but I gotta say this looks like a whiff for Tubby (assuming he figures out  the defense thing).

4. The Horizon race should be pretty good this year.  Valpo killed Northern Illinois (not like that's hard) and Detroit was giving it to St. John's pretty good before they fell apart.  I could see either team winning a game or two in the NCAA Tournament.  Of course seeing as how those two teams are head and shoulders above the rest of the conference it probably means we can expect Cleveland State or something to get the auto-bid.

5.  I thought this might be the worst version of Xavier we've seen in a very long time.  Turns out it looks like this might be the worst version of Butler we've seen in a long time.  I'm interested to see how this turns out with Brad Stevens if Butler bombs again.  I realize he's built up all kinds of leeway with the back-to-back Finals runs, but the last couple of years have been really bad (if I'm right about this year) and if Butler doesn't get back to the tournament soon he's going to go from being known as a wunderkind to just another guy at a small school.  He's already been replaced by Shaka Smart as the small school program builder who doesn't bolt du juor and with Tim Miles and John Groce (among others) taking advantage of March runs to move up in the world I wonder if Stevens has already blown his chance.  Considering he was born in Indiana and never left he might not even care, which is good because soon he might not have a choice.

6. Michigan State and Kansas are going to be just fine.  Not that there was ever much doubt, but both teams lost significant, and I mean significant, players from last season so there was part of me that wondered if they'd struggle but both looked very good in Michigan State's 67-64 victory.  Both teams were a little sloppy (31 combined turnovers) but both offenses look to be almost in prime shape already.  Keith Appling was sick (19 points and an insane lay-up to put MSU up 3 with 15 secs left) and Gary Harris joined him in the back court (18 points) to make the Spartans look like they might actually have the best guards in the Big 10 and Branden Dawson looks like he's all the way back from a knee injury.  For Kansas it's much the same story with Ben McLemore and Elijah Johnson looking like they can step right in and be a very, very good pair of guards.  What an awesome game this was.  Although that final Kansas play looked very Tubby Smith-errific.

7.  I have no idea how VCU got beaten by Wichita.  VCU has their entire team back.  Wichita has nobody back.  I thought Wichita would finally fade away, but apparently they just re-load.  Must be sweet.

8.  Alex Poythress is ridiculous.  I have no idea why I didn't know how athletic this guy is but I'd put him up there with Michael Kidd-Gilchrist last year.  It's probably because his name sounds pretty nerdy.  Honestly I couldn't even have told you if he was white or black before tonight because I didn't know anything about him, I just thought he sounded kind of like a nerd.  He's not.  He just dunks on Duke nerds' heads.  He's like a taller Rico Tucker.

Realistically looking at the year prior (Championship) and the year after (have you seen that recruiting class?) this is the worst team of that three year span for Kentucky and it's not really even close, and yet I'd be shocked if they aren't in the Final Four this year again.  Betwixt Calipari's ability to recruit the one-and-done type talent and the mystique and allure (good stripper names, fyi) of Kentucky that place is set up to be the closest thing to a dynasty since UCLA in the 60s or 70s or whatever.  Maybe both.  Effing Kareem.

9.  The other day I went my whole family went to Joe's Crab Shack to celebrate my birthday and there was this dude at the table next to us who ate his corn on the cob with a fork.  And I don't mean like that he cut the kernels off with a knife and then ate them like niblets, I mean he straight up just used his fork to scoop it right off the cob.  I wasn't sure if it was impressive or not but then Snacks got his dainty thing on and was like "I hate corn on the cob because I don't like getting it in my teeth and stuff" and he tried it and couldn't do it.  So basically this dude had a lifetime of experience of scooping corn kernels off the cob with a knife.  He was like MacGyver crossed with Mr. Pitt.  I didn't know if I should laugh or be impressed, but I certainly made sure to have everyone look.  Changed my life.

No comments: