Thursday, January 31, 2013

Game Preview: Gophers vs. Hawkeyes

Not a ton to say about the Nebraska game.  It was nice to see the Gophers cruise to an easy win and nicer to see Rodney Williams look like the good Rodney Williams again, but it was obvious from the opening tip that Nebraska isn't nearly in the same class as the Gophers and, as such, it's tough to take too much away from that game other than the wheels haven't completely come off this season.  Still, breaking a four game losing skid is always a positive, so there's that I suppose.  Really a home game against Nebraska couldn't have come at a better time.  Hopefully they can continue playing well against Iowa on Sunday, because the Hawkeyes are a significantly better team than Nebraska.

They come in to the game at 14-7 and 3-5 in conference play and they do have some pretty good wind and, if it wasn't for an absolutely brutal non-conference strength of schedule (#320) they'd probably actually be looking at the bubble for the NCAA Tournament.  One of those conference wins was over Wisconsin and they swept the other two Iowa schools (Northern and State).  Their problem is they haven't beaten anyone else - at all.  They've lost to every other decent team they've played (with near miss wins at Carver-Hawkeye against both Indiana and Michigan State) and padded that record by beating up on bad teams with a win over Gardner-Webb as their next best win.  The NCAA dream probably died when they lost in OT to Purdue on Sunday, but this is certainly a team the Gophers should beat since they're a much better squad.

One thing that plays in the Gophers' favor is that Iowa likes to run and keep games at a fast pace.  The Hawkeyes play at the 46th fastest pace in the country and although the Gophers aren't necessarily a big-time running team because I think Tubby Smith would yell at everyone if they fast breaked too much, they do tend to have success in transition because of their athletic advantage over most teams.  Not to mention their struggles against Northwestern and Wisconsin, who rank 321st and 355th in tempo, so staying away from those long, slow, boring half-court games is a good idea.  Iowa will shoot early and shoot often, and with them ranking 9th in the conference in shooting (by effective FG%) and the Gophers back to playing solid defense (one can hope) that should lead to plenty of rebounds, which bodes well for Minnesota.

Looking at the awesome site (thank you JF at From the Barn for showing me this), the Gophers take 16% of their shots following a rebound within the first 10 seconds of the shot clock, meaning a fast break off the miss or on the secondary break.  Their effective field goal percentage is also the highest of all situations that occur at least 5% of the time.  The Gophers are going to need to take advantage of as many transition opportunities as they can because once in the half court Iowa's defense is stingy, particularly on 2-point jump shots where they rank 14th in the country in Opponent's FG%.

Looking at Iowa's players they go nine deep and most of them have some redeemable skill, but Roy Marble and Aaron White are the guys to watch out for.  Actually, I'm not worried about White to be honest.  He's gonna be overwhelmed by Mbakwe and I expect he'll struggle mightily for most of the game since he does most of his scoring deep in the paint.  Marble is the guy to watch, because he is truly talented and can score from anywhere on the floor.  He's an excellent shooter from both 2 and 3, handles the ball well, and because he's 6-6 with guard skills he can usually rise up and get that jumper off over smaller guards.  The Gophers have the luxury of putting Austin Hollins on him, and they damn well better, who should be able to help pester him and make it tougher to get that shot off, but if Joe Coleman ends up on him at any time well let me tell you that is not going to end well for Minnesota no sir.

The rest of the squad is pretty much a mixed bag.  A couple of freshmen (Mike Gesell and Anthony Clemmons) start in the back court with Clemmons the distributor and Gesell the shooter with another freshmen in Adam Woodbury starting at center next to White.  At this point Woodbury is pretty much a good rebounder and good shot blocker but has little to no offense game.  Off the bench they go with Josh Oglesby (the supposed shooter who can't shoot), Melsahn Basabe (who showed so much promise as a freshman but has stagnated the last two seasons), and Eric May and Zach McCabe who have been around forever but I still couldn't tell you who was who.  One of them is taller than the other one.  They also have a guy who rarely plays named Christopher Rickert who may or may not be related to Rick Rickert.  I'm not going to check so let's just say he's his cousin.

Anyway, although Iowa is certainly a step up in class from Nebraska, they still aren't the kind of team the Gophers should have trouble with whether you think they're just not that good, or think they just hit a bump in the road.  I'm leaning towards the latter.

Minnesota 82, Iowa 62.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Game Preview: Minnesota vs. Nebraska

I've called several games this year "must wins" for various reasons:  The Michigan State game was a "must win to prove you're a good team", the Michigan game was a "must win to prove you're elite", and the Wisconsin game was "must win to prop back up fan hopes."  This Nebraska game is another must win, but this time it's a "must win to salvage the season."  I still think this is a very good team and normally Nebraska at home should be an easy one, but there are a lot of bad things swirling around this team and sometimes when things go south they go south in a big way.

The team's lost four straight, including probably the most embarrassing loss in Tubby Smith's time here.  The players are regressing with Rodney Williams turning into a jump shooter and Dre Hollins playing out of control more than usual.  Tubby's assigning all the blame for the skid to his players and they're noticing.  Tubby seems distant during and after games, like he's not really even coaching.  The players seem a bit out of it as well, probably because of this.  Now these are all observations from someone who doesn't see this team day-to-day so I could be way off, but I'm catching a whiff of some major issues.  This Nebraska game can either dispel those concerns and we can worry about the Gophers getting a good seed, or it can confirm them and we can start reading Bubble Watch again this year.

Looking at Nebraska, there's no doubt whatsoever that losing to the Huskers would be an unmitigated disaster because this is a bad team.  Their best win this year is probably their home win over Northwestern, and they balance that out with losses to Kent State and UTEP, along with a bunch of more understandable losses.  The overall schedule is actually pretty good (8th best SOS in the country) but the problem is not only have they not beaten anybody but there haven't even been any close calls - a six point loss to Sconnie in the Kohl Center is the closest they've come.  Mainly they just get blown out - Creighton (by 22), Oregon (22), Ohio State (26), and Illinois (20) have all blown out the Huskers this year, while a nine point home loss to Purdue is the only other loss they have where they've even kept the final margin in the single digits.  Yeah, Nebraska is battle tested, but they've also failed spectacularly every time.

Playerswise they just don't measure up.  Andre Almeida is interesting because he's 6-11 and weighs 314 lbs. (and honestly that might be light), but he also only plays 15 minutes per game because he's too big and he might be hurt or something, I didn't look it up.  Their leading scorer is Dylan Talley, a 6-6 wing who is one of your classic "do it all" types and they have additional size with Brand Ubell who runs 6-10 234 and averages 12 & 7, and they supplement with some outside bombing from Rey Gallegos, who averages 8 three point attempts per game but hits a sad 29% of them.  They don't have a point guard (only Talley averages more than 2.5 assists per game) and only Talley would start on many of the other Big 10 teams.  Tim Miles is an oustanding coach and he's already improved recruiting in Lincoln, but they aren't there yet.

The Gophers should roll.  Nebraska can't hang with them - or shouldn't be able too.  The only way the Gophers lose is if it's true that the wheels have come completely off this season.  I'm not ready to believe that yet when we're talking about the second best Gopher team of my lifetime.  I think they'll be some scary moments tomorrow, but eventually the Gophers reassert themselves and I can breath again.

Gophers 68, Nebraska 56

Week in Review - 1/28/2013

There isn't much here about the Gophers so if that's what you're looking for go look somewhere else (although I do bitch about Rodney Williams later).  Losing to a mediocre Badger team at Kohl Center doesn't really tell me much, other than reconfirming once again that this Gopher team isn't "elite", but this loss does nothing for me in terms of if this team is "pretty good" or "frustratingly mediocre as usual."  And nothing good can possibly happen next week (home games vs. Nebraska and Iowa) only disastrously bad things can happen outside of expected results, so we won't really know anything until the go to East Lansing and then have Illinois at home the following week.  It's a frustrating time to be a fan.  But what would life as a Gopher fan be without the frustration?  We're all such idiots.


1.  Miami Hurricanes.  Hey bromigos, there have been some great wins by teams this year but it's going to be tough for anybody to top Miami beating #1 Duke by 27 (and yes I know Duke didn't have Ryan Kelly because everyone keeps pointing out how Duke didn't have Ryan Kelly but can everyone just calm down about that for a minute because we're talking about Ryan freaking Kelly here).  I mean they just killed them.  At the ten minute mark of the first half Duke was up 14-13, which means Miami beat them 77-59 over the final 30 minutes.  This wasn't a fluke (don't forget Miami beat Michigan State earlier this year too) and Miami is now 6-0 in the conference and looking like a good bet to win the ACC for what I assume is the first time ever.  Best part of that game was Seth Curry shooting 0-10 from the floor, because I still can't shake my irrational hatred of Stephen Curry so naturally that carries over to Seth because you know, brothers and stuff.

2.  Kobe Bryant.  I think I mentioned this last week but I recently traded for Kobe in my fantasy league which of course means I no longer hate him and kind of like him now, so I fee like it's worth noting that in his last two games he's had 14 assists.  Not total, although frankly that would be kind of impressive for this black hole, but in each of the last two he's had 14 in each.  I mean, say what you want but 14 assists in a game is a freaking lot, and he's now done it two games in a row.  You know many players have ever had at least 14 assists in back-to-back games?  I don't know either, probably kind of a lot, actually, but for a me first glory boy hero ball gunslinging chucker like Kobe to do it must have been very difficult for him mentally.  And, the Lakers, are 2-0 in those games, which just goes to show you that when you have two maybe three other Hall of Famers on your team it does wonders for your squad's chances if you actually let them touch the ball and shoot and stuff.  Like I've always said.

3.  Baylor Bears.  There's a reason why Baylor was highly ranked by many including myself this year, and that's because even with Perry Jones, Quincy Acy, and Quincy Miller off to the NBA the machine Scott Drew has put in place still meant they were going to be immensely talented.  Sometimes they can put a game together like Monday against Oklahoma State, and even if the final margin was only 10 the game was never really in doubt.  Their back court (Pierre Jackson, Brady Heslip, A.J. Walton) is both experienced and talented, while the front court (Isaiah Austin, Cory Jefferson) is probably the most athletic in the country with Jefferson the total freak and Austin the unstoppable freshman who can dominate inside or hit the three and already has a turnaround fadeway jumper which truly a thing to behold from a 7-1 dude with a wingspan beyond that (kind of like KG but slightly more awkward).  Then on the bench you have Gary Franklin, Deuce Bello, and Rico Gathers who would all start for most teams.  That's why they handled Oklahoma State, won at Rupp against Kentucky, and stomped BYU this year.  Of course they're also a dumb team, so they've lost at Northwestern and dropped one at home to Charleston.  I'm telling you right now, bros - Baylor is ripe for a first round upset this year in the tournament.

4.  UCLA Bruins.   There is a reason I ranked UCLA the 6th best team in the NCAA going into this season and they were ranked 13th in the preseason polls - there is a lot of freaking talent here.  Early season struggles (one point home OT win over UC-Irvine, home loss to Cal Poly) dropped them out of the rankings and out of everyone's hearts and minds, but as things have come together they reeled off 10 straight wins before dropping a game last week to a good Oregon team, and now went into Tucson and knocked off 6th rated Arizona.  The early season issues shouldn't have been a surprise since the team is mostly made up of freshmen (Shabazz Muhammed, Jordan Adams, Kyle Anderson) and transfers (the Wear twins, Larry Drew), but now everything is looking good (they smoked Arizona) and Muhammed is starting to look like he could do the Carmelo Anthony thing and carry this team in March.  Of course, being a Ben Howland coached team they then went out an invalidated everything I just wrote by losing at Arizona State on Saturday, but I stand by this team anyway.  Kinda sorta.


1.  Rodney Williams.   No, I'm not the idiot who is going to call Williams out for missing the tying free throw because the odds of him hitting two free throws in any situation are pretty long any way and even as a senior he's a kid who isn't a good shooter and who has been in very few high leverage situations like it - it was basically a given he wasn't going to make them both, particularly on the road.  No, I'm going to call out Williams because who in the baby jesus of the earth convinced him he's a jump shooter?  He's not a jump shooter.  He's a freak athlete who needs to get his ass in the paint because his jump shot resembles that of a high school wrestler.  I don't even want him taking open jumpers, let alone the nearly constant shit he's been jacking up the last two games which consists of him stopping the ball, making a jab step or two that doesn't really move the defender, and then rising up and clanging a jumper off some slight part of the rim like he plays for the god damn Illini.  Just because you have the ability to get your shot off whenever you want doesn't mean you should.  To paraphrase Dr. Ian Malcolm, "You were so preoccupied with whether or not you could, you didn't stop to think if you should."  Actually we should probably have Rodney sit down and watch Jurassic Park - the whole thing is a metaphor for his jump shot.  Or something like that.

2. Kentucky Wildcats.  Like when I wrote about the Lakers last week I'm not exactly breaking news here that Kentucky is struggling, but after watching them lose at Alabama it really reminded me that John Calipari is really not a good game coach, despite winning the title last year.  The talent Kentucky has this year is nearly as good as anything else Calipari has had in his career, but when your offensive game plan generally consists of just rolling the ball out every game, that talent also has to be smart - you need coach on the floor types to keep things moving in the right direction.  His best teams at Memphis had guys like Chris Douglas-Roberts and Derrick Rose, last year's champions had Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, and even back in the UMass days he had an incredible guard tandem in Carmelo Travieso and Edgar Padilla (I can't believe I didn't have to look those names up).  Without a "smart" player to direct the team, a coach who is an A+ recruiter and a D+ game coach, and a small talent dip from last year this Kentucky team is going nowhere this year.  Of course, next year they're probably going undefeated, so enjoy this now.

3.  Arizona Diamondbacks.  The D-Backs have a solid core and should be a good team again this year, but they've taken the "get rid of the guys the manager doesn't like" philosophy the Twins like so much to a whole different extreme.  Earlier this offseason they unloaded super prospect Trevor Bauer because he wouldn't adapt the workout schedule he's done his entire life to match what the D-Backs wanted and received a prospect in return whose upside is "great glove, no hit" and now they've shipped off Justin Upton because he and manager Kirk Gibson apparently don't get along.  Before trading Upton, however, they managed to kill all their leverage by making it clear they wanted him gone.  Actually first they got a pretty good haul from Seattle, but Upton has a limited no-trade clause and killed that so, desperate to have him gone, they sent him off to Atlanta for one year of a so-so third baseman (Martin Prado) who wants in the neighborhood of $12 million a year starting next season, a likely fifth starter someday (Randall Delgado), and three other minor leaguers of little consequence.  All that for a 25-year old who in four full seasons has had two monster years and two lesser years, which were both above average, by the way.  Just a silly way to do business.  We're actually lucky to have Gardy.  Ha ha just kidding.  Throw in the D-Backs trade of Chris Young to Oakland for another no hit/good field shortstop in Cliff Pennington and this offseason has just been bizarre for Arizona.

4.  Virginia Commonwealth Rams.   What incredible timing for the Rams to implode considering I just pimped them last week as a Final Four sleeper.   All they've done this week is have a seven point lead with 42 seconds left vs. Richmond and blow the game and then lose at home to LaSalle.  Now, neither Richmond or especially LaSalle are bad losses, but this isn't the way to prove me right and stuff. I still think they're a sleeper Final Four team what with their style of play since most teams don't ever go up against something like that, but both blowing a big lead against a mediocre opponent and losing a home game to another mediocre opponent kind of hurt the confidence level.  Actually, maybe this helps since they'll end up with a worse seed and then I will be the only one to pick them to the Final Four and all that sweet sweet NCAA Tournament Pool money will be mine all mine!  I'm a genius.

Lastly, the team in college basketball who hands down had the best week was Villanova.  They beat both Louisville and Syracuse, giving wins over two top-5 teams in the same week which is pretty much like holy shit.  The reasons I didn't list them in the "WHO WAS AWESOME" section are two-fold:  1) I hate them and 2) who gives a crap?  Those are two great wins and yeah their RPI is creeping into the mid-50s so it's possible they could play themselves into an at-large, but they already have seven losses and even if most of them are excusable losing to Providence and especially Columbia is not.  Also I don't even know if I can name a single player for Nova (is Jayvaughn Pinkston still there?) and I don't really feel like learning another team.  So sorry.

Plus I heard Scottie Reynolds has an armpit fetish and cries when he watches Lion King.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Game Preview: Gophers vs. Stupid Badgers

I suppose I should put something down on electronic paper for this Badger game thing that's either Saturday or Sunday, but I must confess, despite my coming back from a rage cloud of shame I'm still not really feeling the writing, you know?  It's pretty simple - the Gophers are the more talented team, Bo Ryan the better coach, and the Badgers have home court.  Advantage: Wisconsin.  This is the Gophers big chance to reassert that they're no joke and the Northwestern game was an aberration.  Of course, the Kohl Center is probably one of the worst places to try to do this.

Two things stand out to me about the Badger offense:  1) they generally dump the ball in to one of the big guys who wait for a double team and then kick it out to a shooter or Mike Bruesewitz to chuck up a three and 2) it's the same offense as every year - no matter who the personnel is the offense never changes, I guess to Bo Ryan's credit since he has success almost every year and simply has an eye for recruiting kids who fit what he likes to do, whether they're on the national radar or not.

Breaking this down further, the biggest issue I see for Wisconsin on offense this year is that they've gone from Devin Harris to Kammron Taylor to Trevon Hughes to Jordan Taylor to Ben Brust and Traevon Jackson.  Brust, simply put, is not a true point guard and at this point in his career Jackson simply isn't a very good player.  For a team that generally relies on it's point guard to run the offense as heavily as Wisconsin has in the past this is bad news.  When the Badgers' best players have been non-guards in the past they've been able to make it work pretty well, but that's when they had guys like Alando Tucker and Brian Butch to run the offense through.  With Sam Dekker not quite ready for that load as a freshman their main offensive conduit, and thanks to poor shooting (including 10% from 3 and 39% from the free throw line) he's actually one of their least efficient players.

Their other issue is they continue to be reliant on the 3-point shot (39% of their attempts come from behind the line, 52nd most in the country) but are hitting only 35% this year, which is still above the national average but is the Badgers lowest percentage since 2006.  The shooting woes also carry over to the free throw line, where Wisconsin is making merely 61% of their shots, their worst going back beyond 2003 (which is where it takes too much work to keep finding their FT% so I stopped).  In my opinion they're still running the same offense and running it just as effectively (once again, they never ever ever turn the ball over), however this year they just don't have the personnel to do it as effectively and that's why, despite the impressive win @Indiana, this just isn't nearly as dangerous a Badger team as we're accustomed to seeing.  

They're still a very solid defensive team, and are still a team that rebounds well and takes care of the basketball.  The Gophers won't turn them over, but will likely turn it over at least 15 times themselves.  Minnesota's saving grace much of the year has been their incredible ability to get offensive rebounds, but Wisconsin is a better rebounding team on both ends than most and this will likely be the biggest key to the game.  Unfortunately, I can't shake the feeling that we're off the rails here.  I think the poor play in the second half of the Northwestern game, and specifically the poor coaching, is something that needed to be addressed and fixed, but listening to Tubby's post game comments and his laying the blame on his players makes me think they're much less likely to respond with an outstanding effort.  Calling out your team is one thing, but singly out individual players to the media is no way to make things work.  Blaming your players instead of coaching them rarely works.  I guess what I'm saying is that it's over.  Enjoy limping to a 7 seed and getting bounced in the first round.

Wisconsin 65, Minnesota 55.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Gophers lose to Northwestern

After calming down from being ready to quit the blog business altogether and give up on Gopher basketball, I've decided I should probably write something - I'm just not sure what to write. I'll try to stay somewhat coherent, but I'll probably bounce around to a bunch of different points. I can't write about the game much because I turned it off at about the 8 minute mark. It was painfully obvious the team had completely lost it's composure and any semblance of a game plan and that the coach had no idea how to get it back without his coach on the court already fouled out - somehow. For Tubby not to have somebody in for Austin Hollins when he picked up his fourth foul was inexcusable, but Hollins deserves plenty of blame, if not the majority of it, for going anywhere near the Northwestern dude on that lay-up - he has to know better. When the team started shooting jumpers that didn't even draw iron, started settling for contested 16-footers like a god damn Illinois team, committed a ton of completely unforced turnovers against a team that never turns their opponents over (12 second half TOs!!) and completely went away from getting the ball into the paint, it was obvious what was going to happen, and I wanted no part of it and watched Lake Placid: The Final Chapter instead. It was a good choice.

Whether it was an unwillingness, an inability, or the fault of the coach (or all three), failure to get the ball to Mbakwe in the paint in the second half is inexcusable. The Gophers dominated Northwestern inside with their strength and athleticism the entire first half, and if the Gophers hit a couple more open shots (the shooting was atrocious) and make more free throws (ditto) they go into the second half with a double digit lead and likely cruise to a win. They still ended up outrebounding the Wildcats 42-23 with nearly as many offensive boards (17) as Northwestern had total. When they switched to the 1-3-1 and the Gophers inexplicably had no clue what to do, passively passing it around the perimeter, it played right into Northwestern's hands because it eliminates the advantage the Gophers have in athleticism and in the paint. I would say this looked like a Monson team out there, but let's not pretend Tubby's squads have had any success against it either - the same 1-3-1, mind you, that Iowa completely shredded last week.

I really don't know where to go from here. Every season I'm the pessimistic fan. The realist fan. Gophers beat Louisville? Still not buying it. Gophers knock off Butler? I'm not there yet. But this year was different. I'm like Charlie Brown and Lucy's always been holding that football, but year after year after year I refuse to make a move. This year? I went tearing after that football and was going to kick it all the way to the Final Four, and that bitch Lucy just pulled it right out from under me last night. I'm not giving up - well, the Final Four thing yeah probably, but Sweet 16 could still be in play but it's now likely to take an upset to get there. This team could still finish in the 5-6 seed range and have a shot at a couple of wins, and if you had told me at the beginning of the year that's where this team would land I'd be ecstatic. But it's not the beginning of the year. The Battle for Atlantis, Michigan State game, Illinois game, and second half of Indiana had me all in, all the way. This is what you get for believing.

So we move on. The Gophers play at Wisconsin this weekend, and it is always great to beat those a-holes, especially in Madison, so certainly that's what I'll be cheering for. This is also a "must win" in the sense that the Gophers really need to show something. They've already taken away any reason to believe they're an elite team, now it's time to let us at least settle on them being a "pretty good" team, but you have to take care of business in Madison. This season has suddenly taken a dark turn, but there's still time to make sure it's not a complete disappointment.

I'm not even sure where to lay the blame, but mostly I think I blame myself.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Game Preview: Gophers vs. Northwestern

The Gophers play the Wildcats......again

The Gophers play the Northwestern Wildcats, again, and since the last time they squared off not all that much has changed - other than reconfiguring our expectations for this Gopher team.  Since the last game the Gophers have gone 1-2 with then impressive win at Illinois and losses to Indiana and Michigan - certainly understandable, however the team had stretches of poor play that have taken some of the luster off the early season success.  Northwestern has gone 2-2, winning at Penn State and Illinois (thus the "then impressive win" when the Gophers won in Champaign) and losses and home losses to Iowa (by 20!!) and Indiana.  Basically, the Gophers are maybe a little worse than what we thought last time, and Northwestern is a little better, if only because Reggie Hearn is healthier.  I will admit it - I'm concerned.

I probably shouldn't be.  Minnesota still ranks as the 7th best team in the country by kenpom's advanced metrics while Northwestern is 88th.  Pomeroy projects the Gophers to win 70-61 with an 82% chance of coming out with a victory, and the Gophers seemingly have solved the Northwestern zone, and with Drew Crawford done for the year they're a little lacking in the offensive weapons department.  I get it.  But I'm also a lifelong Minnesota fan, and all those years watching not only the Gophers but the Vikings and Twins have me programmed to expect disappointment.  How "Minnesota" would it feel to have them lose this game?  I don't like feeling this way, but it's just the way I am.  I'm a bipolar fan - high ups, and low downs.  Anyway, if the Gopher team is who I thought they were they should still take this, as long as they don't turn it over 25 times.

Which, just so you know, is actually in the realm of possibility.  Although kenpom ranks them as the 6th most efficient offensive team in the country that's a function of good shooting and great offensive rebounding (where they still rank #1, grabbing an astounding 47.9% of their misses, more than 5% higher than the second best team (Colorado State (Colton Iverson - hi!!))), because they still can't take care of the ball to save their lives.  The Gophers turn the ball over on 21.9% of their possessions, 247th in the country.  No other top ten offensive team turns it over more than 18.8% of the time or ranks outside the top 100.  It's ludicrous.

I'm not going to do duplicate work, so instead I'll direct you to From the Barn's post where he breaks down the nerd stats on turnovers - it's pretty cool.  My most favorite part is how Maverick Ahanmisi turns the ball over on 31% of the possessions when he's in the game.  Only Denzel Valentine of Michigan State and Benny Parker of Nebraska are worse in the Big 10.  The result of FTB's work is it's abundantly clear, even if it wasn't already, that the turnover problem is the one thing keeping the Gophers from reaching the potential we thought they had, but this far into the season it's time to start wondering if they can turn it around.  Bottom line:  STOP DOING THAT!!

I do, however, have a suggestion and hopefully someone can call or email or skype Tubby and tell him.  Did you ever see that movie The Program with Willie Mays Hayes and that alcoholic quarterback and James Caan and the steroid guy Lattimer and a super hot Kristy Swanson?  Well remember when Darnell Jefferson had fumbling issues and Caan gave him a football to carry around all the time and the other football players were supposed to try to knock it out of his hands and then if the ball was returned to Caan by anyone other than Jefferson he'd have to do laps or pushups or get in an Iron Maiden or something?  Well Tubby needs to do that with every single player on this team, and open the competition to everyone on campus and if anybody loses their ball they have to spend two hours in a locked room with the guy who thinks it's cool to dress up as Goldy and act like a complete moron at games, or take a sauna with Mo Walker.  It's our only hope.

The team is still plenty good enough to win the next four (@ NW, @ Wisconsin, vs. Nebraska, vs. Iowa) even if they keep the ball safe at a Lindsay Lohan's hoo-ha level (LiLo jokes played out?  Never, I say!), but if they want to be a truly great team - and I believe they can - they have to stop with this sloppiness.  I think we can all agree my proposal would solve everything.  I should probably step in and coach, too.

Oh, and if you want a rundown on Northwestern's players just read the linked thing above from last game or my preview from the last game since it just happened like a week ago.

Minnesota 66, Northwestern 58.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Week in Review - 1/21/2013

I really have no idea why I stopped doing these posts.  They're fairly easy, since I can write parts of them during the week, they cover all sports for an entire week period, and they give you, the idiot reader, something to depend on knowing this post will be here every Monday morning.  I'm going to do my best to get back on this and start having the Monday morning Week in Review's again.  Or your money back.  And I'm going to start with Lance Armstrong.

Ha ha just kidding.  I don't care. 


1.  Joe Flacco.  As much as I hate to give credit when it's due, I'm going to have to in Flacco's case because he had a great game getting the Ravens to the Super Bowl and outplayed Tom Brady to do it.  He seems to have developed a couple interesting skills to go with one of the strongest arms in the league - he can pick apart a defense underneath using his backs and TEs, and he has that over the shoulder throw to Boldin in the end zone down cold.  Both of his touchdown throws to Boldin were on that same play, and more than half his completions were to backs or tight ends, and then he can cut loose with that big arm to Torrey Smith when needed.  It will be kind of interesting to see how he adjusts in the red zone when the 49ers inevitably put a safety on top of Boldin when they get close.  I also just realized this is going to be a Harbaugh vs. Harbaugh Super Bowl and we're going to have to hear that over and over and over again.  Oh god, and also Ray Lewis.  And I have a feeling Colin Kaepernick is going to get way too much press, too.  God I am suddenly remembering how much I hate the 2 weeks leading up to the Super Bowl.  Don't they have some kind of 2-week coma drug?  I know the wife and kids probably wouldn't be down for me going in that direction, but I'm not sure I have a choice.  Not my fault.

2.  Washington Nationals.  In a baseball hot stove league that's been characterized by teams "going for it in their window" more than any other I can remember (Baltimore Orioles exempted, for some reason) the Nats just made another move that put them in the Dodgers/Blue Jays tier for "going for it" signing closer Rafael Soriano to a two year, $28 million deal with an option that automatically vests if he finishes 120 combined games in the two years.  That now gives the Nationals a bullpen of Tyler Clippard in the 7th, Drew Storen in the 8th, and Soriano in the 9th, and that's in front of a rotation of Stephen Strasburg/Gio Gonzalez/Jordan Zimmermann/Dan Haren/Ross Detwiler.  Their also loaded with a young and talented lineup with only one bad contract (Jayson Werth), Wilson Ramos will be back at catcher, they traded for Denard Span to fill their only real lineup leak, and resigned Adam LaRoche to a reasonable contract which gives them an excellent trade chip (Michael Morse, now a back-up who was just traded to Seattle in a three-way deal that brought them a couple decent prospects because lord knows they don't have enough) all at the same time.  Yes, paying $14 million to a reliever is too much especially when you have to give up a first round pick to do it, but I'm a big fan of this "going for it" thing and I'd say they're in pretty decent shape.  At least until they shutdown Strasburg after 190 innings this year because, you know, you can never be too careful.

3.  Butler Bulldogs.  I don't know if it's Brad Stevens or what (NOTE: it's probably Brad Stevens) but Butler just keeps on going.  When they made those back-to-back NCAA Championship games you kind of figured like, ok he found a few diamonds in the rough in Gordon Hayward, Shelvin Mack, and Matt Howard (really rough, in his case) and Stevens got them to perfectly come together for a magical run (or two) and then they'd go back to being Butler.  When they missed the NCAA Tournament (made the CBI) last season everything looked confirmed.  But now?  First Stevens gets Rotnei Clarke, and ultra-experienced deadeye shooter who fits Butler's system perfectly, to come to Indy, joining a couple of decent players, and you figure Butler would probably be decent.  Little did you know Clarke was going to play out of his mind and a couple promising youngsters would suddenly blossom into double-digit scorers.  Then Clarke gets hurt against Richmond and you'd think Butler would slide, but they had no issue finishing up Richmond, and then played a really, really good Gonzaga team and did this:

I hate teams that are always good because I'm so unfamiliar with it.  It's like an Amish who was dropped in Dubai.

4. Florida Gators.  For my money, there are six teams (seven if you count my super sleeper VCU) who could potentially win the NCAA Championship this year - Louisville, Syracuse, Michigan, Indiana, Duke, and the sixth is Florida.  For some reason they're only ranked 10th.  Why?  Because they have two losses, although those happen to be at Arizona (a one-loss team) in a game Florida controlled for 38 minutes before letting it slip away, and against a good Kansas State in Kansas City.  Look at their recent results.  After a week of dominating fools they've now won their four SEC games by 33 (vs. Georgia), 22 (@ LSU), 21 (@ Texas A&M), and 31 (vs. Missouri).  I know Mizzou is in kind of a tailspin right now with Bowers hurt and Dixon having been kicked off the team, but beating that team by 31 is still damn impressive.  Florida is one of the few teams in the country with a great offense and a great defense, with great players both on the perimeter and in the paint.  I feel pretty effing good having gotten down on them at 12-1 to win the whole thing.  Don't think, just do it.

5.  Syracuse Orangemen.  I've touted Louisville as my #1 team in the country so I need to give credit to the Orange for taking them down on the road, and actually this was the game that convinced me to put Cuse in that "could win the title" group because they played great in a tough environment.  I have no idea why Syracuse has kind of been under my radar, but I assume it's because I'm an idiot.  They're loaded at guard and play two point guards in Brandon Triche and Michael Carter-Williams, which they can get away with because they're 6-4 and 6-6, and an awesome front court that includes two great scorers (C.J. Fair and James Southerland) and a defensive superstar (Rakeem Christmas).  Their only loss was to Temple at MSG, and they now have probably the best win of anyone this season with that roadie vs. the #1 team to legitimize them.  They do have a big issue hanging over them with Southerland's indefinite suspension due to some kind of academic issue, but I would assume he'll be back soon enough given that Syracuse is a big time hoops school and so the administrators probably understand it's best to get him back on the court. 

Stupid Joel Maturi.


1.   Gopher basketball.  I'm not giving up on the season, thinking they suck, or anything like that.  I mean they have three losses this season and they're all to teams that have been ranked in the top 3 this season, and only the Duke game was a double digit loss.  What sucks, and why I have to put the Gophers here, is that I'm having trouble imagining them as a Final Four team anymore, simply because there have been stretches in all three losses where they've been absolutely dominated, and the domination wasn't for a short period of time but a very long one.  Michigan outscored them 20-7 over a 7 minute period, Indiana had that entire first half, and Duke pretty much controlled the whole game.  For much of this year I had considered the Gophers to be a possible Final Four contending team and maybe the best Gopher team of my life.  That seems laughable now, as I'm fairly certain the '97 team would crush these guys.

That's not to say this can't be a very good year.  I'm picturing the team now as a top 5 finisher in the Big 10 with like a 5 seed and a decent shot to make the Sweet 16.  Wouldn't we all have taken that coming into the season?  Of course we would have.  By any measure (for the Gopher program) that's a successful season, it's just that it felt like the bar had been raised and that this might be a special team, rather than a very good one.  It's hard to feel that way anymore after watching Michigan completely outclass them on their own court.  Hopefully they can sweet these next four winnable games and I can feel a bit better, and even though I know this is a really good Gopher team it's hard not to feel a bit of a gut punch here.  It's not the losses, it's the way they lost.  Hopefully they learn and move on.  I'm also now extremely terrified of going to Northwestern. 

2. Los Angeles Lakers.  I know I'm not exactly breaking new ground here because I think everyone is aware of the Lakers' struggles, but holy crap you guys.  Anybody who ever watched sports new their might be an adjustment period bringing in Nash to play with a guy who dominates the ball like Kobe (similar to the LeBron/Wade pairing initially) but even if it took them a while to get it figured out with complimentary players like Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol you'd expect them, worst case, to end up being a very dangerous low seed in the playoffs as they finally figured it out.  One problem - they're not figuring it out, and at 17-23 are in severe danger of missing the playoffs after losing to Toronto on Sunday (TORONTO!!) thanks in part to Howard getting booted for picking up two technicals.  They've now lost eight of their last ten, and count losses to the Raptors, Cavs, Magic, and the Kings among their failures this year - those are some bad teams.  Normally I would be enjoying this immensely, but I just acquired Kobe for my Fantasy NBA team and so now I don't hate him as much.

3.  Jordan Hulls.  So let me get this straight, the Underpants Gnome plays out of his mind against the Gophers but then plays like a total asshole against Wisconsin?  And don't you dare credit Wisconsin for this either, because he was just total garbage who couldn't shoot, only bothered to take 1 three-pointer (seriously with that range he only attempted one?  First time all year), and turned the ball over like he was giving it away for Valentine's Day to some handsome man.  Plus he was outplayed by Ben Brust who sucks.  And what was with Indiana doubling down on Ryan freaking Evans on the block?  Just let him go to work, you'll be better off letting him shoot.  The only possible explanations for this game was that Indiana felt invincible after beating the Gophers and forgot to try or Jordan Hulls threw the game.  Also, why do I have so much trouble spelling invincible?  Everything about this has my brain scrambled like Kevin Burleson trying to break a press.

4.  Matt Ryan.  I thought Ryan was getting a little too much heat for never having won a playoff game (probably because the Matty Ice nickname is so annoying) but it's hard to find a way to not blame that game on Ryan (with a major assist to the defense).  I'll even forgive him the pick because Roddy White fell down, but there were plenty of unforgivable mistakes.  The fumbled shot gun snap that San Fran recovered which hit him perfectly in the hands and not picking up a single first down after recovering the Crabtree fumble (giving the Niners great field position after a shitty punt) were both pretty awful, but Ryan saved his worst for the biggest play of the game.  On that fourth down inside the 10 he forced the ball to a non-open White, never bothering to look at any other receive and thus missing an absolutely wide open Tony Gonzalez who had slipped behind the linebackers and there wasn't a safety over the top - easy TD.  I should feel good about this loss because the Falcons screwed over the Vikings in '98, but I hate Jim Harbaugh, Ray Lewis, and the Patriots so Atlanta was my only chance to enjoy the Super Bowl.  Hopefully they'll be good food.

5.  Seattle Mariners. If I'm going to praise the Nationals for making a good move, I gotta point out that the Mariners apparently are assembling a softball team or something.  After acquiring Michael Morse in the above mentioned trade, they now have all these guys: Morse, Raul Ibanez, Jason Bay, Kendrys Morales, Justin Smoak, and Jesus Montero.  Which means that even if they plan to give Montero another shot to be a catcher (LOL) they've still got five mostly immobile types to try to shoehorn into a lineup.  That means something like Montero at C, Ibanez in LF, Morse in RF, Morales at 1b, and either Smoak or Bay at DH with the other coming off the bench?  Ibanez and Morse as two of your 3 outfielders?  Franklin Gutierrez is very good, but he's not that good.  I guess the real point is why even trade for Morse?  Even if they've given up on Smoak (and if they have they should trade him to the Twins because I STILL BELIEVE DAMMIT) acquiring Morse brings nothing to you that you don't already have, and by trading John Jaso to do it you've severely downgraded your defense going to Montero, but they don't really have another choice because, again, they have way to many slow RF/DH/1b types to fit Montero's bat in any other way.  Seattle has the potential for a pretty kick-ass future (seriously their minor league pitchers are top shelf) but if they keep fucking up the present like this it's not going to matter.  Those Nintendo guys haven't done anything baseball-related right since Baseball Stars.  Remember Baseball Stars 2?  What were they thinking?

You'll notice I had the prudence to not write about this whole Manti Te'o thing because let's be honest, it's pretty played out at this point.  Was a pretty good day on twitter, though.  I also didn't write about hockey because it's a sport for cretins.  See you soon with a preview of the Northwestern game.  Or maybe just a link to the one I wrote like a week ago.  Jesus aren't they supposed to space these games out? 

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Game Preview: Gophers vs. Wolverines

When I saw this part of the Gopher schedule (@Illinois, @Indiana, Michigan) I said the Gophers would need to win at least one to prove they were as good as I thought, and anything beyond that would be a bonus.  Now that they got the first one out of the way early and proved themselves to be on equal footing (or at least close) to Indiana (on the road no less), I'm having trouble looking at this Michigan game as anything other than a "must win."  Not a "must win" for the season of course, but I really, desperately, want the Gophers to have that game that truly announces they're a legit Final Four contender.  I know the Illinois game was close, although it's lost some shine after they were stomped by terrible Wisconsin, and on the strength of the overall season and the win over Michigan State and second half against Indiana the national media refers to them as a Final Four contender all over the place, but I want more.  I don't want this to be a Final Four contender upstart type team, I want them to go into the tournament with people picking them to go to the Final Four all over the place.  I want an elite team.  The schedule really thins out after this with four games the Gophers will almost certainly be favored in (@Northwestern, @Wisconsin, Nebraska, and Iowa - although @Wisconsin is never easy), and that is why I really, really want them to win this Michigan game.  Their next chance for a real big win isn't until they go to East Lansing on February 6th.

That being said of course, this is going to be an extremely difficult game for the Gophers.  If college basketball is won and lost with the back court, Michigan is in great shape because they may have the best back court in the country with Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway, and Nik Stauskas.

Burke is a national player of the year candidate and the best point guard in the country.  He's the rare point guard who excels as a distributor (7.1 assists per game, tops in the Big 10) but who also scores in bunches (18 per, 3rd).  He can do this because he's almost unguardable.  He shoots a very high percentage as a guard (52%) because he's able to get easy transition buckets and assists since Michigan simply just does not allow offensive rebounds to their opponents (#2 in the country).  In the half court he can hit the open shot and is also quick enough to beat most other guards and get into the lane, either getting or finding teammates for easy shots.  He's similar to Andre Hollins in that they both really like the step back jumper after getting the defender off balance, and it will be imperative that the Gophers force Burke to settle for long jumpers rather than let him get into the lane the way Ferrell and Oladipo did on Saturday.  I'll say again, keeping Burke out of the lane is the #1 key on Thursday.  Easier said than done, but if the Gopher defense is as good I think it is they should be up for the task.

When Burke drives the other two set up on the wing.  Hardaway has really tightened up his shot selection this year and it's helped him reach career highs in scoring (16.1) and shooting percentage (both 2s and 3s).  The percentage of his attempts that come from three has dropped each year as he's learned not to settle for the contested 3-pointer (which was something you could always count on), and he's about as athletic as it comes when he's running the floor (not Rodney Williams athletic, but human athletic).  Another reason Hardaway may be more judicious with his three-point attempts is he's not needed there as much anymore, because Stauskas has come in as the least heralded of the three Michigan freshman and ended up leading them in scoring (12.7) by being the dead-eye shooter Beilein loves.  Stauskas is hitting 51% of his three-point attempts while leading the conference in makes . With so many weapons for Michigan (Burke, Hardaway, and Glenn Robinson) it's easy for teams to lose track of Stauskas when he spots up, particularly in transition, and he makes them pay.  He's hit a three in every game this year other than their loss to Ohio State on Sunday, and the last time he hit fewer than two in a game was November.  Finding Stauskas and limited to two or fewer made three pointers is probably key #2 for this game.

If Minnesota has a clear advantage it's in the paint, where Trevor Mbakwe and Rodney Williams will match up with Glenn Robinson and Jordan Morgan (and Mitch McGary).  Robinson is 6-6 and 210 and is probably better suited to be on the wing, but he's more comfortable in close (he's not that different than Rodney was last year).  He's another major reason why Michigan ranks #1 in offensive efficiency this year (he shoots 59%), and he's one of only two "good" offensive rebounders on the Wolverines, so keeping him off the glass will be imperative.  Morgan is the other good offensive rebounder Michigan has (he's about on par with Williams), and although he does little else than set picks and grab boards he has the size and strength to battle Mbakwe, although looking at their match-ups from two seasons ago Mbakwe averaged 15 and 9 while Morgan failed to grab a rebound in the game at Williams so maybe that's not as much of a concern.

As far as Michigan's bench goes the main impact guy is McGary, the 6-10, 250 lbs. freshman who was a top 5 recruit this year by pretty much everybody.  He gets a good amount of minutes spelling Morgan and is not only big but an excellent athlete as well.  He's still kind of figuring it out (averages only 5 ppg) but is immensely talented and is absolutely going to have a breakout game one of these days here, let's just hope it isn't this game.  He's an absolute monster on the glass where his offensive and defensive rebounding percentages when he's in the game are actually are better than Mbakwe's and he averages six rebounds per game despite playing an average of just 15 minutes.  He's a fouling machine (averages 6 fouls per 40 minutes) so keeping him off the floor in foul trouble is possible and preferable.

Not much here for the rest of the bench - similar to the Gophers they're very reliant on the starters and have a handful of players who can spot fill minutes (only 9 guys played against Ohio State).  Spike Albrecht is the back-up point guard and Caris Levert the wing guy - both can hit threes at a pretty good clip (38% and 42%).  Jon Horford is the fourth big guy off the bench, but at this point is still known more for defense than offense, and everyone else is a deep bench guy where if we see much of them on Thursday either the Gophers have done something right or something very, very wrong.

I admit, I thought the Gophers had a better chance of winning in Bloomington than they did beating Michigan, even at home.  This Wolverine team legitimately might be the best in the entire country, and Burke is just ridiculous guiding that offense.  They never, ever turn it over (2nd best in the country), shoot 58% from two (5th) and 39% from three (19th) with four of their top six guys shooting 52% from the floor or better and of the six guys who have taken the most three pointers five of them hit at least 37% including the #2 guy in the Big Ten.  In order to win this game the Gophers are going to have to score, which is possible because Michigan isn't nearly as elite defensively as offensively (although they're still very good), but could be difficult because, as I said, Michigan simply does not allow offensive rebounds to their opponents and that's been a huge weapon for the Gophers.  The good news is that Michigan has been sub-par creating turnovers this year as well as defending the two-point shot, so Minnesota should have opportunities to score plenty, and perhaps will actually take care of the ball going against an opponent who is not particularly adept at taking it.

One other interesting stat of note is that the Gophers play at a significantly faster tempo than Michigan, and they should try to push it as often as possible on Thursday.  Although Michigan puts up a ton of points they do so mostly through their efficient half court offense rather than by pushing tempo and getting quick shots.  It seems counter intuitive with a point guard like Burke, shooters like Stauskas and athletes like Hardaway and Robinson, but Michigan prefers not to run.  So in the half court we're going to see the most efficient offense in the country against the 19th best defense.  Man this game is huge.

Because Michigan's complimentary players can score so efficiently, the big key here will be for the Hollins brothers to handle Burke in one-on-one situations so the help defense doesn't get sucked in, leading to open shots.  If they can limit him to a lot of long, step-back type jumpers that are contested it will go a long way to giving the Gophers the opportunity to win this game.  This is Andre Hollins' chance to announce himself to the world.  He's been noticed, but it's time to become a household name.  Even as I started typing this I was planning on picking Michigan to win, but the more I type and the more I think the more I remember how the Gophers stormed back against Indiana in that second half.  That, more than anything, showed me what kind of team this is.  Then there's the Michigan State game.  And the Northwestern game.  And the Illinois game.  This is a different team than we're used to, I'm convinced of it.  Home game, versus a top team?  I changed my mind.  They're gonna do it.

Minnesota 77, Michigan 72.

Of course, if they get off to another horrific start all bets are off.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Gophers, Hoosiers are Legit

Well that first half was difficult to watch.  At the very least I was hoping for the Gophers to be competitive against Indiana and keep it close in order to justify their top 10 ranking.  Sort of like if Mississippi or Miami was suddenly ranked in the top 10 I'd be quite skeptical and expect them to not be able to hang with the truly elite teams, I am guessing many felt the same way about the Gophers so the first half was no fun at all.

At times it seemed like a different team out there than I was used to seeing - taking bad and contested shots, turning the ball over more than usual, and a complete inability to stop dribble penetration which gave Indiana open shot after open shot.  It was frustrating.  However the more I watched the more I realized the Gophers weren't really playing poorly, Indiana was just playing nearly perfectly.  The poor shot selection was a function of great Hoosier defense, not the Gophers suddenly becoming Illinois, and the majority of the turnovers were Indiana making a play rather than Minnesota just giving it away.  And as far as the "poor" Minnesota defense?   Well it turns out Indiana is pretty damn good. 

The second half, however, showcased just how good the Gophers can be.  Maybe they weren't quite ready to play a team as good as Indiana.  Maybe the weren't quite ready for a hostile and loud crowd.  Maybe they were a little too amped up (Dre Hollins especially).  Whatever the reason for not being able to hang with the Hoosiers in the first half (and maybe it was just Indiana being Indiana) the Gophers didn't just go through the motions in the second half, they came out fired up and ready to prove they belonged on the same court and they most certainly did.  If not for a heartbreaking Jordan Hulls rebound off his own missed free throw we might be talking about a miracle win - it was that close.

What that second half showed me is that this team is, without question, a top 10 team.  They battled back and thoroughly outplayed the Hoosiers in the second half, and displayed the heart and "never give up"-ness that was a hallmark of the 1997 team.  If Indiana doesn't get several questionable calls and doesn't shoot 40 free throws to just 15 for the Gophers, maybe it never even comes down to one rebound.  In any case this team is for real, my friends.  Michigan comes to down Thursday.  Can't wait.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

I'll Get to It

I will eventually, probably tonight, have my thoughts on that Gopher/Hoosier game put up on here.  In the meantime, here's a video I made back in 2009 to show everyone what it's like trying to have a baseball conversation with my stupid friend Dawger.  I stumbled across it today and it made me laugh so hopefully it will make you all laugh too.  Actually I couldn't give less of a crap if you like it or not, it makes me laugh. 

Stupid Dawger.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Game Preview: Gophers vs. Indiana Hoosiers

You mean I have to write this preview already?  It feels like the Illinois game just ended.  And man, what a game.  The Gophers defense is absolutely ridiculous.  I've never seen a team handle their rotations so well, and even Joe Coleman is looking semi-competent on that end.  That defense creates so many opportunities to run, whether through turnovers or missed shots, and with the athletes they have it plays right into their strengths.  Even in the half-court they're playing incredibly efficient and finding open opportunities, and with five guys who can score 20+ in any given night opposing defenses can't key on any one player or in any one area.  The bench is a bit of a concern, but like Snacks pointed out to me it's really not THAT bad, it's just that the starters are so good that when the reserves are in it makes them look worse.  The Gophers have gotten really strong stretches from Welch, Ahanmisi, Ingram, Oto, and Elliason this year, and when Tubby goes with that lineup they've been able to keep the margin close to what it was when they came in, giving Tubby the chance to rest the good players so they can play all or nearly all of the second half.  This is awesome.

But, as the way this season goes, as long as I'd like to dwell in the happiness of this win over Illinois we move on and now face a top 5 ranked team in the country and the preseason favorite (according to Vegas) to win the whole thing in the Indiana Hoosiers.

The Hoosiers come in at 14-1, with the lone loss coming in overtime against Butler in Indianapolis in a game that went to overtime.  The most interesting thing to me about those 14 wins is that they may not have a single win over an NCAA Tournament team yet.  NDSU is one of the favorites to win the Summit, but not the clear favorite.  Georgetown is a bubble team at best who's 0-2 in the Big East, North Carolina is heading straight for the NIT, and Iowa is going to have to pull off some major upsets (pleasegodno) to make it.  Everyone else has been a creampuff.

I bring that up not to say Indiana is overrated - far from it.  They've played incredibly well this year, ranking 6th in overall offense and 7th in overall defense at, one of only three teams (along with Duke and Florida) to rank in the top 10 in both.  While the Gophers also fair extremely well in those ratings (10th & 14th) they have a couple of glaring weaknesses (turnovers and allowing offensive rebounds) while in comparison Indiana is above average in literally every single metric measured.  They're an extremely good shooting team who can also put the clamps down defensively, they rebound well on both ends of the court, and they get to the line often while not putting their opponents there.  They don't depend on the three-pointer but hit it with regularly when they're left open, move the ball well, and like the Gophers, have five guys who can go for 20+ on any given night and can hurt defenses in a variety of different ways.  In short, this isn't Illinois or even Michigan State, this is a legit national title favorite (top 3-4 for me).  It isn't going to be easy.

I don't even know where to start when it comes to individual players because there's so much, so let's just get to it.

Cody Zeller could win National Player of the Year and he'd deserve it.  He's got great moves around the rim and can score with either hand going either direction and has a decent jumper out to about 15.  He blocks a decent amount of shots due to his height but isn't an exceptional athlete although he's no slouch there either and can run the floor very well.  He's added some strength this year but if he has a weakness it's his physicality.  The best thing that could happen for the Gophers would be to have Mbakwe go right after him and knock him around on both ends of the floor, hoping they refs let a lot go, beat him up, and take him off his game.  Will that work?  I don't know, but it's what I'd try.

Next to Zeller is Christian Watford, who creates an interesting match-up with Rodney Williams because they're both kind of tweeners, but with different skill sets.  While Williams puts up his numbers with his incredible athleticism, Watford is the exact opposite in that he gets his numbers (and the two have very similar numbers) despite being known as somewhat unathletic due to fundamentals and positioning and other nerdy things like that.  The other big difference is while Rodney is a questionable (at best) jump shooter, Watford is a dead-eye from 3.  The other knock on Watford is that he can lose focus and kind of tune out the game, and the Gophers best chance is for Rodney to frustrate him on the offensive end and hope he tunes out a bit and doesn't crash the offensive boards the way he usually can.

The third guy I want to point out is swingman Victor Oladipo, who might be the second best athlete in the conference (behind Rodney).  Also like Rodney, when he came into college ball he was basically an athlete who played basketball, but has since morphed into a more complete player, and Oladipo is a rich man's Williams because he is a more efficient version than Williams with a good jump shot.  I mean, dude, the guy is shooting 67% from the floor and 48% from three while averaging similar point and rebound per game numbers to Williams.  The Gopher defense is going to have to be just as tight against Indiana as it was against Illinois because if Oladipo gets the ball with just a speck of daylight to the rim he's going to explode after it.  Hopefully somebody can draw a charge or two.

Those are your three main cogs, but there's plenty of other talent here as well.  Jordan Hulls and Yogi Ferrell form kind of a tandem point guard duo - Hulls the steady veteran who takes care of the ball and is a great (and very smart) shooter (hits 52% from the field and three despite being a perimeter guy), and Ferrell the exciting (5.1 assists per game) freshman who is a little wild and can't hit the broad side of a barn when he shoots (32% from the floor, 24% from three).  The compliment each other extremely well and both are excellent defenders, if a bit undersized.  It may work to have the Gopher guards (Coleman, both Hollinses) post them up.  I'm not sure what kind of post game the Gopher guards have, but given their size/strength advantage I'd love to see them try.

Lastly, the Hoosiers have a pretty talented and deep bench led by Will Sheehey who is their fourth leading scorer and a damn good athlete in his own right and also is kind of a dick.  Remy Abell, Jeremy Hollowell, Derek Elston, and the recently reinstated Hanner Mosquera-Perea and Austin Etherington were all highly regarded recruits and round out the Hoosier bench with a cast that's probably better than Iowa.

Breaking it down, I really don't see any clear advantages for the Gophers.  Their best bet is to play their game - tough defense, taking advantage of transition opportunities, and crashing the offensive glass - and hope a few things go their way.  Hope the Gophers' physical play can intimidate and render Zeller and Watford ineffective.  Hope they can play well enough to shut down Oladipo, and that they can push Indiana out of the lane and get them to settle for the same bad shots Illinois was taking (and hope Hulls doesn't hit them anyway).  Hope the Gophers can stay out of foul trouble, because even though their bench is good, Indiana's is great.  If anything is a weakness for the Hoosiers it's that they haven't faced a team as good as the Gophers yet, where the Gophers have already played Duke.  For Indiana, Georgetown is probably as physical but isn't as skilled, while Butler is as skilled as the Gophers but isn't nearly as physical.  North Carolina and Iowa both try to score in transition the way the Gophers do, but neither are on Minnesota's level.

In reality, Indiana is a X.X point favorite for a reason, and while the Gophers can probably make a real game of it at home trying to overcome Indiana's advantage at Assembly Hall (and Big Ten ref's propensity for playing to the crowd) is likely too big a task.  A close game ending with a 5-8 point Indiana win is the likely outcome.

And yet.

I remember a game back in 1997.  A game where a ranked Gopher team went into Assembly Hall to face a higher ranked Indiana team.  Things looked bleak.  The Hoosiers looked to control the game as time wound down, and it looked like another good Gopher team would just be good.  Then there was a three-pointer.  A steal.  And then Bobby Jackson hit a three from the corner and we were headed to overtime, where the Gophers ground out a 5-point victory.  And they were off.  Next stop, Final Four and the best Gopher team of my lifetime.  Well, maybe until now.

Minnesota 80, Indiana 76 (in OT).

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Gophers vs. Illinois L ive Blog

-11 minutes - So why not drink some booze and live blog, am I right?  Watching the Iowa State vs. Kansas game right now.  Great game. 

-9 minutes - On a scale of 1-think the Big Bang Theory isn't nerdy enough, how nerdy is it that I just watched this:

-7 minutes - So real quick since we have some time let me just mention how ridiculous the Hall of Fame voting crap was this year with nobody getting in.  Are you guys kidding me?  The worst part is you know they think they're taking some kind of stand or making a statement, when in reality they're just being a bunch of pussies.  The worst part?  As pointed out by Loretta8 from Sippin' on Purple - Bonds and Clemens finished with a different amount of votes.  One is the all-time home run leader, the other won 7 Cy Young Awards.  They're both no-brainer first ballot inductees - unless you are against voting in steroid guys (aka completely ignoring the 90s) in which case they both are at the same level of guilt and should both stay out.  One way or the other.  This means somebody voted for one, but not the other guy. Makes zero sense.  They need to revamp the whole system, and I hate saying that because I really don't know how to make it better.  To start, how about kicking out all the idiots. 

-4 minutes - Seriously, even if you don't want to vote in anybody you remotely suspect of steriods (and, by the way, I've never heard Piazza linked to roids) how do you not elect Craig Biggio?  The stats are there and I'm pretty sure nobody suspects him of steroid use.  Or elect Tim Raines for christ's sake.  He's the second best leadoff hitter of all-time.  At some point I may have to do a post on Raines - or at least link to one - because the guy absolutely has the numbers to be in Cooperstown.  And you know he wasn't on steroids because he was too busy being high on cocaine.

-2 minutes - This Iowa State game needs to end before the Gopher game starts.  Hurry up already.

20:00 - A banked in three for Kansas?  You gotta be joshing me.  Welp, on to the Gopher game.

20:00 - Being good kind of sucks.  It was much easier watching these games when I knew they were going to lose. 

20:00 - What's Egwu doing in there, he doesn't even shoot threes?

19:48 - Paul with a very tough three point attempt (and missed).  You can have that all game, guys.

19:04 - Another bad three early in the shot clock.  Please keep doing this, Illini.

17:41 - Illinois doing a good job keeping the Gophers off the offensive glass, which we can tell already because they've missed like, a billion shots already.

16:53 - Announcer guy FYI - D.J. Richardson is not a "sharp shooter."  Gopher offense is so bad right now I'm afraid Tubby might go with the line change offense.

16:18 - Brandon Paul called for the charge after dunking over Mbakwe - announcers don't seem to realize that is, indeed, an offensive foul so who cares about the dunk part.  I feel like these guys might be the death of me.  Gophers down 4-3, but there have been as many shots already as there were in the entire first half of the Northwestern game.

15:44 - Wait a minute.  How can a basket count on a made dunk with a charge called?  By definition the ball was still in Paul's hand, which by definition means the basket doesn't count.  Jesus this is like re-writing the rules of math.  It's not like you can just change PI to be equal to 3.14158.  My god people.

14:29 - Gopher defense has been good, forcing Illinois into tough shots, other than the two dunks that is, and doing a good job on the boards.  Gophers just not converting opportunities except for just now with Coleman on a dunk in transition.  More transition please.

13:25 - Rodney for 3?  I guess if they aren't going to challenge it he's going to have to prove he can hit it.  Big shot as far as rest of the game implications go.

12:12 - Dre hits a three to answer a Richardson three.  Richardson's came early in the shot clock with a hand in his face, Dre's came mid-shot clock and was wide open.  Gophers are going to win this game, you guys.

11:29 - Complete second unit in for the Gophers.  Great.  And Elliason travels 35 feet from the bucket.  I know why he does this, so he can play the good players the entire second half, but I still don't like it.  Gophers down 13-11 right now, let's hope it stays close to that number while these clowns run down the shot clock again and again.

10:18 - Gopher turnover, Illinois three, Gopher turnover.

9:52 - Welch guarding Paul.  God save us all.

9:32 - Offensive foul on Elliason.  That's three straight turnovers by him.  Effing brilliant.

9:00 - Is there anything more terrifying than Maverick in transition?  For Gopher fans, I mean.

7:56 - TV timeout coming with Illinois up 16-15.  Good job by the second unit.  And by good job, I mean good job on defense (for real) with absolutely brutal offense until Mbakwe came in for Elliason, with Trevor scoring all four points.

7:42 - Wow.  Mbakwe with the drive from the top of the key, makes a lefty layup and is fouled.  That was an NBA second round draft pick play right there.  Free throw to tie?  Good.

6:45 - Coleman goes for a monster dunk and gets fouled but it's not called, good job attacking the rim though.  Pretty sure Dan just pulls up for a 16 footer there.

5:47 - Great defensive rotations forcing the Illini into bad shots, leading to transition opportunities leading to back-to-back dunks by Coleman and Mbakwe.  Gophers up four.

4:53 - More bad shots, more transition opportunities, more Gopher dunks.

4:17 - Good one-on-one move by Bertand to hit a jumper, answered by a three-pointer by Austin Hollins off a good pass by Andre in transition.

3:57 - D.J. Richardson has got to be one of the more disappointing big 10 players I can remember.  Tons of fan fare and hype and in four years he's become nothing more than a jump shooter.  Of course, it's tough when you have to play for the worst couch in the world.

2:08 - Illinois getting (and hitting) a shit ton of free throws, keeping this close at 31-27 Gophers.  Illinois just terrible from three right now, but a lot of it is the Gopher defense.  In general the Illini aren't missing open shots, but contested ones.

1:25 - Hollins (Austin) for three, followed by an Illini miss, followed by Andre Ingram throwing a pass into the 8th row.  I really think Andre Ingram is very promising for a sophomore.

0:47 - Paul actually gets an open look and drains it.  Then Ingram travels.  We're going to have to go Iron Five.

0:00 - 34-30 Gophers at the half.  Excellent job.  Gopher defense is playing awesome, and as long as they keep that up and keep getting transition opportunities they're going to win this game.

0:00 - Holy crap the Lakers are a mess.  Spurs up 101-85 with seven minutes left.

19:13 - Illinois still taking dumb shots as Paul goes for the contested running floater (and misses).

18:33 - Paul swatted by Rodney on a contested turnaround jumper, which leads to a wide open three for Austin Hollins (who misses) which leads to an offensive rebound which leads to a lay-up (and foul) for Mbakwe.  Free throw good.  That sequence was a microcosm of this game.

17:53 - Richardson step back 18 footer early in the shot clock.  So dumb.

16:54 - Gopher ball up 39-30.  Looking for a dagger.  Looking at you, Austin.

16:17 - How about a 40 footer with teh shot clock at two that banks in for Dre who I'm not even sure looked at the hoop?  How about that?

14:52 - Illinois with a couple buckets in the paint to cut it to 44-36 Gophers.  I hope they haven't figured out this "get good shots" thing.

14:11 - Another lay-up for Illinois, time-out Gophers.  Gotta keep 'em out of the paint and keep making them take those contested jumpers they love so much.

12:33 - Illini cut it to 2 with like their fourth straight basket in the paint.  I liked it better when they were stupid.  Also Mo Walker in the game is killing everything. 

11:54 - Austin Hollins steal leads to a dunk for Coleman, and then a Dre Hollins steal leads to an intentional foul by Illinois.  Also, I'm having a heart attack.

11:54 - I think I'm supposed to try to be funny but I'm just way too into the game.  If you want to laugh just listen to Nickelback or Coldplay or something.

11:41 - Dre hits both free throws and then nails a three.  Thank god for Dre.  Like Eminem said, you can't forget about Dre.  *streetcred*

11:09 - Shit, Paul into the lane, fouled and hits the shot.  STOP PLAYING SMART ILLINOIS.

10:50 - "Ahanmisi getting ready to check-in."  Cry.

10:28 - Another Illinois lay-up, defense has gone to shit. 

9:38 - Coleman for three?  Great play by Rodney to find him.  And again Illinois gets to the lane and draws a foul.  This needs to stop.

9:12 - Time for Welch to shine here with four fouls on Andre Hollins already.  I'm fine with him on offense, but very scared on defense.

8:38 - Gophers switch to a zone leading to an absolutely terrible three point miss by Paul, leading to a dunk by Rodney and a 58-47 Gopher lead.  I love dumb teams.

7:09 - Paul into the lane and misses when he could have kicked it out to a teammate for an open three, leads to a transition lay-up for Coleman and a 60-49 lead.  I feel like I'm typing the same thing over and over again.  Also fearing this is a pretty worthless live blog for the reader, but what do you care it's saving you from having to think about actually doing work.

6:42 - Bertand goes one-on-one for about 10 dribbles then misses a contested turnaround.  I know I keep pointing it out but I can't get over how dumb this team is. 

5:43 - Could have done without the easy dunk.  On Coleman, naturally.

5:24 - He pays it back by blowing by his defender for a lay-up.  Incredible game for Coleman.

4:45 - Coleman with ANOTHER three.  And Dre Hollins just checked in and picked up his fourth foul, which means earlier when I thought he had four he only had three which means I have no idea why he was ever taken out of the game.

3:33 - Gophers up 13 (another Coleman dunk) and I can still barely breathe.

3:04 - Sloppy turnover.  Oh yeah, that's why.

2:52 - Richardson airballs a three (contested, of course) which reminds me why I probably CAN breathe.

2:30 - I know the game isn't over yet (Gophers up 72-59) but man is this team good.  Their defense is incredible.  Watching their rotations on defense was the most impressive part of the game, and that's a game when Coleman scored 25 (as of now).  Those who didn't watch or didn't pay attention may call this a fluky bad shooting night by the Illini, but the Gophers had everything to do with that.  Then look at the offense where they have five guys who could put up 20 on any given night?  This team is for real, kids. 

1:48 - I can't believe Illinois missed another contested three-pointer, you guys.

1:16 - Brandon Paul lay-up.  Basically uncontested since the Gophers are up by 12 (after that).

0:30 - Coleman playing some serious suckhole, now up to 29 points after a couple easy dunks.

0:09 - Dre with a three as the shot clock winds down becasue why not.  84-67 Final.  Crazy, dudes.  I'll maybe have more on this game tomorrow if I don't get lazy

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Game Preview: Gophers vs. Illinois Fighting Illini

Illinois is an awfully tough team to figure out.  On one hand, they're ranked just 34th at using his advanced stats, so you'd tend to think the 14-2 start was a bit fluky and dismiss them as pretenders.  On the other hand, however, they just spanked Ohio State by almost 20 (an overrated Ohio State, but still) and already own a road win at Gonzaga by double digits and a neutral site win over Butler by nearly 20.  Those are not three wins a fluky team should have.  Their losses (to Missouri on a neutral court and @ Purdue) are both acceptable as well.  No clue what to make of these guys.

One thing is for certain, they're already better off than the last several seasons since they finally jettisoned world's worst coach Bruce Weber and, with Tracey Abrams emergence, they actually have a viable point guard for the first time since the good ole days of Chester Frazier.  Perhaps the best thing about Abrams is that he's allowed Brandon Paul to spend more time off the ball where he's more of a natural, and it's showed as Paul has blossomed into maybe the second best scorer in the league behind DeShaun Thomas.  Paul has always had a tendency to fall a bit too in love with the 3 (which seems to be Illinois' mantra this year - more on that in a minute) but can score from anywhere and excels getting to the rim.  His numbers are up across the board this year and is the best perimeter players the Gophers have faced this season.  If Austin Hollins is going to be the defensive stopper we think he is (and I think he is) this is his big test to prove it.

Paul is certainly a concern for the Gophers, but the entire Illinois team is dangerous because they've simply fallen completely in love with the three-pointer.  They shoot an absolute ton of them (43% of their FG attempts come behind the line - 15th in the country) and make a whole bunch (hitting 36% on the year).  For most of the year I figured this was totally a fluke since they were a terrible shooting team last year (just 30% from three, one of the worst marks in the nation) and it's pretty close to the same team.  It's been going on a bit too long to be a total fluke, however, so perhaps there's an alternative explanation.  Much as how a great coach can make his players better, perhaps a horrendous coach can suppress such simple skills as jump shooting.  Much like the West Canaan Coyotes truly blossomed as a team after Coach Bud Kilmer was forced out, perhaps too these Illini merely needed to cast out Bruce Weber to suddenly all become marksmen from deep.

I don't really know the reason, but suddenly all five major contributors have turned into Ray Allen.  Paul has increased a bit but you could attribute that to playing more off the ball and the "senior step up", and D.J. Richardson is actually a little bit worse, but Abrams (from 26% to 32%), Tyler Griffey (from 29% to 41%) and Joseph Bertrand (from 30% to 44%) all made the Moxon leap.  Can they keep this up?  Really, it depends on if you believe in the Varsity Blues theory, and that's also what's going to swing this game.  The Gophers defend the three pretty well, and the other team they played that shot a lot of them at a high percentage (Richmond) they held to 4-20 shooting.

And yet Richmond is not West Canaan (more like Bainville, am I right?), and Illinois is clearly better and almost everything than Richmond.  The Gophers are much better than Illinois in pretty much every way, and the Gophers are going to absolutely destroy them on the boards.  There's no reason for the Gophers to lose this game, except that Illinois' big strength is what they like to call "the great equalizer" (no, not Lincoln).  Illinois is going to shoot a lot of threes, and probably hit a lot of threes.  Can the Gophers limit that?  Can the Gophers grab 75% of their misses (they get 49.7% on the season, Illinois allows 34% - that's really bad) and just keep scoring every trip down the court?  Who wins the turnover battle?

It all comes down to what you believe.  There's the theory that the Gophers are a Final Four team.  Then there's the theory (not directly competing but you know) that Illinois is the Varsity Blues team, and they won the title.  IT ALL COMES DOWN TO WHAT YOU BELIEVE.

Minnesota 73, Illinois 68.


Monday, January 7, 2013

Gophers 69, Northestern 51

 Well I'm not sure I can call it a good win, but they did end up covering the spread and so just looking at the final margin everything looks good, even if that first half was some of the ugliest basketball I've ever seen and was so boring even Bo Ryan wanted them to speed up the game.   They managed to make adjustments in the second half and ended up winning easily - a pretty impressive feat that once again shows how good and experienced this team is.  I'll make a few other points, once again in list style like I did after the Michigan State game because it's easier and then I don't have to bother with those pesky transition sentences between paragraphs.  Those guys are jerks.

-  I was stunned Tubby wasn't running any kind of a press to try to jump start the tempo of the game, since it was obvious from the beginning (and should have been obvious before the game, based on stats) that Northwestern was going to try to limit the number of possessions in the game.  I give him a little bit of credit for at least figuring that out in the second half, even if the full court pressure was more of a token man-to-man the half-court man trap definitely got the game moving.  With the pressure upped it caused more steals and more shots from the Wildcats earlier in the shot clock, which led to more opportunities in transition where Northwestern got killed by Michigan and, sure enough, the Gophers had a significant advantage and it's basically what changed the game.  Once again, I'm right.

-  The Gophers' edge in athleticism also manifested itself, along with their size advantage, on the boards where Minnesota grabbed as many offensive boards as Northwestern had total, and the overall rebounding margin was 45-20 in their favor.  Northwestern just had no answer.  I will say that Alex Olah is eventually going to be really, really annoying.  He's already a beast size wise and is just a freshman, and even though he got pretty well schooled by Mbakwe in this game it'd be hard to find a freshman big man who wouldn't.  I may be overrating him a bit but it wouldn't surprise me at all if he ends up a double-double guy by the end of his career.  That's assuming he progresses in his game and gets quicker and more athletic.  If not, well, hello Luka Mirkovich v. 2.0.

-  Despite all that goodness, the turnovers are still rough.  The Gophers gave it away 15 times against a team that doesn't cause very many of them.  This needs to change, or it good be the difference between a great season and merely a very good one.

-  I think the Austin Hollins run of five three-pointers was the most fun I've had at a game all year.  The Rodney and Mbakwe dunks (and Coleman, I suppose) might be more individually exciting, but there's just something fun about a guy just being absolutely on fire from 3.  I just love watching the heat checks.  Like how Hollins' third three pointer was probably a little bit of a bad decision but who cares because he already hit two, and then his fourth was just a deep, deep three-ball he never would have taken if he hadn't hit three already.  Just fun to see.  The Gophers may not have a reliable shooter this year (sorry but no, they don't) but they have two guys who could hit eight in a game and it would phase me.  And they're both named Hollins! What are the odds?!!?!??!?

-  Speaking of Mbakwe dunks, how terrifying was that absolute monster he threw down?  This one:

I think my favorite part is how there are four Northwestern players near the lane and none of them do anything about it, especially Swopshire who just kind of chills out and watches.  Not that I can blame him, I'm actually surprised there isn't anybody actively running out of the lane, which is would I'd do.  That's one of those where if they were still using the same kind of back boards from back in the Shaq and Jerome Lane days there'd be a rain of glass and a healthy delay. 

-  Wally Ellenson certainly isn't shy.  Six shots in six minutes.  He's obviously not shy, and his amazing jumping ability means he can probably get that jumper off against almost anybody.  He looks like he's heading for an instant offense type role off the bench next season.  Assuming he makes enough shots, since the difference between instant offense and chucker is merely how many go in.

-  For Northwestern, I thought both Reggie Hearn and Jared Swopshire looked good.  Hearn had some real nice moves, although you could tell he was still hurting.  It's no surprise he's their leading scorer.  As for Swopshire, he looked really good on a few plays but then would disappear for long stretches.  He actually reminded me so much of Dan Coleman it was incredible.  Excellent tools - athletic, skilled, tall, good shooter - but for whatever reason just completely disappeared at times.  I'm convinced Northwestern has enough good role players to be at least a fringe bubble team, but nobody to pull them altogether.  Would have been interesting to see this group with Crawford. 'Tis a true shame.

-  I also can't believe they managed to find a little Shurna clone with a worse haircut.  How two different D-I caliber players can both have that same ugly jumper - but both still be good shooters - and both end up at Northwestern is uncanny.  I spent at least five minutes at the game convincing to my dad that "that guy with the funny shot" actually graduated and this was a brand new guy.  Thanks Kale (lol nice name) Abrahamson.  Looking forward to three more years of that.

-  Finally, speaking of my dad, I mentioned on Twitter that he was the Season Ticket Holder of the Game since he's had tickets since the mid-60s.   Was pretty cool overall.  We (me and Snacks got to go up with him since we're his sons) got to go to halfcourt and they made the announcement and took pictures and he got a ball autographed by Tubby that Snacks and I are already fighting over.  The only negative was that god damn Goldy.  He kept touching our heads and photo-bombing the pictures my mom was trying to take from the stands and just being a general nuisance, as mascots are known to be.  Seriously, what must be wrong in someone's head to make a grown man/woman actually want to be a mascot?  Being a cheerleader is weird enough but at least you get to grab chick's asses and hang out with them on road trips and stuff.  Being a mascot is just sociopathic.  At least Snacks got a little revenge, turning to Goldy after the pictures were done and telling him, "We're going to photoshop you right out of there."  The dumbass mascot seemed legitimately disappointed that someone didn't like him, which, again, points to sociopathic tendencies.  As usual, I'm always right.

;-  Up next is the toughest road trip of the year, and it's a good time for it.  Going to Illinois (who just crushed Ohio State) and Indiana is one hell of a test.  If the Gophers manage to win one of these you can go ahead and up your expectations of the team a bit.  Even if they lose both they still look like a Sweet 16 team, and who can complain about that other than Fat Reusse?