Monday, January 7, 2013
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?