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.