Tuesday, January 1, 2013

The Gophers Look Legit

Wow, what a great win.  I'm going to do this list style because there's just too much.

1.  I think the best part of the game was that the Gophers were pretty clearly (to me) the better team on the court.  Other than the brief period of time when Michigan State had the lead, which coincided with a bizarre inability to get the ball inbounded under their own basket, the Gophers were clearly superior.  Even if they would have lost, and that would have royally sucked, you would at least be able to take solace in oh F it, no you wouldn't.  That would have made it worse.  But it doesn't matter, because they won, and they looked very good for most of the game.

2.  Related to that, the Gophers continued to be an amazingly efficient offensive team due to their athleticism, passing ability, and just straight up smart play.  They shot an amazingly high percentage in the game because it seemed like they were getting a lot of dunks and lay-ups, whereas Michigan State shot a high percentage because they were hitting a lot of leaners, Travis Trice (who sucks, by the way) hit way too many shots, and even Adreian Payne hit a weird 10 foot leaner which is about five times farther than his usual range.  If the Gophers can continue to play offense the way they did against the Spartans, they might even be better than I thought, and right now I think they're a Sweet 16 team with upside.

3.   That fadeaway jumper Andre Hollins hit was such a huge, huge shot and basically was the game.  And don't forget Hollins hit the big three-pointer in the first half to put the Gophers up 12 - a shot that felt like a dagger even if it actually wasn't.  He's got a real ice cold streak running through him and seems to rise up in big moments.  He may be the next in a very, very short list of Gopher players who you would actually expect to make a shot in a clutch situation.  I can't remember enough about Willie Burton big I think he was probably one, but then since him it's Bobby Jackson and Vincent Grier and that's it.   Voshon Lenard might have been the best shooter I've seen, but he was kind of a pussy and one of the last Gophers I'd want taking a big shot.

4.  All that being said about Dre, I wouldn't be at all surprised to see Austin Hollins lead this team in scoring next season. The way he's improved his game year after year, the way he's such a smart player, that he's going to be a senior, and the fact that Rodney Williams and Mbakwe are going to be gone next season combine to tell me that he's going to an absolute super stud next year.  How good next year's squad is will depend on if Elliason and Walker can somehow not suck, but that back court is going to be insane with Hollins/Hollins/Coleman.  Wow.

5.  Oto definitely had a couple impressive buckets, but for my money the bench star of the game was Julian Welch.  In the middle of the first half Tubby went with an absolutely horrendous offensive lineup (I think it was Maverick, Welch, Ingram, Elliason, and Oto), probably to rest all the good players since he knew they'd end up playing almost the entire second half.  The offense struggled, as you'd think, and had the shot clock wind down pretty far a couple of times, but Welch managed to get to the rim and hit a couple of really big buckets and that unit ended up coming out of the game with the margin exactly what it was when they came in.  Huge stretch that let the good guys get some rest, and if Welch (and Oto) don't score Tubby'd have to go back to the starters a lot quicker.  Big, key point in the game that probably gets over looked.

6.  Right now I'm convinced this is a Sweet 16 team, but a Sweet 16 team with upside.  I need to see how they play on the road before I can go higher.  If they can win at Illinois next Wednesday then things will get very interesting.  Over at kenpom.com they now project the Gophers to finish 25-6 and 13-5 in conference play (losses @Indiana, @Wisconsin, @Michigan State, @Ohio State, and vs. Indiana).  Would you take that?  I sure as hell would.  They're picking the Gophers to finish tied with Ohio State for 2nd in the conference.  That's so crazy.  I can't believe when ESPN starts with their Bubble Watch the Gophers are going to most likely find themselves in the "lock" column pretty early in the year.  I have no idea what that feels like.

7.  It doesn't get any easier from here.  Well actually yes it does because next up is Northwestern at home where the Gophers will be favored by about 15 (don't forget Drew Crawford is out for the year).  The road trips to Illinois and Indiana and home to Michigan.  Yikes.  Goal, for me, is a 2-2 record in those four.  Here's how I see it playing out:

W vs. Northwestern
W @ Illinois
L @ Indiana
L vs. Michigan
W @ Northwestern
W @ Wisconsin
W vs. Nebraska
W vs. Iowa
L @ Michigan State
W vs. Illinois
W vs. Wisconsin
L @ Iowa
L @ Ohio State
L vs. Indiana
W vs. Penn State
W @ Nebraska
W @ Purdue

So 12-6. Not bad.  Let's hope.

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