There is no shame in losing in East Lansing, god knows Tubby and the Gophers are used to it. The Spartans are coming together, are a legit top ten team, and have a well known home court advantage - anybody expecting the Gophers to actually win this game is a pretty big optimist. Since Michigan State has been going more twin towers they've become very tough to deal with, and the Gophers three point defense, which was so good earlier in the year, has deteriorated too much to double the ball as much as they did last night, and they were unable to get out to the shooters leading to a good shooting team hitting 9-18 from 3. When a team shoots that well and only turns the ball over 5 times, you've got a tough game in front of you. A few other quick points.
1. Trevor Mbakwe simply needs to get more than 5 shots (especially when two of those five came off him getting offensive putbacks). Nix is a big dude, but he can't handle Mbakwe's combination of speed, quickness, and strength. In the beginning of both halves the Gophers seemed to be making a concerted effort to get him the ball, even using cross screens with him at the high post coming through the lane and posting up on the block, where Nix would have to go under the screen and was unable to beat Mbakwe to the position. It worked and it got him the ball, and he was able to get good looks with Michigan State not doubling. There were a few times he was too tentative, almost waiting for the double when he should have just gone to work, but that wasn't reason enough to go away from it. Didn't make much sense.
2. Austin Hollins simply cannot shoot away from Williams Arena. I don't think anyone has ever considered him a great shooter, but watching all the games at home he kind of gives the impression that he's shooting the ball really well this year, but that's only the case in Minneapolis. I looked at all the games vs. non-cupcakes, and at home he's shooting 49% from the floor at 45% from 3 at home - very good numbers. But away from the Barn he's hitting just 28% overall and 26% from three - absolutely horrible. On a team with no great shooters (depending on how you want to label Andre Hollins) it would be great if he could figure out how to hit a shot on the road. With the post scoring they can get from Mbakwe and Rodney Williams and the ability Dre Hollins and Joe Coleman have to get into the lane it creates open perimeter shots, as we've seen. He's open just as often, they just go down at Williams and clang off elsewhere. I don't know if you guys know this, but the NCAA Tournament games are NOT played at Williams Arena. NIT, yes, but I prefer to continue to assume that's not an option.
3. Prior to this game, Tubby mentioned he needs to play his bench more because the starters are logging too many minutes. Although I'm not entirely certain I agree, he's the coach and that's his thought process, so whatever, but he's really got to stop going with five subs all at once. Some teams can probably pull that off in spurts, but for whatever reason the Gopher second five has zero ability to score or even get shots. Elliason can rebound, Welch can score (a little), and Maverick can penetrate (a little), but as an overall group together there's nobody who can lead the offense. Inevitably they end up with a bad shot as the shot clock winds down. In games like this you just can't go for a 3-5 minute stretch with little to no hope of scoring. You just can't. It's not that hard to come up with a substitution pattern that makes sure you have at least two starters in at any time. Or, apparently, it is.
4. Really, there's no reason to get too concerned about losing this game - it was inevitable. I see the Gophers finishing out at 5-3 (with a 3 game losing streak in there just to get everybody all riled up again), which puts them at 10-6 in the best conference with good computer numbers and a pretty good resume. They'll probably end up with five or six seed and then we'll see what happens from there. Which, to be honest, is a pretty far cry from where I thought they'd be.
So it goes.