I feel like I've said this already multiple times this season, but what else is left to say? The Gophers allowed a team that is under .500 on the season to shoot 54% for the game, turned them over just 8 times, and let them score 89 points. You're simply not going to win that way. That's another bad loss, another road loss, and another black mark against the Gophers in the "finish strong" category. I don't think it matters what happens in the Big Ten Tournament they're going to be in the NCAA Tournament, but the seed has slipped so far at this point and the team is just playing so horrendously away from Williams that I'm not sure it matters. That was some of the worst defense I can remember seeing in a long, long time. Purdue seemingly had a Johnson penetrating at all times (hee hee) and the Gophers couldn't stop any of them. Just ridiculous.
The one thing that has kept me somewhat engaged as this season spirals off into oblivion is the possibility that this isn't so much a home thing as it's an away thing. What I mean is, maybe the Gophers aren't materially changed by being at Williams, but that they can't handle an opposing team's gym and crowd and a neutral court will work for them. Remember they played pretty well at the Battle 4 Atlantis, taking down both Memphis and Stanford and not getting completely killed from the tip by Duke. That's my big hope right now, an d it's a big reason why I'd rather see them get an 11 seed than a 7 (anything higher than a 7 is out the window at this point) because then they avoid a 1 or 2 seed and the "protection" situation of playing Kansas in Kansas City or something and having it not be technically a home game since KU is in Lawrence but 90% of the crowd is Jayhawk fans.
Where do they go from here? No clue, man. It's obvious that the same problems keep resurfacing year after year, and that has to be on the coach. An athletic team built to run playing a walk-up style (no fast break points vs. Nebraska). Inability to cover the 3-pointer. Inability to execute in the half court. Complete meltdowns against the zone. Massive swings between home and away. I'm sorry but that's on Tubby Smith. I really think the game may have actually passed him by at this point. He seems unable to either get through to his team, teach his team, adapt to the team he actually has, or some combination. I doubt the meltdowns against zone defense come about because Tubby doesn't attempt to teach the players how to deal with it, but I also doubt that the team can't grasp the concepts because by all accounts at a minimum both Hollinses are heady, cerebral players. Something is lost in the translation and that falls on the coach.
I've been on the fence, mostly because I just wasn't sure what kind of coach the team could get to come in here and how long the rebuilding process would be as well as dismissing Tubby pretty much eliminates any chance you have at getting Vaughn, Jones, or Travis (in my opinion) so I just wasn't sure, but after watching that effort against Purdue I'm officially saying I would prefer they part ways. Tubby helped bring the program back to respectability, but finishing in 9th place in your 6th year with your best team and only having two NCAA appearances and zero wins says "thanks, but we're all done here" to me. I'm not screaming from the rooftops that he needs to go - at least not yet - but I would prefer that they make a move. If the Gophers end up sticking with him for one more year, and one last chance, in order to try to get one of the Big 3 for 2014 I'll be ok with that, but I'm no longer under any illusions as to what this program can be under Tubby Smith.
The real question is who would you hire? The first name on most people's list is Shaka Smart, what with all the VCU connections we have in the athletic department now and obviously that's a dream hire, but would he really leave such a program on the rise that just moved to a better conference? Brad Stevens is another one you'll hear a lot, but I can't imagine why he'd leave Butler considering they're looking like they'll be part of the new Big East next season. The third name that seems to always come up is Flip Saunders, and as intriguing as that is I don't know that I'm in favor of it. I realize that sort of thing is working fine so far at Iowa State with Hoiberg, but I think I'd rather have someone with some college coaching/recruiting experience. I'm not against it, per se, but I'm not as for it as many people seem to be.
For me, it comes down to the following:
1. Gregg Marshall. This is the guy I want. He's built both Winthrop and Wichita State into power programs in their conference (and Winthrop was his first head coaching job which is extra impressive). He's 50, which is a little older than I'd like but he's only been a head coach for 15 years so the fire in the belly should still be there, and a Big 10 school is a definite step up from Wichita.
2. Larry Eustachy. The only retread type I will accept. After the unceremonious divorce from Iowa State he's resurrected both Southern Miss and Colorado State and turned them into NCAA Tournament programs. Has been a winner everywhere he's been, and he hasn't exactly been at power house schools.
3. Jeff Capel/Anthony Grant. Credit to From the Barn for pointing this out, but both Capel and Grant are former VCU coaches who parlayed their success there into head gigs with bigger outfits, to varying success. Capel struggled at Oklahoma and is back to being an assistant at Duke. Grant is at Alabama and is hoping to lead the Crimson Tide to their second straight NCAA Tournament berth, although it's not looking likely. Both would have to look at the Gopher job as a promotion and step up in prestige, and both are young which is what I'd prefer. I'd choose Capel over Grant, but it's close.
4. Chris Mack. Currently at Xavier, which was his first head job, he's just 43 and has had a lot of success. The problem with him is he's from Cincinnati, played college ball at Xavier, and has had two different stints as an assistant at Xavier, so he might already be at his dream job.
5. Someone else. How's that for specific? What I mean is there are a ton of qualified coaches out there, and it's not my job to find them all. I can get on board with anything from somebody who has built a couple of programs already all the way down to a hot shot assistant with zero head coaching experience, as long as someone can explain it to me and sell it. Luckily, the Gophers might have the right person and the right connections in their corner to do this the right way. The one thing I know I don't want is some retread (with one exception) which is basically what they tried with Tubby and it didn't work (well, it kind of worked I guess). Think young.
Of course this is all just idle speculation because Tubby might not be going anywhere. I highly doubt they'd can him if the team manages to win an NCAA Tournament game. Even if they lose their first round Big 10 game and then get killed as a 12 seed in the NCAA Tournament I'd still say it's 50/50 whether they hold on to him for another year or not, likely to hope they snag one of the Big 3 Minnesota recruits and/or reduce the buyout. Norwood Teague and Mike Ellis know coaches - they were there when both Anthony Grant and Shaka Smart were hired. If it's time for Tubby to go, I trust they'll know it, and when it comes to replacing him, I trust them there as well.