Holy shit you guys there is a lot to talk about Gopher hoops-wise, and so very little of it has to do with what happened on the court Friday night. I suppose I might as well start with the clear A topic: Reid Travis.
It truly sucks that Travis chose Stanford, considering I, like many, had gotten the idea that he as getting pretty close to a Gopher lock. My heart sank a bit when it became clear he was describing Stanford, and I definitely said a bad word when he confirmed it. It's hard to fault the young man, unless of course you're one of the chemically inbalanced over at Gopher Hole who wrote some pretty vile things about a 17-year old, for choosing a four year education at Stanford. That's an elite institution, and knowing the Travis family's focus on academics (he has a brother at Harvard), it was probably tough to pass up. Add in that the Stanford basketball program has been more successful over Reid's life (check the numbers over the last 20 years, sad but true) and the fact that Johnny Dawkins and staff were one of the first groups on him and have been recruiting him for four years, and it's actually kind of a no brainer. The fact that the Gophers were that close in the end is probably a positive, although it's a pretty hollow thing to say right now.
There is another set of fans who may not hold the actual commitment against him, but feel personally betrayed because of the circumstances. The feel led on by Travis going to the Gophers final exhibition game, shadowing classes at the U, and inviting the general public to his press conference (if he actually did that). They feel that doing all of that, and then not picking the home school, was a dick move. I personally disagree. First of all, pretty much every highly ranked recruit announces press conference style, and if you were Reid and saw all your friends from AAU ball doing it you'd probably want to do it too. Secondly, he says he didn't make up his mind until the night before he announced, and I have no reason to doubt him (although plenty of cretins do), so it was just an unfortunate situation, not something Reid Travis "intentionally set up because he doesn't care about other human being's feelings and is a total prick" which is something I actually read that a presumed adult wrote.
Being pissed at a 17 year old kid for not picking your favorite school, particularly when he picks a place like Stanford, is ludicrous. Say damn it, and move on. Speaking of moving on, with one more scholarship still available for 2014 the Travis decision means Richard Pitino is still going to have to work the recruiting trail. Also, by the way, anybody who blames Travis going to Stanford on Pitino is completely clueless. FACT. Anyway, here are some of the options still available for 2014:
1. SF Josh Cunningham - Top 150 type who is more athlete than basketball player, but has the traits where he could blossom in the right system, and that would include Pitino's. Gophers seemed to cool on him which led to him cooling on them or the other way around? Looking like he's pretty strongly towards Bradley, but would he re-think it if a Big Ten team got involved?
2. PF Abdoulaye Gueye - A pretty skilled, but still raw, big man. His combination of size and athleticism has certainly gotten him noticed, even if he's not shooting up rankings or anything. When Memphis is involved (they've offered) you know something is going right. Probably the #1 guy (not counting Vaughn) right now for Pitino.
3. C Anas Osama Mahmoud - His recruiting seems to be going awfully slowly right now, but now that he's moved to Florida from Egypt and stands seven feet tall you know he's going to draw interest. Louisville is involved, which is interesting not just for the father vs. son angle but also because if Louisville's looking at him it's probably worth exploring for the Gophers. I can't find much information on this guy, but from what I can tell he's really tall and really skinny, and there are a lot of respectable schools on him. Ok sounds good.
4. SG Delshon Strickland - Back court is awfully crowded at this point, but due to Strickland being from Holy Angels you never know if the team might go after a local kid to fill that last scholarship. Currently holds offers from Auburn and Miami, so he's no slouch, even if he isn't highly rated. Interested to see if he has a big senior year if the Gophers look to grab him in the Spring, assuming Vaughn is a no go.
5. C Fred Iduwe - Pure project with size and leaping ability but very raw basketball skills seeing as he pretty much just picked up a basketball yesterday. Naturally the mind drifts towards Gorgui Dieng, but Dieng was a lot more skilled than your typical African import, spent time at Huntington Prep which is a basketball factory, and was highly sought by a lot of big time programs. Iduwe would be a complete flier.
Of course, the ideal option would be for Rashad Vaughn to actually decide to become a Gopher. There's also the option to hang on to that scholarship and bank it to 2015, when Pitino has had over a year to hopefully work his magic on that class. I think I'd prefer that option over anybody other than Vaughn.
- As far as the game goes, it seemed like it was going to be a pretty bad night. First the Travis thing, then just before the game it was reported that Wally Ellenson wouldn't play due to a verbal issue with Pitino (later denied by Pitino) and Mo Walker had been suspended six games due to a violation of University policy (confirmed). It was like, what else can go wrong today? And then everyone remembered it was Lehigh and all was well as the Gophers smoked fools 81-62. Some thoughts:
* This may have been by design, but the offense seemed really scatter shot with very little structure, which I realize is kind of the point in transition but to me it seemed to carry on longer than it should have once they got into the half court. I need to pay more attention to this next game.
* The Hollins brothers are going to be everything this year. They're both just so good and so skilled. They won't be the top two scorers in every game, but they're almost certain to be the top two scorers in average by the end of the season.
* The Honey Gopher (Dre Mathieu) is going to help Dre Hollins out huge this year by allowing him to play off the ball more. Without having to always be the one setting up the offense Hollins will have chances to go down on the block or the wing and have a play actually ran for him to get a shot - something that did work well against Lehigh when they tried it. His assists may be down from last year (and it's not going to help his NBA aspirations to play anything but pure point) but he might very well end up leading the Big Ten in scoring.
* Speaking of Mathieu, he is just so fast and attack-y I can't help but love him. He has a tendency to attack when he probably shouldn't (perhaps because he just don't care?) and that will lead to some very ugly turnovers but also some easy baskets where it looks like there shouldn't be one. I like a point guard who sometimes says F it and forces the action, and while Dre H. has some of it, Drizzy has a whole lot of it.
* Double double for Elliot Eliason with 11 pts and 17 rebs, and I don't care if it was against a team without a real front court it still counts. I can now count Eliason along with the two Hollinses as the three players I don't worry about at all this season. Eliason is what he is, and while he's never going to make an all conference team or get an NBA tryout, he's going to bust his ass and be a serviceable (maybe slightly better) Big Ten center. And I'm totally happy with that.
* Joey King led the team in scoring with 20, and although he did absolutely nothing to allay my fears about him (1 freaking rebound?!!?!?), I now see where he may have a place on the team. Every team is better off when they have an instant offense type off the bench (this is what the T-Wolves are sorely lacking) and King and his love of the outside shot could provide this. If there was some way to then sub him out for somebody else to play defense that would be great.
* Not sure what to make of Malik Smith. He's shown me absolutely nothing so far, but I suspect he's a better player than that and is still trying to find his role, no longer being the alpha dog. I'm sure it'll come in time, and he'll probably end up practically single handedly winning a game with his three point shooting. Of course he'll probably shoot them out of at least one game too, but say la vee.
* Maverick will be fine as a shooter off the bench. He should never be allowed to dribble. Like Willie Mays Hayes in Major League, Mav should have to do push ups any time he puts the ball on the floor.
* Oto is a tough one. He seems to alternate between competence and pants shitting panic. He seems to still have a serious confidence problem carrying over from last season where the basket had a lid on it for him. If the coaches and his teammates can help him get over what ever that mental block is I think he can be pretty good in this offense. If they can't, he'd be worthless in even a pick-up game at the Y.
* Charles Buggs has really long arms. Also, I was wrong to be so excited about him.
- Lastly, I won't act like I'm some football diehard because I'm not, but this gopher football thing is really freaking cool. I've been going to games for my entire life, usually 2-3 a year and that's never wavered so I've paid my dues enough to enjoy the hell out of this. I mean, a legit chance at the Gator Bowl? The freaking Gator Bowl? That is amazing. And they're actually fun to watch too. I mean, they run plays and stuff and have players who can like, do things. It's really great.