Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The apothetic blogger's guide to Gopher Hockey in 2014

Welcome back to all six of you who who are still looking forward to the Gopher Hockey previews.  After a long month off, the Gopher Hockey team is still the #1 ranked team in the nation, and will begin the second half of their season this weekend at home hosting the Mariucci Classic.   The Gophers will play Colgate Friday night, and then will face either RPI, or in what most hockey fans hope happen, #2 Ferris State on Saturday.

The Gophers lead the Big Ten standings with 10 points, however they have played four Big Ten games while all of the other conference teams have only played two.  The Gophers will restart their Big Ten season next weekend with the "much anticipated"  inaugural trip to Happy Valley to play Penn State.  Which makes this series even better is the surely to be audience grabbing Sunday/Monday night schedule for these games. 

Then the Gophers get into their "gimmick" portion of the season, with the outdoor on the "frozen tundra" Hockey City Classic at TCF Bank Stadium against Ohio State, the early face-off Saturday game against OSU on Hockey Day in Minnesota, and then the following week, the North Star College Classic at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.

After that weekend, its all about getting down to business as the Gophers will end their season with six straight series against Big Ten Conference foes.  They will finish off the season with the Big Ten Tournament at the X, and barring a major collapse in the next few months, the NCAA West Regional at the X as well.  If all goes well, and they can advance, the Frozen Four is in Philly this season.

So far in this season, the two teams that appear to be actual threats to the Gophers run for a Big Ten title are Michigan and Wisconsin.  The Gophers took care of the Badgers at home after Thanksgiving, but Wisconsin is 8-0-1 at home and with a quirky Thursday/ Friday series in Madison, The Gophers will need to be on their A game.  The Gophers still have both home and away series's left against the Wolverines.  Michigan comes to Mariucci Valentine's Day Weekend, and the Gophers will end the regular season in Ann Arbor in a two game set that may determine the regular season champion.  

The story of the Gopher's season so far, and one that hopefully will continue to broaden in 2014 has been the performance of the freshman class for Minnesota. Justin Kloos leads the Big Ten freshman in scoring with 17 points, and has been an anchor on the second line along with Taylor Cammarata.  Hudson Fasching, who is gaining great attention with his outstanding performance for the US Junior National Team currently has been a surprise on the first line for Minnesota, and has played great on both the power play and penalty kill for the Gophers.  On the defensive side, both Micheal Brodinski and Jake Bischoff have proven themselves ready to play at this level, and have brought an offensive spark to the blue line. 

This weekend's games will be a bit of a challenge for the Gophers due to the fact that they will not have the services of Fasching or Brady Skeji, both of whom are playing on the US junior National Team in Malmo, Sweden currently.  Don Lucia is also the coach of the US squad who are undefeated so far with a game this morning against Canada to finish up pool play.  The US will either be the #1 or #2 seed after pool play when the knock-out rounds start on Thursday.

The lack of Skeji is what will hurt the Gophers the most, coupled with the injury to Jake Paranteau, as Minnesota will only have five active defensemen for the tournament this weekend, instead of the usual six.  The Gophers have said that they will just play with five and an extra forward this weekend rather than move a forward to defense. 

Colgate comes into the game on Friday night with a 7-9-2 record on the season.  They split a series with Ferris State to open the year, and were also swept by St. Cloud State.  The Gophers have never lost to the Raiders, with a 6-0 record all-time including a 9-0 win in their last meeting in 2001.  Their leading scorer is #21 Mike Borkowsi, a sophomore forward who has 17 points on the season.  Colgate has played three goalies this season with Freshman Charlie Finn and Senior Erik Mihalik splitting most of the time.  Finn is 4-4-1 on the season and Mihalik is 3-4-1.

The Gophers will either play RPI or Ferris State in the second game of the weekend.  RPI is 8-6-4 this season with a notable 7-2 loss to Boston College.  The Gophers have a 9-2 record all-time against the Engineers. Ju nior forward Ryan Haggerty leads the nation in goals with 18.

Ferris State is currently the #2 ranked team in the county and comes in with a 14-2-3 record.  They hold the nation's longest unbeaten streak having gone 12-0-2 in their last 14 games.  They are the seventh highest scoring team in the nation at 3.58 goals per game.  On offense they are lead by forward Garrett Thompson who has 20 points on the season.  Junior Goalie C. J. Motte is the star of the Bulldog squad who is 14-0-3 and has a 2.03 goals against average and a 93% save percentage.  The Gophers are 3-1-1 all-time against the Bulldogs including a 2-2 tie in the third place game of the Mariucci Classic on January 1, 2011.

Both games will face-off at 7:00 for the Gophers this weekend.  Friday night's game will be on FSN, and Saturday night's game will not be televised.  Plenty of tickets will be available as the students are still on break, so if you want to see #1 vs #2 in the nation, you are going to have to be there in person. I see a 5-2 win Friday night, and due to the lack of Fasching and Skeji a 3-2 loss on Saturday.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Game Preview: Gophers vs. Nebraska-Omaha

After the lengthy break and preceding another one, the Gophers will take on the Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks Friday night.  Unlike the last two worthless games, I will be previewing this one.  Not because it's a more important game or anything, but because I will be in attendance (for at least a half probably) and as such, I like to know what I'm watching.

Nebraksa-Omaha is an actual real Division I team and not some NAIA squad or something, and the Mavericks have had some success this year with a record of 8-3 including a win over Nevada (who is actually terrible this year but the name probably still means a little bit).  Their three losses were all road games and they were in each one, losing by 8 to both Iowa and Drake and by 3 to UNLV.  This tells me this team has a chance to be quite pesky.

How are they pesky?  A high pressure man-to-man defense that creates turnovers, and the ability to both get to the line often and convert when there.  They push tempo like crazy (MORE CIRCUS BALL!!!), ranking 8th in adjusted tempo this year after finishing 1st and 11th the previous two seasons, and a pace like that with pressure helps to create those turnovers (Iowa had 18, UNLV 21) needs in order to compete because they suck at rebounding.  When they do have the ball, they will look to get into the paint where they are adept at creating fouls (65th in the country) and they excel at the line shooting 76.5% this year (13th).

UNO is a pretty balanced squad overall, with all eleven players on the roster averaging at least 11.5 minutes per game with 8 of them averaging at least 6 points per game.  The three main cogs in the offense are C.J. Carter (15.1ppg/2.9rpg/3.3apg), John Karhoff (13/3.9/1.6), and Devin Patterson (12.6/3.1/4.0).  Carter and Patterson are both little guys (6-1 and 5-11) who can handle the ball and excel at getting to the rim.  Both can hit the three (41% and 35%) and Patterson is incredible when it comes to drawing fouls for a little guy, having taken 72 foul shots on the year compared to 83 field goal attemps, a ratio good for 40th best in the country.  Karhoff is a bigger guy at 6-8, but is basically a perimeter guy only without a three point shot.  He doesn't rebound well and takes a whole lot of jumpers.

With small guards and a perimeter based big man you'd think the Mavericks would be terrible at rebounding and they are.  They do have two big dopey guys who grab most of their rebounds and don't score much in Mike Rostampour (5.8rpg) and Matt Hagerbaumer (7.4prg), but they are a below average rebounding team on both sides of the ball.  Despite the Gophers size limitations they've been a good rebounding team this year, particularly offensively, and they should be able to exploit this to their advantage.

There is a tiny bit of upset potential here.  We saw against Arkansas what happens when you try to speed up a team who loves to play fast, but the Gophers are getting better at it and UNO's personnel doesn't begin to resemble Arkansas.   The Mavericks could aslo make a game of it if Carter and Patterson can get to the rim and the free throw line, but overall UNO just isn't good enough.  The Gophers zone will most likely swallow up the guards' penetration and the Mavericks will have to hit shots from the perimeter in order to make a run at a big win.  They're not a very good 3-point shooting team (34.3%, ranks 148th), but they do have a tendency to fall in love with the shot (37.1% of attempts are threes, ranks 72nd).  Unless they're white hot from beyond the arc, the Gophers should win this handily, and it should be pretty fun in a circus ball-y way.

Minnesota 90, Omaha 66

*************CHUCKER ALERT********************

I almost forgot to mention we have a chucker alert with Omaha in guard Justin Simmons. His playing time has been limited since a back injury in late November, but hopefully he'll be at full strength because he's a chucker.  He takes 31.1% of the team's shots when he's in the game, but is shooting just 28% this year thanks mainly to his awesome 4-30 on 3-pointers (and also his terrible 38% on 2s).  He also has a low assist rate at just 11%, so you know he really hates passing.  He was top 20 last season in % of shots taken too, so you know it's not a fluke (although he shot much better).  This year he has games where he's shot 0-9, 2-13, and 3-12.  I love him already.  I hope he's healthy.

The website says these are Omaha cheerleaders

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Tuesday Talkers

 I hate this time of year.  Not because of Christmas because I love Christmas because hey, no work, but because there's so little going on.  College basketball is just so slow.  There might be an interesting game or two, but in general it's pretty boring.  And next week is even worse with Christmas and stuff.  I have no idea why college kids can't play basketball over Christmas week.  I doubt they like their families anyway.  So since I have nothing else to write about and I just did a movie blog, here's just some stuff.

- Things should be a bit more entertaining when Rutgers joins the Big 10 than previously hoped.  Not because they're any good, because they're still pretty terrible at 5-7 this year (with a loss to William & Mary!) but because former Hoya Greg Whittington has committed to play for the Scarlet Knights after getting kicked off the team at Georgetown.  Whittington is a solid player who averaged 12 points and 7 rebounds per game for Georgetown last season before being ruled ineligible.  Of course I suppose it's a a question of if he ever actually arrives there considering that being ruled ineligible and then getting kicked off the team, not to mention he's dealing with ACL tear right now.  And I don't know when he'd be eligible to play or how many years he'll have left since his circumstances are a bit weird.  Hooray for information!

-  North Carolina is a fascinating team this year, and I don't just mean because they've beaten Louisville, Michigan State, and Kentucky while losing to Belmont and UAB, although that's pretty crazy in and of itself.  I mean because they're playing a completely different style than anyone else in basketball.  The average basketball team takes 32.5% of their field goal attempts from behind the 3-point arc, and scores 26% of it's total points on three-pointers.  The Tar Heels take just 15.9% of their shots from three, and that shot makes up just 10.7% of their points - both of those are dead last in the NCAA.  The team in front of them in % of attempts (Lamar) takes 19.8% of their shots from three, and the team in front of them for % of points from three (Bowling Green) gets 14.3% of their points from deep.  So North Carolina ignores the three point shot to at extent that nobody else can even touch, and it's intentional because almost every year under Roy Williams they've ranked in the 330s in those metrics (I had no idea).  It's probably a good thing since they shoot under 30% and Marcus Paige is their only halfway reliable shooter, but isn't that weird.  I think it's weird.  And I'm sharing it with you because you deserve to know weird things that are weird.

-  If you're wondering about the Gophers, and I'm sure you are since this is allegedly a Gopher blog, they take 39.6% of their shots from three (48th) and get 32.1% of their points from there (54th), shooting an above average 35.7% (vs. 33.9% national average).  These numbers are all up considerably from last season when the Gophers were ranked in the 270s, which makes sense both given the change in roster make up and Pitino's emphasis on the 3-ball.  Plus, it's way more fun.

-  Semi-Gopher related, but if Rashad Vaughn ends up at Iowa State (I said if!!) he's in for a monster year.  Hoiberg gives his guards so much freedom offensively and such little responsibility defensively that he'll end up averaging like 25 a game.  I don't know that it's the best thing for his development, but it's not like a bad defensive year will suddenly drop him out of the first round of the draft.  I really hope he's a Gopher next season, but I can see the Iowa State appeal no doubt.

-  Apparently Miramax is going to be producing a sequel to Rounders and will be turning Good Will Hunting into a television series.  These both sound like horrible ideas.  Rounders 2 could be good depending on where they take the characters, but for some reason I'm picturing a version of the Hangover with more gambling, and I suppose that could be entertaining even if it isn't necessarily "good" if you know what I mean.  The Good Will Hunting series is baffling.  I have no idea what they'd even do with it.  Hopefully someone smarter than me has that one figured out already.

- Tons of stuff going down in baseball with the winter meetings and everything, way too much to comment on in depth even for me, but I'll tackle a couple things:
  • The Twins signed Phil Hughes, Ricky Nolasco, and Mike Pelfrey and are still chasing Bronson Arroyo.  I read one comment along the lines of, "I've never seen a team retool by chasing so much mediocrity" and that may be true, but mediocrity is a huge upgrade for this team.  Twins' starters had an ERA of 5.26 last season, worst in the majors by nearly half a run (0.45 to be precise).  They were the second worst in 2012 with an ERA of 5.40, better than only the Rockies.  2011?  Fifth worst at 4.64.  From 2011-2013 Twins' starters' ERA was 5.08, worst in the majors.  So yeah, Hughes, Nolasco, Pelfrey, and Arroyo might be mediocre, but they almost can't be worse than what they've been trotting out there.  Right?  RIGHT?
  • Jason Kubel is back with the Twins, and that's cool because he was always one of my favorites and I even had a Kubel shirt which I have since gotten rid of (waa waa).   He signed a minor league contract with an invite to spring training, and it surprised me they got him so cheap.  Yes he was brutal last year, but in 2012 he hit 30 homers and OPS+ed 120.  He's become even more useless against lefties, but he should be a solid platoon player against right handed pitchers.  Considering Doumit hits lefties pretty well that could be a pretty good DH combo.  Of course there's no chance of that actually happening because Gardy.
  • Speaking of the AL Central, I am really not liking what the White Sox are doing.  Everyone has ranked them for years as having the worst farm system, so the thought was they'd be terrible for like a decade and that made me smile because fuck the White Sox, right?  Well now all of a sudden they've acquired a young promising outfielder in Avisail Garica, a young promising outfielder in Adam Eaton, a young promising third baseman in Matt Davidson, and the latest big swinging Cuban in 1B/DH guy Jose Abreu.  The pitching is still a huge question mark behind Chris Sale, but I liked it better when Kenny Williams was burning the team down by trading away all youth and trying to fix problems by throwing money at them.  I can't remember this new guys name but he's been making a lot of mostly under the radar, smart moves and I don't like it one bit.  Now, with the two new guys, Alejandro de Aza is suddenly available, and this stupid guy will probably do something smart with him.  Sucks.
  • By the way, Eaton is 5-8 and describes himself as "gritty dirt bag" kind of player.  So that should be a blast.  Hawk will probably have an orgasm on the air at some point.

-  Finally got all subscribed up with Netflix and we started watching Orange is the New Black.  Really good show.  In a world where I'm having more and more trouble finding new good shows and even some of my old favorites seem to be heading off the rails, it was refreshing to find a show that is both well made and entertaining since there are like 3 of those left.  Check it out.  It's not Breaking Bad, but what is?  Nothing.  Nothing is.  God such a good show I miss it so much.  Magnets, bitch!

-  Plus, it brings Amazonian hot Laura Prepon back in my life, which is a solid plus.

-   Semi-Gopher related, but it seems Syracuse fans have little to no interest in traveling to Houston for the Texas Bowl against the Gophers.  Instead, the fantastic Syracuse blog Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician is organizing a donation drive among readers/fans to send under privileged Houston area kids to the game for free, with a goal of getting tickets for 200 kids (plus a hotdog, soda, and a freaking Cuse shirt).  I don't know if it's the Christmas season or getting older or having my own kids or what, but I thought this was really, really cool.  Or maybe it's just the Gopher connection.  Let's go with that.

I love Jay Cutler.

-  If you don't know the story behind this, it's here.

-  I know the last thing anybody really wants to hear about is someone else's fantasy woes (Jay Cutler would weight in on this one) but indulge me for a moment.  Due to Andrew Luck falling off a cliff post Reggie Wayne injury and Alex Smith suddenly lighting the world on fire I benched Luck for Smith two weekends ago in our quarterfinal.  Ended up losing by 2 points on Brandon Marshall's last catch Monday night, and would have won easily if I had kept Luck in there.  Then I would have won easily this week, so I should be in the championship, but I'm not instead at sitting around like a loser.  Fantasy football is really stupid.  And so are you.

-  I took this quiz and got 198/200 (missed Tony Allen and Brian Scalabrine).  I feel both proud and slightly embarrassed.

-  Good news for the Gophers, Florida State absolutely crushed Charlotte tonight.  The same Charlotte squad who beat Michigan earlier this year, and, with a certainly possible good year in a weak Conference USA, could end up a top 100 RPI team.  Thus, since Florida State beats them and the Gophers beat Florida State through osmosis that helps the Gophers' RPI.  Or something.  I don't know.  I'm not that bright.

-  I was gonna right more but first I got distracted by Orange is the New Black and then I realized I really hate you.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Two-Headed Horribleness: A DWG movie blog

Coming at you live from my couch, and it's time to use this fancy netflix thing I have now to watch something completely terrible, hopefully with people dying, and write words about it.  Today I have chosen 2-Headed Shark Attack for your enjoyment, as you probably surmised from the picture right above here.  I went with this movie for four reasons:

1.  It's on Netflix
2.  It sounds really stupid
3.  Carmen Electra

Yes, Carmen Electra, one of my first loves, is in this, along with Brooke Hogan who is famous for being a daughter and Charlie O'Connell who is famous for being a brother and has also been in at least one Live Movie Blog on here before.  So let's kick back with a drink (going with Bell's Christmas Ale to start, but I'm guessing my good buddy Vodka might make an appearance by the halfway point of this garbage) and enjoy some terrible acting, horrible science, and big breasts.  I'll set the mood:

All good?  Let's go.

-  Two chicks water skiing at the same time, there's almost now way the 2-headed shark doesn't eat them simultaneously, right?

-  Right.

-  I like this because there's these three douchebag guys who were driving the boat and the sharked rammed it and we're supposed to think they're in deep water but while they're "treading" water I can actually see the ocean floor.

-  Carmen.  Electra.  My god.  Still just stunning.  I can't even think right now.

-  Ok so here's some boat that appears to be some kind of school on a boat deal and Charlie O'Connell's the teacher, so that's the second biggest stretch of the movie so far.  The biggest is Brooke Hogan playing the "hot chick."  So far every character is a perfect stereotype - we have nerdy guy, nerdy chick, hot chick, mean jock, pothead guy, and bitchy chick.  I don't like any of them. 

-  Apparently this movie needed two writers, one for the story and one for the screenplay.  I feel like this is somehow the most absurd thing about this movie, and there's a two-headed shark involved. 

- Oh god more Carmen.  Is it hot in here?  It feels really hot in here.

-  The black girl talks really black.  You know what I mean.  Super good writing so far.  The characters really come to life. 

-  The school boat just ran over a dead megamouth shark, and nerdy guy rips off about 10 facts about the megamouth and you're not going to believe this, but they're all dead on balls accurate.  So some completely retarded movie about a 2-headed shark is the first syfy movie ever to actually research and put something factually accurate in the movie.  I did not see that coming.

-  So here's what happened:  the megamouth ended up going through the school ship's propellers injured the boat and made it start taking on water, while at the same time the massive amount of blood in the water attracted the totally realistic looking 2-headed shark to the boat.  So the school boat will have to land at this super small island that's probably going to be deserted or something while some blonde chick repairs the hull.  Not a euphemism.

-  So since I switched jobs about a year and a half ago you may have noticed a lack of updates regarding fancy dinners, and that's because we never have fancy dinners at this job.  But last week we did, and so you should know that we went with calamari, mozzarella stuffed meatballs, a couple of flatbreads, spicy shrimp, and brussels sprouts for appetizers, followed up by a caesar salad and then for my entree I had pesto sea bass with roasted asparagus with a thai chili beurre blanc.  Pretty good.  Toffee and Grand Marnier truffles for dessert.  I much prefer my current job to any other I've had, but man do I miss those kind of dinners.

-  The good news is there are about 20 "college students" on this island now and many of them are female and in bikinis.  The bad news is that everyone in this thing is either a terrible overactor or just a plain terrible actor, and we need more Carmen Electra.

-  Guess what's attracted to the sound/smell/sight of a welding torch underwater?  Yep, a 2-headed shark which roars, of course.  Sorry blonde girl, although I do like how the two heads fought over the meal and ended up tearing her in half.  If the computer effects were done by something more powerful than an etch-a-sketch that would have been really cool.  But hey, Carmen is not sunbathing in a tiny bikini.  Previously she was dancing in the sun in a tank top.  I enjoy how nobody is pretending she is anything she isn't in this movie.  It's kind of beautiful.

-  I feel bad for Brooke Hogan here and not just because of her dad.  She's clearly supposed to be the main star here but she's completely overshadowed by Carmen and really everybody else.  We know Brooke is supposed to be the star because she just told a story about almost getting attacked by a shark or something and how she hasn't been in the water since she was twelve.  So she signed up for semester at sea to get over her fear of the water because that's something people in movies do that people in real life would never ever do.

-  Uh oh, a guy and two girls snuck off and are about to go "swimming."  This never ends well.

-  Boobs?  We have boobs?  Whoa.  Since this was originally on SyFy I wasn't ready for this but I guess the netflix and DVD versions are different, because there are lots of minutes of boobs.  But here comes growly mcfunhater shark to blow things up, and right as we have two chicks making out.  Also, they're in water that's only up to their waists (to better expose the boobs, of course) but the huge shark (with 2-heads) somehow managed to kill both the girls and do so in such a way that it bit their legs and they started coughing up blood.  This is horrible.

-  I think there was an earthquake or something.  Not really sure but there was a loud noise and then everybody started yelling and pretending the ground was shaking.  Chuck O'Connell fell on a dock and now he has some blood on his leg and can't walk or something.  I suspect this is supposed to be a serious injury but it pretty much looked like he fell down and got a scrape.  And there's another earthquake or whatever and bitchy girl started crying so Brooke Hogan slapped her.  Everyone is mad at Brooke now but I think slapping a woman when she's crying or talking is something that should really start catching on.

-  Ha Ha Carmen Electra is playing a doctor.  Awesome.  Also Mr. O'Connell hasn't stopped whining about his leg.  Brooke Hogan needs to slap that bitch.

-  Two more students we were never introduced got eaten, but this time people saw it so now they know there's a shark.   A shark that kills indiscriminantly in as little as 3 feet of water besides being totally huge and also every time it attacks they show it coming up from deep water.  And also roars.

-  The students found some old fishing boats which apparently Brooke can fix and so now they have two working boats.  To be eaten.  Keep in mind these students have no idea anything is wrong other than their big school boat needs repairs, so there's no reason for them to steal these fishing boats other than to go joy riding, which is exactly what they're doing.  Kids today, no respect. 

-  Omg the island is sinking because the shark keeps ramming the island.  Go ahead and let that one sink in while I grab another beer. 

- And now we have looped footage of Carmen Electra yelling "get out of the god damn water."  Looped footage.  I have watched an awful lot of crap but this is the worst of the bunch, and it has Carmen Electra so you know it must be extra bad. 

-  Oh man that guy just got his arm ripped right off.  Just like Aaron Rodgers.  By the way, fantasty football is totally gay and if you play it you're stupid too.  I hate it and I'm quitting forever next year.

-  So I guess this is just some shark born with two heads.  And because it has two heads apparently boat motors really bug it because it has "hyper sensitive electromagnetic responders", which really goes along way towards why it keeps attacking swimmers.

-  "We're in shallow water now, the shark can't get to us."  OH BULLSHIT!  Haven't you been watching this movie Brooke?

-  This is so bad there isn't even much to say.  The atoll is sinking because the shark is ramming it, teh big boat doesn't work, and they can't use the little boats because the 2-headed shark has twice the "electromagnetic resonance" as a normal shark.  And yet it's all super boring. 

-  The plan is too create a super strong magnetic field to distract the shark using an electric generator and some metal polls.  It took two writers to come up with this. 

-  So how about Jason Kubel coming back to the Twins?  That's pretty cool.  Not cool?  I got ride of my Kubel shirt. 

-  The shark rammed charge generator and then ate a couple of characters we don't care about (while roaring).  Now there is nothing to distract the shark from Brooke Hogan who is the one who is welding the ship back together even though she's scared of the water. This seems more like a scooby doo episode than a movie.

-  I guess she fixed it because the mean jock guy is driving away now, which means he's leaving all the other students behind because they've already established he's a jerk who is only worried about himself.  Also earlier they said it would take at least a day to fix the hull but that was clearly about 15 minutes.  Shocking there would be continuity problems with a movie that also spent the majority of the time establishing that this mean guy was mean.  And now dead because the shark killed the school boat.  Because of all the electromagnitvity, you see.

-  Now that the atoll (fancy word for island) is about to sink the new plan is to climb the trees.  Seriously this is when SyFy clearly threw in the towel and just stopped trying altogether.  I would rather spend the entire weekend in Iowa than watch this again.  And I don't mean Ames which is pretty awesome or that Casino just over the border, I mean the bad parts of Iowa.  Most of it.  You know, the parts that literally smell like shit.

-  Carmen and O'Connell just got hit by a tidal wave (no idea where that came from) and the shark at the same time but it's ok because they realized they were about to die and started making out.  Lucky dude.  Hope he grabbed a feel.

-  Now alternating between shots of completely fake super tidal wavy water and the students screaming while in totally calm water.  Par for the course.  They locked themselves in a flooded shed but the shark is still knocking on the door like the big bad wolf and shit because that's how sharks totally act god this sucks I hope everybody involved went bankrupt. 

-  Roaring.  Kill me.

-  Somebody has a gun all of a sudden.  I don't know.  I need a drink.

-  Since 99% of this is computer generated so many of the scenes are clearly the director (if there is one) telling the actors, "ok, the shark is coming after you now, run towards the camera screaming" and it totally shows.

-  They're going to try to blow up a barrel of gas to kill the shark, because one of the students still alive somehow kept her beach bag with her through everything else including earthquakes and shark attacks (the 2-headed kind) and she happened to have a lighter.

-  The shark what ated everybody just got successfully fought off by Brooke Hogan with a piece of driftwood.  Then it bit the can of gasoline and blew up.  But wait!  Only one head blew up!  What a twist!!

-  The second head died when the shark bit the boat's engine, a behavior it hadn't exhibited throughout the entire movie.  This movie gave me eye cancer.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Big Ten Hoops So Far

With the Holiday tournaments and B10/ACC Challenge behind us this a nice time to take a look around the league and see what's happened so far, and what we think we know about these teams.  So let's do this, power ranking style of course because we are on the internet after all.  As usual, all stats per kenpom.com. 

1.  WISCONSIN BADGERS.  I told you dopes that as much as it pained me to say that Wisconsin would be really good this year, and it appears I may have actually underrated them.  10-0 right now with wins over top 100 kenpom teams St. Johns (67), Florida (13), Green Bay (87), Saint Louis (28), West Virginia (60), Virginia (19), and Marquette (45).  That is freaking impressive and easily the best list of anybody in the Big Ten and maybe the nation but it's a lot of work to double check that so let's just run with it.  At this point kenpom projects them to win every game the rest of the year other than @Michigan and @Iowa (they don't travel to Columbus or East Lansing), so we're looking at a possible 29-2 with a ton of good wins - a #1 seed for the Badgers?

It's the same formula they use every year - super slow pace of play, good defense, good rebounding, and efficient shooting.  Frank Kaminsky is the newest big dumb slow fat white guy who has suddenly blossomed into a star under Bo Ryan and Sam Dekker has been as good as advertised.  The one problem they might have is they aren't very deep with the five starters all playing 28+ minutes and no bench guys playing more than 15, and their big time reliance offensively on the three pointer.  I suppose that's been their MO, so no need to worry too much.  This is a really good Badger team and it sucks.

Shout out to #1 Badger fan Matty Wisconsin.  Big fan, Yao Ming jersey wearer, and fastest beer chugger I've ever seen.  And he's on twitter!  @strykerpks.  Check it.  He follows @spaghettios and is a big fan of the Beer Stars.

2.  OHIO STATE BUCKEYES.  At 7-0 with two good wins (Maryland, Marquette) and two decent wins (Ohio, Wyoming) the Buckeyes haven't been seriously challenged (all wins by 10+) and they're doing it, no surprise, with their defense.  OSU ranks #1 in total defensive efficiency, #3 in opponents effective field goal %, and #10 in turning their opponent over.  Basically they will force turnovers all the time and when they don't it's really hard to make a shot against them.

Of course everyone expected Ohio State to be elite defensively, but the big question was how the Buckeyes would fare on offense with the loss of DeShaun Thomas.  Everyone wondered who would step up, and although nobody has really stepped into his place is hasn't mattered because everybody has upped their game just a bit and they're doing it by committee - six players average between 9.0 and 11.4 points per game.  It's weird to look at their stats because they only play nine guys - like, literally nine guys as only one other guy has played at all and only two games - and they all play 13+ minutes and all contribute. 

I thought Ohio State would struggle this year on the offensive end and that would knock them down a peg, but they're doing just fine as a collective group.  There may end up being some rebounding issues that could do them in, and they haven't played a truly great team (and won't until January) so there are still plenty of questions, but I'm impressed so far.  Great coaching job by Thad Matta, and I probably should have seen that coming.

3.  MICHIGAN STATE SPARTANS.  I still think Sparty will probably end up the best team in this conference, but horrendous effort against North Carolina, particularly at home.  When was the last time Michigan State was out rebounded that badly (49-38)?  It helped that they shot so poorly, of course, and that's another good point because shooting just 40% from 2 is so bad you almost have to try to do that poorly, which would actually explain a lot about that game.

Obviously a loss to North Carolina doesn't wipe out all the good that the early win over Kentucky did, but they've struggled to pull away from teams all year and it's the kind of thing that could bite them in the ass come March.  Letting Oklahoma, Columbia, and Portland hang around is really not great considering those are the exact type of teams that Michigan State is likely to face in the first round of the tournament.  Of course, it's Tom Izzo here, so the team is likely to get better as the season goes on and I can't imagine an Izzo team ever getting bounced in the first round unless it's already happened and I don't remember and if it has don't remind me - I want to remember Izzo as I remember him, not all mixed up with facts and stuff.  That's for nerds.

4.  IOWA HAWKEYES.  They were everybody's sleeper for this year, and they've more than lived up to that billing.  Wins over Drake (#98), Xavier (#65), Notre Dame (#74), and an absolute stomping of UTEP (#90) make up a pretty good resume this early in the season, but Iowa's most impressive outing may have been their overtime loss to Villanova (#5).  The Hawkeyes had a double digit lead well into the second half before Nova got white hot to go up 7 with four minute left before Iowa clawed back to tie it up.

Roy Marble looks like he's going to be one of the top players in the conference this year, Aaron White has suddenly morphed into a complete player, and transfer Jarrod Uthoff is way, way better than I ever expected.  Those three have plenty of room to operate too, because the team's two point guards (Anthony Clemmons and Mike Gesell) both hate shooting and they don't really have a center.  Well they have three, but they're all pretty horrible and are basically the poster children for not developing past your freshman year (seriously they may as well have been coached by Tubby).  The Hawkeyes still don't shoot the ball very accurately, but they've done everything else so well this year that it's covered up that issue.  Interested to see what happens down the road.

5.  MICHIGAN WOLVERINES.  This is probably the hardest team to evaluate.  They have three losses, but all are explainable (the neutral court loss to Charlotte is a little head scratching, but it's not like they're a bad team).  Because of those losses (the other two were @Duke and @Iowa State) the only good win they have is against Florida State in overtime, and the rest are against scrubs.  Granted, they've taken care of business against said scrubs and their advanced metrics look good (ranked #27 overall), but there's nothing truly impressive at all in the results, so I mostly have them at #5 based on the belief that they'll come around.

I expect they will mainly because they haven't struggled the way I expected after losing Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway, in that they're taking care of the ball just fine (14th best in TO%).  They're still missing out on that driving ability Burke and Hardaway had, although Nik Stauskas is doing his best to fill that role.  Right now they only have three real offensive threats, and Glen Robinson seems to be regressing and I have trouble believing Caris LeVert is for real (mainly because of that terrible name).  I expect Michigan to end up a Top 25 team, but I won't be shocked if they don't.

6.  MINNESOTA GOPHERS.  I believe I had them at seven when I did my preseason rankings, so this says I'm impressed enough to move them up a spot, which I suppose is a good thing.  I still have one jillion questions about this team, and unfortunately none of them are going to be answered until conference play starts in January because the next three opponents are pretty much worthless as a measuring tool.  The rebounding and interior defense will likely continue to be an issue, but Drizzy Matheiu is better than I could have hoped and the guards are going to keep them in a bunch of games and maybe even manage to sneak out and upset or two.  I still don't think this is quite an NCAA Tournament team, but it's getting closer.  That win over Florida State impressed me.  Looking forward to Big Ten play.

7.  INDIANA HOOSIERS.  I get this impression that people think Indiana is good and guess what?  They really aren't.  What have they done besides show everyone how big a chucker supposed "point guard" Yogi Ferrell really is?  Ok, sure they played a great game against UCONN that went down to the wire.  Ok, I'll give you that one.  But then they got crushed by Syracuse and they have nothing else on the resume.  The win against Washington sounds good, but the Huskies are absolutely terrible.  The win over Stony Brook is probably their best win.  I actually think the Hoosiers are less likely to bomb out than Michigan, but there are plenty of questions here.

Basically with so many players suddenly thrust into new roles with everything they lost last year the team is struggling with who fits where and how to play together.  Thus they're turning the ball over at an alarming rate (21.5% of possessions, ranks 310th) and just not sharing the ball well (328th in assists per field goal).  It probably does help when your point guard shoots all the time, but he's also their most efficient player so what do you do? They're very talented and very deep, so a great coach like Tom Crean I'm sure will eventually get this all straightened out.

Ha ha just kidding Crean sucks and is a terrible person and I hope he burns the program to the ground.

8.  ILLINOIS FIGHTING ILLINI.  Illinois has a nice shiny 8-1 record, but it's a completely empty 8-1 record.  There isn't a single good win on that resume.  A win over UNLV sounds good, until you realize that UNLV is a shitbox this year, and Valpo is the only other win they have that's even close to going to matter at the end of the year.  They had a good chance at a quality win on the road against a somewhat frisky Georgia Tech team, but they let the Yellow Jackets finish the game on a 19-4 run so Illinois lost by three.

Despite a new coach and a whole new group of players they're still doing the traditional Illinois thing where they like to sit around and shoot jump shots.  And, also a tradition at Illinois, they're not very good at having those jump shots go in.  Luckily, thus far, they've been extremely good at rebounding their own misses, something that is unlikely to continue once we get into Big Ten play.  They don't create turnovers at all, either, which means their only means of getting extra possessions is by those offensive boards, and, like I said earlier if you were paying attention, I doubt that keeps up against Big Ten teams. 

9.  PENN STATE NITTANY LIONS.  I don't know what it is about my attraction to Penn State but I can't stop being infatuated.  I'm like Freddie Prinze looking at Jessica Biel.  No wait that one made sense.  More like I'm some handsome devil like Ryan Gosling and I ended up falling in love with that lumpy chick from Girls.  Penn State has all kinds of flaws and I shouldn't be attracted to their fat ass and busted teeth, but there are enough good things here that I keep overlooking those flaws and fixating on that great personality, sense of humor, and alcoholism.

Ok that was a pretty tortuous analogy, but the point is that Penn State is probably horrible but I love them anyway.  A couple of really good guards including maybe the best one in the conference, a team that never turns the ball over and shoots well, a patchwork front court that fits together just well enough to be dangerous, and a horrible defense that ensures their games are going to entertaining.  Then they get a sharp shooting transfer from Pitt eligible in the second semester.  They haven't necessarily done anything impressive, but they do have wins over St. John's and LaSalle.  I dunno, I'm rooting for them.  WHAT'S WRONG WITH ME!??!?!

10. NEBRASKA CORNHUSKERS.  Nebraska has actually been a pleasant surprise this year.  Pleasant as in I, and many others, expected them to be completely horrible, while instead they've been somewhat competent. Wins over Miami and Georgia aren't great, but they're solid enough, and they've been competitive against good teams like Creighton, UAB, and UMass.  The advanced metrics aren't great as they're the only Big 10 team outside the top 100 in both offensive and defensive efficiency (a near loss to Northern Illinois and they're 305 ranking doesn't help things), but they are looking better than they have the last couple of years.

Tai Webster, the much heralded freshman point guard from New Zealand, hasn't worked out as well as hoped yet as he struggles with his shot and turns the ball over far too frequently, but those are problems most freshman point guards deal with so there's no reason to panic.  The Huskers have gotten solid play from their transfers, with Terran Petteway (Texas Tech), Deverell Biggs (Juco, reshirted last year), and Walter Pitchford (Florida) all in the team's top four in scoring and rebounding.  Perhaps Nebraska is taking a page out of Iowa State's and becoming transfer U.  No just kidding. 

11.  PURDUE BOILERMAKERS.  Purdue beat Boston College 88-67 in the Big 10/ACC Challenge, and I feel confident in saying that's the first good thing they've done all year.  Really.  Despite being 8-2, before beating BC and following that up by beating Eastern Michigan this weekend, the Boilers wins were all over teams outside the Top 208 with four of those wins by less than double figures.  One loss was fine (to Oklahoma State) but the other was pretty wretched (to Washington State).

What's gone wrong?  They're just thoroughly mediocre as Matt Painter has been unable to bring in top tier talent lately.  Nine of the twelve Big 10 teams could be consider elite offensively or defensively, but Purdue (along with Northwestern and Nebraska) is just blah.  The Boilers are playing at a lightning quick pace, their fastest ever under Painter, perhaps due to their overall lack of size, but it's not translating to easy baskets, and they're giving up way too many easy ones on the other end.  Purdue is going to miss the NCAA Tournament for the second straight year.  They're really bad.

12.  NORTHWESTERN WILDCATS.  I cannot think of a single good thing to say about Northwestern this year other than that they probably have a really good combined IQ.  They've basically been crushed by every single decent team they've played so far while sneaking wins against crap teams.  This is how it's going:  Northwestern is ranked #140 overall by kenpom's advanced metrics.  The next worst team in the Big Ten is Nebraska all the way up at #92.  There isn't a worse team in the ACC.  There's just one worse in the Pac-12 and Big 12, and two worse in the Big East.  They've been one of the worst teams in major conference basketball.

They're the worst team in the conference in offensive efficiency, and the second worst in defensive efficiency.  I thought the return of Drew Crawford would mean this team would have an outside chance to rise to the level of competitive, and he's been fine, but the rest of the team has been crap.  Dave Sobolewski has been absolute garbage, Alex Olah is putting up embarrassing rebounding numbers for a seven footer, and Tre Demps is still a terrible chucker.  Chris Collins will likely find a way to make the program more competitive, and he's already got a nice recruiting class for next season coming in, but this year is the kind of year where a team with tournament aspirations needs to sweep Northwestern.  Which, as you know, means the Gophers are headed to splitsville.  Come on Pitino, break that curse that I just made up.

So that's where we stand with just a few short weeks to go until conference play.  I see three teams with a shot at a #1 seed, two others who are almost certain to get bids, and then a small group of teams who will be around the bubble.  I think the Gophers and Indiana are a step ahead of teams like Illinois and Penn State, but as usual it's going to come down to who defends home court and who can steal some games.  I'm happy to say I see the Gophers right in the mix for a bid at this point, so hopefully that keeps up.  Should be a pretty entertaining league this year with a lot of teams very close together in talent and skill level.  Avoiding losses to the bottom three teams will be key.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Big Ten Beat Down

Kyndell Harkness
Welcome to December in Minnesota!  Suck It Bucky!  Sweep, Sweep, Sweep!    The Gopher Hockey team started off the Big Ten Conference right with a two game sweep of the evil red menace, and now looks forward to its first Big Ten road series, and last two games in 2013 at Michigan State.

Friday night's game looked a lot like last Friday's game against UMD.  Once again the Gophers got off to a slow start as Joe LaBate put the Badgers up 1-0 early in the first period.  However, the Gophers struck back quickly on the power play as Mike Reilly scored his Big Ten Defenseman high sixth goal of the season to knot the game at 1.  Four minutes later Seth Ambroz scored his first goal of the season off the back of Badger sieve Landon Peterson's skate and into the net to make it 2-1 Gophers.  For Ambroz, it was just the start of a very productive weekend.

The second period went by scoreless as neither team dominated play.  Adam Wilcox made several nice saves for the Gophers in net, and Peterson returned the favor for the Badgers. In the third Connor Reilly made it two times in which he and his brother have scored in the same game this season to put the Gophers up 3-1.  After Peterson was pulled with about two minutes left in the game, Ambroz got a nice pass off the halfboards from Ben Marshall and he hammered home toe empty netter to complete the 4-1 Gopher win.

Saturday's game got off to a familiar start, as Frankie Simonelli put Wisconsin up just four minutes into the game 1-0.  The Gophers countered back immediately less than a minute later when Kyle Rau found himself all alone in front of Joel Rumpel with the puck and went top shelf to tie the game.  Unlike Friday, the Badgers had more than one goal up their sleeves however, and Nic Kerdiles scored with five minutes left to make it 2-1 Badgers into intermission. In the second the only goal was scored by Ambroz, who recieved a pretty pass from behind the net from Tom Serratore and put away his second shot attempt after Rumpel stopped the first one.

In the third period, Minnesota took their first lead of the game when Brady Skjei slid a seeing-eye wrist shot past Rumpel to make it 3-2.  Micheal Mersch countered for the Badgers halfway through the third with a redirection goal to tie it at three, and that how it stood until 26 seconds were left in the game.  Travis Boyd redirected a puck toward the front of the Badger net where Ambroz put the puck past Rumpel for his second of the game, and fourth of the weekend to put Minnesota ahead 4-3.  Wisconsin pulled Rumpel, but never got a good shot on Wilcox, and the Battle Hymn rang out through out Mariucci.

Ambroz quite deservedly was named the Big Ten First Star of the Week, after his four goal weekend.  The streak of having a Gopher player named a star every week so far this season continues on.  Unfortunately Sam Warning's point streak came to a close. Warning was kept off of the score sheet all weekend long.   The Gophers continue to be the #1 national ranked team for the seventh consecutive week.  Also, two Gophers were named to the preliminary roster for the US World Junior Team this past week.  Both Hudson Fasching and Brady Skjei were named to the team that Gopher coach Don Lucia will head in Malmo, Sweden after Christmas.  Both players and Lucia will miss the Mariucci Classic.

Big Ten Road Battle #1

Once again the hockey team will look to avenge the football team a week after its loss to a tough Michigan State squad.  It will be the first Big Ten Road games for the Gophers, and the first ever series for the Spartans.  The Gophers played Michigan State in a home series last season, and easily swept the Spartans 5-1 and 7-1.  Rau leads the Gophers with four points in four games against the Spartans in his Gopher career.  The Gophers have not been as god at Munn Arena in East Lansing lately however.  The Gophers tied MSU and lost in a two game series in a post-Thanksgiving series in 2011.  The Gophers are  4-2-4 in their last ten against MSU and are 103-43-12 all time against the Spartans. 

Michigan State is coming off an impressive sweep of Princeton last weekend.  The Spartans won 4-2 Friday and then came back Sunday and put up 8 goals in an 8-2 win.  Senior forward Greg Wolfe scored two goals in Sunday's tilt for the Spartans.  He leads the team in scoring with ten points and seven goals on the season.   Sophomore Jake Hildebrand leads MSU in goal.  He is 4-5 with a 2.5.57 goals against average.  Senior Will Yanakeff has played in three games this season for the Spartans and is 1-2.  Other players to watch for MSU will be  Senior Defenseman Jake Chelios, son of long time NHLer Chris Chelios.  Freshman forward Mackenzie MacEachern is also scoring at a decent clip, with eight points in twelve games.

The Gophers should have no problem sweeping this weekend if they play on their game.  The Spartans have some talent, but not enough o keep up with Minnesota if they are playing at their peak.  I see the Gophers winning 5-2 Friday and 4-3 Saturday.  The Friday game will face-off at 6:00 central and will be broadcast on FSN +.  Saturday will face-off at 3:00 so Michigan State fans can watch their football team get killed by Ohio State that night and will be broadcast on FSN North.  Both games will be streamed on BTN2Go.  Friday night's game will be on AM1500 on radio, and Saturday afternoon's game will be on 107.1 FM.

What they are saying on the Twitters


Food poisoning in play??

Hmm...think these seats would be more popular

Seems to be a trend....

I'm pretty sure you can easily find tickets

Yep...for the Gophers

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Gophers/FSU recap, Offense in Review, and Season Outlook

So that's what a game called under the "new rules" looks like, especially when interpreted by Ed Hightower who is literally the only referee I know by name.  52 fouls and 67 free throws later, the Gophers walk away with a very nice 10-point victory over a possibly quality ACC team.  The problem with a game like that, and particularly the second half, is it can be difficult to really judge what happened in the game or who played well, etc. because most of that half seemed to be the teams running down the court and drawing a foul, something pretty easy to do last night.  Even so, I will make a few observations from the game anyway.  For you, dear reader.  For you.

- The press works, even when it doesn't.  What I mean by that is that although I don't really remember the press directly causing many turnovers in the back court, Florida State did turn it over 17 times for the game (27% of their possessions which would rank 350th of 351 if it was as season long number).  This is what happens when you take a team out of its comfort zone.  Although FSU is an uptempo team, it looked like they weren't comfortable with the constant pressure.  I like this.

-  The Gophers took care of the basketball.  They turned it over just six times.  Ignoring everything else, that's 11 more possessions for the Gophers than FSU.  An average team scores/allows just over 1 point per possession in college ball this year, so those 11 possessions could be used to represent the winning margin.  Obviously a ton more goes into a game's final result, but if you were making a power point presentation on the importance of taking care of the ball this game would be a  good place to start.  Just hammer home that point per possession thing and ignore everything else in order to make your point.  It's pretty much what I do every day for work, only with consumer products and what not.  I have a thrilling life.

-  There were still some pretty major issues.  Florida State had the Gophers considerably outsized (holy jesus is Michael Ojo a beast - future NFL tight end) and it showed in that they were able to shoot 55% on two pointers and out rebounded the Gophers 36-29.  These issues are just going to go away, but the more practice this team gets playing that zone and gains game experience I'm hoping these issues can be mitigated a bit.  The two point defense is actually an improvement coming off the Arkansas game and even the Chaminade game (they shot 50% for the game, so I'm guessing they were over 55% until the collapse at the end) and percentage wise the rebounding was about where they've been for the year so I dunno.  Get used to it I guess.  As we saw last night it's a weakness, but not a fatal flaw.

-  It's starting to look like this is the offense we're going to get - mostly free lance with a set sprinkled in once in a while.  There's nothing wrong with that - it's pretty much what Rick Pitino does and plenty of other successful coaches.  If Pitino and co. want to spend their time on conditioning and getting the team to learn the proper rotations on the press and in the zone that's probably the best way to go about it, particularly since if all goes according to plan a whole lot of points will be scored in transition anyway.

Overall I like the philosophies that are being taught and applied.  One philosophy being grabbed on to by statistically savvy coaches is that shots at the rim and three-pointers are the best shots due to high percentage of makes, plus the extra point you get from a 3 that you don't get from that 16-footer.  Basically 2-point jumpers are the worst shot you can take, statistically speaking.  Looking at the Gophers last season, 38.5% of their shots were two point jumpers.  This season that number has fallen to 32.8%.  The Gophers are still slightly above average compared to the national number of 29.3%, but they're a lot better than last season. 

They've mainly eschewed the 2-point jumper by increasing their three-point attempts (Malik Smith probably bumps this up a couple points himself) as their attempts at the rim are actually down this year compared to last.  When you go from guys like Rodney Williams and Trevor Mbakwe, who took 21.5% and 18.8% of the team's shots last year when on the floor to guys like Elliott Eliason as your main post shooter (12.7% of shots) and Joey King and Oto Osenieks who both shoot at the rim fewer than 40% of the time.  All this is a roundabout way of saying the offense has embraced the drive or 3 mentality and I like it.

So that's where we stand going into the abyss.  Seriously the next four games are all home against the dregs of the college basketball world: New Orleans (kenpom rank #350), South Dakota State (#226), Nebraska-Omaha (#195), and Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (#326).  It's brutal.  I might even have to write a baseball post what will all the hot Hot Stove action. 

Looking back, other than the second half against Arkansas and the first half against Chaminade (well, first half plus but whatevs) it's been a pretty successful season so far.  Two decent wins and no bad losses.  Some missed opportunities, sure, as the loss to Arkansas cut out another chance at a legit win, but overall I'm pleased with where the Gophers stand.  Barring disaster they'll enter conference play at 11-2 with those two decent wins that have a chance to both be Top 100s.  The RPI stands at 80 right now, which isn't great and it'll go in the wrong direction thanks to this slate of dreck the rest of the month, but it will move back up once conference play starts, it's just up to the Gophers to decide just how high it can go.

With their current resume I'm going to say they'll need to go 10-8 to feel comfortable.  Obviously nothing is guaranteed, but let's say the home games vs. Purdue, Northwestern, Illinois, and Penn State are the only "sure" wins.  That leaves 6-8 for the rest of the games.  It's an awfully tall order, and to be honest with you I don't really think they're cut out to do it.  I think this year is an NIT/CBI/CIT type of year.  Prove me wrong kids, prove me wrong.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Hoops Preview: Gophers vs. Florida State

[ED NOTE: Thanks to @FromtheBarn on this one, but somehow I misread the stats on Florida State's turnovers.  They're actually god fucking awful, but this entire preview was written as if they took care of the ball.  The rest of this is all relevant, but that was a giant mistake.  I'm clearly not paying attention anymore.  This may be my last post ever.]

It's been long enough since the Maui Invitational ended that I'm able to kind of move on and pretend it didn't happen, and that's probably for the best for all involved because I think we saw the Gophers at both their best and their worst, and the team's true ability lies somewhere in the middle.  They couldn't have looked much worse in the second half against Arkansas or the first half against Chaminade, when preseason fears of a team with zero interior defense and major difficulties rebounding looked fully justified.  On the flip side, they hung tough with a team in Syracuse who should end up as a National Title contend and who had the size and length where I though they'd just toy with the Gophers, to the point where they may have been a bad Malik Smith pass away from making things very, very interesting at the end.  I was encouraged by the game against Syracuse, crushed by the loss to Arkansas and the first half against Chaminade, and back to normal after they blew Chaminade away to close out.  Basically I'm exactly where I was pre-tournament, seeing as how the team played completely differently in the two games against D-I opponents.  So I'm moving on.

It sucks that the Gophers weren't able to get a quality win in Maui since that was probably their best chance this year, but luckily Florida State has been a pleasant surprise and will offer that opportunity at the barn Tuesday night (man I wish they had gotten Andrew Wiggins).  Although the Seminoles were picked to finish in the bottom third of the ACC by most, they've gotten off to a nice 5-2 start with a win over VCU, and their two losses were in overtime to Michigan and on the road at Florida - both quality opponents.  They've played well enough over all to rank 34th by Ken Pomeroy's metrics.  The Gophers rank 45th, but kenpom still projects a 4 point Gopher victory in this one.  I'm less optimistic.

The loss versus Arkansas (and to a lesser extent the game against Chaminade) exposed four major opponent skills the Gophers are likely to struggle againt (none of these were a surprise):  teams that can handle the press, teams with size, teams that score inside, and teams who rebound well on the offensive glass.  Florida State is all of this..

As for size, they're one of the biggest teams in the country, with an average height of 78.9 inches, which is huge and ranks them as the third biggest team in the country.  They crash the boards well, rebounding 36% of their own misses, ranking 80th in the nation.  They only turn the ball over 22% of the time (good for 36th), they don't shoot the three much (just 22% of FGA are from three, 342nd in the country) and they don't need to because they're very efficient inside the arch (54%, ranks 49th).  Simply put, these guys are a nightmare match-up for the Gophers offensively and their strength is actual defense.  Ouch

Leonard Hamilton traditionally has his guys play a stifling man-to-man, and the Seminoles finished in the top 13 in defensive efficiency every year from 2009-2012 before falling off due to poor /inexperienced personnel.  Well everything is back and good to go, and you can expect the guards to apply heavy pressure and try to funnel everything into the lane where FSU has a bunch of big time shot blockers, leaving the choices either try to take it at one of the trees or try to shoot what will likely be a contested jumper over a pretty tall dude.  Ball movement and kicking it out after penetration will be the biggest keys for the Gophers this game (along with offensive rebounding, one of the few defensive weaknesses for the Seminoles).  If the Gophers run the same crap offense they ran for most of the Chaminade game which consisted just of one-on-one isolations and pick and rolls on the ball, this is going to be a horrible, horrible game.  Here's hoping we see more of the motion and off-the-ball picks Pitino had going earlier this season.

As far as they go individually there isn't really a big star as they share the overall offensive load quite well without a single player taking more than 23% of the shots when on the court.  They have four double digit per game scorers and another at 9.9 per.  Seven players average 2.9 rebounds per game or more, and four players are at 2.3 assists or better.  Like I said before , they move and share the ball well and don't turn it over, work to get a good shot usually inside the 3-point line, and then crash the boards hard when the shot goes up.  With two seven footers (and it could be three for this game) and three other guys bigger than 6-7 it's worth repeating - this is a large team.

The team's leading scorer is 6-3 combo guard Ian Miller who averages 15.1 ppg and also leads the team in assists at 3.6 per.  Although I mentioned the Noles don't launch many threes, Miller is the rare exception (54% of attempts are threes) although having him launch threes isn't the worst thing for the Gophers - he's hitting 38% for this year but is at about 33% for his career.  If he's not launching he's probably driving and drawing a foul, which is the really deadly part of his game.  He's among the national leaders in getting to the line and makes 94% there, so he can pile on points in a hurry using that weapon.  I'm a bit nervous for Andre Hollins in this one, given that he seems to be fouling at an alarming rate.  The rest of the back court is made up of 6-1 point guard Devon Bookert (11.4ppg/2.4 apg - only other 3-point threat at 47%), 6-7 wing Montay Brandon (9.9 ppg/6.3 rpg - mainly an inside player, gets to the line a lot) and 6-5 wing Aaron Thomas (10.7 ppg/3.1 spg - can score a bunch in a hurry).  For some reason Thomas and Miller come off the bench which is weird but I suppose it's a hell of a second unit.

Up front the Noles are a mish mash of different guys who can all defend and rebound well, with the major standout 6-8 senior Okaro White (13.6 ppg/6.9 rpg).  White made a huge leap last season and has become the leader of the team.  He's yet another FSU player who gets to the line a ton and makes a high percentage (84%).  He's really tough to handle in the paint, and if the Gophers are lucky he'll have one of those games where he falls in love with his jump shot.  Fellow senior Robert Gilchrist (6-9) will likely start for FSU again, and although he's not a major offensive threat (6.6ppg) he's another good rebounder and defender with good size, because Florida State doesn't have enough of those kind of guys.

And speaking of size, center is manned by the two man rotation of 7-3 Boris Bojanovsky (likely to start) and 7-1 Michael Ojo.  Both block a ridiculous amount of shots and Ojo is an absolute terror on the boards when he's in.  Neither has much of an offensive game outside of the paint, but when you're that big you don't necessarily need one.  There's also the possibility that Florida State gets Kiel Turpin back from a knee injury for this game, and he's another seven footer who showed some flashes last season.  He's similar to the other two in that he excels at shot blocking and rebounding rather than scoring, but he's got some range on his jumper the either two don't possess.  When healthy he's the best center option for Hamilton, so hopefully he still needs to rest up.

I would normally be quite confident that the Gophers wouldn't be able to handle Florida State's size, but they did just fine against Syracuse.  So I'm not confident the Gophers lose, but I also struggle to imagine them winning against a team with this kind of size who also has good enough ball handlers to handle the press.  We saw what happened against Arkansas when the Gophers got into a track meet with a team which was both better equipped and more experienced for a helter skelter type game.  Hamilton doesn't always have his teams play uptempo, but when he has good guard play he does and that's what they've done so far this year.  Hopefully Pitino has made some necessary adjustment, and hopefully the Gophers run some decent half court offense.  I can see this getting ugly.  But I hope I'm wrong.  FSU's free throws end up making the difference:

Florida State 77, Minnesota 73

You know how hard it is to find a pic like this WITHOUT Jenn Sterger?
I predict there were a lot of bad decisions made later that night

I like her she seems smart