Wednesday, November 27, 2013


Marlin Levison
Happy Thanksgiving everyone.  The Gopher Hockey team is coming off of a home split against UMD at Mariucci, and is gearing up for the post-turkey holiday fest everyone has been anxiously waiting for....BIG TEN HOCKEY!!!  That's right, the Big Ten Hockey Conference will officially begin on Friday at 4:03 when Minnesota and Wisconsin face-off for the 267th time.

The Gophers got off to a slow start against UMD last Friday night as Charlie Sampair put the Bulldogs up 1-0 early in the first period.  However, the Gophers struck back quickly and fiercely as A.J. Michaelson took a eautiful pass from Taylor Cammarata and put it in the net to tie the game at one.  Two minutes later, after the Gophers controled the puck for almost a full minute in the UMD zone, Tom Serratore whipped a beautiful wrist shot past UMD goalie Aaron Crandall to give the Gophers a 2-1 lead.  Thirty-six seconds later, Cammarata hia a streaking Justin Kloos heading to the net who went top shelf over Crandall and put the Gophers up 3-1 after one period.

The second period was more Gophers as Sam Warning tried to slam a wraparound home and was stopped, but Kyle Rau was right in front to put the rebound home and put Minnesota up 4-1.  Travis Boyd ended Crandall's night early after he took a beautiful wrist shot and put the puck in the upper corner to make it 5-1.  UMD's other goalie Matt McNeely did not have any more luck as Micheal Brodzinski put home a power play goal to make it 6-1 a few minutes later.  Adam Wilcox made 36 saves as the Gophers got outshot 15-5 in eh third period, but no additional goals were cored and the game ended in a 6-1 final. 

Sunday afternoon's game did not go so well for Minnesota.  After not scoring on a 5 on 3 power play midway through the first period, UMD forward Dom Toninato beat Wilcox shorthanded to give UMD a 1-0 lead.  Unlike Friday night, the Gophers would not respond, and UMD who was 4-1 on the second game of the series this season kept the pressure on adding two more goals to make it 3-0 after one period.  The Gophers struck back in the second period as Mike Reilly scored on the power play to cut the lead to 3-1.  However, any momentum gained would not last as UMD scored their second and third powerplay goals on the afternoon to make the score 5-1 after 2 periods and send Adam Wilcox to the showers early.  Mike Shibrowski did not do any better as UMD scored thier fourth power play goal of the game to make it 6-1 before the Gophers added a late power play goal from Brodzinski to make the final 6-2.

The special teams were not kind to the Gophers this weekend as UMD went 4-7 in Sunday afternoon's finale on the powerplay, and the Gophers were 3 for 15 on the weekend.  The Gophers also gave up their first shorthanded goal of the season.  None less, one positive out of the weekend was the play of Brodzinski.  The freshman defenseman was named the Big Ten Third Star of the Week, continuing a streak of having a Gopher player named every week so far this season.  Also still going is Sam Warning's incredible point streak.  He has scored a point in every single game so far this season, and added an assit in each of this weekend's games.  The Gopers even clung to thier #1 national ranking after the past weekend.  St Cloud State picked up one more first place vote than the Gophers in the USCHO poll, however, Minnesota still had one more point in the total rankings to remain on top for at least another week.


After the football team unfortunately could not win back Paul Bunyon's Axe last weekend, it is time for the hockey team to defend Minnesota's honor this weekend as the hated Wisconsin Badgers come into town for the first two Big Ten  Conference games for either team.  In fact, by way of the early 4:00 faceoff on Friday afternoon, the Gophers and Badgers will beat Michigan and Michigan State by about two hours in being the first official Big Ten Conference game ever. The Gophers took three points from the Badgers last November at Mariucci, tying 2-2 Friday and winning 3-1 on Saturday.  In Madison last season, the Gophers beat the Badgers 3-2 on Friday, and then lost 3-2 in the Hockey City Classic at Soldier Field on Sunday.  The Gophers have a 24-15-7 record against the Badgers in the Mike Eaves era, but just 15-13-6 since 2005.  Wisconsin is also 3-2 against the Gophers when they are ranked #1 in the nation under Mike Eaves.

The Badgers come into town ranked #12 in the nation after beginning the season ranked #2.  Wisconsin had it season go off on a bad foot on a road trip to the Boston area where they were destroyed by BC 9-2 on Friday and BU 7-3 on Saturday.  Wisconsin was without goalie Joel Rumpel on that trip, and it showed.  Rumpel who had an ankle injury is back in action, but is splitting time with the other junior goalie, Landon Peterson.  Peterson was announced as starting Friday night's game against the Gophers, and it would be expected Rumpel will see the ice on Saturday. 

Last weekend, Wisconsin split a non-conference series against Miami, OH.  The Redhawks won 2-0 Friday night, and Wisconsin won 3-2 on Saturday.  The Badgers got late goals by Senior forward Micheal Mersch and  junior forward Joe LaBate.  Mersch leads the Badgers in scoring with nine points on the season  and five goals.  Nic Kerdiles, the sophomore forward who was suspended for the first portion of last season leads a group of four players with eight points that includes Tyler Barnes, Jake McCabe, and Mark Zengerle.   All five players are a threat to score, and form the core of the Badgers team.  The Badgers also have gotten some production from freshman Grant Besse, the 2013 Minnesota Mr. Hockey from Benilde St. Margaret's.

In what should be a hard-fought battle against two rivals, I see the Gophers splitting this weekend.  I see Minnesota winning the first even Big Ten Conference game on Friday 3-1, and then losing 3-2 on Saturday.   The Friday game will face-off at 4:00 and will be broadcast on ESPNU.  Saturday will face-off at 5:00 and will be broadcast on FSN North, and streamed on BTN2Go.  Both games will be on AM1500 on radio.

What they are saying on the Twitters

 #Disappointment....good way to describe Badger Hockey

I think you meant #Badgerssuck....but its ok

Cough..."Badger" Bob was a Gopher...Cough

Yes..lets hope we see more of you.....


Monday, November 25, 2013

Syracuse Recap and Arkansas Preview

Well.....damn.  I sure wasn't expecting that.  Syracuse is a top 10 team, and not just because they're ranked in the top 10 - they're legitimately one of the handful of National Title contenders.  I kind of expected the entire game to look like the first four minutes, but in reality without those first four minutes this game might have had a completely different outcome because the Gophers either outplayed or played right with Syracuse for the majority of the game.  The Orange had to play pretty much the entire 40 minutes, and that's more than I was expecting.

I wish I could get more in depth, but a combination of my uncharacteristic ability to get out of a late meeting, some technology issues, and my kids being completely batshit insane meant that I missed a lot more than I saw.  From what I saw, and that stats, a few points:

  • Rebounding was dead square even at 32-32.  I really, really did not expect that.  As much as it kills my preconceived narrative for this season, and although it's just one game, perhaps the Gophers will be ok in the paint this year.  Eliason suddenly looking like more than "a decent back-up", Joey King, whether he figured it out on his own or if Pitino beat it into his head, has figured out he needs to be in the paint not living on the perimeter and is giving off a real Dusty Rychart vibe, and Oto Osenieks is not 100% incompetent as a big.  Now they get a possibly rejuvenated Mo Walker back.  Curiouser and curiouser.
  • Turnovers.  Gross.  Malik Smith has a Maverick like handle, but who doesn't love a guy who's always looking for a heat check.  Also, only seven guys played all night for the Gophers.  I dig. 
  • Draustin Hollins is Draustin Hollins.  Even when they play a bit off, they're still the best players' on the team and will keep the Gophers in pretty much any game.  Dre Mathieu as the third wheel might be the biggest key for the team this year.  The X-Factor if you're into that kind of stupid thing.
  • Really enjoyed seeing how Pitino coached/game-planned against a legit opponent.  I really liked how the Gophers switched defenses/offenses randomly at times.  Like, when they were in a 2-3 and then all of a sudden on one possession they jumped the ball-handler as he crossed half court.  There were a few of those moments and they were awesome.  I'm not saying you can't be successful by running the same thing over and over again (see tonight's opponent and the 2-3 zone) but I like a little variety in my life.  Which is why I got married at 23 years old.   
 So, despite a a really good effort by the team, success or failure for teh Gophers in this tournament depends on their beating Arkansas tomorrow.  A loss vs. Arkansas means a  trip to the 7th place game, which will almost certainly be against Chaminade, which likely means a 1-2 record with zero wins over D-I teams.  That's no good.  What is good, is that the Gophers should be able to handle the Razorbacks.

If you watched the Gophers vs. Syracuse that's good, because Arkansas is kind of like a mish mash of those two teams.  Like if you took the Gophers and their pressing and uptempo style of play and mixed the DNA with the Syracuse DNA of having a whole bunch of long athletic players and mixed them you'd get Arkansas - but they would be the Danny DeVito version, not the Arnold Schwatzenegger one.  That makes me seem old, doesn't it?  Well that's because I am really old.  Let's just say that Arkansas is kind of like Syracuse and kind of like the Gophers but way worse than either.

I caught a little bit of the Cal/Arkansas game today, and although the Razorbacks will press like crazy and create turnovers that way (and that's how the Gophers lose this one, if they do, tons of turnovers) but when the press is broken or in the half court there defense is absolutely horrendous.  Similarly, if they can create those turnovers and get easy buckets or if they can get out in transition and create easy opportunities that way they can be dangerous, but if you can cut off their early break the half court offense is mostly one-on-one isolation plays and crashing the boards for second chances.

Really, this is a game where if the Gophers play sound fundamentally they should handle Arkansas with little issue.  Of course, you never know, but I'm encouraged and optimistic after tonight.

Minnesota 88, Arkansas 73.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Hoops Preview: Gophers vs. Syracuse

The beginning of the season, and the Richard Pitino Era, couldn't have gotten off to a much better start with the Gophers sitting at 5-0.  They've beaten up the cupcakes, survived a tough road game against a decent opponent, and proved good enough to battle a better than expected Coastal Carolina game and come out with a victory.  Now things get really interested, before getting super boring, as they head out to Maui to take on some very good opponents, starting with Syracuse.

As Pitino said in his press conference - you know what you're going to get from Boeheim and the Orange, and that's not a knock on them.  The first thing you have to worry about is that pesky 2-3 zone, and this year might be it's best iteration.  Syracuse can trot out five guys who are 6-7 or bigger to play it if they choose and they won't lose anything offensively because Michael Gbinje (transfer from Duke) can play the point.  Usually, however, they'll only have four of these guys and then another guard, either Tyler Ennis (6-4) or Trevor Cooney (also 6-4).  All this height and length means they not only can shut down a whole lot of passing lanes, but it also cuts down on the amount of the floor smaller guards (GULP!) can actually see, so one of the best ways to beat a zone, a skip pass, becomes close to impossible.  It also means if you're going to try to kill the zone with 3-point shooting, you'll need to create that much extra room in order to get a shot off.  In short, running this kind of zone with these kind of athletes with this kind of size under a coach who's been teaching it for like 60 years is pretty unfair.

What that combination has resulted in this season is a team that, well, is pretty much what you'd expect: they're creating a ton of turnovers (27% of opponent's possessions end in a turnover, 5th in the country) with a ton of steals (18%, 1st in country) and blocks (21%, 7th) and controlling the boards on both ends (8th in offensive rebounding, 21st in defensive).  Syracuse sports four players in the top 200 in steal percentage with two in the top 175 for blocked shot % (and another at 407).  This is a tough, tough defense to crack, but luckily there's one big weakness so far this year and it's one that plays into what the Gophers need to do to win this game - three point shooting.

Although there's some debate as to whether how much three point shooting is controlled by the defense given that there's very little correlation from year-to-year, especially compared to other statistics, but Syracuse's opponents have shot 37% this year, ranking the Orange D 253rd in the country, and you don't end up with that kind of ranking unless you're giving up open shots.  The Gophers have done a tremendous job of taking care of the ball this year (20th in the nation in turnover %) so if they can continue to do so and use ball penetration and quick passing (whoever plays the high post is going to be very important in this game) to get some open looks and get hot, that's going to be huge for the Gophers to pull it off.

Offensively, the Orange have actually been pretty crappy.  They're shooting the ball like hell so far and can't make free throws, but they take care of it pretty well and make up for all those misses by crashing the glass really well - not too far off what you'd expect from a young but very tall and athletic team with a freshman point guard.  With the departure of three major pieces from last year's team (Brandon Triche, Michael Carter-Williams, and James Southerland) C.J. Fair has tried to step in as the go to scorer, and although his stats are up (14.5 ppg to 18.0 ppg) his efficiency is down (more shots, lower percentage going in).  Same story with Jerami Grant, and with the freshman Ennis really struggling to shoot (29% from the floor) and their high field goal percentage inside guys (DaJuan Coleman and Rakeem Christmas) not getting/taking a lot of shots they've struggled for reliable scoring.

Syracuse was one of my top 10 teams coming into the season, and despite a struggle against St. Francis (NY) I'm not sure there's really any need to revise that.  Although I've been impressed by the Gophers so far and I'm starting to think they're better than I initially thought, going up against a team this talented and this big is too much in my opinion.  The Gophers could end up winning by getting hot and hitting a bunch of threes, and I've reached a point now where a win here actually wouldn't surprise me, but I think Syracuse is too big for a team with small guards and little to no depth in the paint.  Hopefully I'm wrong, but as long as the Gophers can go 2-1 I'll call this a very successful tournament.

Syracuse 70, Minnesota 63.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Shibby Saves + Little Brother Comes to Town

Kyndell Harkness

The Gopher hockey team and crowd got to hear the Battle Hymn for the first time this season after a sweep of Minnesota State-Mankato this past weekend, and look ahead to another former WCHA foe, UMD this weekend at Mariucci.

Friday night, the Gophers cruised to a 4-1 victory over the Mavericks.  Adam Wilcox stopped 34 shots, and got contributions from two of the Reilly brothers.  Justin Kloos started off the scoring half way through the first period when Nate Condon slipped an amazing pass through several defenders from the sideboards to the middle of the ice right onto Kloos stick who snapped the wrist shot past Mankato goalie Cole Huggins for the opening tally.  Eight minutes later, Condon again set up the goal with a pass back to Mike Reilly  who let his wrist shot fly past Huggins to make it 2-0 after one period.  Mankato became much more physical in the second period, and in doing so got called for a couple of penalties.  The Gophers made them pay when Connor Reilly ripped a one-timer off of a pass from Sam Warning to put the Gophers up 3-0.  The Reilly's became the first set of brothers to score in the same game for the Gophers since the Potulny's, current assistant coach Grant, and his brother Ryan did in in March of 2004.  In the third period, Mankato would not go away.  Adam Wilcox made several insane saves, and allowed only one goal to his former high school teammate Zach Palmquist.  Seth Ambroz would tack on an empty net goal with less than 30 seconds remaining, and Minnesota completed the 4-1 win.

Saturday night, Coach Don Lucia surprised the Gopher fan base in giving Senior goalie Mike Shibrowski a start.  Shibrowski's last start had been at Michigan Tech in October of 2012, 393 days prior. He did not disappoint stopping all 25 shots he faced getting his first career shutout in a 3-0 Gopher win.  Great play from the Gopher freshmen class continued Saturday as Grant Bischoff scored the first goal for Minnesota.  Bischoff crashed the net and fellow frosh Hudson Fasching found his with a great pass to make it 1-0.  Mankato thought they had struck back two minutes later when Bryce Gervais put the puck past Shibrowski, however upon replay it was obvious that he had used his hand to put the puck in the net, and the goal was disallowed.  The second period was an up and down affair, however both Shibrowski and Huggins stood tall and kept the puck out of the nets.  In the third period the Gophers broke through.  Justin Holl made a nice play behind the net to create a turnover and put the puck to the front of the goal. Tom Seratorre was standing right in front as the puck slid onto his stick and he popped it over Huggins' shoulder for his first goal in 17 games.  Two minutes later the Gopher's #1 line made it 3-0 when Warning from behind the net found a streaking Fasching in front who hammered home his team leading sixth goal of the season to complete the sweep.  As the Battle Hymn was being played by the band, the team mobbed Shibrowski and proved that the Gophers do have two viable goalies for the rest of the season.

For Shibrowski's game, he was named the #2 Star of the Week by the Big Ten.  A Gopher has been one of the three stars every week so far this season.  Sam Warning had three assists on the weekend and currently has 17 points to lead the Gophers.  he has tallied at least one point in every game so far this season.  He is currently leading the Big Ten and is 7th in the nation in scoring, however he has played two less games than the national leaders above him.  Fasching's 13 points on the season lead all freshmen in the Big Ten. 

Little Brother's Back in Town

This weekend former WCHA foe Minnesota-Duluth comes to tow for a two game series against the Gophers.  The #19 ranked Bulldogs are now in the NCHC where they have a 2-2 record, and an overall 5-4 record.  The Gophers and Bulldogs have played over 200 times as Minnesota has an all-time record of 132-74-16 against UMD. Minnesota is 5-2-3 in their last ten meetings, with their last loss to UMD at Mariucci coming in 2009.    Nate Condon leads all Gophers in scoring against the Bulldogs with 9 points in 8 career games. 

Last weekend UMD split a series in Grand Forks against North Dakota.  The Bulldogs are led in scoring by freshman forward Alex Iafallo.  His ten points on the season are nearly double anyone else on the squad.  In goal, UMD has used senior Aaron Crandall in seven games and sophomore Matt McNeely in three games.  McNeely has the better stats of the two with a 1.64 goals against average and a 92.3 % save percentage. UMD as a team likes to play a low scoring game, averaging only 2.8 goals per game this season.  Other Bulldogs to watch for this weekend include highly touted freshman Dom Toninato, senior forward Joe Basaraba, and sophomore forward Tony Cameranesi, brother of Gopher Women's freshman and 2013 Ms. Hockey Dani Cameransei.  

The Friday night game will face-off at 7:10 and will be broadcast on FSN+ , and on 1500 AM on radio.  The Sunday game (which was postponed due to the MN/WI football game on Saturday) will face-off at 4:00 PM and will be broadcast on FSN and 1500 AM.  Both games will be available to stream on    Coming off of last week's sweep, the Gophers will continue to play well in the non-conference portion of the season before finally beginning Big Ten play next weekend.  Gophers win 5-2 Friday and 4-3 Sunday.

What they are Saying on the Tweeters:

Didn't know Maroon and Gold were gang colors....

 Worst Bulldog Impression Ever.....

No comment

Dream bigger son....dream bigger

 I miss....umm

 tGopher Arrogance!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Hoops Preview: Gophers vs. Wofford

Fresh off a nice test against Coastal Carolina, the Gophers get what should be an easy victory on Thursday with Wofford coming to the Barn.  Simply put, the Terriers are terriable.  They're 1-2 this season with their only victory over something called the Emory & Henry College Wasps, which is a sweet team nickname but it's a Division III team.  They lost to a horrible Georgia team by 20, and were beaten by Iona by 19.  They're 283rd in offensive efficiency and 165th in defensive.  They shoot 23% from three, never get to the free throw line, and let their opponents rebound over half of their own misses.  You could say it's interesting that Wofford is the second slowest team in all of college ball, but that's not interesting it's super boring and the Gophers already proved slow teams don't really bother them by beating better slow teams already.  No, Wofford is terrible and the Gophers should win with ease.

But guess what? Karl Cochran.

Cochran is Wofford's junior guard who absolutely loves the ball the way Tom Hanks did in that movie with the volleyball.  He plays just slightly over half the game, so that's a bummer, but when he's in he takes 41% of the shots for his team, and uses 36% of the possessions (meaning 36% of the time he's on the floor the possession ends with his shot or turnover).  The former ranks 7th in the country this year, the latter 14th.  Last season he ranked 2nd and 8th.  Even his freshman year he led the team in shot %.  Simply put, this guy is a straight chucker.

Even better?  He's shooting 37% this year after hitting 36% last season.  His three point percentage this year is 21% (3-14) and he was just 31% for his career coming in.  He's also managed to forget how to make a free throw, seeing as he's 1-7 this year after being north of 70% for his career.  Despite being fourth in minutes played, with about 75% the minutes of the other three guys, he leads the team in field goal attempts.  Last season he had 20+ shot attempts in a game eight times including a game with 26 and one with 27, put up a 1-11 and a 2-16 night, and had more than double the shot attempts for the season of all his teammates except one.

I love this guy.  He wears #2.  I can't wait to watch him, and neither can you.

Minnesota 75, Wofford 48

Defensive issues aside, Gophers win 82-72 over Chanticleers

Well we might as well start with the obvious - the defense was atrocious last night.  Facing their most skilled and most athletic opponent of the season so far (and in fairness, I didn't see this coming) the press got shredded and the half court zone wasn't much better.  The Gophers did manage to cause enough havoc to win, forcing 20 turnovers by the Chanticleers, but if they weren't getting a turnover that probably meant one of Coastal Carolina's capable guards was penetrating the lane to either score or find a teammate for an open shot.  Allowing 52% shooting to a Big South team is not something that's supposed to happen, although it fits with the season long trend of allowing opponents to shoot 51% on 2-point attempts, which ranks 216th in the country.

Therein lies the problem with a pressing team, because by throwing so much of your defense into your opponent's back court it leaves holes if they get by the front line.  You can solve this with perfect technique and rotations (although only partially), great athletes who are faster than most opponents, or with great interior rim protection and ideally you'd want some combination of the three.  The current Gophers lack all of these.  I expect they'll get better with their rotations as the season goes on and they get more experience, but at this point there's not much you can do with the athletic ability on the team (they're not exactly unathletic, just not as quick as they need to be right now) and unless Mo Walker changed more than I thought they aren't magically going to get a rim protector.  This is going to lead to some ugly losses and some long nights.

But hey, a win is a win, and after getting to see Coastal Carolina last night I expect they'll likely win the Big South and could conceivably beat Clemson in a couple weeks.  The three headed guard monster is turning out to be very good for the Gophers, and although I just spent two paragraphs talking about their poor defensive showing, the 20 turnovers is very good especially because they only gave it away 10 times themselves. 

We saw some flaws, exposed more than they had been yet this year by a better team than the Gophers had seen, but even so the Gophers remain undefeated.  Hopefully they can tighten up their rotations and post broken press defense with more practice and experience, and if not Pitino doesn't strike me as the type of coach who will just stick with something because it's what he wants, even if it doesn't work with his personnel.  Or at least that's the hope.

Bring on Wofford.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Game Preview: Gophers vs. Coastal Carolina

Excellent win for our Golden Gophers over the weekend, beating Richmond 74-59 on the road.  Winning a road game against a quality opponent.  I'm not sure where exactly where Richmond will land this year - currently in the top 100 in RPI (mostly meaningless right now) and they did beat Belmont who just beat North Carolina (although the transitive property is mostly worthless outside of math).  In any case, beating a decent mid-major on the road is always a positive sign, and closing with a 19-2 run after trailing in the second half is an excellent sign for a team that wasn't known as the type of team that often battled back when the chips were down in the past.  I won't comment on individual players since the game conveniently wasn't on TV, but it's nice to see that Malik Smith hit a few threes (3-7) and the Hollins brothers are just pure studs.

Up next is Coastal Carolina, and although the ratings say they're pretty terrible (kenpom has them at 242) they've played a couple of decent teams pretty tightly this year and they do present a new type of challenge to the Gophers than they've seen so far.  The Chanticleers ( are 1-2 so far with their sole win over non D-I Guilford, but their two losses were both close games to teams with tournament aspirations (72-63 vs. Akron, 72-70 vs. Ole Miss).  It's a tough team to get a true read on right now - are they an upper tier low-major squad or just more schedule fodder - but they will present a new challenge:  defense, and big men.

So far every team the Gophers have played has the same basic profile: decent guards, zero big men with experience/skills, slow paced, and middling or worse defense.  Coastal Carolina lost both their excellent guards from last year's team, has plenty of returning size, is known for their defense, and is always looking to speed things up.  Should be interesting.  Maybe.

Not to say the Chanticleers don't have any guards, given that their top 3 scorers so far this year are perimeter players in freshman Elijah Wilson (15.0 ppg), returnee Warren Gillis (11.0 ppg), and Juco transfer Josh Cameron (9.3 ppg).  Coach Cliff Ellis usually ends up with an offense dominated by guards, and despite the new faces this year is no exception.  The three dominate the shot attempts put up by the team, although none of them shoot the ball particularly well.  None of the three have an effective fg% greater than 44%, and combined they've shot 9-35 from three this year.  Expect these three to shoot early and often, but as you could imagine when your three main shooters are not very good at shooting, Coastal Carolina's offense has been downright putrid this year (ranked #317 in offensive efficiency).

Where the Chanticleers can make things interesting is on the defensive end.  They like to play a 1-2-1-1 full court defense that creates turnovers, and it's something that works - they rank 75th in the country in creating turnovers this season after ranking 61st last year.  They have four players ranked in the top 330 in the country in steal percentage, so it'll be imperative the Gophers take care of the basketball and probably that Maverick stays off the floor altogether.  The Gophers have done well taking care of the basketball so far this season, a welcome change, but this will be their first true test against a team looking to create turnovers.

One major advantage the Gophers have had against their opponents this year is rebounding, as they've basically been crushing teams on the boards.  That may change against CC, who held their own with Akron and actually out rebounded Ole Miss, which isn't easy to do when you're throwing up a whole mess of bricks when you try to shoot.  The Chanticleers rebound hard as a group, with five guys averaging 4.7 boards per game or more, and what's more interesting to me is that there are several big guys who get limited minutes but manage to put up decent rebounding numbers.  Against a bigger team like Minnesota, these guys may get more of a chance.  6-10 El Hadji Ndienguene (7.3 rpg) and 6-5 Michael Enanga (5.3 rpg) are the main big guys, but look for 6-5 Colton Ray-St. Cyr (5prg in 18 mins), 6-7 Tristian Curtis (5.0 rpg in 13 mins), 6-8 Uros Ljeskovic (3.0 rpg in 10 mins), and 6-10 Kyle Buffkin (2.0 rpg in 9 mins) to all get some run.  Ndienguene (6.3 ppg) and Enanga (9.3 ppg) are the only real offensive threats out of the group and both shoot a very high percentage, although they don't get a chance to shoot much.  Enanga can step out and hit the three.

It's an interesting match-up and a fun one, just because this game should look significantly different than any of the others the Gophers have played.  Both teams will look to speed the game up and create turnovers, and both are capable, but the main difference is Carolina turns the ball over a ton all on their own, while the Gophers have handled themselves well this year.  I expect the difference in turnovers will more than make up for any loss of extra rebounding possessions due to the Chanticleers size, and unless those three guards suddenly get hot the Gophers should be able to handle this game without too much difficulty, and it should be fun to watch.

Minnesota 90, Coastal Carolina 68

BRING ON CIRCUS BALL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Hoops Preview: Gophers vs. Richmond

Now we learn.  Home wins over Lehigh and Montana were nice, but expected even if the final margin were bigger than I had anticipated.  Going to Richmond, a team with NCAA bid aspirations, is going to tell us a lot about this Gopher team right now.  Not just because of the step up in class of the competition, but also the whole first road test thing.  Richmond does sit at 2-0, but neither win was particularly impressive (by 2 over Delaware, by 8 over Belmont) so although the Spiders are the best team the Gophers have seen this year, Minnesota can, and should, win this game.

Richmond only loses one starter from last season's CBI team, but looks significantly different anyway.  The starter they lost was Darien Brothers, their leading scorer, and their top post threat, Derrick Williams (not that Derrick Williams) has been battling injuries most of the season and has been able to play just 15 mostly ineffective minutes per game.  The bench is thin, and, like the other Gopher opponents' main strength lies in their guards.

It starts for the Spiders with Cedrick Lindsay, who's leading the Spiders in points (17.5 per), assists (3.5), and steals (3.0).  He's not much of a three point shooter but will take it when open, but Lindsay scores most of his points creating his own shot, usually a jumper.  Richmond runs a modified Princeton offense, which means a ton of back cuts and off the ball screens, but the guards have a lot of freedom to make something happen on their own and this is what Lindsay will do.  If the Gopher guards can stick on him and not give him high percentage looks it will be tough for Richmond to get anything going.

Also starting on the perimeter for the Spiders are junior shooting guard Wayne Sparrow and likely 6-5 wing Trey Davis.  Sparrow has really stepped up his three point shooting this year with an average of five attempts per game after averaging less than 2 the last two seasons, but unfortunately for Richmond he can't really shoot hitting just 10% this year and 29% last season.  He does rebound well for his position, and overall Richmond is a pretty solid rebounding team.  Davis is good in that regard as well, leading the team with 10 per game.  He's not much of an offensive weapon but if the Gophers forget about him he could kill them on the boards.

Up front with Williams hobbling the job of big guys has fallen to 6-8 sophomore Terry Allen (no not that Terry Allen) who has responded in a big way, averaging 14 & 8 after putting up just 4 & 4 a year ago.  He's quickly developed into one of their go to guys on offense.  Next to him is Alonzo Nelson-Ododa who gives the Spiders a defensive presence.  At 6-9 he's versatile enough to lead the team in blocks with 2.0 per game (and led the team last season at 1.8) and also chips in with 1.5 steals per game.  Like Davis he's not a focal point of their offense, but can get going on the boards and does have the ability to score when necessary.

Speaking of ability to score, Richmond has a major weapon coming in off the bench in 5-8 Kendall Anthony, who is pure instant offense as a sixth man, averaging 11.5 per game this year after putting up 11.5 last season in the same role.  He's very much a chucker who never saw a shot he didn't like, but unlike most players in that mold he also takes very good care of the basketball and rarely turns it over.  He's struggled with his shot a bit this year, but if he gets going he can score a ton of points in a hurray.  He's also Richmond's only really reliable three-point shooter, so it's imperative the Gophers don't let him get going.

The way I see this game happening the biggest key is going to be the Gophers' half court defense.  Richmond doesn't turn the ball over much, so even though the press may create more turnovers than usual odds are that the Spiders will have plenty of opportunities to run their offense.  If Minnesota is able to not get lost on the plethora of back cuts they'll see and can keep the guards out of the lane it'll push Richmond outside and they'll end up shooting a lot of long 2s and three-pointers.  Given that they're not a particularly good shooting team, this is good for the Gophers.  They're also not a good rebounding team, so the Gophers should be able to control the boards.

The alternative is they get shredded by the Princeton offense (wouldn't be the first team that's happened to) and Richmond gets a ton of easy baskets.  The Gophers' offense is good enough against a so-so Princeton defense to still make it a game or even win if this happens, but it's going to be a lot easier and more fun if they can shut down the Spiders.  I'm betting it happens.

Minnesota 71, Richmond 62.

Irish Split + Purple Cow Party!

Robert Franklin, South Bend Trib
Welcome back to your weekly dose of Gopher Hockey.  The Gophers are coming off of their toughest weekend of the season so far.  The #1 Gophers went into South Bend, Indiana to take on the #3/#4 Notre Dame Fighting Irish.  After a tough Friday night where Minnesota lost their first game of the season, and frankly did not look good at all, they battled back using their outstanding freshman class to split the series with a 5-4 win Saturday night.

Friday night the Compton Family Ice Center was rocking as the Gophers had not made the trip to South Bend since 1980.  The first period was a back and forth affair, but no one could get the puck past either of the two outstanding goalies, Adam Wilcox for Minnesota and Stephen Summerhays for Notre Dame.  After Tom Serratore picked up a roughing minor early in the second period, Byran Rust made the Gophers pay as he slid a backhand past Wilcox on the power play to give the Irish a 1-0 lead.  Five minutes later Ben Marshall would even the score for the Gophers with a nifty wrist shot from the top of the left circle.  Unfortunately, that would be the lone Gopher goal of the evening.  With three minutes left in the period, Sam Herr scored on another power play for Notre Dame and gave them a 2-1 going into the third.  Notre Dame would add a third goal three minutes into the third, and an empty netter with under a minute left to cap off their 4-1 victory, and give the Gophers their first loss of the season.

It would be a mystery how the Gophers would react Saturday night after their worst played game of the season the night before, and it would be Minnesota's outstanding freshman class that carried them that evening.  The Gophers started the scoring with Taylor Cammarata would score his third goal of the season on the power play about seven minutes into the game.  The freshman onslaught continued three minutes later as Hudson Fasching went to the wrap around on a nifty play and put Minnesota up 2-0 ten minutes into the game.  Notre Dame would answer a minute and a half later to cut the Gopher lead to 2-1, but Justin Kloos would come through at the 15-minute mark to once again extend the lead to 2 goals at 3-1.  With 17 seconds left in the first period, the Gophers were victimized by an Irish player they know well.  Mario Lucia, Gopher coach Don Lucia's son scored his first of two goals on the night and make it 3-2 Gophers after one period of play.

Fasching would add his second goal of the night and fifth of the season seven minutes into the second go put the Gophers up 4-2.  However, the Irish were not going to go down that easily.  Lucia scored his second of the game to cut the lead to 4-3, and with the Gophers down two men late in the second period, Stephen Johns scored with two second left in the period to send it to intermission knotted at 4.  In a back and forth third period, the only tally was scored by another freshman, Jake Bischoff.  His second goal of the year was enough, as Wilcox held strong down the end and Minnesota hung on for a 5-4 victory.

Hudson Fasching was rewarded with the Big Ten's Third Star of the Week after his weekend against the Irish where he had two goals and an assist.  He currently leads all Big Ten Freshmen in points (11), goals (5), and =/- (+12).  A Gopher player has been named one of the three starts each week so far this season.  The Gophers also kept their #1 national ranking after the split as all of the teams on their heels also lost at least one game this weekend. 

Purple Cow Party!!!

It will feel like the old WCHA the next few weeks for the Gopher hockey team as they will host three familiar foes the next three weeks.  This weekend's series is against the Minnesota State- Mankato Mavericks.  For those wondering why this is a purple cow party, this is the Mavericks Logo:
Makes you think Mankato huh.....

The Gophers and Mavericks are of course former in-state rivals in the old WCHA.  MSU-M is still currently in the "new" WCHA, and are 2-2 in conference play and 4-4 overall this season.  The Gophers are 33-10-6 all-time against the Mavericks and have a 16-4-6 record at Mariucci Arena.  However, MSU-M has had recent success against the Gophers as the teams are 5-5 in their last ten games.  The Gophers will also see a familiar face on the Maverick bench as their coach Mike Hastings is a former Gopher assistant.  He has a 2-2 record against his former team.

The Mavericks are led in scoring so far this season by Senior Forward Johnny McInnis. His six points are the most on the squad and his three goals are tied for the team lead.  Sophomore Bryce Gervais is another player with a high-scoring potential.  he is tied for the team lead with three goals as well.   Much of the Maverick's recent success has been on the shoulders of Sophomore Goalie Stephon Williams.  Williams was one of the best goalies in the NCAA last season until he self-destructed in the first round of the NCAA tournament.  Since them he has struggled to regain his form giving up 3.4 goals per game this season, with only an 87% save percentage.  This has made Hastings have to rely a lot more on Freshman Cole Huggins, who in portions of four games this season has only allowed three goals and has a 96.4% save percentage.  It would be expected that the Gophers will most likely see both goalies this weekend. Being back home will be a recharge for this squad, so I forsee a Gopher sweep, with a 5-2 win Friday and a 4-3 win Saturday to hear the Battle Hymn!

Both games this weekend will face-off at 7:10 at Mariucci Arena.  Both games will be broadcast on Fox Sports Plus, and will be streamed via  The Friday night game will be on AM1500, and the Saturday night game will be on 107.1 due to a conflict with Gopher Basketball.  

What they are saying on the Twitters:

No don't do could be worse you could go to St. Cloud?

Yes Please!

Umm....A bit whiny if you ask me... burns so good.


 And Now for Some Dancing....




Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Gophers 84, Montana 58

Well that couldn't have gone much better.  Montana is a step up from Lehigh and will be in the running for an NCAA bid (by winning the Big Sky, not at-large) and the Gophers simply crushed them.  The press hassled Montana from the get go and helped the Gophers jump out to a big lead they'd never relinquish.  The Gophers (still questionable, imo) front court was able to destroy the Grizzlies on the glass 45-29.  Although the rebounding margin should be celebrated too excessively given that Montana is a horrendous rebounding team, for the Gophers it is definitely a step in the right direction.  The Gophers also unleashed the three, which will likely end up being a big part of their offense, and hit 11 of 25.  Much of the Gophers success this year will be determined by their ability to create turnovers with the press while limiting their own, being competitive on the glass, and being able to hit the outside shot.  I'd say this game was an A+.


Dre Hollins - simply a star.  He looks like he's taking his game to another level, and he's a rare player who can score from three, taking it to the rim, or with a mid-range jumper and can do all efficiently.  His free throw shooting will be a huge asset this year with the new rules continually putting driving guards at the line.  The addition of Mathieu makes him even better because he can play off the ball and run off of screens.

Dre Mathieu - I love watching him play.  He may get himself in a little too deep driving the ball from time-to-time, but that's just his mentality - he gets the ball and looks to drive.  His excellent vision is going to create a lot of open shots for teammates, and he's so fast he should be able to get to the line quite a bit simply by taking it right at his defender and creating contact before they can get out of the way. 

Austin Hollins - I have a feeling these three are going to be talked about a lot this year.  Austin continues to have a clear sense of purpose, confidence, and leadership, and when he needed to help out in the paint he just went ahead and grabbed 10 rebounds.  Very much a senior year Damian Johnson type of feel to him right now in terms of leadership and just rising to the occasion. 

Elliott Eliason - He's starting to develop and almost adequate offensive game, and his defense and rebounding are absolutely crucial to this team as the only real post presence (we'll see about Mo when he's back).  Even when his numbers aren't there (they were last night with 8 boards and 5 blocks), he alters enough shots and takes up enough space to make the defense much better.  Whenever Eliason is in foul trouble it is going to be a very big deal.

Oto Osenieks - Hit two threes and grabbed six rebounds and finished without a single turnover.  You can actually see his confidence starting to return after the combination of a horrible year and Tubby somehow reduced him to worthless.  I said before the year started that if he could find his shot he would be able to thrive in the type of system Pitino is going for, and although he isn't nearly there yet he's moving in the right direction.

Joey King - Still drives me crazy, but at least he dialed back the perimeter stuff and attempted six two point shots compared to just one three point shot.  Managed just two rebounds in 15 minutes, and one of them was tipped out to him on the perimeter.  Also clapped for himself when he made a shot.

Malik Smith - Any time someone is described as a streaky shooter you know what you're getting, and right now Smith isn't looking impressive at just 3-11 while doing absolutely nothing else on the court.  I assume at some point the buckets will start falling and he'll probably basically win a game for the Gophers single handedly.  At least that's the hope.

Maverick Ahanmisi - I don't even know what to write about Mav anymore.  He's questionable with the ball, passable defensively, rebounds well for his position, and can knock down an open shot.  Rinse, repeat.

Wally Ellenson - I have no idea why he's on the team other than as a ploy to try to get his brother to commit here.  Amazing athlete without much skill.  Loves to shoot.

All in all, I'm very encouraged by that game as I expected the Gophers to struggle, at least a little bit, before ending up with a low double-digit win.  I certainly didn't expect them to nearly win by 30.  Everything went right that game, but things get a lot tougher this weekend with a trip to Richmond.  The Spiders are a step up from Montana (I like the first three game opponent difficulty progression quite a bit) and being on the road is always dicey.  After tonight, confidence is high, however when I write my later this week I suspect I will talk myself out of it.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Hoops Preview: Gophers vs. Montana

After an easy-ish win over Lehigh, the Montana Grizzlies will come into Williams Arena on Tuesday and, for good or for ill, this will be the Gophers toughest home non-conference opponent - yes, they're better than Florida State.  The Grizzlies have won the Big Sky in back-to-back years, and are poised to go after the three-peat.  They do lose three starters off last year's team, but that hasn't mattered in year's past as coach Wayne Tinkle (hee hee) has a solid system in place and the results are solid no matter the roster turnover.

Montana's big wild card on Tuesday will be swingman Kareem Jamar, who just won both the regular season and tournament MVP in the Big Sky while leading the Grizz in scoring (14.2 per), rebounding (5.9), and assists (4.0).  He very well might be the best player on a mid-major in the entire country, and most of us won't get to see it because the stupid game isn't on tv anywhere and paying for Gopher All Access is basically giving in to extortion.  Jamar is a model of consistency as his stats from last year are nearly identical to two years ago, although with two of the starters who are gone being the other two big scorers on the team his numbers could take a drastic jump.  He can hit the three (36%) but isn't dependent on it (3.3 attempts per game), can drive and get to the line and make them, find an open shooter or score himself, and he has a solid mid-range game.  He should be pretty fun to watch (if you can) and a good early season test for Austin Hollins defensive shutdown skills.

I downplayed the loss of three starters earlier, but although a solid team system can help ease the loss when you're talking Big Sky, having your second and third best players, both double-digit scorers, gone from last season hurts when going up against a major conference foe, especially since this is the first game of the year for Montana.  Those two did have some injuries issues which caused them to miss 18 games between the two of them which helped the depth gain some experience, but outside of Jamar I'm not sure what Montana really has here.

Similarly to Lehigh, the Grizzlies shouldn't pose too big of a threat to the Gophers' questionable front court, particularly with Mo Walker out.  Most of their returning minutes come from Jamar and two guards - Jordan Gregory and Keron DeShields who I am going to assume is related to Delino because that's cool and I refuse to look it up and prove myself wrong and their top incoming recruit is another guard.  Gregory was actually one of the most efficient players in the country on the offensive end last season (71st) due to good shooting percentages (46% from two, 42% from three, and 88% from the line) and a refusal to turn the ball over (just one per game).  He's going to have be more involved this season due their losses, and more importantly become more of a play maker (1.2 assists per game).  One of Montana's big strengths last season was tough perimeter defense, so these guys have a lot to live up to.

While the perimeter overall is probably ok, the front line is where some issues could arise.  Montana will be relying mainly on three guys who have the size (Michael Weisner 6-7, Eric Hutchison 6-9, and Andy Martin 7-0) if not the experience (21 minutes per game, 16 minutes per game, and 8 minutes per game) to give the Gophers trouble.  They also have a 6-7 JuCo power forward coming in who I can't find any information about other than what I just said.  His name is Chris Kemp.  Probably Shawn Kemp's kid.  Anyway, looking at the box scores from their last exhibition game it appears rebounding is a serious weakness, and not like it was kind of a weakness last season for Montana but I mean like holy balls bad.  Getting out-rebounded by Lewis & Clark College is not good.

Overall, Montana was a decent team last year whose main strength was their offensive efficiency and ability to score.  Their weaknesses were overall defense and rebounding.  Although they will still end up being in the mix for the Big Sky title, the players they lost are only going to diminish their strengths and highlight their weaknesses until the new players and players in new roles get things figured out, and that's not going to fly against a Gopher team, even for all its flaws.  Enjoy watching Jamar though, assuming you can.

Minnesota 70, Montana 57.

FUN FACT:  I once met some girls from Montana.  They refer to partying hard as "getting rugged" out there.  Good to know.

I bet they got rugged after.  And before.

Gophers Game Recap and Life after Reid Travis

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.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Reid Travis to God Damn Stanford

Back with more plus game recap Monday.  I need many drinks.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

NCAA Hoops Preview: Gophers vs. Lehigh

But what happened next?

Well here we are, the official dawning of the Richard Pitino era.  After two meaningless and completely uninformative exhibition games we finally get it rolling with a real opponent, the Lehigh Mountain Hawks.  Unfortunately the Mountain Hawks aren't same Mountain Hawks who gave us one of my favorite moments in NCAA Tournament History so the game (hopefully) won't be all that close, but I think Lehigh should get a standing ovation when they come out anyway just for this:

So awesome.

But, unfortunately, C.J. McCollum, Gabe Knutson, and Holden Greiner are all gone from that team (and last year's respectable squad that went 21-10 (10-4 in the Patriot) and made the CBI) so Lehigh will likely take a step back as those three were three of the better players in the team's history.

Not unlike the Gophers, Lehigh is much more stable in the back court than up front.   It all starts with point guard Mackey McKnight, the six-foot senior point guard who is the team's leading returning scorer (11.9), assister (4.9), stealer (1.3), and second leading returning rebounder (3.6).  Mackey is an excellent player (preseason All-Patriot League) and relies on penetration to get his points, although he doesn't mind throwing up the 3-ball even if it's not his best weapon (31% last year).  What that penetration does is open up shots for wings Anthony D'Orazio (35% on 83 attempts lasts year) and Stefan Cvrkalj (38% on 93 attempts).  If these guys get hot it could certainly cause some problems.

Lehigh would have been even better off in this regard, but B.J. Bailey (48% on 55 attempts) graduated and, with a year of eligibility remaining, opted not to come back for his final year (it should be noted the Patriot League does not give out athletic scholarships other than a handful for football, I believe).  There are also questions about Cvrkalj who is recovering from a knee injury and may not even suit up.  If he can't go it presses back-up point guard Corey Schroeder into more time off the ball, but he can be deadly there as well (46% from three, although with out the volume of the others).  Freshman Austin Price will probably work into the mix as well, and is another guy who can shoot from deep.

Up front there are a ton of questions, given that Lehigh's biggest strength the last couple seasons has been efficiently scoring the basketball and Bailey, McCollum, Knutson, and Greiner were the four leaders in that category last year with three of them (Bailey, McCollum, and Greiner) ranking in the top 100 according to kenpom (well, Bailey and McCollum would have if they qualified).  The Mountain Hawks almost make the Gophers' frontline look battle seasoned, given that they'll be heavily reliant on players who are either completely green (freshmen Tim Kempton and Shane Whitfield, sophomore Jesse Chuku who did not play last season after coming over from London because of probably some dumb NCAA rule) or lightly tested (junior Conroy Baltimore with 406 career minutes over two years, sophomore Justin Goldsborough with 362 minutes last year).  Those are some pretty sweet names, but what they can do on the court is beyond a question mark, although Kempton seems like a pretty good bet for Patriot Rookie of the Year.

Overall the Mountain Hawks were a pretty bad rebounding team last season and with the players they lost it seems hard to imagine that will get much better.  The Gophers have the same question, but with more size and more experience, and although Lehigh has solid guard play injuries and graduations have hit them, while the Gophers back court remains largely intact and should be improved with the additions of Malik Smith and Dre Mathieu (#honeygopher).  I expect Lehigh will play a zone in order to help protect their baby front court, and as long as the Gophers don't fall into the bad habit of settling for three pointers all game this should be a fairly easy first win for the Pitino era.

Minnesota 80, Lehigh 55.

Just an FYI as well, there are some really good games right out of the shoot tonight:  UCONN vs. Maryland in Brooklyn, St. Johns vs. Wisconsin in South Dakota, Oregon vs. Georgetown in South Korea, Colorado @ Baylor, Oklahoma @ Alabama, BC @ Providence should all be pretty entertaining.  Plus there's Day Action and a late game (Drexel @ UCLA) that doesn't start until 11pm.  What a day.  Reid Travis announcement, Day Action, Gophers start the season, and a night capper game.  I am going to be doing a lot of gambling.

Taking Away the Luck of the Irish
After a week to relax and recoup, and probably party a bit, the Gopher Hockey Team will play its toughest road series of the season this weekend when they visit the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame for a two game series.  The Irish were ranked #2 in the country going into their first ever series in Hockey East at Vermont last weekend, and Gopher fans were hoping the Irish would play well enough to set up a #1 vs #2 match-up in South Bend this weekend.  Unfortunately, Vermont had other ideas, and spoiled the match-up beating Notre Dame 2-1 on Friday night, and taking the Irish to the brink Saturday night before Sophomore Wing Sam Herr scored two goals in 1:02 of the third period to send the Irish home with a 3-2 win and a series split.  The Irish dropped a few spots in this week's polls to #3 in the USA Today poll, and #4 in the USCHO poll.

The Gophers of course are the #1 ranked team in the country in both polls, and are one of only two undefeated teams left in the NCAA, the other being St. Cloud State.  The Gophers and Irish played one game last season, on a Tuesday night in January.  The Irish football team had lost the National Championship game to Alabama the night before, and the Gopher fans reminded the Irish of this fact multiple times during the game with Alabama-clap-clap-clapclapclap chants echoing from the student section.  The Gophers would come out hot against the Irish when Nate Condon scored on the first Gopher shot of the game.  Sam Warning would add another in the first period before the Irish scored their only goal of the game to cut the Gopher lead to 2-1 after one period.  Christian Isackson scored in the second, and Zach Budish added an empty-netter in the third to cap off the 4-1 Minnesota victory, and cement their ranking as the #1 team in the country. The Gophers are 23-13-3 all-time against Notre Dame, and 5-4-1 all-time in South Bend.

The Irish have several potent playmakers on their team, and are lead by their Senior Goalie, Stephen Summerhayes.  He is 6-1 on the season thus far and has a goals against average of a minute 1.49.  The Gophers potent scoring machine will need to be hot this weekend, as the most goals the Irish have allowed in a game this season is 3. 

As for the scorers, Notre Dame has plenty of them as well.  Their most feared sniper is Senior center TJ Tynan.  He is tied for the team lead with 8 points so far this season and was the team's offensive player of the year in 2012.  Sophomore left wing Sam Herr leads the team with five goals on the season.

However, probably the most well known Notre Dame player would be Sophomore winger Mario Lucia.  The son of Gopher coach Don Lucia, and Minnesota Wild draft pick, is off to a bit of a slow start this season with only three points in eight games.  However, you can be sure that he will pick his game up against his dad's team.

This game will also be interesting for people interested in the future of these squads.  Notre Dame has several high profile recruits from Minnesota, and specifically Edina coming in the next few seasons.  Dylan Malmquist and Connor Hurley are the two most notable names.  Many Gopher fans were hoping that the two of them would become Gophers, but instead they followed former Hornet and Irish player Anders Lee to Notre Dame.  Hurley is expected to be a freshman next season, while Malmquist will be a freshman in 2015-16.  

The games will be a bit of a challenge to find on tv and radio this weekend.  Friday night's game will face-off at 7:00 PM Central, and will be broadcast on the NBCSports Network.  The Radio broadcast will be on 107.1 FM instead of the usual 1500 AM due to Gopher Basketball.  On Saturday, the game will face-off at 6:00 PM Central, and is not on TV.  The game will be live streamed on, as will Friday night's tilt.  The radio will be back on 1500 AM for Saturday's game. 

What they are saying on the Twitters:

I'd like to think its North Dakota...but to each their own

Yes, I am as well but probably not for the same reason

And for the ladies of "Our Lady"













Monday, November 4, 2013

Reid Travis Update

Normally when I do a Gopher hoops recruiting round-up I try to make sure to cover several players at once, but let's be honest after the signings of Josh Martin, Nate Mason, and Carlos Morris there's only one story in town and that's Reid Travis, the guy who is going to be making his decision this Friday at 3:30.  As usual when my head is spinning and there's too much to make sense of, I will do this in list form.  Here is the story so far:

1.  Reid Travis, from De La Salle, is part of the big 3 of Minnesota's 2014 class along with Tyus Jones (definitely not a Gopher) and Rashad Vaughn (could still be, but won't decide until Spring most likely).  He is ranked as the 45th best player in the class by 247sports, with a composite industry ranking of the 35th best player.  He's ranked 23rd by ESPN and the 5th best PF in the class.  He seems lukewarm on the Gophers.

2.  Exit Tubby, enter Richard Pitino.  Reports surface of Travis visiting campus and practice regularly.  According to 247sports he's taken five unofficials to the Minnesota campus since Pitino's hiring.  My dad, who attended De La Salle, is elected to their Hall of Fame (go dad!).  While there, he takes the opportunity to asked Coach Thorsen about Travis.  Thorsen tells him that since Pitino has been hired Reid has gotten very interested in the U and they're very much in the mix.

3.  Travis cuts his list to his Final Four - Minnesota, Gonzaga, Stanford, and Duke.

4.  Despite being on campus all the time, for unofficials and just hanging around, when Travis starts taking his official visits he includes the Gophers.  Not long after his official to Minnesota, he drops Gonzaga from his list.  Because of Travis's standing as an excellent student who takes academics very seriously, Duke and Stanford are generally considered the favorites, although nobody is dismissing the Gophers (also an excellent academic school, if not on par with the other two).

5.  Travis announces he will be making his decision on November 8th at De La Salle.  This leads some to speculate he's going to be a Gopher because why would he announce in front of a bunch of hometown people if he's just going to break their hearts?  This is a poor assumption because, off the top of my head, Harrison Barnes announced he was going to UNC over Iowa State (and others) in the Ames High School gym.

6.  A top 100 recruit, Michael Humphrey, commits to Stanford.  The Travis family quickly informs media that this will have no affect on Reid's decision.  Stanford remains in the mix.

7.  Rumors begin to swirl that Duke may be out of the mix.  Two posters claiming to have sources (GuyFawkes and another poster who I can not find now but I think might have been die hard Gopher and if somebody can point me to the post I will give proper credit) both claim that Duke is out of the mix, and it's between the Gophers and Stanford.  Message board rumors need to be taken with a large grain of salt, however both were saying the same thing and both are long time posters at the message board and not johnny come latelys who appeared to pop up to cause trouble or dick around.

8.  Kevon Looney, at top 20 national recruit and one of the top PFs in the country, commits to UCLA over Duke.  The Blue Devils gain a little bit of traction on Reid again (according to 247's Crystal Ball, a useful tool to see where the national winds are blowing). 

9.  This tweet from Evan Daniels comes out today:

When asked for more, he said this:

10.  It is announced that Travis will be attending the Gopher exhibition game tonight, just four days before he makes his decision official.  Not necessarily indicative of anything, but certainly not bad news.

11.  Not long after, this tweet comes out from the Gopher Report

@D1Circuit, which has something to do with Travis's AAU team or something responds with this:


12.  This tweet comes out:

I don't know if this is standard practice, but it certainly isn't a bad sign.

13.  The one and only GopherLady, Nadine Babu, tweets:

14.  Many chants are busted out at the exhibition game of "We Want Reid."

15.  National recruiting media starts to make a run at Travis to the Gophers, and it stands at 34% Gophers vs. 66% Duke, with 5 of the last 6 predictions going to Minnesota.

Is that everything?  Did I miss something?  Man I tell you this is rough.  With the access you can get to recruiting experts via twitter and message boards it's almost too much to take when a recruit of Travis's' caliber starts to look like he might come to your favorite team.  Program changer?  Not in my opinion simply because I think it's too early in Pitino's tenure for that, but this would be huge and a great way to kick off his first recruiting class.  I am going to play way, way too much attention to twitter the rest of the week.