Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Gophers 76, Western Kentucky 54

And that folks is the best visiting team you'll see in the Barn this year prior to conference season.

1.  In case there was any question who the most valuable Gopher is, tonight should have cemented it.  No question it's the Honey Gopher, DeAndre Mathieu.  He was lackluster against UMD and so was the team, he was in foul trouble and struggled against Louisville and so did the team, and tonight he was awesome and so was the team.  He completely sets the tone on both sides of the ball.  His defense, both on and off ball, is just outstanding, and obviously watching him run the break is freaking enjoyable as all hell.  Tonight he even looked for his own shot from the perimeter and though he only hit one of three from behind the arc that's still a positive.  Don't forget he hit 49% from there last year in limited attempts.  If he can get to the point where opponents have to respect his deep jumper it should open up more opportunities to drive past them, and once he's on the drive he seems to have mastered the score or dish skill set.  Love this guy.  Plus I'm about 90% sure my dad called him DeAndre Mathews tonight, which just makes it all the better.

2.  Mo Walker was a completely different player in each half.  I give credit to my brother Snacks for pointing this out first, but Mo Walker, and whoever told him to, made a significant change at half time and it paid major dividends.  In the first half he was still in the mode he was against Louisville, where he'd get the ball on the block and make some fancy moves and shot fakes and stuff like that and it just wasn't falling.  At half time someone must have mentioned he was playing the Hilltoppers and not the Cardinals, because after the break when he got the ball on the block he just put his head down and overpowered his man for easy buckets.  He finished with 14 points and had an overall excellent game, but when he came out and scored with ease from the block on the first two Gopher possessions of the second half it really sent a message.  I still struggle at times thinking of him as a legitimate offensive weapon for some reason, but he's going to be a major force for this team as their only legit low post threat.  Love him too.

3.  The guy who sits in front of me has a giant head.  Seriously.  This guy must be close to 6-8 and his head is some kind of planetoid.  I'm not a tall guy, but I'm not a short guy either and the Williams Arena seats are set up so there shouldn't be a problem, but behind him I have to do that thing where depending on where the ball is I have to shift my head to see around his giant melon.  Honestly there's just no way this guy could walk into a normal store and buy a hat, they'd definitely have to special ordered.  It's the size of my TV.  I feel like if he head butted a car the car would blow up.  I'm going to have to do something about this.  Probably just complain all the time.  That still counts as something.
This is who I sit behind, without the sword.  Probably
4.  Though the offense was mostly humming pretty well, there were also some pretty bad possessions.  There was one really bad stretch, no surprise Mathieu wasn't on the floor, where a whole bunch of one-on-one ball was going on, leading to really bad long 2s early in the shot clock.  This went on for like three or four possessions and was just not good.  Carlos Morris is just a wild card with so much chucker in him yearning for freedom it's going to drive me crazy this year, and Dre Hollins really needs to ditch the step back 18-footer.  It worked out because after a TV timeout they ran some cool plays like three possessions in a row, including a neato one with a double screen with both a roller and a popper, where after the popper gets the ball if he doesn't have a shot he does a handoff and then immediately sets a ball screen that led to an open jumper for Morris and they scored on I think three straight possessions, but it's worth watching.  There were times last year Pitino let this kind of crap go on for too long without a timeout or any kind of change, so hopefully he's more on top of it this season.  He was tonight.

5.  Joey King's shot fake is still a thing of beauty.  He's easily the most polarizing player on the team in my own brain, at least until Morris takes over, but you have to give him credit for that shot fake of his.  He consistently gets his man in the air, but usually then can't really take advantage of it which kind of sums him up.  And man his ball-handling.  At one point WKU did their token press but someone managed to force King to be in charge of the ball and he desperately looked around for help, then tried to hand it off to a guard but it ended up on the floor and I can't remember who got it but I remember yelling "Joey no!" which I think I did eighty hundred times last year.  He does some really nice things, like the shot fake, and some really bad things as well.  Drives me crazy, but I think I'm glad they have him.

6.  Nate Mason rules.  Boy this kid does not look like a freshman out there.  He was the first player I saw when we got there late tonight (Mac's was slow.  Go there and get the blackened buffalo wings.  So good) and I was like, whoa he's bigger than I thought and then he drilled two threes.  He's confident in his game, he's already a plus defender, he can play either guard spot, and he looks like one of the better shooters on the team.  Ok so he has no lift on his three-point shot which could cause problems but neither do Dirk Nowitzki or Glen Rice which yeah as was pointed out to me they're way taller than him but whatever he'll be fine.  Josh Martin and Bakary Konate have the athleticism but still look really raw, but Mason is already a polished player.  Great get by Pitino, he's going to be special.

7.  This team is really fast.  I mean really fast.  It all starts with Mathieu of course who is one of the fastest players in the country, but at this point pretty much everyone on the team can get up and down quickly.  Hollins, Mason, Martin, Konate, Morris, and McNeil can all get out and run and excel in the open court.  Even Eliason and Walker have gotten themselves to the point where they don't hold the team up.  King does ok for himself too.  This is a very different team than we're used to, both because of personnel and coaching style, and they're going to be fun to watch and should score plenty of points.  It's going to be all about the defense to decide how good this team can be.  Hopefully the million cupcakes on the schedule can help them get that all straightened out, because the press seemed mostly ineffective last season except for a few spots.  The athleticism and speed this year will help.  I'm really interested to see what they do here.

8.  The mini-ball toss is no longer fair.  What was that?  I'm in row 15 so it's not like any of the cheerleaders can get a mini-ball to me anyway, but tonight when they did the ball toss they only threw to the student section.  You know what?  I want a ball.  My son wants a ball.  My daughter wants a ball.  At least let us dream it's possible.  The students don't need a ball anyway, and they already get to play all the fun games on the court like the run around and get dizzy and try to make a lay-up thing.  If you really want to help out the students throw them money or pizza or beer or something.  If they get a ball they'll probably just turn it into a bong anyway.  

9.  The WKU chuckers did not disappoint.  I would have liked to see a little more volume shooting, but I said the Hilltoppers had 3 chuckers and the three combined to shoot 5-21, 3-12 from three, and turned it over 14 times against 8 assists.  14 turnovers!  25% shooting!  They really came through.  It's too bad it was spread out among three players though.  Can you imagine they voltron formed one mega chucker and put up that line?  Simply outstanding.  Really if it wasn't for those two bench guys (and who doesn't enjoy a guy named Snipes sniping a handful of three-pointers) this game could have been a 40-point blowout because these three guys were awful.  And nobody else really did anything either.  Ladies and gentlemen, the best home non-conference opponent the Gophers will play this year!

10.  On to New York.  There are two horrible games coming up this week which I don't expect to write about at all, and then comes the one good stretch before conference play when the Gophers head to New York to play St. Johns and then either Georgia or Gonzaga, followed by a trip to Winston-Salem to play Wake Forest in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.  That should be a fun time, and since the Gophers basically own Madison Square Garden the tournament should be theirs for the taking.  Enjoy that stretch, since following that it's six straight games basically covering the entire month of December that are all terrible and the Gophers will be favored by 20+ in all of them.  Actually, they'll be favored by 20+ in maybe none of them because I think they're all in too terrible of conferences to even have lines offered.  Speaking of gambling, click on the banner above this post if you want to start a wagering account. is a new site that's pretty slick and has really good bonuses.  It probably sounds like they're paying me to say this but they're not.  They did pay me to put that banner up though, but I'm not shilling here (god forbid I'd be a Schilling), I'm serious.

Overall, a pretty good win.  Western Kentucky isn't anything special, but they weren't supposed to be some pushover either.  The Gophers were favored by twelve and won by 22.  That's a nice outing.  Now just nobody get hurt before the NYC trip.  Beat Zaga.

1 comment:

rghrbek said...

You made Amelia's blog on the strib! Your famous. Good work.

Twins hiring all ex twins as their coaches! Wow great plan, Molly, Bruno, Everyday Eddie, and more than like Carl big train Willis!!! Hopefully there is room for Rich Becker Marty Cordova, and Pags.