Monday, December 14, 2015

Oklahoma State 62, Gophers 60

I suppose I saw this coming as a loss, which is why I bet Ok State -3, which is why Nate Mason's late lay-up instead of some desperate three clanging off the rim was a double killer.  You either want the Gophers to win, or to win your bet.  When neither happen it just sucks.  Like the team this year.  Anyway, here are 10 things I liked and didn't like (disclaimer: may not get to 10 because meh).

1.  The defense was much better for most of the game.  There were lapses of course, but in general the defense seemed much better both from an effort and a scheme stand point.  The Gophers extended their zone out, way out, compared to usual in order to kind of take away the easy three pointer, and at the same time whoever was the anchor, Bakary Konate or whoever, laid back near the rim to discourage lay-ups.  This forced the Cowboys into taking a lot of long twos, which is what you want.  Considering Ok State shot a worse percentage from both 3 and 2 than the Gophers are allowing on the season I'd say it was a success.  I want to see this exact defense in every game forever.

2.  Kind of related to the effort and scheming on defense, the offense was much more active.  It's like Pitino went into the lab on both offense and defense to change things up, and even though the Gophers shot like poop you could at least see more offense going on.  Lots of off the ball screening, many times with a wing zooming from one side of the court all the way to the other, and far less reliance on pick and rolls.  This helped facilitate a lot more ball movement than we've seen lately and will only make the team better in the long run.  Of course, it's not all ball movement because Morris.

3.  I don't see any reason to play Carlos Morris more than a token amount of minutes going forward.  You can't just bench the guy because it's kind of a dick move to do that to a senior, but he doesn't fit the ball movement offense and just does some really dumb things.  The passing up an open three to pump fake, then starting at the defender, and then shooting now that it's contested.  The offensive rebound followed by fall away jumper that has no prayer of going in.  Taking the ball at the rim in a one-on-four situation.  And the ball stopping.  Always the ball stopping.  Last year, at least, you could point to his defense and high steal rate, but for whatever reason his steals are cut in half this year and he's just not adding anything of value.  On a team that is going nowhere this year, there's no need to play a guy who isn't part of the future if he doesn't help you.  Joey King at least gives you some shooting, even if that's about it.

4.  Keep an eye on this Jordan Murphy character.  His stats, obviously, are eye popping as he put up another double double with 11 points and 12 rebounds, his third in his last four games.  His offensive rebounding is already elite with his quick jump ability and smarts (top 50ish) and his defensive rebounding is great too, mostly based on good positioning.  His offensive game is decent as well, and if he can hit that open three-pointer to keep defenses honest it's going to open up so much more for him - and we're off to a good start there at 3-8 and they look good coming off his hand.  His intelligence is what really sets him apart for me though.  He and Mason ran a pick and roll, but the defender hedged so hard over the top the pick didn't really happen, so Murphy just flipped around and Mason came right back the other way.  It was a smart, smart play.  It resulted in a missed shot of course, but the Murphy/Mason pick and rolls should end up a staple of this team for the next few years.

5.  Speaking of pick and rolls, I loved this one particular play.  Pitino must have worked this one out in the lab because I can't recall seeing it before, but it should be used a minimum of once a half going forward.  Mason has the ball, and Murphy and King set a double pick for him on the wing.  Once he clears the pick, Murphy rolls to the hoop and King pops right out to the wing.  It's brilliant.  It gives Mason three immediate options - drive, hit Murphy diving to the hoop, or swing it back to King for an open three.  Meanwhile the other two players are in the corners to clear spacing and give Mason the option of a kick out if their defenders collapse or jump to cover King.  Really cool play.

6.  Speaking of Mason, man this kid is good.  He is just so under control at all times.  He can drive and score, dish, or pull up and hit a jumper, and he can hit the open three (his shooting will come on despite a slow start).  He took over running the offense this year and although the offense has been iffy at best, that's not his fault.  Then there was a play that didn't work but just showed his court sense and vision.  The Gophers got a rebound and outlet passed it to him, and Morris had broken down court (because OFFENSE OFFENSE OFFENSE is what is in his brain) and without even taking a dribble Mason turned and fired it all the way down court.  The Ok State defender got a hand on it and knocked it out of bounds, but if he doesn't Morris catches it and dunks without having to dribble.  Would have been a thing of beauty.  Mason is a fun watch.

7.  Where was Charles Buggs?  After playing at least 23 minutes and starting in the first 8 games this season (I think), Buggs played zero minutes against Oklahoma State after getting just 8 in the South Dakota State game.  According to Pitino it had nothing to do with discipline or injury, and he simply played the players he though would help him win the game, which included walk-on freshman Stephon Sharp getting 3 minutes (after having had 1 whole minute this season) and little used freshman Ahmad Gilbert 2 minutes (he had 27 coming into the game).  I don't think Buggs is some big game changer, but he's been an extremely efficient scorer this year and has improved on defense considerably from last season.  Considering he'll presumably be around next season, this is a surprising development.  I'd bench Morris way before Buggs.  Also, full disclosure, I didn't even realize Buggs wasn't playing until someone mentioned it on twitter, so....

8.  Dupree McBrayer took Buggs's spot in the starting lineup, and I think I like him.  He needs a lot of polish, and I mean a lot, but there's things here I like.  He does a good job as a secondary ball handler, and even it that role he's actually second on the team in assist rate (behind Mason).  He also leads the team in fouls drawn and free throw rate because he already has a good ability to attack the rim and very smooth and in control when he does it.  Against Ok State there was a play where he drove and the dude set up for a charge and he was able to just slide himself enough to the side to turn it into a block.  Very good play.  Yes, he's had some lapses on both sides of the ball, is too left-hand dependent, and hasn't been able to shoot a lick this year, but I'm ok with that. As a freshman I've seen enough that I'm confident he'll be a solid player down the line.

9.  Kevin Dorsey too.  Yeah him too.  I'm liking how this class is shaping up for the most part.  Dorsey is more polished than McBrayer, which is why I'm more concerned with his shitty shooting than Brayer's shittier shooting since I think if he could hit a jumper we would have seen it by now, but he's a bull getting to the rim.  He's already a master of using his body to draw fouls and is third on the team in FT rate (behind McBrayer and Murphy).  Considering he hits around 80% of his foul shots that's a solid strategy (and gives me hope his jumper will come around).

10.  Next up, Chicago State.  Considering the Cougars are one of the worst teams in the entire country (#339 per kenpom) this needs to be a blowout.  They do nothing at all well.  They do however, hoist a ton of three pointers.  They don't make them, but knowing this Gopher team that's always a bit of a concern.  Their only three wins this season were against non-D1 opponents, and they lost to DePaul by 24, Iowa State by 42, and Northwestern by 42.  They are a terrible team.  Please let this not be close.

Gophers 88, Chicago State 66.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Everything is Great!

Well, we knew this was setting up to be a bad year, but I didn't expect this.  The loss to Temple, sure ok.  Decent team, Gophers are young and traveling for the first time, fine.  The near collapse against Missouri State?  Ok well they won.  That was a little scary but they managed.  The loss to Texas Tech?  Ugh (and nothing to do with Tubby because if you care about that you're dumb).  Man, maybe this team is even worse than I feared.  Near loss to Omaha?  Yikes!  Well, they managed to win so they're just treading water and should end up not too terrible eventually.  Then the win over Clemson!  Yes!  They're putting it together and Jordan Murphy is going to win the Heisman!!

Then came the past week.  Swept by the South Dakota schools.  So.  Gross.  A loss to SDSU on it's own wouldn't even be that bad, really.  The Jackrabbits have a sweet name, rank 50th in kenpom's ratings right now, and only have one loss on their schedule (though they haven't really beaten anyone).  That alone you could stomach.  But South Dakota is a garbage diaper dumpster fire.  They're 6-3 but have beaten nobody and have some bad, bad losses.  The Gophers had extra chances to get their shit together with the two overtimes and it just never happened.  Then SDSU just completely dominated from the start.  This is so ugly.

The team is just completely clueless defensively.  The rank 229th in defensive efficiency, giving up 1.04 points per possession, and this is against a schedule that features nobody ranked above the top 50 overall - that's really bad!  Here is a list of the power conference teams that are worse: .  That's not a typo.  There is nobody worse.  The only other times since 2002 (kenpom's existence) they've been worse than a 1 were Pitino's first year, the Molinari year, and Monson's worst year - and those were full season numbers which included Big Ten play.  This is just horrible.  Let's check something.  Let's pretend the Gophers finish at that 1.04 mark, which frankly seems pretty optimistic, and see how that rates historically among Big Ten teams.

  1. 2008 Northwestern, 1.075
  2. 2007 Penn State, 1.057
  3. 2004 Ohio State, 1.052
  4. 2015 Indiana, 1.048
  5. 2005 Penn State, 1.044
  6. 2016 Minnesota, 1.041

I mean this isn't just a bad defense, this is a horrific historically bad defense.  If things hold here it's the sixth worst defense in the Big Ten in the last 14 years.

It's so bad that you can't even simply blame the young team right now, you have to take a hard look at Pitino.  I fully supported the hiring at the time, and I have no quibble with the recruiting steps he's taken, but the on court and off court prep work is not coming together as I expected.  When he first got here there were some missteps and weird on court decisions, but you kinda figured that would improve since he was so young and inexperienced and I was willing to give him time.  But we're in Year 3 here, and not only has his coaching not improved, it's possible it's actually gotten worse, and I'm particularly talking about the constant defensive mistakes by the players.  If it's one player then ok, he's kind of a dunce, but it's multiple guys and it's happening often.  Teams don't shoot over 40% on threes against you by all being hot over 9 games.

Hey, I'm not saying to run him out of town or he needs to be fired or anything, but this team really needs to show improvement as the season goes along or there are going to be some hard questions to think about.  Let's hope it doesn't come to that, because I really like the direction the recruiting is heading in.

Next up - Oklahoma State in Sioux Falls, which is some kind of hilarious joke having to traveling to that damn state right after both their schools beat the Gophers.  Oklahoma State is also a bad team, sitting at 5-3 with zero Top 150 wins and their best wins over Long Beach State and Long Beach State who they've beaten twice which is weird.  They're coming off a loss to Missouri State, yes that Missouri State, and have also dropped games to Tulsa (decent) and George Mason (bad).  So congratulations Sioux Falls, here comes some crappy basketball.

The Cowboys don't shoot the three well and they don't shoot it often at all (though I expect both these to change on Saturday).  They do, however, take great care of the basketball (this matters less this year than other years since the Gophers are not creating any turnovers), and they make their two point shots and excel at free throws.  They don't cause many turnovers either, which means the Gophers will have plenty of chances to run offensive sets that don't go anywhere.  This is a terrible match-up.

OSU lost their top returning scorer to injury early on this year, not to mention the other 3 top scorers to graduation, so the cupboard was pretty bare.  They managed a nice, well rounded, spread it out scoring attack with five players averaging between eight and thirteen points per game this year.  Jeff Newberry (13.0ppg) is your do it all guard type, Chris Olivier (12.1ppg) is a low post scorer who is frankly going to eat Bakary Konate alive, Jawun Evans (10.1ppg) is the freshman point guard (4.3apg) and best shooter on the team with Phil Forte on the shelf with an elbow injury, Leyton Hammonds (9.8ppg) scored 20 in his first game back from injury versus Long Beach, and Jeffrey Carroll (8.1ppg) is a person.

This could just be me being pessimistic because ugh, but I honestly think this Gopher team is much worse than I thought, and I also believe Oklahoma State is a terrible match up for this team.  I do believe doors will be blown off on Saturday.

Ok State 88, Gophers 70.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Gophers vs. Clemson Live Blog

Since this is basically the only interesting home non-conference opponent the Gophers are going to face this year and since I cannot be in attendance I might as well live blog the game.

Before that though, I went to the Gopher football game this weekend and actually tailgated for the first time.  I know what you're thinking and yes there's probably something wrong with me, but it was my first time and it was a blast.  I got to hook up with a couple of old college buddies who were in town from Wisconsin (including WSCTQB who used to comment on this blog back when it didn't suck so much), fun internet dudes Disco Stu and Stryker, and a big chunk of the Gopher Blogger/Twitterverse including @TreTanic (and his brother who I don't believe is on twitter anywhere), @MVoDT, @jdmill, and @Swannosaurus.  I know I met other people but it's hard to remember because we did thinks like drink bourbon at 9:30am, destroy all of the beers, take an Uber from one parking lot to another, do back to back shots of fireball or fireball equivalent, and eat nothing but grilled sausages.  It ruled.  We also played a bunch of cornhole and MVoDT and I were the best team in history.  I wish I could say I remembered more of the game, but I don't and then I died the next morning.  Was a blast.

So anyone, on to the next crappy Gopher team.  They opened as a pick 'em against Clemson tonight and have been bet all the way to -2 at some places.  Which means someone is confident in the Gophers.  I myself am not.  Away we go.

Oh wait hold on.  We had our Big Ten Basketball Fantasy Draft last night.  Just a few notes:

  • Keepers: Nate Mason, Caris Levert, Denzel Valentine, Robert Blackmon, Shep Garner, Jake Layman, Melo Trimble, Keita Bates-Diop.
  • First round: Yogi Ferrell, Nigel Hayes, Malcolm Hill, Jarrod Uthoff, Isaac Hayes, Mike Thorne, Troy Williams, Shavon Shields.
  • My team: Levert, Hayes, Derrick Walton, Brandon Taylor, Jae'Sean Tate, Adam Woodbury, and Carlos Morris.
  • Gophers taken: Mason, Morris, Joey King
  • I would also list which teams had the most and fewest players taken, but the website is being a dick and this is already boring.

And now away we go.

-  And the game won't load on the stupid WatchESPN app.  I swear to god someone will burn for this.

18:38 - It's 3-2 Clemson and I finally got it to load.  I'm shocked the Gophers alllowed a 3.  Shocked.

17:42 - Joey King posts up from about 16 out, then kicks a nice pass out of a double to Dupree McBrayer who first misses and easy rotation pass that would have resulted in an open 3, following that up by forcing up a terrible three pointer of his own.  Then Clemson hits a 3 in transition.  I can already sum this season up in once sequence.

17:14 - My son just snuck down to watch some of the game with me.  I want to forbid him from being a Gopher fan so, so bad.  Just as my Dad should have done for me.

15;50 - Buggs knocks down a 3 to make it 11-10 Clemson.  I still have no idea what to make of Buggs.

15:21 - Clemson has done two things so far this game - offensive rebounds and make 3s.  Stop me if you've heard this one before.

14:48 - Morris with a dumb floater that gets blocked, nobody fills to get back, layup Clemson.  This may be the year I actually quit this dumb blog.

13:40 - No defense on either side, so at least it's fun.  18-14 Clemson.

12:58 - Mason drives and doesn't score, nobody fills and gets back, easy lay-up Clemson.

12:21 - McBrayer looks pretty smooth.  Freshman-y, but smooth.  TO THE FUTURE!

12:06 - Murphy gets completely lost and it's another Clemson lay-up.  This is fairly unreal.

11:08 - Murphy's spin move from post to baseline, however, has gotten him multiple easy buckets this year including just now.  There's some potential from some of these guys, no doubt.

9:30 - Murphy now hits a free throw line jumper.  He's got an awfully good all around offensive game for a freshman.  I expect "lots of potential but lots of young mistakes" to be this year's theme.  Which I guess could be worse.

8:09 - And Murphy tip-dunk.  This is just a Jordan Murphy live blog, apparently.

7:16 - Carlos Morris takes the pass in the left corner with a small window if he wants to shoot, jab steps instead and creates a little bit of room if he wants to drive, instead pulls back and shoots a contested 3-pointer which doesn't even come close to going in.  This is what it sounds like when doves cry.

6:16 - Nice little double screen off the indbounds leads to a Mason jumper.  Pitino still excels at drawing up offensive plays, either half court or off the inbounds.  He sucks at a few things, but hopefully he'll learn, and he was more imaginative offensively than any other Gopher coach I can remember.  Also Clemson hit a three while I was typing that.

4:30 - Buggs airballs a 3 by about 3 feet.  Sure.  Why not.

3:22 - Clemson just made a pass from wing to wing you should never be able to make against an aggressive zone.  Led to a stupid 3, that went in of course, but just making that pass shouldn't happen.

2:50 - Joey King hits another open three and he's developed a pretty quick trigger.  He still can't create his own offense and I don't see Big Ten coaches being unable to take him completely away, but he's at least reached a point where they'll have to scheme for him.  Which I wouldn't have believed even a year ago.

0:30 - Clemson three.  I almost can't wait to look at their kenpom numbers tomorrow.  Hard to believe any other team in the country is getting killed by 3s like this.   42-36 half.  I'm going to go watch whatever dumb show my wife is watching.  I might be late for the second half.  OH NO.

19:10 - Mason is so solid shooting.  He's going to be really good.

17:24 - As I say that Mason gets caught standing around on defense.  Some of the mistakes this team makes.........

16:25 - Morris goes one on 3 and somehow manages to kick it to Buggs who takes a dumb contested 3-pointer.  Which hits front of rim, bounces up, and goes in.  We'll take it, but that is not good basketball.

15:05 - Man Murphy just owns the baseline.  Of course, then nobody gets back and it's yet another Clemson three.  51-50 Clemson.

14:04 - Another Clemson three on a drive and kick.  Can't fault the Gophers too much on that one, but man it's just such a common pattern.

13:30 - Announcer guy, "King in the post.  That's not really his offensive strength."  No shit.

12:19 - Buggs hits just a stupid, stupid three pointer.  Good for him I guess.

12:17 - I think I will have some sriracha beef jerky.

11:47 - Clemson sagging way off Dorsey already.  I was hoping that wouldn't happen.

11:25 -  Buggs fouled as he wildly drives the lane.  He's much better at that then when he wildly chucks up contested threes.

11:00 - Dorsey steal and is blocked on the lay up, goes to McBrayer who wildly throws it in the direction of the rim, and then Murphy (who else) with the three point play to put the Gophers up 58-56.  Huge coming out party against the Gophers toughest opponent to date.  I still think McBrayer is going to be my guy from this team (behind Mason, who is everyone's guy) but Murphy showing some real chops.

9:11 - Lotta ugly and fast basketball here.  Basically sums up the Pitino era so far.  And I'm a fan!!

8:30 - I think that's Jabal Abu-Shamala behind the bench.  Also the defense doesn't get back again.

8:22 - So I mention Shamala on twitter and my feed just blows up.  You know who else people mentioned?  Ryan Saunders and Blake Hoffarber.  So many racists on twitter.

5:31 - of course that goes in

5:12 - OH SHIT McBrayer is from NYC?  How the hell did I miss this?  I LOVE NYC point guards.  Told you he was my guy.

4:46 - Clemson misses a free throw.  Somehow the rebound goes out of bounds off the Gophers.  I need to drink more.

4:01 - Beautiful hesitation move into a lay-up by Dorsey.  I take it all back.  71-65 Gophers.

3:31 - King just gets manhandled by Clemson big guy for deep position and easy lay-up.  Probably shouldn't judge King on that since he shouldn't have to be in that position.  Going to anyway.

2:40 - Murphy goes baseline again.  Having an amazing game right now, 22 points and 8 rebounds on a team high 15 shots.  Love it.

1:10 - Murphy tip in to pretty much end the game (80-73) and he came from the complete opposite block to get around the defense and get to that ball.  What a game by this kid. Wow.

0:40 - Gophers up 85-78 and Pitino just called a timeout.  Which means I'm bored now and it's time to go watch crappy tv with the wife.  Jordan Murphy is amazing, and I see a ton of potential from Konate, Mason, Dorsey, and McBrayer.  With some size transferring in I am currently way to optimistic about next year.  Someone come hit me with something.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

10 Things I Liked and Didn't Like from the Puerto Rico Tip Off

I didn't get to see much of the tournament this weekend.  The first two games happened while I was at work, and the third I missed because on account of being at a bar that didn't have the game on because grrr football, so most of these impressions are coming from flashes of the first two games and looking at box scores and advanced metrics.  Let's just say that coming out of there 1-2 with the only win over lowly Missouri State in a game they almost blew is not an encouraging sign for this season. Ugh.

1.  The Rebounding.  Oh god, the rebounding.  We were pretty well tipped off when Southwest Minnesota State or whoever outrebounded the Gophers in their exhibition game, but man oh man it is not pretty.  They were outrebounded in all three games, and their rebound rates on both sides of the ball are north of the top 225 in NCAA, and they have yet to play a real good opponent.  This is a really, really bad thing.  It's not surprising with the personnel they have, but might be worse than I thought.  Jordan Murphy's defensive rebounding rate is the only one on the entire roster to crack the Top 500 of all NCAA players.

2.  I'm kinda worried Kevin Dorsey can't shoot.  This can be worked around because he is so, so, so good at attacking the rim, but I'm a little worried here.  I know it's easy to point at 2-15 and yell about how he can't hit the broadside of a rim, and that's stupid because sample size and all that, but it's more how he missed.  I'm pretty sure I saw at least one airball, and a couple more that were just, yuck.  Hopefully this gets a little better as the year and career go on, because I love the way he goes to the rim, and a broken jumper makes that more difficult.

3.  Speaking of which, this offense is way too 3-point dependent.  Over 40% of their attempts so far this year are from three, and although that kind of offense can work it's a dramatic uptick from the 33% last year.  Not to mention last year they could actually shoot, hitting almost 38% compared to 34% this year.  Nate Mason will be better than his 29% so far and Dorsey likely isn't a sub 20% shooter, but Carlos Morris, Joey King, and Charles Buggs aren't going to keep hitting at this high of a percentage either.  Plus, again, the caliber of competition so far says they shouldn't have to depend on the 3, and should instead be going to the rim.  Unless something changes this is only going to get worse once conference play starts, which means they'll probably get one cool awesome upset win when everyone is hot, but a whole lot of losses.

4.  Terrible 3-point defense.  Again.  The Gophers have always struggled defending the three for whatever reason and so far are again.  Looking back the last time they ranked in the top 100 in the country against the three was 2008.  2008!  Last year they ranked 287th, this year so far 275th.  That is bad.  The one positive I see is that they're actually limiting the number of threes opponents shoot for the first time under Pitino, with opposing teams taking just 32% of their attempts from three, a number that was over 35% in both of his first two years and every Tubby year, so maybe that's a positive trend.  Or maybe teams are just attacking a gooey soft defense.  Too soon to tell, but they are at least playing pretty good two-point defense.

5.  Bakary Konate is better than I expected.  Now, this is still a very, very fragile compliment given that he is indeed still raw and is kind of a foul machine, but I was impressed by two things.  I saw a legit jump hook.  Not a raw goofy one like if you ask a high school wrestler to shoot one, but a real, good looking shot.  I remember being so stunned by it that I don't even remember if it went in.  Also, his free throws are gorgeous.  Great form, nice high arc, just perfect.  He's only 5-9 this year but whatever, that's fine.  He's further along than I expected him to be.  The Gophers are still screwed for this year, but I am pleasantly intrigued.  His rim protection numbers also look good with a Top 100 block rate in the country right now, but I don't recall seeing any blocks of his so I won't comment further.

6.  Carlos Morris may yet be the death of me.  Every once in a while Morris does something smart and in control.  And I do mostly love him on the defensive end because he balances out his lapses and mistakes by getting a lot of steals.  However, "Morris floater in the lane" might be my least favorite sentence ever because he just does not have that shot.  I knew this year would be nuts because he was going to be asked to be a big part of the offense.  I guess I had hoped we'd see a different Morris, and I suppose if he continues to hit threes at a 43% clip you can deal with a lot of mistakes.  Also he's taking the ball to the rim more than last year, so that's good too.  Look at me, I'm talking myself into Carlos Morris!  This is gonna be a great year!

7.  This is a young team, and a young coach.  Duh, of course, but it's good to keep reminding myself that when Pitino switches up defense to a half court trap for no good reason and the defense gets torched after regular old man to man was doing a good job against Missouri State.  With so many young players and youngish guys playing heavy minutes for the first time and the variety of defenses Pitino likes to run it's no wonder at times the defense looks like a rec league team of 5th graders running around.  This is a year for patience and waiting, which is kind of frustrating considering it's Year 3 of the Pitino era, but at the same time the way the roster was constructed you could see this year looming, and unless he hit on a huge recruiting class this year was pretty much earmarked as rough.  Something good better happen next year though, because he's got that big time class.

8.  Nate Mason is going to be a star.  He played pretty crappy in the tournament overall and so far is showing a disturbing propensity to foul so far this year, but much like Carlos Morris passes the eye test for reckless crazy, Mason passes the eye test for totally under control future star.

And I could only come up with eight things and I kind mailed in the last one so I guess that's as good as you're gonna get.  Up next is Omaha, a terrible team the Gophers ought to beat by double digits.  Their only win this season against a D-1 team was in overtime against a UMKC team the Gophers beat by 18, and one of their losses was to Santa Barbara, their only win so far this year.  They did hang with Colorado and lost by just five, so maybe they aren't completely terrible, but they shoot 23.6% from three, so maybe they are.   The most worrisome thing is so far this year they've given up a lot of three pointers, but done a good job and teams are hitting a super low percentage, so that's bad considering the Gophers love to shoot threes and are horrible at it.

Should be fun.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Puerto Rico Tip Off Preview

The Gophers are two games in, and I have very little to say since there is still so much unknown about this team.  They seem like they play pretty decent defense, but they can't rebound at all.  The pass the ball well and Carlos Morris seems like the only ball stopper, but they shoot way too many threes for a team that hasn't shown much of an ability to make them.  As people always like to say, we won't really know about this team until they play a real opponent.  Even if this event isn't exactly loaded with top tier teams, there's enough here that we should, indeed, know quite a bit more about this team afterwards.

First up is Temple on Thursday.  The Owls have only played one game this year and they got their doors blown off by the Tar Heels, but since the Gophers have a wee bit less fire power than Carolina who knows what that means.  Temple was maybe an NCAA snub last season, but they also lost two of their top three guys from last season so this is probably a decent test for our Gophers here.

Generally Fran Dunphy's teams vary their statistical profile based on personnel, which means he's a good coach, but they almost always have two things in common - tough defense, and they don't turn the ball over.  Since we don't really know what we have in the Gophers the tough defense will be a good test, but I'd feel better if they weren't playing such a traditionally disciplined team.  Overall, given the Owls have a decent team but not a good one, this game should tell us a ton about the Gophers this year.

Which is good, because the second game won't tell us anything, either way.  If the Gophers lose they will most likely play Missouri State, who is a bottom tier Missouri Valley team that lost to Oral Roberts by 15 in their only game this year.  Nothing is a guaranteed win, especially for a team like the Gophers this year, but this would be as close to one as any game they've played this year.

On the other hand if the Gophers win, they'll most likely play Butler, who has holes like any other team but is a tremendously awful matchup for them.  Butler will pound the paint, crash the offensive boards, defend like hell, and take care of the basketball.  They aren't a great team because they don't really have much size, but that won't matter against the Gophers.  Basically if I was engineering a team to beat the Gophers, Butler is really close.  If this matchup happens I'll have money on Butler, which is always fun because if you lose your bet that means your team won!  (or did well).

The final game would be against Utah, Miami, Mississippi State, or Texas Tech.  Utah is legit and is the favorite to win.  In fact if they don't most likely they had a really bad tournament, so if the Gophers do end up playing the Utes that would mean good things for the Gophers.  Plus it would be fun to watch the Gophers try to find a way to stop seven-foot monster Jakob Poeltl.  Miami might not be completely terrible and we'd get to watch that jerk Ja'Quan Newton and see if Tonye Jekiri can get to 20 rebounds.  Mississippi State is bad and just lost to Southern which is in the SWAC who should never beat anyone, but Malik Newman is a super stud freshman who would be fun to watch.  Texas Tech is still mostly a garbage fire and it would suck to play them because the whole Gophers vs. Tubby narrative would drive me insane.

So there you go.  Should be pretty fun.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Some things are Happening

Busy week, and that doesn't even count college basketball kicking off on Friday (yay!).  Speaking of, I should do like, a mini preview here of UMKC, the Gophers' opponent for a game I cannot attend.  And then Louisiana-Monroe since that game is Sunday (and I am going). Man I have a lot of work to do.

UMKC:  The Kangaroos are kind of interesting and not just because they are called the Kangaroos.  They finished second in the WAC last season and return the Conference Player of the Year in Martez Harrison.  They lose most everyone else, but Harrison is apparently good enough that the Roos are projected to finish fourth this year.  They started last season with a bang, knocking of Missouri, but then did nothing after.  Hopefully they avoid a big win to start the season this time.

Looking at Harrison, it looks like he does it correctly.  He gets his 17.5 points per game mainly at the rim, on 3 pointers, and at the line.  Although the shooting percentage isn't great at just 39%, he's at least taking good shots - on paper.  Should be a fun guy to watch.  He scored 26 against Missouri and 21 against Kansas StatePlus they have a dude named Shayok Shayok, and that's always fun.

LOUISIANA-MONROE:  ULM also has a fun name, the Warhawks.  And, like the Kangaroos, the Warhawks should finish near the top of their conference, in this case the Sun Belt.  The Warhawks were a pretty good defensive team last season and they have most of the squad back so they should be annoying again.  They play slow and they play tough, and that will certainly be a worthwhile early season test for the crappy Gophers.

Where ULM sucks is shooting, and boy do they suck.  They're the suckiest bunch of sucks who ever sucked.  As a team last year they hit under 30% from 3 and 46% from 2.  They were alright on free throws, but that didn't matter because they never got to the line - dead last in terms of FTs per FGA, to be specific.  Four guys took over 100 3pointers last season and they shot 24%, 35%, 39%, and 28%.  So yeah, they're terrible.

So these are two games the Gophers definitely need to win and should win, but both will present some challenges. Probably.  I don't know.  Who knows what we're getting from this team this year?

Next, the Twins were busy!  First they submitted the winning bid of $12.85 for the exclusive negotiating writes with Byung Ho Park of the Korean League.  He's 29, so you're gonna get what you're gonna get, but he hit 105 home runs over the past two seasons and sources say that's a lot of home runs.  He hit .343 last season, has an OPS of .951 over his career, and averaged 85 walks over the past four seasons.  I mean, dude can hit in the Korean League.  How does that translate, is the question.   If you're cringing a bit because you can't help but think back on Tsuyoshi Nishioka you're not the only one.  He put up a .346/.423/.482 line in Japan in 2010, signed with the Twins, and proceed to hit .215/.267/.236 over two seasons so yeah, I'm a bit wary of dudes changing leagues.

One positive data point is Jung Ho Kang of the Pirates who was a teammate of Park's.  Kang put up a .356/.459/.739 line in Korea, then came over and hit .287/.355/.461 which is very solid.  His homers dipped from 40 in the KBL to 15 in MLB, which is something to keep in mind with Park as well, but Kang should finish 2nd or 3rd in NL Rookie of the Year (behind Kris Bryant) and if the Twins can get similar from Park that's a nice pick up.

Although Park's last season was his best, he's OPSed over 1.000 each of the last three and his career numbers (.281/.387/.564) are very good and he's pretty consistently showed power where's Kang's 40 homers kind of came out of nowhere.  If I was in the projection business, I'd probably peg him somewhere around his career numbers with a slight dip in OBP and SLG (maybe .280/.340/.520) with somewhere around 25 homers.  I will take that all day.

Then the Twins traded Chris Herrmann to the Diamondbacks for Daniel Palka.  Herrmann was sort of terrible so trading him is fine.  Palka lands on most D-Backs prospect lists somewhere around 30, so he's probably a good return for Herrmann.  He hit .280/.352/.532 last season at high A ball, with 29 homers and 24 steals - good numbers.  He's another 1B and OF type with contact issues that seem to litter the Twins minor leagues, but hey, eventually one of them will work out and all they gave up was Herrmann.  Groovy.

Finally, the Twins made my brother very angry and traded Aaron Hicks to the Yankees for catcher John Ryan Murphy, a much bigger deal of a trade the first one.  Hicks famously had two brutal seasons breaking into the bigs, but last year seemed to be figuring things out and was almost a league average hitter.  Given his above average defense and speed, it's a calculated gamble getting rid of him now, however, and I realize how absurd this is even before I type it, the Twins have too many options in the OF so it makes sense to move someone now if he has even a little bit of value, especially if they don't think Hicks is going to live up to his potential.  Hopefully we don't have a Carlos Gomez 2.0 situation on our hands here.

Murphy was ranked the Yankees #6 prospect prior to 2014, and hit .277/.327/.406 last year, good enough for an OPS of .734, which would have ranked him ninth among all catchers with at least 400 PAs last season, and well above the .610 Kurt Suzuki, excuse me All-Star Kurt Suzuki, flailed his way to last year.  Those numbers are pretty well in line with his minor league career stats, and despite the lack of power (he'll hit about 5-10 homers in a full season) they're serviceable enough considering it sounds like Murphy is an above average defensive catcher, though not a star.

Overall I hate trading Hicks, but the move makes sense in a lot of ways, and that's not even getting into how much money they would end up throwing at either Matt Wieters or some terrible old player like A.J. Pierzynski (who I love) in order to get a decent starting catcher since Suzuki sucks now.  Let's just hope Murphy is that decent starting catcher.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Preseason Top 25 - Reactions

Hey the Preseason Top 25 polls just came out.  You know what that means, time to write about how bad all these teams suck.  I'm taking a look at the AP poll instead of the Coaches poll because I chose it at random.  Spoiler alert:  The Gophers aren't in here.

1.  NORTH CAROLINA.  They only lose J.P. Tokoto who entered the NBA Draft for some reason but that's fine because I think he mostly made people mad at his shooting. Marcus Paige is back and he's really good when he's not being terrible.  They had zero outside shooting other than him last year, and unless one of the freshman can shoot (one supposedly can) or somebody else learned how to hit a 3-pointer in the offseason this is not the best team in basketball.  Also I just read Paige is out for 3-4 weeks with an injury so maybe that will lead to somebody else being good.  SPOILER:  nope.

2.  KENTUCKY.  Hell I don't know.

3.  MARYLAND.  It's hard to wrap my head around Maryland being this high, but I can't argue with it.  They were a 4 seed in the tournament last year and even though they didn't make it out of the weekend they were still a solid team.  Melo Trimble came back and might be the best player in the conference, they added two big time transfers, and got a late commitment from Diamond Stone who is supposed to be awesome despite the ridiculous name and fills their only real hole.  Still, three seems really freaking high.

4.  KANSAS.  Want to hear something that will blow your mind?  Perry Ellis is back for another year.  Even so, these guys are my pick for title winner.  Ellis sucks but he's not completely useless, and even if he is Kansas has everybody back (except Kelly Oubre who was meh anyway) and they're adding two McDonald's All Americans who are both forwards.  This team is deep as all hell, all they need is someone to make the leap.  With so many above average players in both ability and pedigree you'd think somebody's going to do it, and if two or more do these guys will be really, really good.  Bet on them.  Do it.  Go do it.  They're like 10-1.  Do it.

5.  DUKE.  Uh, you guys know they lost Tyus, Okafor, and Justice Winslow, right?  This is all because Grayson Allen, who makes J.J. Redick look downright lovable, had that good stretch in the National Championship game, isn't it?  Does he really seem like the kind of player who can carry a team for a while season.  NOT BLOODY LIKELY.  Good luck with him and one million freshmen.  Oh, right, they got a transfer from Rice coming in too.  Yes, Rice.  The college.  If you read any preview of Duke this year they call out a transfer from Rice as a huge positive.  I am currently making a dismissive wanking motion.

6.  VIRGINIA.  Hoops nerds like to tell you that if you think Virginia basketball is boring, you don't really understand basketball.  Well I understand basketball and I know what the pack line defense is and all that and I'm telling you - Virginia basketball is freaking boring as all hell.  And basically the whole team is back again to be boring and annoying and get handjobs from announcers.  Ugh.  Stop already.

7.  IOWA STATE.  If you asked me to guess where Iowa State was rated I would have said like I don't know, maybe mid-20s or something so this is a bit of a surprise.  But I guess Georges Niang is back which seems impossible and possibly illegal, and, you're not going to believe this, but the Cyclones get a couple of big deal transfers from other programs.  Add that to almost the whole team being back and I guess I see why they're this high.  They should be really fun and pretty good until one of their players gets suspended.

8.  OKLAHOMA.  The opposite of Virginia, these guys are fun as hell to watch and since Buddy Hield, who is basically a lock to lead the Big 12 in scoring, is back they probably will be again.  They also ranked 8th in defensive points per possession, so it is actually possible to play fast, fun, and good defense all at the same time.  Take notes, Cavaliers.  Also, this is way too high for these guys.

9.  GONZAGA.  Lots of people say stuff like man Gonzaga is overrated, they stomp the WCC, get all this Final Four type buzz, and then flame out.  Last year they finally made the Elite 8, which is definitely an accomplishment, but also just the second time they've gotten that far, the last coming in 1999.  So I don't know that they've proved that they're anything more than a small conference bully.  They've got a rock solid front court, but lose their entire back court so things could be rough early.  This section was extremely boring.

10.  WICHITA STATE.  They have Ron Baker and Fred VanVleet back.  That right there is enough to win the Missouri Valley.  No really, you take those two and Greg Marshall and you could roll out of their with three toddlers and the Shockers would roll.  Unfortunately it is both unsafe and illegal to play with toddlers so Wichita State will use real players to complement those two.  I don't really feel like looking up who any of those players are, but since Wichita has been good for so long at this point I'm guessing they're probably pretty good.

11.  VILLANOVA.  God that sucked when these guys got bounced last year, and not just because they were my non-Kentucky pick to win.  They were so freaking good.  Then a dopey NC State team knocks them off.  I suppose I shouldn't be surprised, that's kind of Villanova's thing.  Also their thing:  guards.  And they have a bunch of them again.  So expect the Wildcats to shoot a ton of three pointers, own the Big East, grab a high seed, and flame out early.  It's what they do.  Lesson learned.

12.  ARIZONA.  Stanley Johnson, T.J. McConnell, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, and Brandon Ashley are all gone.  That is a lot of people to be gone.  However Arizona is Arizona, and it must be nice to be Arizona, because they get a star transfer from Boston College and picked up one hell of a recruiting class, including stealing Allonzo Trier from the Gophers.  Also, they still have Kaleb Tarczewski and he is awesome and looks like he would fight you.  And you would die.

13.  MICHIGAN STATE.  Another team with a couple of big losses which catches a break with a big time transfer, ready to step right in.  For Sparty it's Eron Harris who only scored over 17 points per game in his last season at West Virginia, no big whoop.  I'm really fascinated by Lourawls Nairn (remember him?) here.  He only took 8.5% of the team's shots when he was on the floor.  The lowest Gopher with any real minutes played was Bakary Konate at 11.1%, which is actually way higher than Nairn.  I only found two other Big Ten players under 10% last year (Jaylon Tate of Illinois and Jeremiah Kreisberg of Northwestern) but both played far fewer minutes than Nairn.  So like, is that his thing?  What does he do if nobody guards him?  He's the anti-chucker, which in a way, is as fun as a real chucker.  I love watching how teams guard Rajon Rondo - they don't.  I hope that's what happens with Nairn.

14.  CAL.  This team could be like whoa.  I bet them at 60-1 to win the whole thing this summer, and I still like them now down all the way at 20-1.  They have a ton back from last year's team, not a great year, admittedly, and add two Top 10 recruits.  Yes, that's TWO top 10 recruits.  If the name on the jersey was Duke instead of Cal this would be a Top 5 team.  Plus, I like Cuonzo Martin as a coach.  This is my favorite sleeper this year.

15.  INDIANA.  Oh come on!  Do we not play defense any more in basketball, because if this is offense only I would say the Hoosiers are too low, but overall?  No chance.  It's the same team.  The only difference is they got some stud recruit center, but can one player suddenly take a swiss cheese defense and make it good?  Or even passable?  No.  Maybe Antoine Broxsie back in the day, but nobody can make Yogi Ferrell look good on defense.  Should score a lot of points though.  Gopher/Hoosier games should be in the 160s.

16.  UTAH.  I know they have at least one, and maybe two, big giant tall guys, and that's generally a good start when it comes to basketsball.  Ok I decided to check and they only have one, but he's really good you guys!  His name is Jakob Poetl and he's a possible lottery pick who held Jahlil Okafor to 6 points and 4 turnovers in March.  He can score, rebound, and block shots and now that Delon Wright is gone he should be the offenses focal point.  Should be fun.  No idea about all these other guys.

17.  WISCONSIN.  Oh come on!  You're kidding me.  Look, I love Nigel Hayes, I love him as much as I could ever love a Badger.  I think he's most likely a more skilled Noah Vonleh and I loved Noah Vonleh and thanked Jehova every day that Tom Crean was such a terrible coach.  But the Badgers are basically Hayes, Bronson Koenig who is whatever fine, and then nobody else.  I know people say it's stupid to bet against the Badgers and Bo Ryan, but people like blood sausage too.  People are morons.  Badgers suck this year.

18.  VANDERBILT.  Here's another team I like, although I can also see them sucking.  On paper it looks good - a potential lottery pick at center (Damian Jones) surrounded by shooters (Riley Lachance (remember him) and Wade Baldwin (him too) among others, and a team that really gelled as the season went on with most of the team back.  Vandy started out 1-7 in SEC play, but closed out 8-2 and looked really good, so yeah, on paper this looks good.  In reality, it's Vanderbilt so ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

19.  NOTRE DAME.  Jerian Grant is gone, which is a fairly huge deal considering the game plan was generally "hey Jerian, go do everything for us."  The back-up for that was, hey Pat Connaughton, you go do stuff instead but oops, he gone.  Zach Auguste is a super stud, I'll give you that, and he's probably going to be better than Noah Vonleh, but somebody has to get him the ball.  In summation, these guys suck.

20.  UCONN.  They have Amida Brimah who I love because he blocks like, every shot ever taken, and their transfer train is rolling, picking up Sterling Gibbs (who is kind of a dick) from Seton Hall to go with Rodney Purvis whom they stole from NC State last year or maybe the year before.  Actually looking at this roster I've heard of like, everybody which seems goodish.  How the hell is Omar Calhoun still in college basketball?  That's insane.  Also, I probably watch too much basketball.

21.  LSU.  One of my favorite sleepers this year.  Tons of guard play back and they're bringing in the #1 recruit in the country and another big deal new guy too who just got eligible.  As far as negatives go, I have a short list of what I call "dumb teams to never ever bet on" who are always dumb and do stupid stuff and lose when they shouldn't because they are dumb every year no matter what.  LSU is on that list.

22.  BAYLOR.  Baylor still?  I figured they'd drop off the face of the map with recruiting violations or something by now, but here we are.  The front court has a monster in Rico Gathers who is basically a bigger Montrezl Harrell (yes bigger) without the jump shot, but their entire back court is gone.  Oh what's that?  A really young back court coached by Scott Drew?  I smell some early season anti-Baylor wagers.

23.  PURDUE.  Another team I like, mainly because facing them is like going against a bunch of gigantic monsters from a Goosebumps book.  A.J. Hammons is seven feet tall, 261 lbs., Isaac Haas is 7-2, 297 lbs., and incoming freshman Caleb Swanigan is 6-9, 260 lbs..  It would be pretty sweet if they figured out a way to play all three at the same time.  I mean, it wouldn't make a lick of sense, but it would be pretty sweet.  Anyway, Purdue plays pretty good defense, and it's probably going to be even better next season.  They also can't shoot at all.  So there are going to be some ugly, ugly games.

24.  BUTLER.  I tried to write about Butler like 4 times.  That's probably enough.

25.  MICHIGAN.  Michigan loses nobody from last year's team, and that's good even though last year's team missed the tournament.  That was more because Caris LeVert and Derrick Walton played only 37 combined games than Michigan being an actually crappy team, because I am learning John Beilein is a wizard who doesn't make crappy teams.  They're still basically lacking any kind of skilled or capable big man and Zak Irvin is kind of wild out there, but this should be a pretty good team.  Probably better than this ranking.  Man, if Purdue could trade one of their big dudes for a shooter from Michigan, that would be pretty sweet.  College sports needs trading, would be so awesome.  Not like they care about the kids anyway, which is ok because neither do I.  PLAY GAMES FOR MY AMUSEMENT!!!

Monday, November 2, 2015

Gophers 74, Crookston 57

I did not attend the exhibition game against Crookston this weekend, as I was busy.  My father, however, did.  He also texted me, "It's going to be a long season."  My father is an optimist.  This can't be good.  Since we live in a glorious time to be alive and we have this thing called the internet there are box scores and highlights.  That is neato.  I might as well take a peek at them and see what there is to see.

First, the highlights are mostly meaningless because most highlights are as an analytical tool, particularly against a school completely beneath your league, but four things standout.

1.  Gaston Diedhiou covering the distance from near top of the key to the rim in one dribble and dunking (0:38).  That is some serious distance covering skills, which taps into his athleticism.  Also, having the confidence to execute such a move gives us a hint as to how far he's come in his development.  That move was as important to the team this is year as it was shocking.  What if he's good?

2.  Ahmad Gilbert shake and bake and step back jumper (0:56).  Granted, it's generally been accepted by analytical basketball types, which I like to consider myself, that 18 foot jumpers are pretty much the worst shot in the basketball, but I liked this play.  You don't take that shot unless you consider yourself a great shooter, and I like great shooters.  Of course, not every player who considers themselves a great shooter is indeed a great shooter, but he's also a lefty so he probably is.

3.  Jordan Murphy's three pointer (1:11).  I was unaware Murphy could hit threes, but he did and his form looks good.  Perhaps you were aware and that is good for you.  I was not.

4.  Nate Mason's hair (the whole thing).  That is spectacular.

The box score, now, let's see.  Well, they held Crookston to 38% and just 0.78 points per possession (I think, I've never actually had to calculate this for myself), which are both good but expected.  The 21 turnovers is also nice to see, given that it's the whole point of Pitino's defensive style.  Allowing 13 offensive rebounds on 36 missed shots is kind of horrible.  Thats even worse than their 33.4% last season, and that number ranked dead last in the Big Ten.  And, just a quick reminder, they were playing Crookston last night.  So that's, you know, probably something to keep an eye on.

The Gopher offense wasn't much better, putting up just 1.03 points per possession which would be an ok number against a Big Ten opponent but is flat out lousy against an exhibition foe.  It turns out when you shoot 39% from the floor and 52% from the line you're not going to score a ton of points.  Only 8 turnovers is good.  35% three point shooting is fine, depending on the looks.  Diedhiou's 11 shot attempts is encouraging, but his size and athletic ability should let him dominate a team like this.  I'm still encouraged by him so far.

Thirty-four points in the paint seems kind of awful against this opponent.  Or if that's not awful, then Crookston getting 28 in the paint is awful defense.  One of those two numbers is awful.  Ugh.  Sounds like a horrible game to watch.

So we move on.  Friday night they play somebody.  Southwest Minnesota State I think.  For some reason I'm going to that one.  But I think I'll have my damn weiner kids, so at least they'll distract me enough I won't have to pay too much attention.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Oh. Hello.

It has been a long damn time since I posted.  A month.  Not dead, just lazy.  I do plan to be back full force once Gopher basketball gets going, I really do.  For now, since at least 1 person is asking for a new post, I'll write something.

-  Welcome aboard, Eric Curry!  Quickly following up the Amir Coffey signing (yay!) the Gophers also picked up forward Eric Curry.  He's a combo type forward from Arkansas, and while he's not ranked on Coffey's level he's well regarded in his own right:  ranking #106 by 247sports national composite and the #21 ranked power forward.  He ended up besties with Coffey and once Amir signed Curry was pretty likely to follow in what hopefully becomes a trend.

He's described as a combo forward, which generally means he's either too fast for PF and too strong for SF or too weak for PF and too slow for SF.  Hopefully the former and it sounds good so far.  Scouting reports tout his athleticism and he's already got a decent amount of polish posting up which will be a nice change for a Gopher team that hasn't had a true post up artists since, I dunno, Ralph Sampson I guess.  Before you jump all over that remember Ralph had some moves.  Curry's other highly touted attribute is his "high motor" which means the Sampson comparisons can pretty much end now.

His weaknesses are he needs to get stronger and he needs more of a perimeter game.  Well, he's a high school senior right now, and I'm pretty sure the ESPN scouting report just rubber stamps "must get stronger" on early every recruit because that's a pretty common and understandable need.  The perimeter game should come around because, get this, he's a 78% free throw shooter.  Sign him up!

-  The Twins season ended, you may have learned, and I struggle whether or not to say this was a successful season though I lean towards yes.  We got to watch some meaningful baseball almost all the way to the final day of the season - that's good!  Then again, they cratered and didn't get the Wildcard spot - that's bad!  Though, they probably weren't as good as their record anyway - that's bad!  But we got to see a glimpse of many of the future hopefully building blocks of future success - that's good!  So I'll stick with slightly good.  Here's some other Twins stuff:

1.  Say good-bye to Trevor Plouffe.  I found some sight the other day that gave projected arbitration salaries for players, and Plouffe is guessed at $7.7 million.  I like Plouffe and he's a decent player who works hard and seems like a good dude and was part of some very bad teams without complaint, but at that salary, with Miguel Sano slated to be the third baseman for the next billion years, the world's most unmovable contract stuck at 1st, and a slew of younger, cheaper bats that need DH appearances and spot starts there's nowhere for him to play.  Whether via trade or simply non-tendering him I just can't see him sticking around, which is unfortunate because he's WonderBaby (who is now 7)'s favorite player, though she calls him Treasure Poof.

2.  Do the Twins need an ace?  More on the need for an ace later, if I feel like and/or remember, but I don't think this is doable.  They've tossed way too much money at Ricky Nolasco, Ervin Santana, and Phil Hughes lately to really go after it, unless they were going to pony up the big bucks and do it right by going after David Price or Jordan Zimmermann or something but I don't see that happening.  With Hughes, Santana, Kyle Gibson, and a slew of young arms worth trying out I'm not even sure they need to do anything with the starting staff (but the bullpen?  Fire everybody).  There are enough decent names out there that if they can get a steal (a real steal, like that 2/$20 million contract the Cubs gave Jason Hammel) then it might be worth it.  But please, no 4 year deal for Jeremy Guthrie.  Please.

3.  Overall the future here seems pretty neat.  They need a catcher and a shortstop for sure and those are not very easy to fill so hopefully dudes who are already here can fill those roles, but other than Brian Dozier's second half cratering things seem pretty clear.  I hated the Torii Hunter signing when it happened because that money could have been better spent, but hell, maybe there is something to clubhouse chemistry and veteran leadership.  I'd be happy to see him back at a reduced rate assuming he's cool being the 4th outfielder at best.  Next year should be pretty fun.  Looking forward to it.

-  Seems like we are heading towards a Royals vs. Mets World Series.  I'm good with that.  Of the playoff teams you had teams that were too successful (Cardinals), too evil (Yankees), too rich (Dodgers), too big of assholish fans (Toronto), too unlikable (Rangers), too it hurts because it should have been us (Astros), and the Pirates, Cubs, Royals, and Mets, and you have to eliminate the Cubs because the whole Back to the Future thing is already more irritating the constant DFS commercials.

So really, Royals and Mets gives me probably two of my top three choices (with the Pirates).  And yeah sure, the Mets are terribly run organization and the Royals are kind of dickish and have the most clueless manager in the playoffs, but you're never going to get perfect.  It should be fun and I won't be annoyed no matter who wins.  What's wrong with that?  Plus the less R.A. Dickey there is to watch, the better.  Though I will really miss watching Kyle Schwarber play outfield.

And I'm determined to do a live blog of at least one World Series game.  I think I have almost every year, so I can't just stop now.

-  Wolves should be pretty fun.  Rubio-LaVine-Wiggins-Towns-Dieng.  Could be a lot worse, right?  At least it should be fun.  A legit shot at back-to-back Rookie of the Year winners, finding out if LaVine can be like, good, and seeing if Rubio can stay healthy is a good reason to at least occasionally watch.  I mean, Rubio running a break with those two wings and Towns trailing?  That's awesome.

And how good can Towns be?  Rookie of the Year is pretty much a lock, the only question is can he challenge for MVP.  I say yes.  Did you see him hitting those threes against no defense this offseason?  I mean, most guys can't do that.  And have you seen his preseason stats?  Averaging 10.7 pts, 6.7 rebs, and 1.0 blocks per game, but that's only in 21 minutes per game!  If you extrapolate that out to a whole game it comes out to something like 35 pts, 18 rebounds, 9 assists, and 7 blocks per game.  You know the last player to put up those kind of numbers?  Yep, that's right - Hot Sauce.  Towns is that good.

-  I know what you're thinking - "this blog sucks now."  But I know what else you're thinking, why is there no mention of this year's Gopher hoops team?  Well, I'm not ready yet.  I'll rip something off at some point, but right now it's like, no.  I am not ready to write about Joey King just yet, and I don't really know how to spin the Bakary Konate/Gaston Diedhiou stuff into a positive, nor can I figure out how to look forward to Carlos Morris being a big key to the season.  I'll get around to it, I swear.  For now, let me write something quick about other NCAAB stuff.

-  ACC is going to be garbage, relatively speaking.  Only North Carolina looks poised to be good.  Duke lost everybody and will now count on Grayson freaking Allen, Virginia I'm pretty sick of already so move on, Louisville lost literally their entire roster, Notre Dame without Jerian Grant is meaningless.  Miami and FSU could be semi-interesting but in general I'm expecting the Big 10 to take the challenge thing.

-  LSU is one of my big sleepers and you can still get them at 50/60-1 to win the National Championship.  Yes, they lost Jordan Mickey and Jarrell Martin, but they have a ton of guard play coming back and two absolute stud recruits in do everything big man Ben Simmons (likely #1 pick in next year's draft) and swingman Antonio Blakeney (who is now linked to the Louisville "scandal").  There are a lot of questions about the front court, though Simmons can maybe do it all, but all those guards back and a monster recruiting class scream contender to me.

-  Another team I like a lot is Cal (don't worry, Justin Cobbs is gone).  They pick up the #4 and #7 players in the entire country, both front court guys, who join their three best players, all guards.  Add in Cuonzo Martin, a really, really good coach, and you'd be a fool to pass them up at 20-1.  A FOOL!!

-  I might end up doing a Big Ten preview post, and if I do I promise I won't be like every other writer and say something like "based on talent the Badgers shouldn't be this high, but Bo Ryan blah blah blah barf"  No!  This is the year the Badgers suck ass.  They are gutted.  They have Nigel Hayes, who I love and is awesome, Bronson Koenig, who is annoying and super hateable and sucks, and that's it.  All of their other players suck.  They won't be bottom of the basement, but there's zero chance this team makes the NCAA Tournament.  None.  Zero.  None.

-  A Big Ten team I do like a ton this year is Purdue, though that seems like a not uncommon thought.  And their games are going to suuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck to watch.  Massive rim protection in A.J. Hammons and Isaac Haas (Hammons is elite, Haas is 7-2 so should get there eventually) is joined by 6-9 Caleb Swanigan, one of the top couple center recruits in the country, and Raphael Davis is back who, you surely don't remember this, won B10 defensive player of the year.  They also couldn't shoot for shit last year and there's no real reason that should change.  I fully expect multiple games where they win without breaking 50 points.

-  Oh yeah, speaking of points we have a new shot clock now at 30 seconds.  Even better though they got rid of the 5-second closely guarded rule.  I'm not sure if that's a positive change as far as the game goes, but it's going to be super fun to go to games this year and hear morons yell "5 seconds!" one billion times because nobody reads anymore.  Also, speaking of going to games, Snacks and I were lining up our trip out to Sioux Falls with our sons to go check out the Gophers vs. Oklahoma State game and then right as we were figuring stuff out bam, it turns out my parents' have this dumb christmas party that same day where we are supposed to be blackjack dealers or something.  Thanks a lot, mom and dad.

-  Perry Ellis, the 37-year old Kansas power forward, is back for another year.  He has now surpassed Wade Lookingbill, Jess Settles, and Brian Cardinal for longest tenured player in college basketball history.

- I don't know.  I guess that's all for now.

-  Oh yeah.  Also Rick Pitino 100% knew there were sex parties for recruits and also that happens at every single school.  Haven't you seen He Got Game?

Monday, September 21, 2015

Welcome Aboard, Amir Coffey!!

I'm currently on a plane, drinking Woodford Reserve because why wouldn't I, and I have a really horrible internet connection but it appears that twitter says Amir Coffey committed to the University of Minnesota and holy shit dude.  Not since the Rodney/Royce double pick up year has the U gotten a guy like this.  ESPN ranks him as the 33rd best recruit in the entire country for 2016 and 247 Sports composite puts him at #45.  That's a big deal! Dude had offers from tons of blue chippers like Arizona, Michigan State, and Texas but bam, sorry losers we got him.

The writing was pretty much on the wall that he would be a Gopher after his official visit back on September 3.  He tweeted pictures of him and his dad (Richard, duh) at Williams Arena, reports came out that he kept going back for unofficials to hang with the players, and he canceled an official visit to Texas.  It was still terrifying of course since, Minnesota sports, and I am glad I was on a plane and unable to load up anything to see who he chose until well after the fact, but it happened and we got him.

Coffey is a 6-7 guard, yes a 6-7 guard, and everything about him sounds awesome.  They say he can play all three perimeter positions.  He's smart, a good ball-handler and passer, and can hit from the perimeter or get to the rim.  He can defend already.  I mean everything sounds good.  His negatives are he needs to build up more strength, very common for a freshman, and he could be a more vocal leader.  That's all they could come up with.  ESPN calls him a special player with upside off the charts and even compared him to Jalen Rose.  Just the fact that he'll be able to come in and start and can already shoot and play defense puts him ahead of most freshman.  This is just awesome.

None of that is even the most important part though.  With Jarvis Johnson, Michael Hurt, and now Coffey Pitino has started to close the borders.  This is good, but I also must clarify.  The reason closing the borders is good is not because you get all the Minnesota players and if you think that way I bet you love P.A. too.  The reason closing the borders is good is because when you do have an instate awesome player his thought process STARTS with I'm going to be a Gopher.  It's not going to result in landing every stud, but that as the default is a much better way to start than "hey where should I go?"  Pitino is on a good run right now.

The other super awesome thing is that Coffey is besties with Eric Curry.  Curry is a power forward from Arkansas who visited the same time Amir did.  He's not ranked as highly as Amir, but he's the 106th ranked player by 247 composite and #22 power forward and that's still pretty damn awesome.  I won't get into talking too much about his abilities and what not since he hasn't committed here and may not, but it's looking better than ever right now.  You know Amir is on snapchat or periscope or whatever kids use recruiting him.

In short - hell yes.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Best Gophers of the Tubby Era: #11-#15

Throughout the summer I'll be writing up each of the 34 players who played for the University of Minnesota under Tubby Smith.  Why Tubby?  Because it's the most recent era that's over.  If this goes well perhaps I'll go back and do Monson as well.  I'll be looking at any player who played at Minnesota under Tubby at some point, even if it was just a year.  And I will be considering their entire Gopher career, so guys who started under Monson or finished under Pitino will have their whole career considered, but anyone who transferred in or out is only evaluated on their Gopher stats.  With me?  Here we go:

#34 to #31 can be found here.
#26-#30 can be found here.
#21-#25 are here
Here's #16-#20

15.  Julian Welch (2011-2013).
-  This feels high for Welch considering he was a two year player whose playing time dramatically shrunk in his second year, but Welch somehow managed to rank top 10 in assists, three pointers, and steals among all Gophers in this countdown.  I don't remember him as a particularly great shooter or passer, but I remember the steals simply because of the difference between his hand speed and foot speed.  He had, without question, the fastest hands of any Gopher I can recall.  He also was essentially a lawn gnome when he tried to guard anyone trying to get to the lane.  I legitimately loved watching him simply because of those two things.

14.  Elliott Eliason (2011-2015).
-  This is a tough career to try to sum up, but you could probably do it best just by looking at his minutes per game each year:  15.0, 13.7 (regression), 21.9 (big leap forward!), 11.2 (ugh).  That's about right.  He had that one stretch of brilliance his junior season where he put up double doubles in four of eight games with two other near misses, and that stretch included five Big Ten games, where it looked like he might be becoming something, but alas, it wasn't meant to be and his career kind of spiraled to an underwhelming conclusion.  However it's almost impossible to look back on this guy with any kind of bad feelings.  He was a guy who came and gave it everything he had whenever he was on the court, and never let playing time get to him in any way you could see or hear about it.  Good dude.

13.  Lawrence McKenzie (2006-2008).
-  McKenzie ranks high because even though he was only a Gopher for two years he was pretty much the man both of those years, averaging 13.3 points per game, and led the Gophers to the NIT in Tubby's first year which seemed like an impossibility following the disaster that was the final Monson/Molinari year and suddenly everything seemed possible and we were on our way and we could build this dream together standing strong forever nothing's gonna stop us now.  Or whatever.

12.  Maurice Walker (2010-2015).
-  Walker played for 17 years as a Gopher, and that kind of time is tough to forget.  I also think he might have lost some weight once Pitino came in, but I'm not sure I thought I heard that somewhere though.  Seriously though, the first time I saw Walker play as a freshman I could tell right away he had a great feel for the game.  You know how a lot of big men get the ball on the block and go right into score mode?  Walker didn't, he saw the court amazingly well, although it's not backed up by his assist numbers I stand by what I saw.  Injuries and weight issues (perhaps related) robbed him of some athleticism and explosiveness, and who knows what might have been?  He was clearly a hard worker, just looking at his weight loss and free throws, and I believe he could have developed an outside shot at some point.  This would be a good guy to take a do over on, if you could do such as that.

11.  Spencer Tollackson (2004-2008).
-  No bonus points for being the radio guy for the Gophers, though not because I dislike him or anything - I actually like when he weights in from the player's perspective on things, even if he's behind only Paul Allen on the homer list.  That actually kind of sums up his playing career - a little bit annoying and a little bit likable.  Similar to Walker, he was clearly a hard worker who wanted to win.  I remember him completely revamping his free throw form to try to fix that issue (didn't work) and going from a garbage man to someone with a variety of moves.  Unfortunately, all that hard work to develop those moves didn't really work because he didn't have the natural talent to finish.  Clearly worked at it though, which is cool.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Gophers of the Tubby Era Countdown: #16-#20

Throughout the summer I'll be writing up each of the 34 players who played for the University of Minnesota under Tubby Smith.  Why Tubby?  Because it's the most recent era that's over.  If this goes well perhaps I'll go back and do Monson as well.  I'll be looking at any player who played at Minnesota under Tubby at some point, even if it was just a year.  And I will be considering their entire Gopher career, so guys who started under Monson or finished under Pitino will have their whole career considered, but anyone who transferred in or out is only evaluated on their Gopher stats.  With me?  Here we go:

#34 to #31 can be found here.
#26-#30 can be found here.
#21-#25 are here

#20.  MAVERICK AHANMISI (2010-2014).
-  Stuck around all four years, which is a positive, but never really developed into a third string point guard.  Probably took more heat than anyone on this list, but you can't blame him too much because he basically got forced into more playing time than he had the talent to play.  He did see his playing time dwindle from 13.3 minutes per game in his sophomore year to 10.5 as a junior and 9.6 as a senior.  He ended his career shooting under 40% from the floor and with a 1.1 to 0.9 assist-to-turnover ratio.  He was a late spring desperation signing and he generally played like it.  But at least he tried and wasn't a whiner.

#19.  JOE COLEMAN (2011-2013).
-  He was a pretty important piece on Tubby's last two teams before transferring to St. Mary's when Richard Pitino came in despite having a game that would thrive in his system.  He never developed an outside shot, but he excelled at getting to the rim and finding ways to score despite standing just 6-4.  His amazing 29 point outburst at Illinois showed his potential, but he wasn't able to harness that consistently and now he's off to the Gaels.  He played in one game last season before an injury knocked him out for the year.

#18.  JAMAL ABU SHAMALA (2005-2009).
-  One of the harder players to rank.  He wasn't very good, but he played four years and had his moments, generally behind the 3-point line because he basically didn't do anything else.  It was a special moment whenever he found himself with an open three and you just didn't care if it went in because if he was in the game when it mattered it was when the Gophers were terrible and if he was in when they were decent the game was probably out of hand already.  Completely unfair to him, but for whatever reason he represents the failure of the Monson/Molinari years to me.  Probably because he was actually starting at one point when things were pretty much completely off the rails.  Now I can appreciate who he was, at pretty much right in the middle of this countdown seems about right.

#17.  COLTON IVERSON (2008-2011).
-  If you had to make a poster for guys who never developed under Tubby Smith, it would have to be a pretty big poster.  But if you wanted to narrow down to two guys, Iverson is one of them.  He was a so so post player for the Gophers, but once he transferred to Colorado State he turned into a monster who got himself drafted in the second round of the NBA Draft.  Don't remember he became a monster because he played in a smaller conference way out west?  Well he averaged 14 points and 10 rebounds a game his senior year.  Those are amazing numbers.  Could he have put that up in the Big Ten?  Most likely not, but it's clear he was underutilized his three years as a Gopher.

#16.  DEVOE JOSEPH (2008-2011).
-  One of the most disappointing players of the era for me, I really thought Joseph was going to be a lights out scorer.  There were times where he looked so good, but he and Tubby clearly didn't get along, both on the court (Joseph could get lost out there at times) and off (weed).  Then, 8 games into his junior year he bolted after being suspended twice for an undisclosed reason (weed), apparently complaining about not getting enough playing time and shot attempts which was ridiculous.  Al Nolen would get hurt later that season, which would have given Joseph all the playing time he could handle.  By then he was already at Oregon, and, rather than sit out a full year to maximize his playing time, he joined the ducks for the second semester of the 2011-2012 year, which meant that in his final two years he played a grand total of just 36 games.  Yeah, he ended up developing into that scorer I thought he would (averaged 16.7 points per game), but a series of poor decisions cost him a lot.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Is Eddie Rosario, like, Good?

As you are probably aware, the Twins are fighting for a playoff spot while at the same time showing us a glimpse of their future with a whole lot of younger players up and making contributions.  One of these is Eddie Rosario, who has used a good mix of hitting, fielding, and base running to end up ranked 4th on the team in WAR.  You may now be asking yourself why I would question if he is, like, good in that case.  Well, unfortunately there are some red flags.  They might not necessarily mean much or call him out as a fluke, but there are some things to worry about.

Rosario has put up a slash line of .274/.296/.452 so far this season.  Two of those numbers are respectable, but that awful OBP is bad enough to drag his OPS down to almost exactly the league average.  That's his red flag #1 - horrendous strike zone management.

He has 87 strikeouts this season against just 11 walks, which is pretty staggering.  His walk rate of 3.2% is the 6th worst in baseball among batters with at least 300 plate appearances, while his strikeout rate of 25.1% is the 34th worst.  The spread of nearly 22 percentage points is monstrous.  I could only find a few instances of other players with a similar spread, and they were either slap hitters (Chris Owings) or only ended up with that kind of spread because they strike out an absolute ridiculous amount (Randal Grichuk).  The good news is that both his rates are worse than what he put up in his minor league career so although he's always going to be a free swinger these extremes may just be growing pains.

His swing rate is the worst on the team (outside of Oswaldo Arcia), but his contact rates are ok - not great, but ok.  Interestingly it turns out major league teams aren't dumb, because less than half the pitches he sees are inside the strike zone and his percentage is the lowest on the team other than Kennys Vargas and Jorge Polanco.  Basically teams are throwing him bad pitches, he's swinging at those pitches, and he's missing those pitches.  Until he reigns in his hacking a bit that'll continue, and although you can have success being a free swinger it's much more difficult when you aren't getting anything to hit.  Keep an eye on this.

His second red flag, although not as big of one in my opinion, is his BABIP of .347, a generally unsustainable number.  Unlike last year's fluke Danny Santana, however, it's not that huge of an outlier based on his past.  His minor league BABIPs were almost always over .300 and he put up a few seasons in the .350 range, so though .347 is probably high it's not ridiculously high.  His line drive percentage isn't great and he pops up too much, but he has an excellent hard hit percentage which can help account for a greater than it should be BABIP.

Overall, Rosario is going to be a quality player.  The value he adds with his defense alone makes him a plus player, and advanced metrics (and the eye test) mark him as an excellent fielder both in terms of range and arm.  He's fast and a good base runner (base runs mark him as 2nd on the team behind Brian Dozier at things like taking the extra base) and his stolen base mark should get better with more experience.  How good he's going to be is going to depend on his bat, and that's going to depend on learning a bit more plate discipline.  I think he'll adjust in Year 2+, and he's going to be a fixture in the outfield for a long time.

Or at least I hope.  Wow.  Optimism.  Feels weird.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

What the Hell are the Twins gonna do at Shortstop?

The Twins hit the back stretch of the season, somewhat limping and hovering around .500 and 2.5 games back of the second Wild Card spot.  There are two ways to look at this season.  The first is that the team overachieved and could never have sustained their early season success, but a .500ish year and semi-meaningful games with an outside shot at a surprise playoff appearance a year ahead of schedule (a .500 would clear their Vegas over/under on wins by 12 games) is pretty damn neato.  The second is to say that the Twins were running away with the division and collapsed, and the season is a failure.  Obviously, the first way is correct and the second way is for morons.

The other success of this season is you can see the future starting to take shape.  Not so much the pitching side which has too many questions for even me to try to answer, but the position players?  It's happening.

There's little doubt that the opening day outfield next year will be Byron Buxton, Aaron Hicks, and Eddie Rosario (and that should be a damn good fielding unit).  Miguel Sano will have third locked down, and Brian Dozier is going to be at second for a while.  1B/DH is going to be some combination of Joe Mauer, because we're stuck with him, Trevor Plouffe, if they keep him around - he has value and they control him for two more years but he's getting spendy, and Kennys Vargas, if he remembers how to hit.  Ideally Oswaldo Arcia does the same and becomes the fourth outfielder with some DH time as well.  Catcher goes to Kurt Suzuki unfortunately for another year, and then the hope is either Josmil Pinto or Chris Herrmann step up.  It's a nice solid start to team.  But what the hell are they gonna do at shortstop?

They have three current options - Danny Santana, Eduardo Escobar, and Eduardo Nunez.  They're all young and under team control so they'll probably get plenty of chances, but I don't see a full time shortstop here anywhere.  Santana flashed a solid rookie year, finishing 7th in AL Rookie of the Year voting, but had all the warning signs of a fluke which came to fruition this year.  In his 256 plate appearances in the majors this year he OPSed just .541, 3rd worst in all the majors, and rocked a 66-5 strikeout to walk ratio.  I covered Escobar here, coming to the conclusion that his upside, last year, was adequate at best, and his downside, this year, is a crappy utility guy.  Nunez seems to have moved into the starters role by default, but there's nothing there to suggest he's anything other than a replacement level utility guy, which he has been for his six big league seasons.

So what's next?  Look at any Twins' top prospect list and you'll see two names, and only two names - Nick Gordon and Jorge Polanco.  Gordon was picked just last year out of high school so he's probably not going to be ready until 2018 at the earliest, so it's Polanco or bust.  And I'm really not sure how to feel about that.

He's certainly looked good in his limited time in the majors, slashing .313/.450/.500 with 4 walks and 3 strikeouts in 20 plate appearances and Fangraphs has him as a better than average defensive shortstop.  All positive signs.  His career line of .288/.349/.406 in the minors is alright, but more impressive is his 269 strikeouts to 182 walks, which shows that unlike a lot of shortstops he's not a complete hacker up there.

So what's the problem?  No power at all.  Zero.  None.  That .406 slugging over his minor league career would be one of the lower numbers in the majors this year, and if you look at his ISO, which strips out a high average influencing from influencing slugging, he's put up Ben Revere type numbers each of the last two seasons, only without the speed.

I'm not saying he's terrible or can't develop into more of an all around player.  He hit very well in rookie and A ball, with some power, and he's only 21 and already at AAA with two flashes in the big leagues and he's pretty much hit for a high average everywhere.  I'm fully rooting for him, it's just amazing to me that all the eggs have to be in this basket, but there's nobody else.  Levi Michael was supposed to be the shortstop of the future, but he was drafted out of college in 2011 and is still stuck at AA so I don't think we can really count on him any more, especially since he has less power than Polanco.

Considering the free agent market looks pretty bare at the position for the next couple years we should all be huge Jorge Polanco fans and hope he gets to the majors, for good, sooner rather than later.  Help us, Jorge Polanco, you're our only hope.