It's a good thing I had pretty much already written this season off, because the Gophers found a new way to lose a game as brutally as possible. Getting blown out, crawling back, taking the lead, losing the lead, and tying it up at the buzzer which oops was actually after the buzzer is a new level of losing. It was clear he was late, clear enough to me at least that we just left after the buzzer instead of waiting for the ref's review. Sucks. Here are some things. I might get to ten I'm not sure. They're also probably going to be short because it's not very fun.
1. Dre Hollins still can't shoot. I consider myself a fairly analytical basketball mind, but there's really no rational reason for Hollins to continue to miss at this level (2-12 last night). I still think he's settling for jumpers to much and not getting to the rim, but it's not a huge shift from last year (14.1% of shots at rim this year vs. 16.8% last year) and if he's not 100% that could be the reason, but he's just flat missing even the wide open looks. I wish I knew more about stuff like shooting form and balance and release points and all that, because at this point it's gotta be mechanical. Or at least I hope so, because if it's mental it's going to be tough for him to pull it together after so many, many, misses.
2. Carlos Morris and Nate Mason were offensive superstars. The duo accounted for 38 of the Gophers' points on 14-25 shooting - that's good! Both have been showing off multi-faceted offensive games recently, and that only bodes well for the future. Wait, let me rephrase. The Gopher offense should score a lot of points next season, and points are fun. The defense right now looks to me like it will be absolutely dreadful. We're getting pretty used to it, but there's a very good chance it's going to be worse next year. Much worse.
3. If they make their free throws at the end of the game, they probably win. This is something people want to focus on and it's tough to blame them. Yeah, there were tons of other things that could have changed the game's outcome and the Gophers shot 12-16 from the line for the game, but missing the front end of two one-and-ones with a slim lead in the final two and a half minutes is pretty tough to ignore. I, and plenty of others, said if the poor free throw shooting didn't improve from earlier in the year it would cost this team at least one game, and here it probably did. Weird to say in a game they shoot 75% from the stripe, but tough to ignore that situation.
4. Pitino's new starting lineup didn't matter. Another thing I heard some whining about is how Pitino's different starting lineup (Eliason-Buggs-King-Hollins-Mason) screwed the team because they started the game in a 10-2 hole. Just shut up. That didn't matter. First, it was so early in the game that an eight point lead is not really close to insurmountable. Second, nobody on this team is so good compared to his replacement that his not being on the floor is going to make any significant difference. The only change that would make any difference long term would be Eliason in for Mo Walker, and it looks like Walker came in at about the seventeen and a half minute mark (we missed about the first five minutes or so because Macs was SO slow bringing the food out). This is a dumb point. He tried something kind of dumb to "spark the team" because that kind of dumb stuff sometimes works. This time it didn't, but it had little bearing on the team's loss.
5. Pitino's offense seems to have lost its edge. Remember when the Gophers ran some cool plays? Good enough stuff that I would point some of them out here? What happened? I know the base offense is kind of to let the players create and not have a pet play (like Tubby's flex) but the Gophers don't really have the types of players who can do that consistently. It works at Louisville and Florida because those guys are really, really good (Florida this year excepted). There needs to be a little bit more of a plan on the offensive end, especially when Mathieu is running rough.
6. Maybe Mathieu should have shot a pull up at the end. I guess in hindsight yes he definitely should have since he couldn't get the lay-up off, but he's fast and he's used to get where he's going and it's not like he was late by some huge amount of time. He saw a lane, he got to it, and it almost worked. He shares plenty of blame for what's gone on this season, and I have no idea what's going on with his dribbling which was near flawless last year but seems to have gone to hell, but don't put a whole lot of blame on him for running out of time. I saw some classy chap on twitter call him dumb. He makes a lot of dumb turnovers, sure, but this is the kind of thing that just sucks. It happens.
7. I thought the defense on Iowa's last shot was fine. I haven't rewatched it, which I probably would have if this season was going any where but it's not so I really don't feel like it, but my first impression was the defense was there, Uthoff just made a tough shot. I don't want to look at it again. If I'm wrong, it's probably the first time so give me a break.
8. Joey King is like, trying to be unlikable. He hit two monster threes in the second half. After both he did some cocky thing with his shooting hand like, simulating a ball going down into the hoop. Don't do that.
9. It may be time to let the kids play. This season is in oof status, and I'm not advocating a wholesale benching of the seniors or anything it's probably time to at least start glancing towards next year. With both Mo and Eliason gone that means Buggs, Bakary Konate, and Gaston Diedhiou are going to have to log a lot of minutes next season (gulp). Time to let them get more than a little taste and at least get some idea of what you have going into next season. Also probably time to be hitting the Juco, late signee, and transfer ranks pretty hard.
10. Well now what? I don't believe this team is anywhere near as bad as an 0-5 Big Ten team usually is, flaws notwithstanding, Kenpom still has them ranked #50 in the country, which kind of seems silly right now, but on the other hand they've mostly blown out bad teams and played good teams close, which is a recipe Kenpom generally likes. Unfortunately there are other metrics out there that mean more to the NCAA Selection committee such as RPI (#106) and Strength of Schedule (#103) which have pretty much now reached a level where anything the Gophers do short of nearly running the table isn't going to be enough to reach the tournament, and there's even some work to be done to go back to the NIT. Time to just try to have some fun with the rest of the year and watch the guys develop for next season and beyond. Luckily, I had already tricked my brain into thinking that way after Purdue. Even so, this season has been a disappointment on a level that I don't know if I've ever experienced.
I do think they'll smoke Rutgers on Saturday though.