Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Gophers Lose. Sports are stupid.

I was just going to toss out a couple tweets, but this is probably slightly longer than a tweet, although it won't be the huge word vomit type I post I used to litter this blog with.  Couple things I didn't like about the game, besides the soul crushing loss.

-  The pick and roll.  It flat out didn't work, and they went to it over and over and over and over and over again.  The Spartans hard hedged/doubled the ball-handler every single time, and I can't remember a single time the roller got the ball.  I haven't rewatched because I'm not a weirdo, but it's bizarre that they never hit the roller on a single pick and roll.  Even if Michigan State covered the roller with help defense perfectly there should have been a skip pass that was memorable.

The only success they had with the pick and roll was when the ball handler would go the opposite way from the pick and get to the rim.  I do remember this working with more than one of the guards a few times, but the success rate was just overall brutal.  The team needs to switch things up, and use the pick and roll maybe to start the play, but with some kind of pick/screen action away from the ball to kick start things.  This offense flat out did not work against the Spartans defense.

-  Partially because of the bad offense, and partially because they screwed up like, every single fast break, the assists dropped off in this game.  11 assists on 20 made baskets, or 55%, below their season number of 62% (after this game).  May not seem like much of a drop, but the prior games were 73%, 69%, 71%, and 72% and it seemed like the offense was humming.  So this game was a bit of a fucking record scratch.

-  Where was Springs?  He played 17 minutes but I swear I hardly saw him in the second half or overtime.  I now he's not the greatest, but he's shown he can light it up.  If he's off he has little value and shouldn't play, but he only took two shots and the one he made was a bit of a tough one on a real quick catch and shoot.  On a night where the offense mostly sucked, maybe giving your streakiest shooter more of a chance is a good idea?

-  Reggie Lynch.  Cut the shit.  11 minutes due to constant - CONSTANT - foul trouble.  He's the most game changing player on this team and the team is totally different on both ends of the floor when he's in the game.  Eleven god damn minutes.  Knock it off.  Bakary Konate has turned into a much better back-up than I expected, and he actually did a nice job on whoever that fat guy was who kept scoring, but Lynch is the most important player on this team.  Eleven minutes.  Stop being dumb.

-  I think that's it.  I thought both plays at the end of games with chances to win were fine.  Shots didn't go in.  Free throws sucked, and if we counted up the number of missed front ends of 1-and-1s maybe I'd feel different, but they shot 68.9% in this game, basically their season number (69.2%) and the overall college basketball number (69.6%).  The real problem was the terrible second half offense.  Be more interesting.  And cut the shit with the weave to start every possession.  It's not doing anything but wasting time.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Well. Here we go.

(I'm writing this today because if they lose to Arkansas State everything goes to shit anyway)

Against nearly everyone's expectations, this year's Gopher team is sitting at 11-1 and is in position to sit on the NCAA bubble all season long.  They rank a respectable 46 in kenpom's rankings, which puts them at #7 in the conference ahead of Michigan State and Maryland, among others.  And, I mean, there's a lot of good wins here (though no great ones).

UT-Arlington (#66) - The big warning before the game was this wasn't some typical hyphen school, and they've lived up to the hype with road wins over Texas and St. Mary's.

St. Johns (#99) - They've been completely inconsistent this year, but they did just blow out Syracuse, who might be terrible, but they're a top 100 team so I'm putting them in here.

Arkansas (#44) - It's still the Razorbacks only loss, and they've beaten four top 101 teams.

Vanderbilt (#76) - There's a chance they're really bad, but again, top 100!

Add in Lafayette, Northern Illinois, Arkansas State, and Georgia Southern who are all in the top 160 and this has been the best non-conference season I can remember in a few years.  Last year they had exactly 1 win in the top 100 in non-conference (Clemson). The year before that was also one (Georgia).  In 2014 they had just two.  You have to go back to 2013 to find better non-conference results, when they had five wins over Top 100 teams.  What happened that year?  They beat Michigan State at home in the Big Ten opener and went on to make the NCAA Tournament (and won a game!).  Which brings us to Tuesday.

Once again, the Gophers open at home vs. the Spartans, and this is a game they absolutely need to win if we're serious about making the NCAA Tournament.  Michigan State is ranked #53 at kenpom, and most likely the Gophers will be a short favorite.  The Spartans are 8-5, which is slightly deceiving because they've played a hellacious schedule, but also not deceiving because they haven't beaten any of their top opponents other than Wichita State (#25).  They do have three top 100 wins, but also come in with a bad loss to Northeastern.  This isn't a gimme, but it's a game the Gophers can and should win.

The biggest variable in this game will be Miles Bridges, a much hyped freshman who has been out with an injury, missing the last five games for the Spartans.  He leads the team in both scoring (16.6 ppg) and rebounding (8.8 rpg) and is really, really good.  Obviously this game is much easier if he's out, and I'm looking for easy (tell your sister hi).

But really, this game isn't about Michigan State.  It's about me getting sucked into believing in a Minnesota sports team for the one millionth time, which has resulted in heartbreak about 99% of the time.  I'm trying my best to hold out on any sort of NCAA hopes until after this game, which basically means my entire sports winter is riding on this one stupid game.  Sports are dumb.  Go Gophers.