Tag Archives: Minnesota Golden Gophers

Day One Wrap-Up

Day One of the tournament proved uneventful for the most part.  One exciting game was the first of the day when Cal State Northridge gave Memphis a good run.  Another good one was watching American University (not to be confused with National American University, who I’m sure has an outstanding Online athletics program) lead much of their game against Villanova.  Neither, however, made game-of-the-day status.

 

A few notable points from Day One: Roburt Sallie

 

1.   Domination of the dayUConn manhandled Chatanooga with head coach Jim Calhoun in the hospital.  Their margin of victory (56) was the 3rd largest in the history of the tournament.

 

2.  Best name of the day:  Quincy Pondexter of Washington.  Runner-Up:  A.J. Slaughter of Western Kentucky.

 

3.  Performance of the dayMemphis’ Roburt Sallie.  The guy averaged 13 ppg this year, but exploded for 35 today, including 10 3-pointers!  He more or less won the game for Memphis.   

 

4.  Best game of the day:  UCLA vs. VCU.  VCU’s superstar Eric Maynor was short on a shot as the buzzer sounded that would’ve won them a trip to round two. 

 

5.  Upset of the day:  12-seed Western Kentucky over 5-seed Illinois.  This is the upset of the day simply because it was the only one.  I also picked this one. 

 

6.  My picks for day one:  a respectable 13/16.A.J. Abrams

 

7.  Gopher Review:   A.J. Abrams singlehandedly blew the game open against my beloved Gophers by hitting four of his eight 3-pointers in a 2:11 stretch.  As a result I will cease showing any respect to people named A.J.  Minnesota actually played a good game with the exception of those 131 seconds.  I said yesterday that A.J. Abrams would be the reason the Gophers could lose…unfortunately I was very right. 

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Win and In?

The Minnesota Golden Gopher’s are in a tough battle with the Michigan Wolverines and depending on who you follow in the world of college basketball, the winner is in and the loser is out of the NCAA tourney.

Both teams have played like it is the “play-in” game and this will go down to the wire (first cliche’ of the post).

I do need to point out that it is possible for six teams from the Big-Ten to get an “At-Large” bid for the tourney.  If  Selection Sunday were tomorrow; MSU, Purdue, Illinois (over-rated), Penn State (under-rated) are all in.  Minnesota, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Northwestern and Michigan are bubble teams who all have legit resumes and arguments to secure a tourney bid.

Northwest won AT Purdue and Michigan State and embarrassed Florida State, Minnesota beat Louisville, and Michigan has beat both UCLA and Duke.  Ohio State beat Notre Dame, Butler and Miami.  Wisconsin beat Virginia Tech but does not have another impressive win outside of beating Illinois.

If it were up to me, MSU, Purdue, Illinois, Penn State and Minnesota should be in.  Michigan and Ohio State need to do some work, Wisconsin has to win two games in the Big-Ten tourney.

Man Crush and Basketballing

I get tired of a lot of  “radio personalities.”  Too many people talking about the same thing, with the same point of view.  It can be either local sports talk or ESPN guys, it doesn’t matter.

But the one guy who I enjoy reading and listening to is ESPN’s Bill Simmons. I have his widget on the side of my blog and I have listened to his pod casts all day and will do the same tomorrow.  Read his stuff, funny and entertaining.

I just his train of thought and insight.

Saturday is the beginning on conference tourney play.  My local heart will be backing the North Dakota State Bison, as the look to back-up the regular season Summit title with the conference tourney championship and a chance to get a seed in the tourney above 16!!  Maybe.

Side-noteIf they win the tourney, they better not get stuck in that damn play-in game!!!

The Summit tournament will be competitive, and the hopes of the Bison faithful will again fall on Ben Woodside when the Bison match up with Centenary in Sioux Falls, SD.

Woodside also won the final Summit player of the week award which should be the icing on the cake that is the POY for the Summit Conference.

I still think he should be up for POY in the NCAA’s.  Too damn good.  Just look at his stats and his teams record.  A win over USC would have helped.  The Bison will be a nice story in the NIT or the NCAA’s as they make their first postseason appearance with the first chance the have.  One for One!!

Good publicity and $$$$$$$. (I heard a million dollars for just one game in the NCAA’s and $500,000 for a single game in the NIT).

The Gophers took a step close to popping the bubble and getting in the tourney with a win over rival Wisconsin.  How crazy would it be if the Bison make it and the Gopher’s do not.

Tubby’s crew needs another win over fellow bubble-boy Michigan, to get grab onto a 7-10 seed.

P.S. – My brother won $200 at half-time of the Gophers/Badgers game when he hit a lay-up, free throw and a 3 pointer in 25 seconds.  If he could have added a half court shot – $25,000.  Oh well, $200 more than he walked in the door with.  Unless he bet someone $200 he could make all four shots.  I don’t think he is that stupid! 🙂

The Value of Conference Play

March is here and the Madness is right around the corner.  Everyone is searching through data, looking back at teams schedules and the highlighted the teams losses and what teams those teams lost to.  It is very confusing.

We measure the strength of schedule, the RPI – what the does that mean for anyway??

I just googled and it is  “The Rating Percentage Index (RPI) has been used by the NCAA since 1981 to supplement the selection of at-large teams and the seeding of all teams for the NCAA basketball tournament.”

Thanks WikiAnswers.com.

That doesn’t tell what it means!  I am sure it is like BCS for college football, so it is some made-up factor to give someone something to do, somewhere.Connecticut Basketball

Moving on.  Another highlighted stat is “key wins and losses”.  It is something that must be mentioned in determining if a team should be “rewarded” with the chance to play for the championship.

Conference play is the great equalizer, I have said this all season, and I stand by it.  So when evaluating a teams overall resume, it is tough to pull “key wins or losses” out of the conference record.

So what is the criteria for judging conference wins?  Big East wins are impressive because the teams are ranked in the polls, but the Big-Ten is not as unless it is against the ranked.

Take Connecticut for example.  UConn has beat a ton of ranked teams – all in the Big East.  But there only out of conference “statement” win was over then No. 7 Gonzaga in overtime.

Granted, six of the top seven teams in the Big East are ranked in the top 25 polls, but how much weight do you give those conferences wins?

Let’s take a look at the Big-Ten, who have two teams many think should be out for the Madness.  After No. 8 Michigan State, No. 11 Purdue, and No. 23 Illinois, there is a log jam of six teams that are right around .500 in conference play.

Michigan is one and one against Illinois this season, and has quality wins of Duke and UCLA.  If there were”quality losses” that would get won for an eight point loss to UConn.  But there conference record is 8-and-9 in the Big Ten.Manny Harris

Minnesota is 20-8, 8-8 in the Big Ten and has a statement win over Louisville on a neutral site and destroyed Illinois, 59-36 a couple weeks ago.

UConn is in the tourney, no questions.  But experts have Michigan and Minnesota just on the outside looking in at the field of 65, even after beating teams like, Louisville, UCLA and Duke.  To be fair, both teams have been playing poorly lately.  Michigan has won only five out of the last fourteen games and Minnesota has gone 7-7.  But that is exactly my point.

They are losing to, and beating, teams that would win 95% of the Mid-Major Conferences out-right.

So if the whole of a conference is is better than the top of a “mid-major” conference, how can you judge against a team that is .500 against better talent?

In previous years, all I team needed was a solid non-conference record, .500 in conference and a couple statement wins.  But with the awareness and talent of “Mid-Majors”, mid-level teams in major conference need to have a stronger resume.

Luckily, I do not pick the teams, I just try to win the bracket tourney pools – yes I do more thanone!  But I hope that we get to hear why decision were made in a season where parity is the “Catch-phrase”.

The Gophers Main Man

There are many stats that would contradict my claim that Al Nolen is the most important player wearing a Golden Gophers uniform, but I think one says it all.  Nolen’s assist to turnover ratio is 3.9:1.  For every turnover he has, he comes back with almost four assists.  Al Nolen

Yet that rest of his stat line does help my case.  8.5 ppg, 6,3 apg, 4 rpg, and 2.2 steals per game.

In the Gophers biggest win this season over then No. 9 Louisville, Nolen penetrated the Cardinal defense with ease and finished with 18 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists and only one turnover.  He was the Gopher that sealed the win from the foul line going 13 for 17 making eight foul shoots in the last 4:09 of the second half.

Nolen is a the perfect guard for Tubby Smith’s system.  He is a pass first point guard who finds the open shot for other players in the flow of the offense and he also puts a ton of pressure on the other team’s ball handler.  Nolen is a capable scorer when he is called on and can get to the rim going left or right.

I am not ready to call me the best point guard in the Big Ten, but Nolen must be in the conversation.

Tuesday Night Hoopla

78849124KC010_MARYLAND_V_DUThis Game Should Have Been Better

Two minutes.  Jon Scheyer made a three-pointer after two fast paced hard fought minutes.  Two minutes later, Purdue finally scored when Chris Kramer final hit a jumper to make the game 7-2.  It would seem that the Boilermakers were a little to hyped to play Duke Tuesday night in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.

In the second half Purdue had another scoring draught of over four minutes and if JaJuan Johnson had not scored eight points in a row, Purdue would have not scored until 10:48 left in the game when E’Twaun Moore hit a jumper.

In the match-up of  star 6’8” sophomore forwards, Duke’s Kyle Singler out-played Purdue’s preseason Big-Ten player of the Year candidate,  Robbie Hummel.  Even if the stat lines don’t look as such.

I must admit, even as a Dukie, I did not buy into Singler until a few games into the season.  Working hard over the summer to add 10 pounds of muscle, Singler looks the part of a McDonalds All-American.  And the game at Purdue furthered my belief that he can lead  and make playes in big games when needed.

Coaches will say that no game is more important than any other.  That’s crap.  And you get see the evidence all over the court Tuesday night.  Players were diving for loose balls, attempting to take charges, giving hard fouls.  Even Singler seemed to be amped up for Duke’s first real test of the season.

Singler finished the evening with 20 points and 12 rebounds – six offense – and hit shots when his team needed them.  Singler was all over the place with hustle plays and guarded Hummel and did not allow any east shots.

Hummel was completely invisible until halfway through the second half and then he ended with 15 points and 8 rebounds.  But his play did not affect the game nearly as much as Singler.  For that matter, all Purdue players games did not affected the out come as much as Singler as Purdue looked rushed in their offense and over-matched by Duke’s talent.

I have never been on to beleieve that stats alone can tell the whole story of a game.  Well, Tuesday night it certainly did.  Two key stats showed how lopsided this game truly was; Duke out rebounded Purdue 43 to 26.  And the Boilermakers shoot 2 for 13 from the three point line and Duke shoot 8 for 22.  Schyer also finished with 20 points.

Colt – 45

Ralph Sampson’s kid is coming to Minnesota.  Tubby Smith had instantly proved his importance to the Gopher Nation as Sampson highlighted the 23rd best recruiting class in the country, but there was another tall post player who was a part of the recruiting class.  And that player has started all seven games and Tuesday night in the Gophers toughest game this season, he had the best game of his short career.

The 6’10” 235-pound Colton Iverson came in to his senior his under the radar in Yankton, South Dakota.  Not many people knew who he was and even fewer knew less about his game.

Iverson stock rose to be ranked among Top 150 recruits after a strong senior season when he averaged 17.5 ppg, 12.9 rpg and 2.7 blocks and a summer where his AAU team won the Hoosier Shootout and he won the tourney’s MVP. His stock so much that even Billy Donavan and the Florida Gators were interested.

In the Minnesota’s  win against Virginia, the Gophers looked for Iverson on offense and he responding finishing 5 for 6 from the floor, 4 for 6 from the foul line for 14 points.  He also grabbed seven rebounds and four of which were offensive.

Iverson altered more shots than he blocked (2) but along with Ralph Sampson and Damian Johnson, the Gophers frontcourt finished with seven blocks, 14 rebounds and 20 points.  Compared to the four best Cavalier post players who had 11 points, 16 rebounds and two blocks.

Quick Hits

Miami’s Jack McClinton’s best shot of the night?  After starting off the game 4-4 from distance, McClinton took a shot at Ohio States guard Anthony Carter and slapped Carter in the face.  After a quick conference with the refs, McClinton was ejected.  Ohio State won 73-68.

The Memphis Tigers blew out  the Marist Red Foxes 100-61.  Here is the stat-line for Memphis guard Tyreke Evans: 10 for 13 from the floor, 2 for 4 from behind the arc, 2 for 6 from the chariot stripe – weak, six rebounds, four assists, three steals, and 24 points.   Marist was tough.

In the same “why the hell are you playing each other” vein,  Notre Dame beat South Dakota 102-76.  Notre Dame’s Randy Ayers finished with 35 points, 6 rebounds, shot 9 for 14 from distance and 12 for 20 from the field.

New Jersey Institute of Technology lost again.  Stony Brook outscored the Highlanders, 60-39.

By the end of the Tuesday the ACC/Big Ten Challenge was all tied-up at 3-3.

Minnesota Golden Gophers Men’s 2008-09 Basketball Preview

In Tubby Smith’s first season coaching the Golden Gophers, they won 20 games. With his first recruiting class, they almost cracked the top 20 (25 on ESPN.com). Can anyone say Immediate Impact? In his first full year at the University of Minnesota, Smith changed the culture of college basketball and the players bought in from the beginning. Winning 20 games was even more proof that hiring Smith was the greatest coaching hire in U of MN history.

Moving into the 2008-09 season, the natural step in this Smith revolution is higher expectations. Minnesota is the new “it pick” in the Big Ten with many experts picking them in the top third of the league. With a good core of returning players with; sophomore guards Al Nolen and Blake Hoffarber, juniors forward Damian Johnson, and guard Lawrence Westbrook, the Gophers had added a talented recruiting class that adds quality depth, something lacking in previous seasons.
2007-08 Recap

Record: 20-14 (8-10 in Big Ten)

2007-08 Statistical Leaders
Points per game: G – Lawrence McKenzie – 11.8
Rebounds per game: F/C –Dan Coleman – 5.8
Assists per game: G – Al Nolen – 3.5

Key Players Out:
Lawrence McKenzie, Guard (11.8 ppg and 2.6 apg)
Dan Coleman, Forward/Center (11.3 ppg and 5.8 rpg)
Spencer Tollackson, Forward/Center (9.3 ppg and 3.7 rpg)

Key Returning Players:

Al Nolen, Guard Soph. (4.3 ppg, 1.9 steals pg, and 3.5 assist pg)
Blake Hoffarber, Guard Soph. (8.4 ppg, 2.9 rpg, and 42% 3 point shooting)
Damian Johnson, Forward Jr. (7.1 ppg, 4.7 rpg, and 1.4 blocks pg)
Lawrence Westbrook, Guard Jr. (8.5 ppg, 1.9 steals pg, and 3.5 assist pg)

Key Players In:
Devron Bostick, Guard Fr.
6-5 210 Racine, Wis./Southwestern Illinois CC
Devoe Joseph, Guard Fr.
6-3 170 Ajax, Ontario, Canada/Pickering
Colton Iverson, Forward Fr.
6-10 235 Yankton, S.D./Yankton
Ralph Sampson III, Forward Fr.
6-11 220 Duluth, Ga./Northview
Paul Carter, Forward So.
6’8” 195 Little Rock, Ar./Missouri State-West Plains JC

FRONTCOURT
Smiths first recruiting class addresses the lack of talent and depth in the front court. Losing Tollackson and Coleman is a huge lose, but the addition of Sampson and Iverson should turn out to be an up-grade. Sampson was a late bloomer in high school, but he has shown a nice jump shot out to about 17 feet. While not as physically gifted as his father, Virginia All-American and NBA player Ralph Sampson Jr., he is strong and athletic enough to be a defensive force and seems to have a solid grasp of the game. Iverson comes to campus with a offense game stronger than Sampson. He has good post moves and is an aggressive all-around rebounder, but he needs to improve on defense.

The only player returning from last season that is over 6’7″ is the 6’9” center Jonathan Williams. While he is a senior, he has not been off the bench to often, averaging only 13.1 minutes and 3.0 points per game. Johnson is the most experienced and athletic forward on the squad. While only standing 6’7”, Johnson averaged 1.4 blocks and 1.7 steals per game, saw most of his minutes last season at power forward. Incoming sophomore Carter, who is an athletic slasher with a decent perimeter game, will have a hard time finding time and but if he is one the court, it will be at PF.
Sampson, Iverson, Williams, and Johnson will be competing for the PF and C starting spots.

BACKCOURT
The backcourt will be the strength of the Golden Gophers. The Gophers will look to Westbrook to pick his scoring to fill the void left by McKenzie. Westbrook has the range to do it and has a greater ability than McKenzie to get to the basket. Smith will look to Nolen to not only increase his numbers on offense, but also put constant pressure on the opposing ball handler. Both of these players are expected to see the majority of minutes at PG.

If Hoffarber never makes another basket in his life, he would still be a Minnesota basketball legend. As a sophomore in high school, Hoffarber hit a last second shot while sitting on the three-point line, not only did it send the championship game into a second overtime – which his team went onto win – he also won an ESPY. In his first season in college, he again hit an important last second shot in the Big-Ten tourney that won the game for the Gophers – click here to see both highlighted on ESPN.

Last season saw Hoffarber receive more playing time than many expected, as he was used mostly as a 3-point specialist. But he needs to expand his game of the dribble if he wants to see more playing time. Bostick will come in a provide help in scoring and could potentially make the starting line-up at SF.

Joseph will add even more outside shooting plus the ability to get to the rim but majority of his minutes – at least early in the year – will be off the bench. Junior Jamal AbuShamla contributed 13.1 minutes and 3.4 point a game last year, but might be hard-pressed get off the bench unless he improved his game while playing the Jordon National team, if he did, he will add depth at SF.
FORECAST
The early portion of Minnesota’s schedule is filled with cupcakes. Match-ups in December with Virginia in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge and Louisville in the Stadium Shootout, will be the toughest games until they run into the big boys of the Big Ten to start conference play – Michigan Sate Dec. 31st and Ohio State Jan. 2nd, which are both at home. Other than Purdue, the rest of the Big Ten is pretty mediocre and the Gophers should be able to add a couple wins to the 20 season of last season and improve on their 8-10 record in conference.
ROTATION
For the first time in a while, the Golden Gophers have quality depth and could go 11 eleven deep. And depending on the situation, you might see Smith go to a four guard line-up or go “small” with Johnson as the big.


STARTING LINE-UP
G Nolen, SG Westbrook SF Bostick PF Johnson C Sampson III
FIRST OFF THE BENCH
F/C Iverson, F AbuShamla, C Williams, F Carter, G Hoffarber,G Joseph