March 30, 2007

Recruiting News

Basketball Recruiting - There isn't much out there for Tubby to make an impact for 2007-08. We really should be looking at 08-09 as the recruiting class with Tubby's mark. With that said here are a few bits of news regarding scholarships and recruiting for this coming season. Remember that April 11th is the spring signing date so Tubby has just under 2 weeks to find someone worthy of a scholarship.

  • Jai Lucas - "It's cold there (in Minnesota) but might be something I think about," Lucas told the Courier-Journal on Sunday. "I like coach Smith a lot." Getting MN on his list is the first step, how great would it be to land a McDonald's All-American just weeks after landing Tubby? My hopes aren't too high, but at least we are in the conversation.
  • Limar Wilson - Star Tribune says that he wants to come back. Tubby is considering it, but I would assume that if he can give that scholarship to a good recruit then Limar won't be wearing maroon and gold next year. If you can't give it to someone else, Limar is a Sr. so it wouldn't hurt anything to give him the scholarship next year. Ultimately I'd rather see his minutes go to incoming freshman Al Nolen, or the soon to be sophs Payton or Westbrook at PG. Or if McKenzie can learn to be a PG let him get those minutes and start Hoffarber at SG. I would be shocked to see Limar back here next year, too many scenarios that benefit the team more without him on the roster.
  • Royce White - DeLaSalle - Class of 09. This is a bit early but lists him as a big time recruit and probably a kid Tubby should start targeting NOW. 21.8 ppg as a soph for the 6'7" forward. Remember that name and lets start the recruiting watch for White.
Football Recruiting - This is heating up and it is fun to see Minnesota on the lists for some talented kids. Here is what I have been able to find...
  • Tim Brewster - to start with I want to give credit to Coach Brewster for getting out there into the homes of talented kids all over the place. We are in the mix and cross your fingers, we'll land some of them. ESPN Recruiting Insider has this to say about Brewster,
"He has already caught my attention as I notice Minnesota's name popping up all over the place. They are in on and battling for kids nationwide from Florida to Philadelphia to California. I don't think they will leave many stones unturned. All in all though, I think you will see the Gophers improve in recruiting. Do I think he can turn them into a top-ten class this year? No, but I do think he will get the 2008 class to a point where it is in serious consideration for the top 25 recruiting classes."
  • Nolan Brewster - a top notch safety and son of coach Tim, verbally committed to Texas. That is a big loss, but I also think that there is ample time for Nolan to change his mind. Wait until he comes up for a handful of Gopher games, talks with incoming Gopher recruits, hangs out with his brother and eventually he'll want to be a part of what's going on here.
  • Brendan Kelly - DE, Holy Angels - I don't know how highly rated Kelly will be but it sounds like he was one of the top MN prospects and Brewster kept him home.
  • Leonard Hubbard - ILB, Illinois - visiting this weekend and thinks he could committ before he leaves. Also, not yet rated but appears he would be a solid addition to the defense.
  • Keanon Cooper - OLB, Texas - says MN is top of his list, ESPN shows MN lower, but both say he is a tremendous athlete and would be an instant upgrade on the D.
  • Mike Floyd - WR, Cretin Derham Hall - #1 priority for Brewster, keep the best athlete in MN instate! We are battling with Ohio State and the best CDH theif Notre Dame. This would send a message if Brewster can keep Floyd from juggernauts like that. MN is currently at the top of Floyd's list but it is a long time before Signing Day in Feb.
That's all I can gather for now. Jai Lucas is the most pressing news to keep an eye on at this point. The Football team is bringing in kids left and right to be around for Spring Practice but as mentioned Signing Day is a LONG way off. Brewster seems to be backing up his reputation as a relentless recruiter but the proof will be in the signings!

March 27, 2007

Gopher Nation quick hitters

Well Gopher Nation has been dominated lately by basketball for obvious reasons. Let's throw out some quick hitters regarding the less covered sports for Gopher Nation...

Gopher Hockey - WCHA regular season and tournament champs. #1 seed in NCAA tournament but the Gophers were upset by UND in the 2nd round, 3-2. From what I have read (as I know very little about hockey) the Gophers had been struggling as of late. But they were able to pull it together and beat UND in OT of the WCHA Finals. Unfortunately the Souix outskated the Gophers in the NCAAs and ended Minnesota's chances at another National Championship. The Gophs had only 2 Srs on the team and 1 of the underclassmen considering pro has decided to stay with the program; 2 key decisions still loom. So things look to be shaping up nicely for a run at the NCAA Championship in 2007-08.

Gopher Wrestling - this is a bit late but a big contratulations to the Gohper Wrestlers for winning their 3rd NCAA Championship this decade. The team claimed 1 individual Champion in Cole Konrad (HWT), 5 All-Americans and their 6th Big 10 title in the last 9 years. Great season for the grapplers and things look up as Konrad is the lone Sr. on this year's squad.

Gopher Baseball - is off to a hot start. The unranked Gophers are sitting at 14-5 as they head into the Big 10 season and have big wins over #18 Mississippi, #10 Pepperdine, #7 Arkansas and a 2 game sweep AT UC-Santa Barbara. Those are big time wins and losses to these highly ranked teams account for 4 of their 5 losses. Big Ten Hardball wonders why the Gophers are not ranked and I can't help but wonder the same. It appears this group is playing well and should be near the top of the Big 10 when all is said and done.

Gopher Men's Swimming and Diving - 2007 Big 10 Champs and 10th place at NCAA Championshiops. 12 Individual Gophers earned All-American honors. The team was lead by Jr. David Plummer as he put the team on his back(stroke) by finishing 5th in the 200 M backstroke earning enough points to move up to 10th place.

March 26, 2007

Tubby with Monson's team...

Much has been made of Tubby Smith's National Championship in 1998. Kentucky fans want to permanently put an asterisk by the Title because it was won with players recruited by the former coach, Rick Pitino. This is of course held against Tubby, which I think this is unfair and it seems to be subjective criticism by more than UK fans. Regional and National media also used this criticism when discussing Tubby's legacy at Kentucky. But why is it so subjective?

Will Dan Monson be given any credit if Tubby were to turn the Gophers around in 1 year by taking them to the NCAA Tournament next year and advancing to the Sweet 16 (as that accomplishment would be equal to winning it all with a team with talent)? The answer to that is blatantly obvious and really an absurd question. But I ask the following...

Should Matt Doherty be given credit for North Carolina's NCAA Championship in 2005? That was supposed to be the the team that got the monkey off Roy Williams' back. But should we put the asterisk next to that title? Lets remember that Matt Doherty is responsible for recruiting Sean May, Rashad McCants and Raymond Felton. Those 3 Juniors were the core of Roy's team that won it all in his 2nd season as coach.

Should Bill Self be given credit for Illinois' NCAA Runner-Up team in 2005? The entire starting lineup were guys that Bill Self recruited. Does this require Bruce Weber to mail his various Coach of the Year awards to Lawrence so they can be displayed on Self's mantle?

Of course not. Roy Williams is an excellent coach, Bruce Weber did an amazing coaching job in his 2nd year with the Illini and Tubby Smith should also be given all of the credit for winning his National Championship as a #2 seed in his first year at UK.

I don't care how the kids got into your program, winning a National Championship is impressive and it takes a talented coach to get it done. If you want to dispute Tubby's ability to recruit that is entirely another argument, but knocking his ability to coach is ridiculous. Given talent, he was able to take a #2 seed and win it all. Was he able to bring talent into Kentucky? Yes. Was it good enough? No.

If I wanted to make excuses for Tubby I could say that recruiting is much more competitive today than it was even 10 years ago, even for the best programs in the country. If Rick Pitino is the god of Kentucky basketball why has he not been able to get the kids in to make a Final Four run while at Louisville? Because it is much more competitive than it used to be. In the last 10 years you have seen the rise of the Mid-Majors and the exiting of upper-classmen.

But I'm not here to make excuses for Tubby's record at Kentucky (or anywhere). It was a very good and arguably great. Ultimately it comes down to 3 things of which I am certain...

  1. Tubby Smith is able to win more games with less talent than just about any coach in the country. He clearly is able to maximized the talent of his team to a greater extent than most.
  2. Tubby Smith will be able to recruit better talent than the previous staff was ever able to bring in. Rick Rickert and Kris Humphries were nice, but both were committed to other schools before changing their minds for various reasons. But let's also remember that they were solo acts amongst mediocre talent. Tubby will bring in more talented teams from top to bottom.
  3. I will guarantee that he will get much more out of the current gopher squad than we saw this year. Will we instantly be contending for anything? No, but we will instantly be on the plus side of .500 and I will guarantee Minnesota will be talked about as a bubble team on Selection Sunday 2008.
Kentucky can keep their lofty and often unrealistic expectations. I will take the abuse for having low expectations, but give me a winner and give me a competitor then we can talk about raising higher profile banners in the Barn.

March 23, 2007

What will this do for 2007-08 recruiting?

When Tim Brewster was hired, talk almost immediately went to what impact will his hire would have on recruiting. I think recruiting became the hot topic for 2 reasons. 1. Brewster had a son who was a very good QB and had committed to Illinois. So obvious questions surrounded what Clint's decision would be. 2. There were precious few days from Brewster's hire till signing day, so there was very little time for the acclaimed recruiter to make some progress to affect his 2007 team.

I want to know what the Tubby hiring will do for recruiting! I'm sure we'll see some info put out there in the coming days/weeks, but I'm anxious to see if this hire will have any immediate affect. Some of this was posted before but here is some wild speculation/questions...

1. Cole Aldrich - Will he renig on his Kansas committment? Will Tubby place this phone call? Aldrich would be an immediate impact and a hero in his own state, but ultimately not even playing for Tubby in his home state will sway him from Kansas.

2. Kentucky recruited players - I mentioned this below but what will happen to UK recruits (both signed and undecided)? The undecided ones could decide to follow Tubby, but I don't know if these kids were drawn to the coach or the school. Likely these kids won't be going to UK, but even more likley they'll go to one of the other schools that has been on their "list" for the past few months. I would hope that he could at least convince them to come and make a visit. Coming to Minnesota on a nice warm spring weekend would be the perfect time and maybe (just maybe) one of them will take a leap of faith on Tubby and Minnesota!

3. Iowa recruits - I read a note that Iowa's top recuit (PF - Jarryd Cole) is uncertain about his future at Iowa with Alford leaving for New Mexico. Well I sure hope that Tubby places this phone call as well. Cole has already been drawn to a midwest, Big 10 school. Convince him that Minnesota is indentical to Iowa except in a major metropolitan area. Cole would not be the best recruit of this class, as Hoffarber is rated higher but he would add some balance, talent and depth to this class. Michigan recruits could be lumped here as well but there isn't quite the same correlation as Iowa recruits so I put the Wolverine recruits as extremely unlikely.

4. UK's next coach? - Tom Crean? Tom Izzo? Either one would pose an interesting recruiting situation. If Crean goes, does Trevor Mbakwe change his mind and come to MN? If Izzo gets the UK job does Dahlman decide that playing at home for Tubby is better than playing for a new coach at Michigan State?

Ultimately these are all long shots, I have not yet gulped down enough maroon kool aid to believe all these guys will be knocking down the Barn door to play here.
But remember Tubby has only 2 scholarships and of all these longshots it would only take 1 kid to say YES and have an immediate impact.

I'm starting the Scholarship Watch List....

  • Cole Aldrich C - 92 ESPN rating (Kansas recruit) - don't hold your breath, but Tubby should at least make a phone call.
  • Patrick Patterson PF - 92 (UK undecided) - top 10 player who played with OJ Mayo, undecided but Duke or Florida look like his destination.
  • Jai Lucas PG - 91 (UK undecided) - this might be the best shot at a 5 star player(and McDonald's All-American). UK was top of his current list, does MN get on the list? Again, not holding my breath. a national recruiting analyst says Lucas is the best shot at a kid following Tubby to MN, but it is too early to tell.
  • Jarryd Cole SF - 85 (Iowa recruit) - wavering on Iowa pending new coach. Could give MN a shot, but that just my speculation.
  • Trevor Mbakwe PF - 89 (Marquette recruit) - if Crean leaves for UK or another job I would say chances are good Mbakwe would come home to the Barn. Switching to the U with Crean staying at Marquette? Who knows but my gut tells me Mbakwe could be here next fall. The Golden Eagles did sign 2 other power forwards so maybe he wants to leave that log jam and take Coleman's PF spot as a soph.
  • Isaiah Dahlman SF - if Crean takes the UK job then this becomes a maybe, but that is a longshot. He would have to sit out 2007-08 but would have a big impact the following year.
  • JR Jarred Berggren C - (verbal to Wisconsin) - MN kid who hasn't signed anything and a big name coach like Tubby coupled with some initial success at MN next year could sway his decision.
  • JR Jordan Taylor SG - (verbal to Wisconsin) - read Berggren
Those are the only names I can come up with for now, but I will update the list as I hear more.

March 22, 2007

More Tubby

Here is a good article on ESPN giving more detail to the situation.

My head is kind of spinning and I have many thoughts and questions...

1. This moves Michigan down the list of best openings available and maybe they lose out on a good coach or two who want to wait for resolution on the UK job. What is bad for Michigan is good for Minnesota.
2. Tom Izzo and Tom Crean are possible candidates for the UK job. Get Izzo out of the conference and get Crean's recruiting out of Minnesota. What is bad for MSU and Marquette is good for Minnesota.
3. If Crean leaves will Mbakwe change his mind and come to play for Tubby?
4. With a coach of Tubby's status coming to the U is there any chance that Cole Aldrich's mind can be changed? I know he has already signed a letter of intent but those are not 100% binding (remember Kris Humphries).
5. Tubby will now have 1 scholarship to work with for next year. I would love to have one the kids still undecided but considering UK follow Tubby to the Barn!

Players undeclared yet considering Kentucky

  • PF - Patrick Patterson - ESPN ranked #9 (#2 PF)
  • PG - Jai Lucas - ESPN ranked #20 (#3 PG)
  • C - Teeng Akol - not in rankings
You can bet that they will at least get a phone call from Tubby. It should go something like this...

Recruit - "You're going where? It's cold up there."
Tubby - "It is a very good school with a history of very good basketball. Ever heard of Kevin McHale?"
Recruit - "Oh yeah, he is the best GM in all of sports according to Forbes magazine which I read on a regular basis."
Tubby - "Well his GM skills are questionable but he is arguably the best PF in the history of the NBA."
Recruit - "and?"
Tubby - "Nevermind, did I mention you'll start right away and be the best player on my team for the next 4 years?"
Recruit - "Where do I sign?"

Bring on Tubby!!!

Well, I have spent part of this afternoon typing my list of Gopher Basketball candidates. I can delete that post cause everyone is reporting that Tubby Smith is leaving Kentucky to be the Gophers next head coach! You read that right.

Star Trib

This is a great hire! Maturi has done well. Great hire and I'm excited! Let me take a deep breath...

OK, again this is a great hire and attendance should increase dramatically. Speculation is that while Kentucky didn't fire him, taking this job was a way for Smith to leave UK while saving face. But how he got here isn't important. The glass half full guys (like myself) will say that Tubby wanted to coach at a big time program but also be at a place where he is appreciated. Minnesota is that place. He can win 22 games, get an 8 seed, lose to the #1 seed in the 2nd round and people here will throw him a parade. Maybe we have too low of expectations but this is a program that has suffered for a decade and needs someone to energize it.

Tubby might change his mind after a couple weeks of practice this fall, but we all know he'll be given ample time to turn things around.

Gopher Fans can now be energized to continue the expansion and membership application to Gopher Nation!

More info and analysis will follow in the coming days. Also today has been a whirlwind of coaching moves accross the country.

2007 the Year of the Gopher

Gopher Nation has been delcared and now it is time for Gopher Fans to join!

I am convinced that we will look back on 2007 as the year the gopher bandwagon took off for the U of M's revenue sports. Non-revenue sports have been very strong for years, but the high profile sports have struggled to say the very least (hockey being the lone exception). Things have been bleak for Football since the late 60s and ugly for Basketball since the 80s (remember 1996-97 doesn't count).

But things are looking up!

Football has a LOT to be excited about. The affable and jovial Glen Mason was fired despite his stellar record of getting the Gophers to bowl after bowl. And by that last sentence I mean the stoic, boring and confrontational Glen Mason was fired because of mediocrity and consistent inconsistency. Glen honestly did a good job of moving the football program from laughable to respectable but he was clearly incapable of taking it to the next level.

  1. Enter Tim Brewster. Never been a head coach but has a proven record of a dynamic recruiter, and energetic guy who is currently saying all the right things and meeting with the right people. It is WAY early in his "career" but I have been impressed and I think he is capable of moving the program forward. Personally I LOVE how he is not afraid to talk about Pasadena. His first meeting with the team he had them chanting "Rose Bowl", he has a small splot of actual grass from the Rose Bowl that he's keeping alive and on display for his players and he's brining in big names to talk to his club and restore a sense of pride in the history of our program. Under previous regime if someone would have said Rose Bowl out loud in practice I imagine the entire Bierman building stopping, in complete silence as everyone looks at the crazy man who uttered the words. Not anymore Gopher Nation, say it loud and say it proud!
  2. Enter new stadium! Ground breaking should begin soon on a new outdoor, ON CAMPUS stadium. This can only help to sell tickets and attract recruits with a game day atmosphere unlike that of the HHH Metrodome.
Basketball hasn't been as bad for nearly as long as the Football program, but recently we have witnessed the worst of the worst. 2006-07 was the worst season in Gopher Basketball history. Dan Monson was incapable of restoring the once proud if not at least competitive program. Dan seemed like a quality person but his staff was inept and he lacked the skills necessary to bring us back to a respectable level after the Clem scandal. But things can't get any worse...
  1. Enter new coach! Who will that be, who knows? But I like the excitement and anticipation of the process. My next post will be my list of candidates. But this program already has a foundation that should allow for success sooner rather than later.
  2. No seniors on this year's team. Some may look at that as a negative and some may see it as a positive. This is not a Sweet 16 caliber roster, but I also don't think it is nearly as bad as we saw this year. Best case scenario for this club is still only an above average Big 10 finish and possibly one of the last at large berths in the NCAA Tourney. Of course things have to fall their way a little bit but I do think this roster has enough talent on it to be respectable.
  3. The Barn is one of the most unique college basketball facilities in the country. It is a forgotten venue but that can quickly be restored with some success and a return to home court dominance.
  4. The Twin Cities has a quality pool of basketball talent. The next Gopher coach (much like his FB counterpart) will have to be able to keep in state kids. MN kids will not produce a Final Four run on their own, but there is talent here to supplement a few kids from other parts of the country. Recruiting services show 4 top 100 from the state of MN. The Gophers were able to sign just 1. The other 3 going to Kansas, Wisconsin and Marquette. Those are big time programs stealing our players. Stop that bleeding and things will start to turn for this program.
There you have it Gopher Fans. Reason for hope, reason for optimism and reason to get on the the Gopher Nation bandwagon. Ski-U-Mah!