December 31, 2007

Breaking Down the Box - UNLV

Duel in the Desert

Minnesota - 77
Nicholls St - 32

Gophers force 29 turnovers, hold the Colonels to 11 made baskets. Dominated an inferior team.

Minnesota - 83
Kennesaw St - 66

Won handily riding Coleman's 24 points

Minnesota - 64
UNLV - 81

Just losing this game isn't what is so disappointing. Getting dominated for 40 full min is what frustrates this gopher fan. I said in my preview that UNLV is solid. They get balanced scoring and they don't turn the ball over. If the Gophers were going to win they'd have to force turnovers and dominate the glass. Well rebounding was essentially even and the Gophers were the ones giving away possessions while the Running Rebels committed just 4 first half turnovers. And they had 4 players reach double figures (a 5th with 9 points) to keep the Gophers guessing on defense.

GAME BALL - Wink Adams

Adams had a 20 point night but his stat line doesn't end there. 7 assists, 5 rebounds and zero turnovers is what made his night special. We knew going into the game he was the player to stop but we didn't and in the process he also got his teammates involved


For the tournament things didn't look too bad. But the only game that really counts is the UNLF game. If you compare the UNLV stats to the Florida State road loss we clearly played better vs. the Running Rebels than we did vs. the Seminoles. We scored more points per possession, rebounded defensively much better and turned the ball over less. But clearly it wasn't good enough to beat a talented UNLV team. We gave up too many open 3's and we only turned the Running Rebels over on 14.4% of their possessions (worst of the season for the Gophers).

All in all you could argue that we played "better" on the road against a good team, but that and a quarter might get you a cup of coffee.

What Does This Mean?

This could have been a little boost to the NCAA resume, but really if you are going to continue to lose on the road to teams that are beatable then clearly you don't belong in the Big Dance. That of course is the goal but now it will take a strong run in the Big Ten schedule to get it done.

The first course of action is to learn to play better on the road. If FSU and UNLV are losses by 14+ then what is going to happen in East Lansing, Madison and Bloomington? Our three best players are seniors who are capable of carrying this team to tough wins. But for some reason they fail to lead us on the road. At some point Tollackson, McKenzie and Coleman are all going to have to develop some mental toughness and lead us to some conference road wins.

All in all can we really complain about a 10-2 record? Easy schedule? Sure, but nobody believes this team would have the same record under a different coaching staff. 10-2 is nice, but now the Big Ten season starts. We are a mediocre team but we are playing in a conference that has plenty of opportunities for a team to step up and finish on top of the mediocre heap in the middle.

December 28, 2007

Las Vegas Duel in the Desert Preview

Steaming Video of games (not on TV anywhere) -

The Golden Gophers head to Vegas for the New Year's Weekend. This is the last chance to get things working right before the Big Ten opener vs. conference favorite Michigan State. The Duel in the Desert is a nice little round robin tourney that has the gophers facing two teams they "should" dominate and then a decent UNLV team on their home court. Anything less than 3-0 will be disappointing in my mind. Going 2-1 and losing a close one to UNLV won't be the end of the world but it will be a bad loss come Selection Sunday.

Based on KenPomeroy's tempo-free stats Here is our percent chance to win each game...

v. Nicholls St - 97%
v. Kennesaw St - 100%
v. UNLV - 53%

RPI: 30
KenPom Rank: 29
SOS: 150

As I said above this is a dress rehearsal for the B10 season. Tubby has implemented a new defense, offense and attitude. As a fan I love it and I think the players have adapted well. This year the weak schedule has been a good thing for these gophers to learn their roles and come together before January. Playing a good team would certainly have been a guaranteed loss for this year's squad. Give them some time to figure things out and down the road they'll be capable of pulling out an upset or two (and equally as capable of dropping a few they shouldn't). Anyway, this should be a 3-0 weekend for the gophers. Shoot, just 1 win and they equal 2007's win total (not like that should be any sort of a goal here).

What concerns me: Defensive Rebounding. Just saying rebounding isn't accurate, this team hits the offensive boards very well. We rank 17th in the country rebounding 41% of our own missed shots. What we suck at is rebounding our opponents misses. In that category we rank 200th in NCAA basketball. This needs to improve quickly.

What I like: This gopher team takes defense very seriously. We turnover our opponents at a great rate. We are 9th in the nation for defensive turnover percentage, we turnover the opponent on nearly 28% of their possessions. We also rank highly on steal % and block %. Defensively we seem to do everything very well EXCEPT rebound the misses.

Offensively we are coming together. Coleman seems to have turned a corner and is now a factor that opponents have to gameplan around. What I'd like to see is the senior trio all show up for the same game. Hopefully with Coleman on track, we can now focus on getting McKenzie into the action. We have gotten by without his production in the non-conference portion of the schedule but we will need him to score if we want to win more than 1 or 2 B10 games.

Nicholls St - 4-8
RPI: 109
KenPom Rank: 226
SOS: 20

The Colonels return 4 starters from last season's 8-22 team (sound vaguely familiar?). A team with balanced scoring from essentially 8 regulars. The team's two leading scorers...

Ryan Bathie (Jr-F) - 11.9 ppg
Michael Czepil (Soph-G) - 11.8 ppg

What to Expect: Judging from stats and box scores I would expect the Colonels to apply pressure to the gopher guards, but I don't expect they will rebound particularly well. Defensively they turn teams over pretty well but they also give up a pretty bad defensive effective FG% (ranking 315th nationally). So I would expect that if the gophers can handle what I assume will be full-court pressure they should be able to score fairly well on offense. I also expect that the gophers will force many turnovers to get some easy baskets.

Prediction: Nicholls St doesn't have much size and it doesn't look like they have any dynamic scorers. The only thing that concerns me is that last week they played North Carolina to within 10 points on the road. In that game C-Tyler Hansboro had a monster game in the paint and SG-Wayne Ellington chipped in 23 points on 75% shooting. If that translates the the gophers then Coleman/Tollackson should be fine inside and maybe McKenzie can have a big game to get himself going.

Gophers win by more than 15.

Kennesaw State - 2-8
RPI: 339
KenPom Rank: 335
SOS: 340

I'm not going to waste much time on this one. I know that if we were watching a National Geographic special a gopher would be no match for an owl, but thats not how this works. The Owls have 2 players that are worth keeping an eye on...

Ronell Wooten (Sr-SG) - 17.0 ppg
Shuan Stegall (Jr-F) - 14.9 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 4.0 apg

What to Expect: a win for Minnesota. Other than that I think you'll see an up tempo game and a lot of 3-point attempts for the Owls. Wooten has attempted nearly 100 3's already this season. By contrast Hoffarber and McKenzie have combined for the same amount of 3-point attempts. This will be another game of 20+ turnovers forced by the gophers, and another chance for the guards to have big games.

Prediction: Gophers by 20+ and if healthy From the Barn just might get to see Ryan Saunders glisten from a little sweat, not just hair gel.

UNLV - 8-3
RPI: 33
KenPom Rank: 57
SOS: 23

Finally a game worth watching (except it won't be on TV). UNLV is coming off a 2006-07 Mountain West Championship and NCAA Tourney season. They graduated 4 of their top 5 scorers from last seasons team, but they are still balanced, playing well and ready to make another run at the MWC title.

Wink Adams #1 on right (Jr-G) - 14.5 ppg, 4.1 reb, 3.2 ast
Joe Darger (Jr-F) - 12.8 pnts, 6.0 reb
Curtis Terry (Sr-G/F) - 12.0 pnts, 3 reb, 4.2 ast

A nice trio of players who contribute scoring, on the boards and with assists.

UNLV recently lost a very close game to Arizona, beat Fresno State and dominated UT-Martin. But they also have been killed by Louisville and lost to UC-Santa Barbara. Which team will show up?

What to Expect: Statistically the Running Rebels play solid defense, get balanced scoring and don't turn the ball over. What they don't do well is rebound well on either end of the floor and they don't shoot very well. So the question is can the gophers turn them over and can they dominate the glass? Wink Adams is a solid little guard who needs to be stopped. Fortunately the gophers have been successful stopping potent guards this season by switching Westbrook, Nolen and McKenzie on and off the opposing threat.

Prediction: Gophers win in a very tight game, maybe even OT. I like our matchup but it is on the road and it will be the 3rd game in a row for a team that is lacking depth. I expect that our defense will not be turning the Rebels over because our legs will be a bit tired and they take good care of the ball. But we should be able to own the paint and if we play solid defense that makes them have to use the shot clock before they get a good shot, that should favor us.

Gophers by 4

December 27, 2007

Football NIT - Championship at the Pasadena Bowl

Coach Brewster wasted no time this season. In his debut press conference he promised to take Gopher Nation to Pasadena and in his first season he is doing just that. All you nay-sayers can eat your crow now. Cause the 2007 Football NIT Championship game is being played in the Pasadena Bowl. The bowl game formerly known as the Jr. Rose Bowl will not take a back seat this year.

The game will played on New Year's Eve the day before the Rose Bowl and should be a thrill for everyone in Gopher Nation. Many of us wanted Notre Dame to be put on the schedule for 2009's home opener in the new TCF Stadium. The Irish would not comply but we get get them on the bowl schedule this year.

The In-N-Out Burger Pasadena Bowl
#5 Minnesota
#2 Notre Dame
Location: Pasadena, CA
Corporate Sponsor: In-N-Out Burger
TV Broadcast: ESPN 360,
Last Pasadena Bowl Game: 1971, Memphis State-28 vs. San Jose St.-9

There is no love lost between these two teams as this rivalry dates back to 1925 when they first played one another. The rivalry quickly ended in 1938 after just 5 contests because it was just too hot to continue. Notre Dame holds a slight edge in the series as Minnesota is 0-4-1 overall. Let the rivalry continue.

I know that fans of both teams wanted to see this matchup all season. Minnesota was able to dominate teams like Miami (Ohio) and well that's about it. And Notre Dame crushed the likes of Navy and Air Force and Duke.

This is your classic...

Unstoppable Force (Minn Offense) vs. Immovable Object (ND Defense)
Unable to Move the Ball Offense (ND) vs. Incapable of Stopping Anyone Defense (Minn)

This will be on ESPN Classic faster than the Big Ten Network was able replay Appalachian State vs. Michigan.

I'll spare you the details but it was a close game, and both fans in attendence knew it would come down to who had the ball last. The gophers had the ball with 2:30 left down 14-21. After a long drive that took 2:25 off the clock, Minnesota scored on a 2-yard Weber run.

Tim "I'm aggressive" Brewster decided to show everyone that he made the right call in the Northwestern game and go for 2 (again) to win. Once again they had the perfect play called. Weber rolled to his right and had the enigmatic Ernie Wheelright wide open in the endzone. Weber hit Wheelright right on the numbers, but Ernie ended his career as a gopher dropping the game winning 2-point conversion.

Notre Dame is your 2007 Football NIT Champions... (queue We are the Champions music and montage)

Minnesota - 20
Notre Dame - 21

As the teams met to shake hands both freshmen QBs vowed to meet again. Maybe next year in the Insight Bowl!

December 22, 2007

Santa Clara @ Minnesota - preview (breif)

Santa Clara has a long and storied basketball history. And by long and storied I mean they once had a massive 1st round upset. In 1993 future NBA MVP, Steve Nash led the Broncos over the #2 seeded Arizona Wildcats 64-41.

I have 2 major questions for tonight's game...

1. What will the starting lineup be? After struggling vs. South Dakota State and finishing the game with a lineup of....


will that be the lineup we see starting? When Tubby calls me to ask my opinion I'll suggest to go with the lineup above. Others have suggested maybe starting Hoffarber but I like his spark off the bench. I hope we see a change starting now so this group can get a few games under their belt before the B10 opener.

2. Going into the game the obvious matchup worth watching was Tollackson vs. Bryant who is a 7'0" center averaging 19.7 pnts and 8.6 reb per game. In recent games Coleman has had the key matchup but tonight he'll need to continue his scoring like he has recently. Bryant is big, experienced and by all accounts talented.

  • DEFENSIVELY - I think Tollackson should be OK. I don't expect Bryant to have a monster night. The key here is rebounding. Spencer hasn't been a great rebounder this year but Bryant needs to be kept off the boards on every possession.
  • OFFENSIVELY - I don't think Tollakson will get many (if any) good scoring opportunities. But this will make Coleman's contribution very important. Let Bryant neutralize Tollackson but then Coleman has to get it done for the gophs inside.
I think this is a decent test. One we should clearly win, but Santa Clara is in a decent conference with the likes of Gonzaga, Saint Mary's and Pepperdine. They should be better than any of our recent wins and should be the best team we face until UNLV.

I wish I could watch it but I am too cheap for the extra sports package. E-mail me if you want to donate to my ESPN U fund.

Santa Clara - 65

December 18, 2007

Welcome to Gopher Nation Kid - JUCO signing day!

UPDATES: Greer is not expected to sign.

New signing is listed below...

Today we get to finalize some non-high school seniors. They'll get to ink their name to a letter of intent and many of them will then be in school by for January classes. This day is usually a blip on the radar as Minnesota rarely signs any significant JUCO players. In fact JUCO players in D1 football rarely have a massive impact. But Tim Brewster and staff are hoping that they have landed a couple that can help improve this defense right away.

JUCO Kids - with 6 incoming JUCO transfers there is hope that a couple will contribute immediately to bolster what was the worst defense in D1 football last year. My vote is for Simmons to start from day 1. Pittman will likely contribute in some way or another. And Lawrence will have a chance to start but Safety is getting a little crowded with incoming hopefuls.

David Pittman - Ath - Rivals ranks as a 4-star kid and is the #26 overall JUCO prospect (#19 by Pittman racked up great numbers this last season as a QB, but it is unclear where he will play for the gophers in 2008. The recruitment of Pittman may have been aided by the fact that Coach Brewster also attended Pasadena City College before he moved on to Illinois. Let's hope that before he is done he gets a trip back to sunny Pasadena!

Traye Simmons - CB - another 4-star recruit and #29 in the JUCO rankings. Simmons (aka Big Play Traye) is expected to come in with a great shot at starting CB for the 2008 gophers. 5'11" and more importantly 4.4 speed, I really hope Simmons can come in and make a big impact on this defense.

Simoni Lawrence - S/LB - 3-star by Rivals measuring stick, also could see a chance at playing time next year. Lawrence could be that smaller but fast LB or a slightly slower Safety. Either way if he earns a spot then I'm assuming it is an improvement over last year.

Actual signing was not announced yesterday.

Maurice Greer - RB - former high school player of the year in Colorado, the former Buffalo commit is on his way to Minnesota. Greer is also former teammates of Clint Brewster and Kyle Theret which may have aided in his recruitment. Since many feel RB is not an area of huge need this is a no lose situation for the gophers. If he works hard and becomes a great back that is awesome. If he struggles towards mediocrity then he is used to spell Bennett and Thomas.

Tramaine Brock - S - great speed and offered by South Carolina, Miss St and Ole Miss. Looks like we are stealing some SEC Speed!

Rex Sharpe - LB - area of need, but who really knows if he'll contribute in 2008. Sharpe has good size and decent speed but wasn't offered by anybody else of significance.


Matt Carufel - OL - Cretin to Notre Dame back home to Minnesota. Caruel will have to sit out 2008 but is expected to start and dominate in 2009 and 2010. Just in time for new stadium and Rose Bowl run! Matt was the most recruited player out of Minnesota in 2006. Of course that means he doesn't come to Minnesota but fortunately the disaster in South Bend convinced him to leave. Now if he could just twist the arm of Mike Floyd before it's too late for him.

Prep School Kid - also signing of these kids was not actually announced yesterday.

Vincent Hill - WR - 4-star WR and #16 in Rivals prep school ranking who will also have a chance to start or at least heavily contribute in his first collegiate season. We have a handful of WRs coming in this year. I would guess that Decker and Spry will have a lock on the first 2 spots on the depth chart but after that Hill will likely be battling with potentially Green, Brandon, Stoudermire or even Pittman. Should be fun to watch what happens at this position.

Wayne Dorsey - DE - 2-star big kid. New to the radar and a surprise signing. Dorsey is a teammate of Hill and will likely enroll at the U in January. This will give him several months of lifting and spring practice before we get to St. Johns in August. That extra time can only help. I'd be shocked to see him play much in 2008, but I look forward to seeing him play. In six games this season at Milford Academy he accumlated 2 sacks, 8 tackles for losses and caused a fumble.

All in all this is a good start. Bringing in four, 4-star kids in December is great. The incoming freshmen class is also shaping up to be full of impact players but I like what I'm seeing at this point. It is hard to get TOO excited as JUCO's rarely have a huge impact (as I already mentioned), but there is strength in numbers and a couple of these guys have the ability to play right away and help us out.

December 17, 2007

Big Ten = Finesse? Welcome to the "Spread Ten"

In case you hadn't heard Michigan has hired the former West Virginia coach Rich Rodriguez. This continues to move the Big Ten to the spread conference.

Spread Offenses

Elements of Spread
Penn State - usually 1 back, 3 WR
Michigan State

Power I
Ohio State

That leaves us with over 1/2 of the conference running versions of the spread offense and a couple more that are pretty close. Just 2 years ago this was still a power conference. But move the gophers from the best running offense in the country to a spread and then move your traditional power team like Michigan to the spread for 2008 and officially the balance of the conference has shifted.

Remember when the Big Ten was considered your typical midwestern, tough guy conference? Those days are getting further away in your rear-view mirror.

In the other BCS conferences you have a handful of teams in each that use elements of the spread but fewer teams that are true spread offenses. The Big 12 for example only has 3 teams that are true spreads, but teams like Texas, Kansas, and A&M use elements of the spread. Gaging which teams are "true spreads" and which teams are using pieces of it is difficult to determine, and I don't watch enough to have a firm grasp on every BCS team, but it is noteworthy that 55% of the conference is running this fashionable offense.

What exactly is my point? Well, as usual I'm not sure I have one, but this brings up several questions in my mind...

Is this just a coincidence that so many Big Ten teams are moving in this direction?

I'm sure every school has a different rea.son they are now spread teams.

  • Minnesota - Brewster wants to use it as a recruiting tool.
  • Michigan - they hired a coach, not a system. The spread just comes with it.
Did the rest implement the system early to try and differentiate themselves from the traditional B10 power? Northwestern rode it to a Rose Bowl berth, Purdue was close but couldn't get over the hump of the big dogs, Indiana was always bad and needed something to close the gap

Is this a sub conscience effort to get the Big Ten back as the best football conference in the country?

The perception that the SEC just has too much speed for the plodding Big Ten is widely accepted as fact (whether or not it is actually true). Is this offense a tool to become more relevant and productive? Will it really make a difference? I believe that it doesn't matter what system you run, if you run it well and have the players to run it then you can win as many games as you want.

The gopher offense under Glen Mason was consistently putting up as many yards and points as the spread offenses around the country. If they would have had some talent on defense there is no reason they couldn't have become more nationally relevant. And to refute the SEC Speed argument they did beat 9-4 Arkansas in 2003 and Alabama in 2005.

I don't think conscientiously this has anything to do with getting back to national prominence as a conference. But will that be a byproduct?

What does this do with recruiting?

Brewster thinks that running the spread is a "fun" offense that will be appealing to kids in recruiting. This may be very true, but will it be hard to recruit the speed and skill position players necessary to succeed with the spread when your recruiting base is the midwest?

While the "southern speed" concept often makes me throw up in my mouth a little bit because it is so overused, but there is some truth to it. Recruiting guru Tom Lemming points out,
"There's a lot of big kids in Chicago. You get a lot of the bigger people living here, like the Germans, Polish, and Scandinavians. It's the same in Minnesota and Wisconsin and around the Midwest. You go to Wisconsin and no matter how many top players you're looking at, a lot of them are going to be big linemen, like 30 or 40 of them. But if you go down south, you'll have like one or two."
The Big Ten made it's name on being big and physical, not fast. Why? Because that is the schools had at their disposal in their recruiting base. I know that recruiting is more national than it used to be but you still make a living with your base. So can 6 teams in the midwest steal enough fast skill position players away from the south? Can 11 teams bring in defensive backs to cover the spread? There is speed in the midwest but not in the quantity that you'll find in the south.

Will the national perception of the conference change?

This is the million dollar question. As was mentioned a few times already the Big Ten is traditionally a power conference. Smash-mouth, tough and full of offensive linemen that will dominate is some of what comes to mind when you hear Big Ten. How long before that changes?

Can you say with a straight face that the Big Ten = Finesse conference? Big Ten = speed? Big Ten = pass happy?

Crazy, but that is what it is becoming.

How long before the spread trend subsides?

Quick answer - when teams figure out how to stop it. Currently you hear all the time like Ohio State can't defense the spread, Michigan wasn't beat by AppState they were beat by the spread. But how long will that take? Will it take a new defensive system? How about the 3-3-5?

I'm actually intrigued by the 3-3-5. The more the spread is proliferated in NCAA football the more a defense like 3-3-5 makes sense. Time will tell.

December 14, 2007

Welcome to Gopher Nation kid

1st off, Wednesday is kind of a big day. JUCO kids can sign with D1 programs beginning on Wednesday. Since the Gophers have commitments from several JUCO transfers this will be a big day.

JUCO Commitments - transfers usually don't have a huge impact on college football programs. But a handful of these kids might play immediately or at least give us some quality depth.

CB - Traye Simmons - 4-STAR - I expect will start at CB from day 1.
Ath/C - David Pittman - 4-STAR - great QB at JUCO level
DB - Tramaine Brock - 3-star
S - Simoni Lawrence - 3-star - also a good chance to start as S or smallish LB
LB - Rex Sharpe 3-star
RB - Maurice Greer
- 2-star - was highly recruited out of high school

Jewhan Edwards - DT

I am really excited about this one. We needed help on the D-Line in the worst way. His talent level really varies depending on what site you look at. He is big and quick off the line. Personally I think based on our lack of talent or any impact on the defensive line that he will play immediately.

Rivals - 3-star, 40th best DT
ESPN Insider - 8th best DT and highest rated gopher recruit
Scout - 3-star and not ranked among DTs.

So that pretty much covers the spread on Edwards. Either he is going to be one of the best DTs in the country or he'll be very average and won't play for a year or two. Edwards essentially picked Minnesota over Syracuse and West Virginia

The Gopher staff continues to rack up recruits, in spite of their awful regular season. Bringing in talent is the first step, then we'll see what Brewster and his staff can do with this talent.

December 13, 2007

Breaking Down the Box - South Dakota State

Final Score
South Dakota State - 72
Minnesota - 78

Box Score

So, I suck at previews. I thought the NDSU game would be close and I thought the SDSU game would be a blowout. When all is said and done I still firmly believe that NDSU is the superior team, but for some reason the gophers had no trouble with the Bison and struggled on both ends against the Jackrabbits.

Game Ball - Garrett Callahan (SDSU)

Dan Coleman would have been my gopher choice with Damian Johnson a close 2nd. Dan followed up a dominant 1st half (16 pts) with an average 2nd (8 pts). But you can't give out a game ball in this game without giving it to Callahan. The kid was savvy, shot 61% and scored 28 points while playing 39 minutes. Also worth mentioning is that he had 3 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals and only 2 turnovers in 39 minutes. That is a decent night for the sophomore guard. Down With Goldy accurately points out that the only time he was slowed was when Nolen guarded him for the last 5 min of the game. Nolen created back to back turnovers which led to zero points, but it set the defensive tone for the gophers as the finished out the game.

Tempo Free Zone

The stat that jumps out at me here is that fact that SDSU nabbed 51.4% of their missed shots. You, me and every other non-comcast subscriber who watched the game knew we didn't rebound very well, but you can't let the other team have the ball back on over 1/2 of their missed shots. We actually had been rebounding fairly well this year allowing teams offensive rebounds at about a 30% clip until last night. That just can't happen in Big Ten play or we will get killed.

We were killed on the boards and didn't play great team defense but really the gophers did the rest necessary to win the game.

  • We had our lowest turnover% of the young season - 15.8% of possessions ended in a turnover
  • We shot a season high 61.5% of effective FG% (SDSU - 49.2%)
  • While our offense wasn't pretty we still scored 1.23 points per possession.
  • We had our 2nd highest free throw proficiency of the young season
This game was ugly but there were a number of things done right to sneak out the victory.

X-Factor - Al Nolen

As I mentioned above, Nolen was the spark that carried us into the last 5 min of the game. He forced back to back turnovers as the jackrabbits were trying to force the ball to Callahan, he also handled the ball handling duties when SDSU turned up the pressure and he nailed 3/4 free throws to ice the game in the last 30 seconds.

I wish more than anything that Nolen were the starting PG but as PJS points out it is most important that he is the one finishing the games at the point.

What does this mean?

This is a long season. You can't get too high about wins in Nov/Dec and you can't get too carried away by a close win over a inferior team. In the long run this game will hopefully serve as a wakeup call that they can't coast at any point, they just aren't good enough to do so. I have no doubt that 1 year ago we would have lost this game, so stay encouraged that this team is headed in a better direction (duh, right?).

What I hope this game does is shake up the rotation a little bit. Tubby has been quoted as saying he doesn't want to change the starting lineup now that his team is on a roll and winning. Maybe this game will serve as a catalyst to change the starting lineup and get rotation ironed out before the Big Ten season. The 5 guys that finished the game should absolutely be the 5 that start for the rest of this season.

PG - Nolen
SG - McKenzie
SF - Johnson
PF - Coleman
C - Tollackson

1st off the bench - Hoffarber
2nd - Williams
Next - Westbrook/Abu-Shamala

This does so much for the lineup. Most importantly it lets McKenzie move back into scorers roll. He isn't made to play point, he is made to score. Nolen is a point guard first and will run the offense better than McKenzie anyway. Thus far we haven't seen McKenzie get to carry the scoring load, but he is capable and will open things up for the big men if we is allowed to score more.

The only problem with this lineup is you don't have as much punch coming off the bench. You lose the spark that Johnson provides when your starters sit and you lose that true point guard in Nolen. Your next group is 3 scoring guards and a big man who can't score (and Payton, but don't get me started).

Worst case scenario the lineup stays the game and the gophers continue to get better as is. Best case this game jolts them into working harder and realizing they still have a long ways to go.

There has never been any doubt that this team needs to get better. For all of them they are being pushed to improve like never before, they are being asked to give defensive effort like never before and they are learning how to play together in a new offense. Games against teams like SDSU are actually important for the 2007-08 gophers. They need as much time as possible to get things figured out so they can play their best basketball in January and February.

December 12, 2007

South Dakota State @ Minnesota - Preview

I don't want to get into this one too much. The gopher have been playing very well against weak competition. Tonight's opponent might be the weakest we've seen to date.

What to Expect

  • Lots of points
  • Dominance of nearly every statistical category
  • Plenty of minutes for Travis Busch
  • Maybe (just maybe) Ryan Saunders in a uniform, not a suit.
Enjoy watching tonight on the Big Ten Network

Gophers +27

I meant Gophers in a close one.


December 11, 2007

Football NIT - Semi-Finals

The First Round is over and the NIT FINAL FOUR is SET.

The Football NIT is further proof that the world is demanding a playoff system in NCAA football. This blog has seen a spike in numbers that cannot be explained by anything other than an outcry by the college FB world of blogggers.

Deadspin - deemed the College FB Consolation Bracket worthy of a link
With Leather - and Sophia wanted to help "clean up" college football
Sports Illustrated - thought Ole Miss had a shot in the "what-if" eight team tourney
Bucknuts - agrees that the NIT would get better ratings than the rest of December's bowl games
Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician - will be disappointed Syracuse couldn't even score in our to
Double Extra Point - is happy the season is continuing (even if it still includes Callahan) in Lincoln

But if the powers that be won't give it to us with the best of the best, we'll continue on with the worst of the best. It is time for the Semi-Finals...

The C.I.A. Bacardi Bowl
#6 Miami
#2 Notre Dame
Location: Havana, Cuba
Corporate Sponsor: gfsg
TV Broadcast: NFL Network
Last Bacardi Bowl Game: 1937, Auburn-7 vs. Villanova-7

The Fighting Irish are riding high after their first bowl win in 13 years ending a 9 game bowl losing streak. Don't tell the Irish fans but the Refigerator Bowl isn't officially recognized by the NCAA anymore. Miami thought they were going to be sitting at home during the bowl season for the first time since 1997, but Selection Saturday was kind to them and they took this opportunity by the horns as they routed Syracuse in the opening round.

This game is being watched very closely by the CIA for obvious reason but unfortunately it isn't being watched by anybody else because it is broadcast on the NFL Network.

Both teams have relatively new head coaches on their respective sidelines. The Charlie Weis Era in South Bend got off to a real bang as the Irish have attended consecutive BCS Bowls under coach Weis. The Randy Shannon Era in Miami hasn't exactly exactly been quite as successful. He is currently the first coach to have a career losing record at Miami since Nick Saban's cousin Lou in the last 70's (tru, I didn't make that up).

This game was a tale of two halves. Miami came out ready to dominate and crush the overrated and offensively inept Fighting Irish. Through the first 2 quarters the Hurricanes led 31-3.

But let's remember that the offensive genius, coach Charlie Weis, is also a pupil of Bill Belichick. And ole'Charlie was employing some illegal sideline video taping. Since we are off US soil, the NCAA doesn't sanction and there was already high end CIA spy equipment in the vicinity, the Irish used it to their advantage. They "camera-gated" into the 2nd half and the once inept offense was crisp and continually hitting the Hurricane's right in they eye of their weakening storm.

By the time the Hurricanes knew what hit them it was too late. The Irish we already in FG range in the final minute of the game. Their offense stalled as they no longer knew the blitz packages but they were able to kick a 33 yd FG to win.

Miami - 41
Notre Dame - 43

Mike Huckabee for President Gotham Bowl
#8 Nebraska
#5 Minnesota
Location: New York, NY
Corporate Sponsor: Mike Huckabee for President
TV Broadcast: Big Ten Network
Last Gotham Bowl Game: Nebraska-36 vs. Miami-34, 1962

The underfunded but surging presidential campaign of Mike Huckabee wisely got on board with this sponsorship long before it became as popular as it has. Fortunately for Huckabee this is the game to watch of the semi's, unfortunately it is on the Big Ten Network and most of America won't be able to view it.

These two team share some history as they have battled 51 times with MN leading the series 29-20-2. But Nebraska has dominated the more recent games.

  • Nebraska holds 14 game current win streak vs. Minnesota
  • Average score of last 10 games 6-49
  • Minnesota has been shut out in 8 of the Nebraska victories
On to the game...One might think that as the defending Gotham Bowl Champs this clearly gives Nebraska a distinct advantage. But we all know the mental toughness and preparedness that the Tim Brewster led golden gophers have shown all season. So I don't think the cornhusker familiarity with the Gotham Bowl will come into play this year.

You'd think this game is all about the offensive systems. Both coaching staffs came to their respective schools singing the praises of their offensive "systems."

Spread Coast Offense vs. West Coast Offense

But these teams made the NIT based on their defenses. The spread and the west were shut down as the defenses were prepared to take away these systems. Both Nebraska and Minnesota had to revert back to their old form and utilized what was once dominant rushing attacks. Some greats were in attendance and suited up at halftime.

Nebraska started with the ball and put their great backs in the Wishbone.
  • Johnny Rodgers
  • Ahman Green
  • Mike Rozier
Minnesota rotated some of their great backs in and out of the Power I...
  • Bruce Smith
  • Lawrence Maroney
  • Daryl Thompson
The game was all about ball control and Minnesota had it last. They drove 60 yards on 21 plays as they scored as time expired, made the only converted PAT of the game and won ending the recent Cornhusker dominance...

Minnesota - 31
Nebraska - 30

That sets up a Minnesota vs. Notre Dame NIT Championship. Please vote as fan vote will account for 10% in determining who wins. The Gopher Nation writing staff which is NOT affiliated with the Writers Guild of America accounts for the remaining 90%.

December 10, 2007

Breaking Down the Box - Colorado State

slight changes are in order for Breaking Down the Box, just so you know. Since I was unable to watch the game and only listened to a portion of the WCCO broadcast much of this is of course based on the box.

Game Ball - Blake Hoffarber

The freshman shooting guard continued his improved and more confident play as he had his coming put party on Saturday. Blake hit 6 threes on his way 21 points and is adding valuable depth to the already surprising gopher bench. The Star Tribune's Myron Medcalf goes so far as to say that Hoffarber is "quickly solidifying his place as one of the team's go-to scorers and best offensive options." I don't know if I'm willing to go that far quite yet. I still think that he is at best our distant 4th best offensive option (Nolen and Westbrook will have their nights as well).

But I love that we have a pure shooter who is confident enough to shoot whenever he is in rhythm and can get it off. He isn't a scorer yet who can get by his defender and score in the lane or find the open man at the rim, but he is a shooter and if he requires a defender to glue to him that opens up the rest of the floor for they guys who are scorers. If his defender can't help on penetration because he knows Blake will drill a 3, then that will make life easier for McKenzie and the frontcourt.

And in addition to how he will help the offense it is huge to have more and more talent coming off the bench. What was supposed to be a real weakness for the gophers is turning into a strength. We have diversity coming off the bench...

  • PG - Nolen - controls the game and is playing great at the PG spot
  • SG - Hoffarber - becoming a dangerous shooter who can fill up the box score
  • SF - Johnson - defending great and has been a spark
  • C - Williams - rebounding and giving more than anybody imagined
  • G - Payton - not sure what he offers except solid min so others can rest
This group has played outstanding and I'd love to see their +/- cause I bet it is better than the starters through the first 7 games.

Temp-Free Zone

eFG% - 61.5 is great, Hoffarber's 6 threes helps a lot
Turnover% - 16.6 - lowest of the season

National Rankings... intersting that Ken Pomroy's collection of temp-free stats with rankings and season predictions.

Offensive Efficiency - 25th - (191st last year)
Off Rebounding % - 3rd - (310th last year!)
Block % - 12th - (218th last year)

Predicted Record - 23-7
Pomroy RPI - 32nd - bubble team baby

X-Factor - Lawrence McKenzie

I'm going with an odd choice here. McKenzie gave us his 2nd game of the short season scoring less than 5 points. What I love is that despite his 20% shooting night he still gave us 5 assists and only two turnovers. And I love that he didn't throw up a ton of shots trying to "get it going." If he can play controlled and if we can score 90 points (regardless of the opponent) when he isn't putting in the hoop then this team will win more games than even I thought they would (and I drink a lot of kool aid).

What Does this Mean?

Again, not a whole lot as this is a rebuilding team. The Rams won't be sniffing the Tourney (or .500 for that matter), but we executed our game plan and we dominated. These are games that we would win 9/10 of the time but the fact that we are dominating is very encouraging. The Big Ten season will be very different but as I watch the other conference teams more and more only a couple of them truly scare me. Many will be very winable. Fortunately we still have nearly a month to get better. I can't wait for some B10 games!

December 7, 2007

Colorado State @ Minnesota - Preview

This game is a great game for this golden gopher team that is coming together. On Monday night they played a North Dakota State team that was guard heavy. Ben Woodside, Mike Nelson and Brett Winkleman are perimeter oriented players who combine for 57 points per game. The Bison had very little inside game to speak of. But the gophers played great perimeter D and dominated the paint and won going away.

The rams of Colorado State offer a different contest. While the Rams primary scorers are their PG and SG (Marcus Walker and Willis Gardner), they also get plenty of production from two 7' post players.

  • Soph - Stuart Creason - 7'0" starting center averages 12.4 ppg, 6.4 rpg and 1.5 blocked shots per game.
  • FR - Ronnie Aguilar - 7'0" reserve center who does not score much but has been solid on the boards at nearly 5 reb/game
  • FR - Flynn Claymon - 6'9" reserve gets limited time but is another big body in the paint
Having never seen the rams play I don't believe they are a frontcourt dominated team, but they should present a much better inside/out combo than NDSU did. Tomorrow afternoon night the gophers will be forced to defend their big guys and their guards.

Nothing about this game leads me to believe we should be fearful of an upset. This current gopher squad is getting better every game as they are learning their roles in Tubby's offense and most importantly they are learning to play aggressively-together on the defensive end. Playing a team that will present different challenges than the last team did is good for the gophers. Monday night they were up to the challenge of stopping a perimeter oriented team that was capable of lighting up the scoreboard. Tomorrow they'll have to work harder to control the paint while they still have to shut down a couple of good guards.


PG - Westbrook vs. Marcus Walker - Walker is the ram's leading scorer at around 16 points per game. It is quickly becoming apparent that Westbrook is going to be called upon to guard the opponents best perimeter player to start the game. And he has done a fine job. The further we get into the season the more I think Nolen should be starting. Westbrook has exceeded my expectations and has really helped us this year the numbers below show me that Nolen really should be your starting (and finishing) PG.

Nolen Westbrook
Assist 23 8
Turnovers 8 8
Steals 17 4
Pnts/gm 5.3 7.8

Back to the matchup, Walker has been the rams best player but the gophers have done a nice job defending guards this year. Florida State's Isaiah Swan had a nice burst of scoring early but was essentially shut down for the 2nd half. And NDSU's Woodside was held to his lowest point total since the first game of the season. My money is on the gophers keeping Walker below his season average. But I also think Walker will give CSU more than Westbrook will give the gophers so the rams get the slight edge.

SG - Lawrence McKenzie vs. Willis Gardner - Gardner leads the team in assists, is 2nd leading scorer at 12.8 ppg and most importantly rebounds really well for being a 6'1" guard bringing in almost 5 rpg. I don't know what kind of defense he will offer McKenzie, but Lawrence has 2 jobs. One - box out Gardner, don't let him give the rams a handful of extra possessions. Two-score within the context of the offense, if he can be patient and take what is given to him I expect that he will have a 20 point game.

SF - Johnson vs. Adam Nigon - I took a stab at putting Johnson in the lineup last game (and was wrong), but with Abu-Shamala breaking having a boo-boo on his nose I expect Johnson will get the nod to start. He has clearly been the biggest surprise of the season and I hope he gets the start and keeps it. For the rams, Nigon has been starting recently and averaging 20 min per game but really hasn't been much of a contributor on the offensive end. I don't know what to expect with this machup, but I like what we have gotten from Johnson on both ends of the floor so I give this one to MN as well.

PF - Coleman vs. Andre McFarland - it seems like every game Coleman has the most intriguing mathcup. McFarland is a freshman forward who will give a couple inches to Coleman but he looks to be a very strong kid. In the NDSU game Coleman was able to face up his defender, get by him in one dribble then rise up and score within 5 feet of the rim. DC looks to have the height advantage to get his shot off inside again but the question is can he get by McFarland? I anticipate that McFarland will be physical with Coleman and the biggest question of the night is how will DC respond? Will he shy away and play on the perimeter, which will likely put him in Tubby's doghouse? Or will he be mentally tough enough to take the contact and still play the game to his strength? Since DC is coming off his best game of the 2007-08 season and McFarland is a freshman learning the ropes I'll tentatively give this one to the gophers.

C - Tollackson vs. Stuart Creason - another very interesting matchup. Tollackson is savvy in the paint and has played well against bigger centers in the past (especially big guys who are not Greg Oden). Creason has been aggressive on the offensive glass, a good shot blocker and has been a consistent scorer. Tollackson has been solid this season but not spectacular. I'm going to give this edge to Creason. Tollackson will give a lot to the gophers without dominating his man but if the rams stay in this game it will have to be because of Creason's inside presence.

Bench - what I once thought would be a gopher weakness is quickly becoming a strength. With Nolen on the bench, the shooting of Abu-Shamala & Hoffarber and the rebounding of Williams there is excellent balance and productiveness from the bench. The rams bench has good size but it is young and not very deep. Key guys to watch for are...
  • Ronnie Agular - 7'0" sophomore center
  • Jesse Woodard - 6'1" freshman point guard
  • Josh Simmons - 6'4 freshman shooting guard
  • Flynn Clayman - 6'9" freshman forward
Decent balance, but I don't see them contributing nearly as much as the gopher bench.


This will be another solid win for the gophers. I don't see this as a "trap" game and I think they will come out focused and improved. I really expect that they will be focused on Creason in the paint right away and set the tone that he won't be getting anything easy. In the end our guards get this one for us and the gophers improve to 6-1.

Minnesota - 78
Colorado State - 63

Vintage College FB Program Covers - (Ad Alert)

I thought this was kind of cool and an apt ad for a college football blog...

I'm not going to spend all day plugging these calendars but again, I thought they were cool and a more appropriate ad than a ticket broker or porn or something.

December 6, 2007

Football NIT - First Round

Selection Saturday is now behind us and it is time to delve into the matchups. We were fortunate enough to secure defunct bowl games and sites to host our tournament. Also, I encourage you to frequent our corporate sponsors as it wouldn't be possible with out them.

The Enron Oil Bowl
#8 Nebraska
#1 Mississippi
Location: Houston, TX
Corporate Sponsor: Enron Corp
Last Oil Bowl Game: Georgia Tech-41 vs St. Mary's-19, 1947

I know that everyone still has the 2002 Independence Bowl still fresh in their memories. Cornhusker fans haven't forgotten the 23-27 loss at the hands of Mississippi that year. These two teams combine for 8 national championships but those trophies would need to be moved if either were lucky enough to win the first Wal-Mart NIT trophy.

This turned out to be a great game but Nebraska proved to be the charmed team. This 2007 version of the Huskers is a very special team. It takes a special team to average 54.3 points per game to end their season yet lose two of them giving up an average of 57.3 ppg. In the end the fact that the Cornhuskers have a player with the last name Lucky is what got it done. Marlon Lucky couldn't be stopped and Nebraska beat the solid but unspectacular Ole Miss squad.

Nebraska - 51
Ole Miss - 45

The Fridge Refrigerator Bowl
#7 Washington
#2 Notre Dame
Location: Evansville, IN
Corporate Sponsor: William Perry and The Fridge
Last Refrigerator Bowl Game: Sam Houston State-27 vs. Middle Tenn State-13, 1956

OH the drama surrounding this game as we have the sister of the Irish starting QB is actually dating...wait, nevermind, not that drama. OK so obviously the story here is Charlie Weis vs. Tryone Willingham Part II. Revenge for Willingham? Kirk Herbstreit is reporting that Weis's job is on the line and the Irish come through to save it for their lovable offensive genius.

Conventional wisdom would suggest that Washing is a certainty to win, but I've heard that Charlie Weis is an offensive genius. His Irish offense scored 16.4 points per game this year (that's almost 2 TDs AND a FG per game). How can a genius lose this game? He doesn't. The Irish win on 2 Tom Zbikowski TDs (did you know he is a boxer?) and a couple FGs set up by Zbikowski returns. Washington scores 2 safeties to go with their offensive firepower but it wasn't enough.

Notre Dame - 20
Washington - 18

The Hooters Air Aviation Bowl
#6 Syracuse
#3 Miami
Location: Dayton, OH
Corporate Sponsor: Hooters Airlines (resuming service in March 2008)
Last Aviation Bowl Game: New Mexico State-28 vs. Western Michigan-12, 1961

This game was decided on the flights to Dayton. Miami is used to bikinis and tan bodies while Syracuse is used to sweaters and turtlenecks (yeah BABY). The Hooters in flight staff distraction was too great for the Orangemen and they didn't recover in time for the game.

This one isn't close as the U rolls on to the 2nd round.

Miami - 69
Syracuse - 00

The Pink Taco Salad Bowl
#5 Minnesota
#4 Idaho
Location: Phoenix, AZ
Corporate Sponsor: Pink Taco Restaurants
Last Salad Bowl Game: Houston-26 vs. Dayton-21, 1956

This is the matchup of the first round as both teams come in blazing hot on 10 game losing streaks. While many were anticipating high scoring and plenty of offense they were fortunate to see the latter but not the former. The vandals and gophers combined for 1453 total yards, but they also combined for 11 interceptions. Both team's fans have been used to seeing interceptions thrown so this game was not surprising to them.

Minnesota moves on to the second round on a last second touchdown. Adam Weber threw a 20 yard pass to Wheelright that was intercepted. But the refs called interference on Idaho DB Herbert Cash. The gophers got the ball inside the 5 and scored on a Duane Bennett TD run as time expired.

Minnesota - 14
Idaho - 7

Check back soon for the NIT Semi-Finals.

College Football NIT has put out their 16 team "Ultimate Playoff" for college football. While most of the country dreams of a playoff system that would actually allow us to crown a true champ, I want to propose something that will benefit those of us not bowl eligible. Just like Festivus is like Christmas for the rest of us, I give to you...

NIT of College Football! - welcome to this 8 team tourney to determine who is the best of the best worst. This will take on the BCS format of taking 1 worthy team from the 6 BCS conferences then we will give 2 lucky at large teams an opportunity to enter this prestigious tournament.

Seeding of Participants...

(8) - Nebraska
How they got in - Big 12 Automatic Qualifier

How does Nebraska get in ahead of Baylor you ask? Well it takes a little more than just finish last to make this tourney. Baylor is always bad and probably always will be. Nebraska didn't just suck this year they made history along the way. They were killed by USC at home (with 2 late meaningless TDs), gave up 65 to Colorado and gave up 76 points on their way to getting humiliated by Kansas. This was a colossal failure in what was potentially a breakthrough year for Nebraska (ranked #14 at one point).
NOTE: in order to maintain their status in the NIT, Bill Callahan has been asked to coach the Huskers through the tourney.

(7) - Washington
How they got in - Pac 10 Automatic Qualifier

This was a tough one. Washington was the worst in the conference, but they beat Stanford who beat USC so really Washington had a chance to win the Pac10 (and only lost to USC by 3). For my money this is the most overrated conference ever. I'm not sure anybody deserves to be here since every team is capable of playing in the BCS. But rules are rules and we need a P10 rep, so Washington it is.

(6) - Miami (FL)
How they got in - ACC Automatic Qualifier

Again, I know that Duke is really (REALLY) bad, but Miami has a proud history of being good. So a 2-6 conference record is really something to admire. The rest of college football really feels bad for Thug U. Amazingly, Miami actually pulled off a major upset AT Florida State. How that happened I don't know but this team is primed and ready to show the FB NIT that their 1-6 recent record is not fluke.

(5) - Minnesota
How they got in - Big Ten Automatic Qualifier

The gophers are one of the hottest teams in the FB-NIT as they are riding a 10 game losing streak. I didn't do any research but I bet that is the longest in the country. Near misses against Iowa, Northwestern and North Dakota State were avoided and the golden gophers come into this tourney as a favorite to upset and win it all.

(4) - Idaho
How they got in - At Large

I guess a WAC team in the championship series is the sheik chic thing to do. Idaho won't disappoint as they are nearly the consensus worst team in college football. Boise State made the BCS last year and went on to shock Oklahoma. With that in mind I can't imagine the rest of the FB-NIT will sleep on the Vandals. Upon further research they are actually tied with Minnesota for the longest losing streak in the country.

(3) - Syarcuse
How they got in - Big East Automatic Qualifier

The Orangemen nearly cost themselves a spot in this prestigious tourney by upsetting Louisville on the road. But the selection committee overlooked that snafu and chose to point out that they also had a solid 35-0 loss to Iowa and a 42-12 loss to Washington on their NIT resume. To be the worst in your conference and lose to two of the worst from the Big Ten and Pac10 respectively isn't easy.

(2) - Notre Dame
How they got in - At Large big

Notre Dame didn't earn this by being a bubble team, they gave us a season for the ages. The only blemish on their FB-NIT resume was a win at UCLA. Where that came from I don't know, but they made up for that mistake by giving Michigan a 38-0 win when they needed it most and most importantly by losing to Navy for the first time since the Lincoln administration (I think). #2 seed only because they beat UCLA.

(1) - Mississippi
How they got in - SEC Automatic Qualifier

I thought the SEC was so good that all 12 teams actually deserved a spot in the BCS. I guess Mississippi didn't get that memo and they graciously gave all other teams a W. They did beat Memphis so that at least makes the rebels a top 4 team in Conference USA. Out of respect for the SEC I at least awarded the rebels the #1 seed.

Teams on the Bubble...

Vanderbilt - SEC fans might go crazy since we didn't include 2 from the SEC.
Northwestern - losing to Duke is tough to ignore on the resume but .500 record and beating Minnesota ultimately kept them out.
Pittsburgh - set to be the Big East rep until they dropped one to West Virginia in last game of the year.
Florida International - I guess they had too much "Florida Speed" for this tourney.

So the teams and bracket are set. Be sure to pay attention as the matchups will soon be analyzed the results will be shared.

1 vs. 8
2 vs. 7
3 vs 6
4 vs 5

Good luck to these fine football programs and congratulations on their fine seasons thus far.

December 5, 2007

All I want for Christmas (2009) Recruiting Wish List - Basketball

Basketball recruiting is essentially done for Minnesota's 2008 class. Football will continue to work through signing day to get a great class coming in next fall. Both sports have done a phenominal job of putting Minnesota sports back on the radar for recruiting (nationally). Football can boast arguably the best recruiting class in the programs history (at least modern day history) and basketball has at least one of the best classes in over a decade. As Christmas is approaching I want to give my basketball wish list for 2009.

BASKETBALL - 2009 - 3 available scholarships by my count. It is a lot of fun to look at the lists of the top rated players for 2009 and find Minnesota listed amongst kids in the top 50. We are looking at 5 kids in the top 50 and another in the top 100. With 3 scholarships I am hopeful and confident that we can land three top 50 kids and have a top 10 recruiting class. White and Williams are top 50 kids from Minnesota that I expect we'll land. Then we have 1 scholarship left to get a stud.

  1. DaShonte Riley - 5-star, 6'10" C - I'm excstatic that we landed Sampson, but you can't turn away a 15, 5-star center. And who says one can't play PF to give us twin towers. Anyway, I'm dreaming now. Really though White and Williams are top priority but if you can land a 5* center like this you really have to give it everything you've got. tubby will have his work cut out for him with Riley as he is getting offers from the best programs in the country. OFFERED along with G'town, Kansas, KState, Mich, MichSt and Ohio St.
  2. Royce White - 4-star, 6'7" PF - The best in the state (#32 overall) and this is a key guy for Tubby and staff. The 2008 class brought in a couple of big guys and now we need some athletic forwards. White really has to be a top priority. OFFERED along with Ill, MichSt, USC, Wisc and others.
  3. Rodney Williams - 4-star, 6'5" SF - Another highly regarded player nationally (#43 overall) who resides in Minnesota. It seems that a combination of White and Williams would be nice on the floor together. OFFERED along with Iowa, IowaSt and Miami (FL).
  4. Ari Stewart - 5-star, 6'7" F - Ranked by Rivals as the #15 overally player in the 2009 class. Another highly rated 5-star kid would be huge for this program. Of course I know next to nothing about this kid from Marietta, GA but landing a top 15 kid is something we don't see much of in Gopher Nation. Minnesota has not offered yet but his offer list does include GTech, Wake, OhioSt, Tenn, KSt, LSU, Georgia, Aub and others.
  5. Jamil Wilson - 4-star, 6'7" F - Now we get into the kids we want to steal. Wilson is a Wisconsin kid and ranked #33 overall by Rivals. Not only would be it great to land a top 50 kid, but to make sure he isn't playing in Madison would be extra sweet. Not only do we want to reverse the trend of Minnesota kids becoming badgers (Cam Taylor, Jordan Taylor, Leuer and Berggren), but we want to start stealing their best. Make Bo Ryan work a little bit. Offers from Wis, Pur and Marq
  6. Johnny Lacy - 4-star, PG - another Wisconsin kid and a position of need (I think). I love Nolan and I think Joseph will be PG of the future but this would be a nice top 100 guy (#88) to land. We could use another true PG to let Joseph score and play some at both guard spots. Nolan is solid and will be a starter for the next 3 years but Lacy would be nice coming off the bench and if we redshirted him he'd also get a few years of starting as a golden gopher. Marquette is the only school to have offered.
  7. Mfon Udofia - 4-star, PG - Rivals has Udofia as #36 overall in the 2009 class. Udofia would continue a little Georgia pipeline. I'm sure Tubby's relationships from his U of Georgia days are contributing to having MN on his radar. Offers from Alabama, Auburn, GTech, Georgia, OleMiss and SFlorida.
  8. Chris Covin - 4-star, PG - Rivals ranked #40 overall. Covin is a Chicago kid with offers from Illinois, Iowa and a couple mid-majors.
  9. Diamond Taylor - 4-star, SG - Rivals ranked #67 overall. Offers from Marq, Wis and a couple Mids.
  10. Jerome Maymon - 3-star, 6'6" F - the third Wisconsin kid who has Minnesota on his list. Although not a top 100 player, Maymon sticks with my theme of stealing players from our neighbor to the east. No offers yet, interest from Wis, Iowa, Ill, Mich, Minn and FlorSt.
9 kids in the Rivals top 100 that we are after. 9 kids who are 4-star or better. Rankings and star ratings don't guarantee any future success or draft status or points per game or anything. But this is an indicator that we are talking to and getting into the homes of some of the most talented high school athletes. At this point just being in the conversation is exciting.


I am rather confident that we will land the two Minnesota kids White and Williams. When you have Tubby Smith in your backyard and you can visibly see the dramatic difference he has made from last year's team to this, it is very enticing and hard to leave. If we fail to land one of them I expect that we'd make a strong push for Wilson. Assuming we land them both then I don't see Wilson or Stewart as strong candidates for the 3rd scholarship. Since Riley has already been offered I expect that he'd get every opportunity to accept before we move on to a PG on the list.

I say we land...

F - Royce White (#32)
F/SG - Rodney Williams (#43)
PG - Mfon Udofia (#46) - if not Udofia then Lacy (#88)

There is a real good chance that we will end up with 3 players who are all ranked in the top 50 overall. The 2008 class that is coming in has everybody excited (and it should) but the highest rated player is Sampson at #74. After we land White and Williams I'm praying for Riley, hoping for Udofia and will be happy with Lacy. This 2009 class could be really special.

2010 List Early look - why not? :)

Robert Sampson - 6'8" brother of Ralph Sampson III - the commitment of RSIII may pay dividends for a couple years after he leaves Minnesota.

Corey Joseph - 6'3" brother of Devoe Joseph - I'm not 100% certain of his grade status but THIS article says Corey is 2 years younger than Devoe.

Josh Hairston - PF - Virginia native has a lot of schools on his list including MN

Blog Poll Week - Final Regular Season

So Brian at MGO is having some blog poll issues lately. I think I successfully submitted my blog poll but it didn't give me the handy dandy table to paste here. So I'll manually give you my top 10 just so you have it...

1. Ohio State - This is pretty much not controversial. The interesting thing to note is that they lost their game LATE in the season. Conventional wisdom suggests that you want to lose early but both OSU and LSU lost their last regular season game and are still in the BCS Championship game.

2. Georgia - I looked at the common opponents with LSU and gave advantages to either school when comparing their common opponents. For instance the both played South Carolina, Georgia lost and LSU won. LSU-1, UGA-0. They had 7 common opponents and I gave Georgia 4 (FL, Kent, OleMiss and Aub). Tiger fans can point to the Tennessee matchup which LSU won and Georgia lost, but Georgia convincingly beat OleMiss and Auburn while LSU's games were much closer. Anyway, I give Georgia the BCS game.

3. Virginia Tech - I know, I know that they LSU beat them. But that was week 2. I think that LSU was playing their best football in September and VTech got better. And the game was on the road for the Hokies. Neutral field today and they don't lose by 41. Among the 2 loss teams the Hokies are the only ones to have lost to ranked teams both times, both teams were #2 at the time and also the only team where both losses were to teams still ranked to end the season.

4. LSU - I don't want to hear that their only losses were OT losses, cause they were fortunate to win the Florida, Auburn and Alabama games. Hats off to the Tigers for pulling those games out but when you are on the razor thin edge of losing 5 times (going 3-2), you don't get "credit" for losing in OT.

5. Oklahoma - of the teams with 2 losses they are the only team to have lost both of their games on the road. Both were to unranked teams but losing @ Colorado or @ Tex Tech isn't as bad as losing a home game to Stanford is it?

6. USC - Losing at Oregon when Dixon was still QB isn't so bad. But losing the home game to Stanford truly cost them the BCS Title game (DUH, I know). If their 2nd loss was to any other team on their schedule they might still be playing in Arizona instead of Pasadena.

7. Florida
8. Missouri
9. Kansas
10. West Virginia

That's that.