February 28, 2008

Dairy Queen Baseball Classic

Friday afternoon will begin this year's Dairy Queen Classic. The Gopher baseball team annually hosts this nationally competitive tournament in the Metrodome. This year's talent is as good as it gets. (And stay tuned as I tie the Dairy Queen Classic to Pamela Anderson.)


All but Tulane were NCAA Tournament participants a year ago and they are undefeated this season and #18 in the Baseball America poll. Pepperdine is ranked in some polls and TCU is among the teams on the verge of being ranked. Since my knowledge of Gopher baseball is limited at best and I know even less about the participating teams, I have called a new friend to Gopher Nation. Brian at the College Baseball Blog was kind enough to give us a little insight into the participating teams and a little about the Gopher's chances this year.

1. Before we get to looking ahead let's look back. Minnesota walked into what we all knew would be a tough 3-game series with #4 Mississippi, but I don't think anybody expected it to be quite as bad as it was (losing a combined 45-10). How good is Mississippi and should this series really be used as an accurate barometer?

tCBB - Ole Miss is picked to finish by the coaches of the SEC to grab the Western Division title over Mississippi State. Lance Lynn is one of the top pitchers in the nation in 2008 and should be a first round pick barring any major injuries. The results should be looked at by Gopher baseball fans as a barometer that this team needs to step up their game to be a National contender again.

2. Now let's just pretend that series didn't happen. Coming into the lion's den that is the HHH Metrodome are three very good teams. #30-Pepperdine, TCU were both NCAA Tournament teams a year ago and #18-Tulane is having a very good season. The first question is, can Minnesota get a win out of this weekend?

tCBB - Minnesota can always get a win out of this weekend as they can catch a pitcher on an off-day or just hit great on that day. It is baseball and anything can happen. Do I expect them to sweep those three schools? Absolutely not and would be surprised if they won 2 games in the tourney.

3. If fans head down to the Dome to watch some quality college baseball who are some players that we should pay attention to for the visiting teams?

tCBB - The best player in the tournament this weekend is Brett Hunter out of Pepperdine. He is a 6-4 right handed pitcher who has been throwing high 90's during spring workouts and should be a contender for National Pitcher of the Year awards. He is the real deal and when he is expected to start is a must see for the Gopher fans even if the Gophers are not playing in that game. TCU is expected to continue to dominate the Mountain West conference and Tulane has become a national power in Conference USA. TCU is coming off a series against Cal-State Fullerton in which they lost 2 out of 3 but picked up a victory on Tuesday over Dallas Baptist University to even their record at 2-2. Tulane enters with a perfect 4-0 record with a 3 game sweep over UIC and a single game victory over SE Louisiana.

4. As Minnesota gets into the Big Ten season, where do you see them finishing? Can they compete with Michigan or is it a fight for second place?

tCBB - Second place for Minnesota? I don't think so. I see Minnesota in a battle for third place in the Big Ten. Ohio State and Michigan are on a separate tier when compared to the rest of the conference. Ohio State had one of the best recruiting classes in the country in the last few years and the student athletes are starting to get involved in the everyday lineup. Purdue went down to Baylor and gave them a run for the money with three straight one run games.

5. Based on your expertise, is this an NCAA Tournament team? Would a second place Big Ten finish and an 8th consecutive appearance in the B10 Tourney title game be enough to get them into the Field?

tCBB - This Minnesota team is about a year away from competing for a conference title. Michigan just played the Mets on Tuesday where they tied 4-4. We don't even have to bring up the fact that Michigan qualified for a Super Regional last year and Ohio State had an excellent team which qualified for the Texas AM Regional.

6. I know the staff at The College Baseball Blog get out and see a lot of games throughout the season, can we expect to see you visiting Seibert Field? Maybe May 9-11 when we host Michigan?

tCBB - I would love to come out for that series but we are trying to develop some great advertising on my site to make this a full-time job for me. I will see what I can do about making that big series in frigid Minnesota.


** If that isn't enough to get you to go, there is a chance that you may catch a Pamela Anderson sighting at the Dome this weekend. You read it right, apparently Pam is a huge supporter of the Waves.

** What I want to know is why did we invite TCU? We have the Waves of Pepperdine, the Green Wave from Tulane and then the Horned Frogs? No, no, no, we should cancel their flight and bring in Florida Atlantic and the Blue Wave! Now THAT would have made for a tournament.

** HERE is the GopherSports.com preview of the participating teams.

** To get your Tulane fix, check out Wave Sports.

** Finally, I'd like to make a motion that the tournament be moved to Pepperdine. The Barn is cool, the Dome is functional, but playing baseball with palm trees just beyond the fences and a view of the Pacific in left field? Wow!


Basketball Blog Poll

My posting of the Basketball Blog Poll has been spotty at best, but below is the composite poll for week 16.

LINK to everyone's vote.

1 Tennessee (8)
2 Memphis
3 North Carolina (2)
4 Texas (1)
6 Duke
7 Kansas
8 Xavier
9 Stanford
10 Louisville
11 Georgetown
12 Wisconsin
13 Drake
14 Indiana
15 Notre Dame
16 UConn
17 Butler
18 Purdue
19 Washington St.
20 Michigan St.
21 Marquette
22 Vanderbilt
23 Clemson
24 St. Mary's
25 Gonzaga

Others receiving votes: Kansas State, Miami, Kent State, West Virginia, New Mexico, Pittsburgh, Davidson


February 27, 2008

Breaking Down the Box - Purdue

Boilermakers put the Gophers on their heels en route to a 12 point win at home.

Minnesota -53
Purdue -65

The Boilermaker defense was impressive. And I could end the game review with that sentence. The pressure that they put on the Gophers was impressive and allowed them to dictate for about 35 of the 40 minutes. Minnesota ended the first half on a decent 15-2 run, until Keaton Grant drained a half-court shot as time ran out.

But the second half was all Purdue and Minnesota was never able to get into an offensive rhythm and was never able to execute on the offensive end. Those of you with the Big Ten Network got to see a lot of Gophers standing with the ball over their head and back on their heels.

Purdue coach Matt Painter summed it up well...

"I thought our pressure was good tonight. I thought we did a good job defensively; they finally just drove right at us and stopped trying to run stuff. For the most part I was pleased with the effort. We were able to put pressure on the ball throughout the game"
I for one was hopeful that an eight day lay off after a disappointing loss @Indiana would have made for a sluggish start for the Boilermakers. Not so as they applied some of the best on the ball pressure I have seen all year and jumped to a quick 3-13 start.

The Purdue pressure caused a ton of turnovers and kept the Gopher shooting percentage down. Tubby Smith didn't mince words when asked about his ball handler's ability to turn the ball over.
"Al Nolen is usually a better ball handler than he was tonight; Lawerence Westbrook has had trouble all year handling the ball. I guess the pressure got to us and we couldn't handle it."
Player of the Game - E'Twaun Moore

22 - pnts
3 - threes
5 - reb
2 - steals

I was looking forward to a Nolen / Moore match up but he was too hard to guard tonight. And I don't what that ref was thinking, photographic evidence above shows it was clearly all ball.

Tempo-Free Zone

32.2% turnovers, that was the biggest difference in the game.

Up Next - Ohio State

Three games left and have to win them all to get into bubble talk, but that is crazy. This game is kind of meaningless. There is a chance that Minnesota could steal the 5 seed in the conference tournament which would mean a bye. I guess that is something.

This game is winable. Ohio State hasn't been playing their best basketball lately and playing at home always gives us a chance to win.


On a side note here is some totally shocking information from Big Ten Tonight...

** Gene Keady predicts Purdue will come out on top of the menage-a-trois that is the Big Ten standings.

** Jimmy Jackson thinks Indiana will win. Why? Because they score points.

** I've been a fan of Wisconsin's bid to win it all year because they play so well together and play defense. I may end up being wrong as Purdue has the easiest remaining schedule.


February 26, 2008

Big Ten Power Poll - Week 8

Maybe it is because the conference has kind of sorted it self out, or maybe it is because discussing the draft position of Jake Long is so important but the Big Ten Bloggers Basketball Power Poll is dying a slow death. We have set a Big Ten Bloggers record for a low in participants.

None the less, the Poll must go on.

Indiana moved past Wisconsin and Purdue's grip on 1st place is tenuous at best. Other than that there wasn't much action. My educated guess is that this is the last week you'll see Purdue atop the standings.

Avg Pts Tot Pnts
1. Purdue (3)
10.00 80
2. Indiana (2)
9.75 78
3. Wisconsin (3)
9.00 72
4. Michigan State 8.00 64
5. Ohio State 7.75 62
6. Minnesota 6.50 52
7. Michigan 5.00 40
8. Iowa 3.75 30
9. Penn State 3.13 25
10. Illinois 1.88 15
11. Northwestern 1.25 10

Big Ten Chronicle - Big 10
Hoopraker - Big 10
Hoosier Report - Ind
Hoosier Fun Ball - Ind
Black Heart Gold Pants - Iowa
Maize n Brew - Mich
MSU Sparty - Mich St
Enlightened Spartan - Mich St
From the Barn - Minn
Gopher Nation - Minn
Down With Goldy - Minn
Paging Jim Shikenjanski - Minn
Lake the Posts - NW
Around the Oval - Ohio St
Eleven Warriors - Ohio St
Buckeye Battle Cry - Ohio St
Black Shoes Diary - Penn St
Nittany White Out - Penn St
Off the Tracks - Pur


February 25, 2008

Breaking Down the Box - Penn State (part 2)

Penn State - 68
Minnesota - 76

Basketball is a game of runs and Sunday's afternoon tilt proved just that.

Minnesota jumped to an early 10-7 lead only to let it slip into a 13 point hole after a Penn State run of 8-24. This run spanned 8:46 and saw Minnesota start 0-11 during the first 5:01 of the run. You read that right, we went a span of five minutes making zero shots in 11 attempts, 4/16 overall.

Fortunately the three point line is still only 19'9" away and the 13 point deficit was quickly cut in half after back to back threes by Johnson and the Hoff. Minnesota used a 17-4 run to tie the game with 0:44 left in the half.

Down two to start the half, Minnesota made the first run this time and started with a 15-1 run which ate up 5:13 and gave them a comfortable 12 point lead with less than 15:00 left.

But maybe it was too comfortable. Just when it felt like the Gophers were going to run away with the game Penn State had one run left in them to cut the Gopher lead to just two. With 4:42 remaining and a 13 point gopher lead Penn State turned over Minnesota and used a 1-12 run to make it a one possession game (2 points) with just 2:37 to go.

Then Westbrook said enough was enough and he scored six of the gophers last 7 points to seal the deal.

Player of the Game - Lawrence Westbrook

Nobody really stood out on Sunday but Westbrook had an outstanding second half.

Second Half Stats...
Pts - 10 (15 total)
Reb - 5 (6 total)
Ast - 3 (4 total)
Stl - 2 (2 total)
Turnovers - 0 (1 total)

Tempo Free Zone -the tempo stats tell us a lot about this game. The Gophers rebounded well (62% Def Reb%) and turned PSU over (forcing 26.5%). Effective FG% was fairly even as was points per possession so the fact that we ended their possessions and turned them over is what won the game for us.

Up Next - @Purdue

Before you sream, YIKES, I think this game will at a minimum be competitive and is ripe to steal (don't tell the Boilermakers). Don't get me wrong, I think Matt Painter has been outstanding this year and I love that Purdue has been such a great story. But there is opportunity here and I think our match-ups are OK.

HERE is a good comparison of player stats.

There are two key match ups for Thursday.

E'twaun Moore vs. Al Nolen
Calassan / J.Johnson vs. Tollackson

I'll get into this all more with an actual preview but I think we can make a game of this. Unfortunately I fear this will be another close lose, moral victory or whatever you want to call a positive spin on a loss. So I don't know if we can pull this out but I think we can make it closer than a 7-7 should against a 12-2 home team.

February 23, 2008

I think I broke my ERA Coach

Gopher baseball post #2.

Gopher have lost two straight to #4 Ole Miss, which isn't surprising but game 1 and game 2 have been brutal.

Game 1
Minnesota - 1
Ole Miss - 8

** 21 gopher batters struck out including the first 8 batters.
** freshman Mike Kvasnicka with the Gopher's only RBI

Game 2
Minnesota - 5
Ole Miss - 22

** 22 runs given up requires no further notes. There were 4 errors so ONLY 17 of those runs were earned.
** McCallum 2 hits and Nohelty with 2 stolen bases.

Game 3 on Sunday

** we've got'em right where we want 'em.
** coming into game 3, MN team ERA is 12.38

This isn't unexpected as Ole Miss is VERY good. How good? Well I don't have any clue but they are ranked #4 and that means something. Giving up 22 runs is alarming but there is no need to get carried away here.

There were some position battles heading into the season and I'm going to assume the game 1 lineup should be your typical line up

(line up changes from game 2 in parenthesis)

1. Nohelty - CF
2. Chlan - 2B
3. McCallum - SS
4. Hanson - 3B
5. DeSmidt - DH (Handran in game 2)
6. Knudsen - C
7. Kvasnicka - RF
8. Hummel - LF (Decker in game 2)
9. Steidel - 1B (Maciej in game 2)

Game 1 SP - Buske
Game 2 SP - Carr

February 22, 2008

Wonka, Wonka, Wonka

Rivals.com poster, GopherJim used his super talents to develop this new gopher animation...

HINT: click on it to view the animation

February 21, 2008

Breaking Down the Box - Michigan

Michigan - 60
Minnesota - 69

Michigan's record aside, this was a very nice win for the Gophers. If you've paid attention to Big Ten basketball you know that Michigan has been a hot team in the league with a 3 game win streak, including a 10 point win over Ohio State.

The Gophers seemed to be sliding a little and content with their likely NIT fate. While I am pleased they sealed this win, the fact is they did everything they could to allow Michigan to steal this one on the road.

  • Allowed 23 offensive rebounds
  • Gave Michigan 23 additional shots
  • -4 in turnovers
  • Shot 52.4% at the free throw line
IF they box out, they win by 16+
IF they make free throws, they win by 12+

IF Lawrence McKenzie doesn't give a 26 point night we lose
IF Jon Williams doesn't have 7 rebounds in the second half, we lose

I don't want to be too hard on the Gophs, in all fairness our half court defense in the second half is what truly won the game for them. Because of our defense and Michigan shot selection we held them to 26.3% shooting in the second half. That is very good.

Two sequences allowed us to retain tempo and then sealed the game...

Tempo Grabbing Moment - Tollackson hurts something and sits. Enter Jon Williams and the Gophers go back to man-to-man. Simply, moving back to man and Williams' ability to rebound gave us momentum and ended the Michigan possessions.

Nail in the Coffin - Hoffarber enters the line up during a time out and drains a three to give us an 11 point lead with 2:37 left. On the ensuing defensive possession the Gophers force a shot clock violation. We take a double digit lead then force a turnover after 0:35 tick off the clock.

Player of the Game - Lawrence McKenzie

Pts - 26
no other stats mattered

I was tempted to give POG to Williams as his second half effort of 7 rebounds and 5 points were more significant I can accurately describe. But I can't overlook McKenzie's best game of the year. The 26 was balanced (13 in each half), several baskets were well timed to get us back into the game and most importantly they were good shots (for the most part). This is the kind of results we have desired and expected of McKenzie all year.

Lawrence should find a way to play Michigan more often, season averages vs...

Michigan - 22.5
Wisconsin - 6.5
Northwestern - 10.5
Illinois - 5

Tempo-Free Zone - If you are sqeemish, I don't recommend looking at these numbers.

Statistically there is no reason we should have won this game. Michigan rebounded nearly 50% of their own misses! Add that to the fact that we turned the ball over on 27.6% of our own possessions and we should thank DeShawn Sims and his 2/11 from behind the arc.

I like simple math truths and tonight here is your mathematical answer to why we won...

eFG% > Def-Reb% + Off TO%

I will take a W any way you want to add it up.

Up Next - Penn State

Another must win. The only thing that worries me is looking past Penn State.

Beating Penn State would get us back to .500 in Big Ten play heading into our final 4 games. Really none of these wins mean much unless you get really hot and does something crazy like win 3 of our last 4; but lets not get carried away.

@Pur - L
OSU - maybe, but likely L
@Ind - L
@Ill - maybe, but likely L

I'll be happy winning 1 of those, ecstatic with 2-2. NIT is our fate unless a miracle happens. NCAA hopes would rely on winning @Pur and @Ind then you have to win one of the other two games and two in the Big Ten Tourney. This team is capable of pulling off an upset, but stringing a few of them together is just too much to expect.

February 20, 2008

Gopher Baseball - 2008

Gopher baseball does not get the recognition it deserves in this market. They are a classic example of how U of M programs can get left in the shadow of the four major pro teams in this market. But what coach John Anderson has quietly done is maintain what has been consistently a Big Ten power for decades. The fact that the Gophers have been a participant in the Big Ten Championship game for seven consecutive seasons is incredible. Even after seasons finishing 6th or 4th, they still manage to make their way into the championship game every year.

After a 41 win season the Gophers are looking to continue to keep pace in the Big Ten. Michigan is the unanimous favorite to win the conference. After that Minnesota will be one of the teams battling for second.

The Gophers return the bulk of their infield and much of their starting pitching. What they lost was most of their OF, 1B, C and their bullpen. Here is an educated guess at the lineup.

Position Players - the line up consists of 3 rock solid players who will vie for All Big Ten awards (SS, 3B, CF), 2 experienced seniors (C, 2B) and then a handful of position battles with question marks.

C - Jeff DeSmidt (Sr) - made 27 starts last season while backing up senior Kevin Carlson. DeSmidt will be a solid back stop, Kyle Knudson should get plenty of time as well spelling DeSmidt.

1B - Tom Steidl (Sr) - this position will be a battle between Steidl and Joe Maciej (Sr). Both players played sparingly last season. As last season ended this position looked to be in good hands with junior Bryan Jost expected back, but he was drafted by the Cubs and is no longer a Golden Gopher. Maciej was a successful hitter in his first couple seasons, but was given only 11 at bats as a junior. Neither player should get Gopher Nation too excited but it will be manned by experience.

2B - Jeremy Chlan (Sr) - very good fielder who adds speed when he gets on base. Chlan had a game winning RBI in the Big Ten tournament last season sending the Gophers to the championship game.

SS - Derek McCallum (So) - played 2B primarily as a freshman but moves to SS with the departure of Dan Lyons. McCallum batted .340 as a freshman and will be one of the key players for this year's Gophers.

3B - Nate Hanson (Jr) - Hanson (pictured right) is probably the Gopher's best player and a returning All Big Ten player. As a sophomore Hanson hit .330, 10 HRs, 50 RBIs. The 10 HRs was the most by a Gopher since 2004, he will be a starter in nearly every game batting cleanup.

CF - Matt Nohelty (Jr) - leadoff hitter, very good fielder and is an anchor on this team (along with Hanson and McCallum). Nohelty batted .367 as leadoff and led the team with 24 stolen bases.

LF - Jeff Engle (Sr) - this will be another position battle, but Engle is the likely candidate. Engle transfered from Iowa and took a redshirt year last season because of the glut of talented outfielders we had. Started 24 games as a junior at Iowa and batted .352 in Big Ten games. Engle could be a difference maker who moves the Gophers from 3rd or 4th best in the Big Ten to the clear #2. If anyone takes at bats from Engle it will be Eric Decker (yes the WR) who is giving baseball a shot this year. Decker could end up playing in the field while Engle gets at bats as DH.

RF - Michael Kvasnicka (Fr) - Player of the Year in Minnesota last year and is listed as physically capable of playing right away. Kvasnicka could get at bats as catcher or DH as well.

DH - Jon Hummel (Jr) - Hummell has not seen a lot of at bats in his first two season but gophersports.com says he has good power and is capable of playing 1B or 3B. In my opinion Hummel is another key player who could make or break this season.

Pitchers - Minnesota will give the ball to a group of experienced and talented starters, but will have to rely on youth to replace nearly all of their relief pitching staff.

Starter #1 - Dustin Brabender (Sr) - got better as his junior season wore on and gives the Gophers a solid starter to lead the rotation. 5-2 last year, 1st in innings pitched and 2nd in strikeouts. Brabender's junior season was highlighted by out dueling San Diego's All-American Brian Matusz in the NCAA Regoinal. That outing saw Brabender walk 1, strike out 5 in 8 shutout innings.

Starter #2 - Tom Buske (Jr) - If Brabender is starter #1 then Buske is #1-a. Buske gives the Gophers another talented and experienced starter at the top of the rotation. 5-2 as a sophomore and led all starters in ERA.

Starter #3 - Kyle Carr (Jr) - the only LHP in the starter group was a closer and one of two reliable relief pitchers as a sophomore and is expected to move to the #3 starter role this year. Last season he picked up his first win against #16 Ole Miss and pitched 2.2 shutout innings to get his second win against #9 Pepperdine. I don't think that moving from RP to SP in college is a huge deal and I expect Carr will be a reliable and viable third starter.

Starter #4 - Tyler Oakes (Jr) - made only 2 starts as a sophomore but finished the season with a 3-2 record. Oakes (the son of pitching coach Todd Oakes) will do his best to hold onto the fourth starting spot.

RP - Chauncey Handran (Jr) - JUCO transfer who should help bring some stability and reliability to the RP staff. Handran was 5-1 last season with a 1.37 ERA and held opponents to a .106 batting average as he helped lead his team to the Junior College World Series. Handran also hit 6 home runs last year in a wood bat league.

RP - Allen Bechstein (So) - 2-0 as a freshman with 26 innings pitched, including four starts. Should Carr or Oakes struggle as a starter Bechstein is the likely next starter.

RP - Phil Isaksson (Fr) - LHP - one of the Gophers top pitching recruits this season and should get a chance to pitch this year. May get a spot start in the non-conference season but will probably see most of his innings out of the bullpen.

RP - Scott Matyas (rFr) - was a dominant high school pitcher earning All State honors for three seasons, after his junior season Matyas had Tommy-John surgery. The hope is that he has regained his arm strength by now and is ready to help the Gophers this season. Matyas could end up seeing time as the closer.

RP - Tim Ryan (rFr) - son of former Twins GM Terry Ryan. Will see innings but not likely to be counted on in most key situations.

Closer - Seth Rosin (Fr) - power pitcher who hits 90 mph and was drafted by the Twins out of high school. Rosin was fortunate to play in the Little League World Series as a 14 year old. But he is my pick to land the closer role as a freshman.

Schedule - as usual the baseball team faces an incredibly tough non-conference schedule (football and basketball should take note). They begin the season on Friday with a three game series against #4 Mississippi. Then next weekend they host the Dairy Queen Classic which brings in #29 Pepperdine, Tulane and TCU all of which were NCAA Tournament teams a year ago. Those are your first 6 games to start the season!

This should be a fun season and one where the Gophers should steadily improve heading into the Big Ten Tournament. Ultimately 2008 might be setting the table for 2009 as we will bring back all major pitchers except 1 and we bring back our 3 best position players along with a year of experience for some talented young position players.

GopherSports.com season preview
Big Ten Hardball season preview
Rivals.com preseason NCAA Tourney projections - Gophers in as 3 seed in UCLA regional
Rivals.com season preview
TNABACG season preview - also gives a good rundown of the key NCAA rule changes


February 19, 2008

And we have a fronterunner for a new Def Cord...

Chip Scoggins is reporting that Ted Roof is the likely front runner for he gopher defensive coordinator position. Scoggins reports that the former Duke head coach was on campus today and I would assume the smart money is on Roof being introduced within hours as your new DC.

Roof as a head coach doesn't exactly wow you with his 1-23 record in the last two seasons (or even his 6-45 overall record). But he did figure out how to beat Northwestern (take that LTP) so at least we have that going for him (us). As an assistant Roof has had some success, which you can read about in Scoggins' story.

Here is Roof's resume (courtesy of Rivals.com)...

current LB Coach Louisville
2003-2007 Head Coach Duke
2002 Def Coord Duke
1999-2001 Def Coord Georgia Tech
1997-1998 Def Coord Western Carolina
1994-1996 Ast. Coach Massachusetts
1990-1993 OLB Coach Duke
1989 LB Coach West Georgia

This seems like a solid hire. Roof is experienced as a head coach and as a defensive coordinator. I'm sure he will be a great fit. Two questions pop up to me...

1-Is he a recruiter? 5 seasons at Duke and it doesn't appear the talent level improved (or even plateaued).

2-Will he leave for another head job soon? He has the experience so another school will conceivably give him another shot. But his record Duke was so bad that he probably won't get another shot until he really proves himself as a Gopher coordinator and that would be good for us.

Nothing is official and we will all know more tomorrow but Roof is here and my gut tells me that he'll be the guy.


Big Ten Power Poll - Week 7

Purdue swept the first place votes again, but the big winner this week was Michigan who moved from 10th to 7th in one week after beating Ohio State last week (it must not be football season).

Post of the Week - this prestigious honor is once again bestowed upon Black Heart Gold Pants as they gave us the Big Ten Bill of Rights. Oops Pow Surprise states the obvious that nobody is protecting the Big Ten from Gopher Thievery, unfortunately for Minnesota nobody is protecting us from mounting losses.

Voters Guild Strike Update - Eleven Warriors broke ranks and gave us an Ohio State vote. But I think they have not recruited the rest of the Minnesota bloggers. PJS and From the Barn have abstained while Down With Goldy voted but put the Gophers 10th. I don't think they realize that the only reason I allowed all of these MN bloggers was to boost the gopher vote, but they didn't get that memo.

Enough, here is the poll...

Purdue (12)
11.00 132
Wisconsin 9.67 116
Indiana 9.17 110
Michigan State 8.17 98
Ohio State 6.92 83
Minnesota 5.17 62
Michigan 5.00 60
Iowa 3.67 44
Penn State 3.67 44
Illinois 2.58 31
Northwestern 1.00 12

Big Ten Chronicle - Big 10
Hoopraker - Big 10
Hoosier Report - Ind
Hoosier Fun Ball - Ind
Black Heart Gold Pants - Iowa
Maize n Brew - Mich
MSU Sparty - Mich St
Enlightened Spartan - Mich St
From the Barn - Minn
Gopher Nation - Minn
Down With Goldy - Minn
Paging Jim Shikenjanski - Minn
Lake the Posts - NW
Around the Oval - Ohio St
Eleven Warriors - Ohio St
Buckeye Battle Cry - Ohio St
Black Shoes Diary - Penn St
Nittany White Out - Penn St
Off the Tracks - Pur


February 18, 2008

DC-Whithers to leave us for North Carolina

So if you are checking Gopher Nation for your breaking Gopher news then let me be the first to tell you that our defensive coordinator, Everett Whithers is leaving the U to take the same position with Butch Davis in North Carolina.

This appears to be in the dream job category for Whithers. He is from North Carolina and family and you get the idea. I'm disappointed with this move as Whithers had a solid reputation and I looked forward to seeing what he could do with the influx of young talent. So far I have not read any internet vitriol calling him a traitor or worse a Holtz.

So rather than lament his departure let us look forward to potential replacements. Before we talk names lets talk about what kind of a coach we want. Defensive Coordinators seem to be rather aggressive people. Every new coordinator comes in and says we are going to play like mad dogs, we are going to be aggressive and we are going to make plays flying around the field. That is code for we are lacking talent and we have to use controlled chaos to disrupt the offense.

What I want more than an aggressive coach is a teacher and a recruiter. We have a group of talented kids but they need to be taught. I want to see someone who will pay great attention to detail. Teach these kids to make reads, to react and then fly to the ball to make plays. What killed me last year was watching all three linebackers take 2 steps to the left when the opponent was running right. Making the wrong reads and reacting too late killed this defense more than lack of talent (although that was a massive contributing factor).

All right lets throw out some names, this is total speculation but it is a start...

Kevin Cosgrove - is the early favorite. Cosgrove was most recently defensive coordinator at Nebraska and is said to have a lengthy relationship with Brewster. Cosgove was also DC at Wisconsin and was dangerously close to coaching the Vikings linebackers after Brad Childress was hired to lead the Purple. This hire may be OK but it wouldn't do anything to excited the fan base. Nebraska's defense has been very gopher-esque in recent years so his results don't do anything to get me excited.

DeWayne Walker - Walker would get my endorsement. His resume is impressive and he is a former Golden Gopher. Even after the coaching change at UCLA, Walker was retained by new head coach Rick Neuheisel to stay as defensive coordinator. But can he be convinced to come back to his alma matter? Or does he bide his time as a Bruin until the job opens up here again. But really he has demonstrated success in recent seasons, he has deep recruiting ties to California and he is a former Gopher. If he is willing to listen this is a no brainer.

Ron Lee - currently the Gophers secondary coach. Lee has coached at Michigan & Wisconsin, and he has two years of DC experience at San Jose State. The possibility of a promotion exists.

Oscar Giles - currently DE coach at Texas. Giles coached on the Texas staff with Brewster, then found work at a couple other Texas schools and has been back on the Longhorn staff since 2005. Giles would help us to continue a Texas pipeline as he landed four 4-star recruits for UT. And last year he successfully recruited a 5-star and three 4-stars. Other than being a solid recruiter, coaching on the defensive side of the ball and knowing Tim Brewster I couldn't tell you much about him.

Tony Dungy - just kidding, but you tell me which is crazier. Landing Tony Dungy to play DC at his alma matter before he retires or that the Gophers would land a coach like Tubby Smith? For the record I am totally kidding by putting this name on the list. Please don't tell me how Dungy wouldn't want to recruit, this is a pay cut, or just plain how retarded I am. I am aware of all of these facts.

Tim Tibesar - originally from Minnesota and currently DC at Kansas State for one season. Tibesar has the experience and he is from here. But can he recruit? Does he have any relationship with Brewster? Is taking the Minnesota job a step up? I'm guessing that this would be a good move for Tibesar but the real key is whether or not Brewster knows him and trusts that he is an outstanding recruiter. Stole this name from internet message board so if he gets hired I won't take credit for you hearing it here first.

Greg Mattison - Florida C0-DC who has landed a number of top notch recruits for the Gators (anybody heard of Tim Tebow?). Mattison would give us a larger foot in the door to Florida recruits. Why would he come to Minnesota? I'm not sure but he is from the midwest. Originally from Madison, WI; undergrat at LaCrosse and masters at Illinois. Mattison would be a total steal but don't hold your breath.

Ed Orgeron - has popped up on message boards. Head coach at Ole Miss 2005-07 and assumed DC role the first two seasons as well. Also coached at USC for several season coaching the DL where he won a recruiter of the year award. I'm sure Orgeron is a great candidate with experience but as a former SEC head coach I don't know that we want someone who will bolt in a year or two to take another head job. Also, I'm not sure what would draw him to Minnesota.

Lance Thompson - fits the exact profile that Brewster seems to be drawn towards. Thompson is an excellent recruiter (named 2007 Rivals recruiter of the year), he is young and appears to be a tireless worker who is on his way up the college coaching ladder. Currently Thompson is OLB coach at Alabama with DC experience at Central Florida and was recruiting cord at LSU. This is a total shot in the dark but maybe Brewster makes a call to see if Thompson is interested in a DC job.

Donnie Thompson - coached with Brewster in North Carolina coaching the DLine, then was LB coach at Illinois and is currently Ast. Head Coach / DL coach at Eastern Carolina. Not very exciting, I know but it's a name. I'm sure Brewster has a list and if Thompson is on that list it will be on the B-list.

That is my list of candidates. Chances are that none of them will end up with the job but we will see.


Gopher Nation Rankings

I have a couple of personal rankings for my loyal readership. I have been giving you the GN Big Ten Power Poll most weeks, but I have also been participating in a blogger top 25 every week and I have not been very good at showing my rankings. Here are both for this week...

GN Big Ten Power Poll
- for a couple weeks Minnesota has been entrenched at #6, but their grip on the best of the worst is slipping. Losing at home to the Illini hurts but so does Michigan beating Ohio State and Penn State beating Illinois. Those teams come to town this week so we can solidify that coveted 6 seed in the B10 Tourney (#6 gets to play Northwestern in the opening round).

1 Purdue
2 Wisconsin
3 Indiana
4 Michigan State
5 Ohio State
6 Minnesota
7 Michigan
8 Penn State
9 Iowa
10 Illinois
11 Northwestern

GN NCAA Top 25 - I didn't really fault Duke for their loss to Wake Forest as it still only gives them 2 losses on the season. So just because they lost their second game now instead of earlier I don't know that it should really penalize them. Purdue and Connecticut keep moving up with their recent hotness while Michigan State and Texas A&M dropped with their recent week.

1 Memphis
2 Duke
3 Tennessee
4 North Carolina
5 Kansas
6 Texas
8 Xavier
9 Wisconsin
10 Connecticut
11 Purdue
12 Georgetown
13 Stanford
14 Indiana
15 Butler
16 Louisville
17 Michigan St.
18 Drake
19 Kansas St.
20 Brigham Young
21 Washington St.
22 Notre Dame
23 Marquette
24 St. Mary's
25 Texas A&M

I know that commenting is rare here at Gopher Nation, but I would love some feedback particularly on the top 25.

February 16, 2008

Breaking Down the Box - Wisconsin (II)

Minnesota - 56
Wisconsin - 65
BOX SCORE (.pdf)

I know there has been a cry for holding this team to a higher standard, but did anybody expect a Gopher win? I didn't and the fact that we played well, were competitive was enough. I apologize for my acceptance of mediocrity, but this season being competitive on the road against the team I think will be the league champ is acceptable. In seasons to come I will not be so accepting of a near .500 record (see my displeasure with Glen Mason).

Anyway, here are my deep thoughts on this afternoon's game...

--- Jon Williams, did you help us or hurt us? Big Jon had a great defensive and rebounding game while Tollackson excelled to 12 min of average play. But 0-5 from the field and a few of them were point blank that should have been 2 points. That hurt us in a major way. So Williams played well on one end but was a liability on the other. So you tell me did he help keep us in the game or did he keep us from winning it?

--- As a team we are incredibly weak around the basket. Big men up through the guards all go to the basket expecting to get blocked and hoping to get fouled. Wisconsin on the other hand would attack the basket expecting to score and hoping to get fouled in the process. We are just weak.

--- When will those seniors help us? I assume you noticed how few minutes all three of the Gopher seniors played in the first half. And I assume you noticed that our best line up was Nolen, Hoffarber, Abu-Shamala, Johnson and Williams. At some point those three seniors need to step up but I think that time has passed. There are only so many games left and they have all been rather inconsistent. Disappointing.

--- Why didn't we press? This has been a staple of our defense all season and we dropped back to 1/2 court after every dead ball or made basket (those were rare). I don't remember the Badgers breaking it and scoring at home, but we did play better team D in the half court so maybe it was the right move.

--- Al Nolen with this first start. I liked the idea to match up Nolen on Hughes. Trevon lit us up last time with 20 and I liked the recognition that Nolen is our best on the ball defender. Hughes' first couple baskets were not Nolen's fault and for the game he was held to 11. Here were Hughes' three field goals in the first half.

  • first FG - a three coming against our zone on an inbounds play
  • second FG - Westbrook turnover that led to a layup
  • third FG - McKenzie guarding, Hughes scored after offensive rebound

Player of the Game - Al Nolen
  • 6 points
  • 6 reb
  • 5 assists
  • 0 turnovers
  • 3 steals
Nice game by the freshman. His six points didn't dominate the the box score but his baskets were huge, his lack of any turnovers was huge and the rest of his numbers were very helpful as well. At least 2 or 3 assists were blown by missed shots by our big men.

Tempo Free Zone - just the stats m'am

We were out rebounded in total but we this was arguably our best rebounding game of the year.

Up Next -Michigan (home), Thur. Feb. 21

This has to be a win as does the following game against Penn State at home. Two games that are must wins, not for any tournament seeding or bubbling but just because we are a better team and need to win. This competitive game at Wisconsin, followed by a couple of home wins could give us a little momentum as our last 4 games will be tough.

February 15, 2008

Gopher Recruiting Notes...

Here are several random notes on football and basketball recruiting. Before I get into it PJS also just happened to be talking a bit of recruiting and linked a Wisconsin Journal Sentinel article on border battle recruiting.

** Congratulations Ralph Sampson. I'm not exactly sure how the Georgia state basketball playoffs work but I think if you make it to the Regional semi-finals (final 4), you are a state finalist. So it works like this (I think). You win the quarter-final game in your Region and then you continue to play out the Regional games for seeding. Once you are in the semi's you could lose your next two games (finishing 4th in the region) and you still get to continue on to the State tournament. So today Ralph Sampson and his Northview team will play in their Regional consolation game fighting for a better seed in next week's State Tournament.


** Deveron Bostick. Bostick's SW Ill CC teams is 23-2 and ranked #4 in the NJCAA Div.1 heading into today's game. Bostick is a very intriguing player and could be a real impact player next year. Through Feb. 4 Bostick is averaging per game...

  • 19.6 points
  • 5.0 reb
  • 3.4 assists
  • 2.0 steals
  • 2.5 threes made (35.6%)
It is interesting that he only gets to the free throw line less than 3 times per game. But he has been scoring and leading his team so next year he could finally give us a scoring shot in the arm
from the SF position.


** Paul Carter's numbers - while we are on the subject of JUCO players coming in here are Carter's numbers through Feb. 12. Carter is the team's third leading scorer and they are 23-4 ranked #19 in the country.
  • 9.7 points
  • 7.6 reb
  • 1.8 asts
For me Carter's stock is dropping. When originally signed he was viewed as a PF who could come and help the front court right away. But as time went on it became clear he is more of a SF and his numbers aren't anything that jump out at you. If he averaged those numbers next year I'll be ecstatic but the transition to the B10 should see those drop. I don't want to be too down on him as he will be needed to contribute immediately and I'm sure he'll help, I was just expecting more when he first committed.


** 5 signed, more coming? There are still rumors circulating and picking up steam that Minnesota may still sign either or even both of the following players. Assuming nobody transfers, if we add one of these players Travis Busch will go without a scholarship next season. If we add both then Jamal Abu-Shamala will have to pay his senior year tuition.

PG - Verdell Jones - one of the best remaining guards in the country and is considering Minnesota along with Tennessee and Kentucky. Landing a quality true PG would help this team out an awful lot. Nolen is a good PG who will be a great defender and should improve offensively, but after that we have nobody who can adequately run the point. His other offers indicate he would be a valuable recruit.

C - Krys Faber - 6'11" and nearly 250, Faber is a big rebounding force, to the tune of 17+ per game. Whether or not Minnesota has offered is unclear but adding another big man who can help us rebound would be nice. Faber is kind of a project as he is unpolished but his rebounding and shot blocking numbers are undeniable so whether or not he'd redshirt would also be an interesting debate. Officially I would love to sign Faber as we are going to be very thin inside and getting somebody who can block shots and rebound will help a ton. Sampson will be an athletic/scoring big man but I'd enjoy seeing a bigger and slightly more talented version of Jon Williams. Also important it should be noted that Faber plays for he Ribet Academy Fighting Frogs!


** 2009 Signing Day is less than 12 months away.
After inking a top 25 recruiting class for the first time in my life, Brewster has wasted no time in getting commitments for 2009. Moses Alipate is a highly rated (4-star) QB from Bloomington (MN). Alipate is currently and will likely be the highest rated in state prospect and has already given his verbal to Minnesota.


** Official Gopher Nation wish list for 2009 recruits...

  1. C - DeShonte Riley - 5-star center and would be a great addition
  2. SF - Royce White - local top 50 player
  3. SG/F - Rodney Williams - local top 60 player
  4. SF - Ari Stewart - 5-star forward, his Wheeler team just beat up Sampson's Northview
  5. PG - Johnnie Lacy - Wisconsin kid, would be nice to steal a great PG
  6. PG - Mfon Udofia - from Georgia, we need to sign a PG in 2009
  7. SF - Jamil Wilson - need a F in this class as well, 4-star kid
  8. PG - Chris Colvin - Chicago kid offers from Iowa and Illinois
  9. SF - Diamond Taylor - Marq and Wis have offered this Chicago kid
Football - this list will change as lists of 2009 recruits will grow as we get into the summer.
  1. QB - Moses Alipate - signed, #57 in Rivals top 100
  2. DT - Chris Davenport - 5-star player, will be a tough to land over LSU, Tenn, etc.
  3. WR - Je'Ron Stokes - heavily recruited with Penn State his likely destination #34
  4. OT - Marcus Hall - Ohio native #26 according to Rivals
  5. LB - TyQuan Hammock - LB is a need, Hammock would be a solid addition
  6. DE - Randall Dent - Texas DE with offers from LSU, Tex and more
  7. WR - Bryce McNeal - local WR and we need to keep him around
  8. TE - Ra'shede Hageman - 6'5", 230 TE from Mpls
  9. OG - Chris Watt - offered this OG along with Ohio St, Ill, AZ and others
  10. OT - Josh Campion - signed, MN kid and we need some OL help with this class
Like I said that football list will change but those are some good names to keep an eye on and dream of.

February 14, 2008

Roses are Red...

Violets are Blue.
Tim Brewster can recruit,
And I want to go to Pasadena TOO.

So the Big Ten Bloggers Roundtable is heating back up. Maize n Brew (who is a decent guy for a Wolverine fan) has taken the lead for a special Football Recruiting Roundtable.

When I started Gopher Nation I didn't expect that I'd enjoy following football recruiting so much. At first trying to keep track of the massive list of names wasn't nearly as easy as basketball. But Tim Brewster has made this process fun and lets hope that the next few years will be full of more highly rated players and each year we can say this is the best Gopher recruiting class in decades.

Without further adeau let's get to the roundtable...

1. As a general question, evaluate your recruiting class. Is it more or less what you expected, were you pleasantly surprised or horribly, horribly disappointed? Were your team's needs adequately addressed or will you be starting a two star running back at center next year?

I'll answer the last question first. There isn't a group of recruits available to adequately address my team's needs. Give me the 11 best defensive players in the country and we still move from the worst defense in the history of the NCAA's to a mediocre defense. So nothing would adequately meet our IMMEDIATE needs.

But this class is outstanding and arguably the best class in Minnesota history. There could be several new starters on defense from incoming freshmen and JUCO transfers. I think that by October you could easily see the entire defensive backfield as new starters and the front seven will likely see a handful of fresh faces either starting or contributing on a regular basis.

Offensively we signed a few incredibly talented individuals but only a couple will get significant playing time.

So to answer your question, I am happy with this class with ONE (and by one I mean two) exception. The nagging commits that we missed were significant as they were the top two rated players from within our boarders, but we'll get to those traitors in a moment.

2. Who were the big catches in your recruiting class? Name two players matriculating to your school whose existence everyone else in the Big Ten will curse for the next four years.

There may be a number of players who contribute for 4 seasons and do very well, but I'm going to give you the prize of the class who will be potentially an all time Gopher great and then a lesser rated player that I believe will be the diamond in the rough.

QB - MarQueis Gray (pictured right)- at 6'4", 22o, athletic and fast but Gray has been described as a a pocket passer that happens to be a good athlete. Gray will be a perfect fit for the Gophers "Spread Coast" offense. He will likely red shirt and may not play for a couple years but he will add a dynamic-ness to this offense that we haven't seen in forever.

ATH - Troy Stoudermire - T-Stud was not highly rated but he is a tremendous athlete who may play WR or CB and will likely be in the PR mix. In high school he was the QB who led Dallas Skyline to the Texas 5A Quarter Finals. T-Stud may red shirt but I believe he will be a dynamic play-maker.

3. You can't win them all. Maybe some slick talking carpetbagger schmoozed his way into your living room, sold you a set of ginzu knives made out of tin foil, and walked off with your wife and your star recruit. Perhaps an in-state lock who grew up with [Insert University Here] posters on his wall and your coach's face tattooed on his arm decided to go elsewhere for reasons no one seems to understand? Did your recruiting class lose someone big on signing day, who was it, and was your school able to ink someone else to cover his loss?

There are two recruits that we lost and needed to sign in the worst way. Minnesota loses the best in state recruits every year to the Ohio State's (some LB called Laryngitis or something), Notre Dame's (Trevor Laws would have helped this D last year), Nebraska's and those pesky rodents to our East. This recruiting season was no different. Tim Brewster came in and promised to make us good (we'll give that time), promised to recruit (delivered) and keep Minnesota kids at home (missed 2)...

DE - Willie Mobley - this Judas left us for Ohio State. He would have started at DE game 1 and would have helped to set a precedent for future in state studs. Mobley was close to signing with Minnesota but in the end he wants to lose his last game for the next 4 seasons to an SEC team. We did not land an adequate replacement.

WR - Michael Floyd (pictured right)- typically the best players from Cretin Derham Hall leave Minnesota and attend Notre Dame. Floyd was the highest rated Minnesota player and seeing him dominate the Army All-American game demonstrated how much we could use him. But we did land a couple other 4-star receivers and this loss doesn't leave a gaping whole (Brandon Green fills Floyd's shoes).

4. There's been a spirited debate about this whole "Coaches' Code" among the members of the Big Ten coaching fraternity. Do you believe this exists or is it a line being floated by the guys who couldn't keep their recruiting classes together? Bonus points for declaring your coach a poacher or a poachee in creative fashion!

I think coach BB the Badger cheats and I want him to get caught, but I don't have any proof (yet). But I really don't have an opinion on this as I haven't been paying attention long enough to see anything.

All in all this was a great recruiting class and Brewster has already received two commits for 2009. Both are in state recruits with QB-Moses Alipate easily ranking in the top 100. I'm looking forward to seeing if Brewster can top 2008.


February 12, 2008

Breaking Down the Box - Illinois

Illinois - 84
Minnesota - 60

Let me start by reminding Gopher fans that it could be WORSE! or HERE - 11 points in the first half?

When did Dan Monson take over the basketball program? That was the ugliest game of the Tubby Smith Era. A team that has controlled effort all season was out efforted 94-3 by my official count of effortness.

Defense? - awful
Rebounding? - bad
Hustle? - $%*$, S*#@, $*I%

Here are some key lowlites of the game...

  • 37-11 run for Illinois to start the 2nd half
  • 14:00 left, Illinois' three best players on the bench and we continue to get pounded
  • The Illini are "not a good three point shooting team" 7/13 tonight
  • Jimmy Jackson told us how disappointed the three Gopher seniors must feel. Well, I think they had a chance to do something about that but combined for 18 points and horrible defense.
  • the streak extends to 18 losses vs. the Illini
Fortunately Gophersports.com is giving us the "lite" box score so I can't see how badly we were dominated in the paint, fast break points and points off turnovers. All will be ugly if we ever get to see them.

In all seriousness, if it isn't clear just how much our offense is keyed by our defense then you aren't paying attention. Defensively we were very casual (as Gene Keady and PJS point out), this led to the Illini shooting 58%. Turnovers were even, rebounds were essentially even but we shot a less than desirable 33.3%. We weren't able to get transition baskets and had to work for every shot we got.

Player of the Game - Trent Meacham

5/5 threes
19 points
3 assists
0 turnovers

The rest of the team shot 2/8 from behind the arc so his stretching of the gopher "defense" was crucial.

Tempo Free Zone

Up Next? - @ Wisconsin

Usually I would say this game can't come quick enough, but even with increased effort this game could be ugly.

Wisconsin just lost at home to Purdue and is facing a tough task at Indiana tomorrow. They'll have one less day to prepare, but not even this rube could pick the Gophers to win.

Super Quick Preview - Illinois @ Minnesota

Actually From the Barn said it best when he thought the Gophers might be the most predictable team in the country.

The Illini are a balanced team with a strong frontcourt.

Key Match Up?

Illini Frontcourt < Gopher Frontcourt

Pts Reb
Pruitt 6'10"
12.7 7.6
Randle 6'8"
10.2 5.8

22.9 13.4

Pts Reb
Tollackson 6'9"
10.9 4.3
Coleman 6'8"
13.5 6.5

24.4 10.8

The backcourt match ups are key as well and should be evenly matched, but the game will be won or lost in the frontcourt.

What we should have going for us...

** Illinois as a team is terrible at the free throw line and Pruitt is worse than even Tollackson so we have that going for us.

** eFG% we shoot a higher percentage, so we have that going for us.

** They are 0-10 against teams with RPI in the top 50 and we are only 0-6 so we have that going for us.

** There is an L in Illinois (two of them in fact), so we have that going for us.


This one makes me nervous but if we control tempo we can win this one. McKenzie has a good game and carries us early which opens up some shots for the Hoff.

Minnesota - 69
Illinois - 62