March 28, 2008

Minnesota vs. Louisville - Dec. 2008

It has been announced today that Minnesota will play Louisville next season at the University of Phoenix Stadium as Glendale, AZ is trying to put themselves in a position to attract the 2012 Final Four.

A non-conference game against Louisville and then another round of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge guarantees a better strength of schedule for next year's gophers. Even if Tubby just adds one more game against a BCS caliber team the rest could be filled with a tournament somewhere and then cupcakes to get us ready for the Big Ten.

Obviously the intriguing match up will be the former Kentucky coaches squaring off in the desert. But Louisville who is currently alive in the Elite Eight will be a significant challenge for the Gophers next year. I'm already excited.

Minnesota Golden Gopher basketball wrap up

Thank you Tubby for making Gopher basketball relevant and fun to watch again.

The NIT was about as anti-climactic as it could possibly have been. Tollackson was slower than his usual slowness, McKenzie was unable to play, Coleman wasn't even in the gym and Hoffarber had a boo-boo on his shooting finger.

Tough to beat a decent ACC team when your top four scorers are playing with some form of an injury (whether that injury is physical or mental).

I'm not going to dwell on the NIT loss, let's do a quick recap and a look into next year.

The Non-Conference Season - was relatively uneventful. There was an extra buzz around the team but it was based largely on curiosity and people trying to get their seats reserved on the bandwagon. A win at Iowa State was the "signature" win as it showed this team was actually capable of beating a BCS conference team on the road. The other nine wins were nothing to put on your Tournament resume, but they were wins none the less. In recent seasons some of those games (North Dakota State is the best example) would not have been the certainty that they were this season.

Two games stood out from the beginning as key games; at Florida State and at UNLV in their New Year's tournament. We were flat in both games and lost to more athletic teams. I was fortunate enough to attend the Florida State game. While it was a great experience, the game itself was lackluster and uneventful.

The Big Ten Season - a trip to preseason favorite and #6-Michigan State was not the ideal scenario to ease into the Big Ten. But the Gophers played one of their best games of the season and nearly pulled off the upset. We beat everyone we should have beat, we nearly won a couple of home games (Ind and MSU) and we meandered to an 8-10 record. This is pretty average but considering where we came from a year ago this has to be considered a huge success.

The Tournament Season - The highlight of the year was without a doubt the Hoffarber shot to beat Indiana in the Big Ten Tournament. It was all down hill from there. But the effort put forth to kick a team that was already down defined how this team has improved in just one season. Then we lost our 73rd consecutive game to Illinois and our 38th consecutive loss to an ACC team (NOTE those numbers are ball park guesses!).

Players Leaving Us

Lawrence McKenzie - while McKenzie didn't exactly carry this team or lead this team like many of us hoped, imagine what we would have been like had he stayed at OK State? McKenzie is a good scorer, average defender and an average decision maker. But when he was "on" he was a lot of fun to watch and carried us to a few wins on his back.

McKenzie finished his Gopher career 3rd all time for three's made and did so while only playing two full seasons as a Gopher.

Dan Coleman - another hometown kid who left but came back. Coleman originally committed to Boston College and took a redshirt year out there before transfering back to be a Gopher. Another player with frustrating talent that was inconsistently utilized.

Finished his 4 yr Gopher career with 1,317 points (15th all time), 614 rebounds, and 114 blocks (8th all time). Also tied with Quincy Lewis for 2nd all time in games played (127), three games ahead of Ernest Nzigamasabo (I just wanted an excuse to type Nziggy's name). Coleman never had that outstanding season but was a solid contributor for 4 full seasons.

Spencer Tollackson - Solid big man who was limited with limited athletic ability. I have always been in Tollackson's corner and last year proved to me how valuable he was to this team as a leader and a reliable player. But this year proved that he just can't compete with more athletic big men and his inability to rebound hurt us at times. He will be missed as a leader on this team.

Finished his Gopher career just shy of a couple milestones. 935 points and 438 rebounds.

Returning Players to be excited about - we have five guys returning who will be in the mix for playing time with the five incoming players.

Damien Johnson - I was very skeptical about Johnson heading into the season, but for the most part I was wrong. Nobody questioned his shot blocking ability, but I was unsure he'd be able to guard guys or contribute at all on offense. Offensively he was surprisingly productive scoring 241 points and finishing second on the team in offensive rebounds and total rebounds. I am still not sure of his 1-on-1 defensive ability but it is adequate and I look for Johnson to be a significant core of next year's squad.

Lawrence Westbrook - if polled I bet most would give a most improved award to Johnson, but I'd argue it really belongs to Westbrook. From his freshman season to this he scored 200+ more points, tripled his three point baskets, nearly 100 more rebounds and his assist total increased from 13 to 82. The most concerning portion of his game was the turnovers, which seemed to get worse as the season progressed. But Westbrook will be relied upon heavily next year to be a primary scorer and leader.

Blake Hoffarber - excellent shooter who is on pace to crush the career 3-pnt record. Hoffarber should have a solid career and should only enhance his numbers as more athletic and dynamic player come into the program to open up shots for the Hoff.

Al Nolen - I could not have been more impressed with Nolen's defensive ability. He has a knack for steals and is on pace to be top three all time in steals and assists. Nolen's downside was his lack of offensive production and his turnovers. His knack for steals was equaled only by his knack for turning over the stolen goods. I am a big fan of Nolen, I look forward to him improving and seeing him play the PG over his next three seasons.

Nolen came in with question marks surrounding his ability to stay academically eligible and whether or not he was capable of playing at the Big Ten level. But he proved both wrong by working hard to keep his grades up to par and by showing that he was arguably one of the best freshman PGs in the league.

Jonathan Williams - big man who can rebound very well. Williams is very limited on offense but he did show improvement as the season went along. Williams ability to defend and rebound will keep him in the rotation next year and he'll likely open the season as the starting center.

Others Returning
- these guys will be back and have a chance to contribute but they need to improve if we want to be more competitive.

Jamal Abu-Shamala - the soon to be senior will probably contribute initially but I wouldn't count on him to help us much. Shamala had a solid sophomore seasons but his junior year saw a major dip in his production. If Abu-Shamala isn't hitting threes he has very little to offer the Gophers. I am not a fan of JAS and strongly feel that is we are going to be an improved team it will have to be without him.

Kevin Payton - another player who saw a major dip in his production in the transition from the Monson to Tubby era. Payton as slow feet and offers very little on either end of the floor. If anybody in this category were to improve and surprise all of us Payton is the only one who has a chance. OR the rumors could be true that he is a candidate to transfer.

Travis Busch - works hard, probably does a solid job making his teammates better in practice, but should not be on the floor when the point differential is under 20.


Lets be honest, while most programs need an NCAA Tournament bid to have a successful season, this was without a doubt a successful season. With Tubby in town and more talent coming into the program the standards need to raise. This season was successful, but how long before we can see the Gophers playing in the NCAA Tournament? Soon, very soon (I hope). Detroit here we come!

March 22, 2008

NCAA Tourny All Ugly team...

Steven Hill of Arkansas has clearly earned a spot on this year team and will make a push for the All-Decade team.

THIS (courtesy of the Sports Hernia) is a must see and please submit to me your nominations for the All Ugly team.

NCAA Tournament 1st round thoughts...

This is the best four days of the year, without a doubt. For the fifth consecutive year I have purchased the DirecTV tournament package, not worked and sat down to watch basketball for four straight days. On the right is a pic from last year's set up, this year is similar but I sent my wife and child to the in-laws to keep them from distracting me! (just kidding honey)

Through 17 games here are some of my expert thoughts...

1. Thursday sucked. 16 games, 15 of them having the higher seed win. The most exciting moment of the day was Duke beating Belmont in the last few seconds. Whoo freaking hoo, I get to watch Duke win. Duke can suck it.

2. Kansas State over USC was a great game to watch. Beasley will look awfully good in a Timberwolves uniform. His hands must be massive cause those mitts just command the ball, it looks like a bear claw grabbing the ball. As I type they are losing to Wisconsin but Beasley is incredible.

3. Question - if Kentucky would have upset Marquette as an 11 seed, would Tubby have been given any credit for the talent he put on the floor? Fortunately for Kentucky fans they can continue to blame Tubby for the lack of talent on the floor for UK. Nevermind that seniors Ramel Bradley(19) and Joe Crawford (35) were recruited as part of a top 5 class by Tubby and they combined for 81.8% of UK's points on Thursday.

4. Big Ten dominates going 3-0 on day 1. Indiana went out of character on Friday and lost a 1st round game but 3-1 for a league that has been ripped all year was nice to see. Wis/KSt and MSU/Pitt will be big games and should be fun to watch.

5. UNLV is the only other team in the tourney that Minnesota faced this season and they won their 8/9 battle with Kent State. They held the Golden Flashes to 10 first half points, which was boring and a shot clock era record. (pic on right stolen from College Cheeleader)

6. Washington State vs. Winthrop was looking like it was going to be VERY interesting through the first half. But something awoke the Cougars and they throttled Wintrhop 42-11 in the second half. Winthrop has officially changed their mascot from the Eagles to the Monkey Stomped.

7. Finally, what the hell is wrong with UCLA. How did they allow 16 points to Miss Valley State in the first half? The second half was better as they kept them to 13. Fortunately for them they did allow 30 for the game or there would have been hell to pay in practice on Friday.

FRIDAY GAMES and thoughts...

1. Friday was crazy with 6 upsets in 16 games. This was more like it and the reason I pay to have access to all of the games.

2. Indiana ended what could have been a perfect opening round for the Big Ten. Obviously this team hasn't been the same since the Sampson incident, but the talent level is there to beat a team like Arkansas.

3. On a related note, I want to go on record to say that Eric Gordon will not be a great pro. I think he is an incredible college athlete who would dominate the Big Ten next year and could have a monster NCAA tournament to put 2008 behind him. But at the NBA level I don't see him being quick enough to defend or to penetrate like he is able to do at this level. He is quick but not explosive. In the NCAAs he is a step to a step and a half quicker than most guys on the floor. In the NBA I think he'll be a 1/2 step slower than guys at his position. Great shooter but won't be able to score or defend imo. I could be wrong and I have no reason to not want him to do well, I just would personally be upset to see him drafted on my favorite NBA team.

4. A couple of clutch baskets by some unknowns has once again made this tournament everything we hope it will be every year. San Diego's De'Jon Jackson (pictured left) hit a step back two which put away #4 seed UCONN. And everybody's favorite Hilltoppers used a Ty Rogers (pictured left) three at the buzzer to ruin everyone's bracket who had Drake in the Final Four.

5. North Carolina bumped Purdue to the second highest scoring game after they dropped in 113 on some irrelevant team. UNC can score with anybody, but I still see them falling before they get to he Final Four. Defense is just OK and they go through stretches where they lose interest. I see them falling sooner rather than later. On the other hand I respect Roy Williams more than any other coach in the country and that alone is enough to get them to San Antonio.

6. Davidson's Stephen Curry (pictured right) was incredible. 30 second half points to take down the house (of cards) that Dan Monson built. And his mom is kinda hot.

7. Friday was a safe day for all of the 1, 2 and 3 seeds as they all breezed to the Sunday games. But the 4s and 5s were obviously tenuous positions to be in. But that is what makes this tourney so much fun.

ROUND 2 - Saturday

It is early but Duke whithered down the stretch to West Virginia. I care nothing for the Mountaineers but suck it Duke.

My predictions...

I know this isn't exactly going out on a limb but I have felt all along and still feel that Kansas and UCLA will meet in the Championship game.

Teams who may make that surprise Final Four run? - A couple Big Ten teams are capable of making a run.

  • MSU is balanced and has the Neitzel factor.
  • Wisconsin plays great D and is the definition of team on offense.
  • Villanova could make a run cause they don't know they aren't supposed to.
  • Washington State is a top 10 talent and just needs to put it together for a few games.
  • West Virginia scores a ton and play great D. They have already dispatched their #2 seed obstacle.
That is enough information for today.

March 21, 2008

Gopher Hockey - I'm on the bandwagon

I even watched parts of the game and all of the OT. I'm on the bandwagon and I even care.

Mike Hoeffel was one goal shy of a hat trick in a 2-1 OT win and G-Alex Kangas had another outstanding night in the net.

Again, I won't insult you and try to tell you anything other than we just beat the #1 team in WCHA and will skate in the championship game tomorrow.

These guys have been just 13 seconds from five straight OT games. (picture stolen from

Star Tribune - recap
Pioneer Press - recap


Gopher Hockey is standing on their collective head!

I know nothing about hockey (I just wanted to get that out there), which is why I post very little never on Gopher hockey. But, man that Gopher hockey team is so hot right now.

I'm not going to get carried away into stats and reasons they have gone from highly anticipated to mediocre WCHA team who barely made the Final Five to the hottest team in the league.

Now I'm jumping on the bandwagon as they are in the final four of the final five.

Freshman goalie Alex Kangas has been incredible and as is the norm in hockey when your goalie is "standing on his head" your team is going to win a lot of games.

Bring on Colorado College, and Sioux Suck.

March 18, 2008

Fear the Turtle or Fear the Hoffarber

Turtel Waxing has been kind enough to give us a little look into the Maryland basketball team. I took no time to proof it or check for naughty word but here it is...

Maryland comes into this game having lost five out of their last six.
In losing to Clemson during that stretch Maryland squandered a 20
point 2nd half lead and lost 73-70. Maryland also lost games to Boston
College and Virginia which finished 4-12 and 5-11 in the ACC

Starting five:
Greivis Vasquez (17.3 ppg, 6.9 assists 5.7 reb)- Alternates at PG with
Eric Hayes. More of a scorer and distributor than a pure shooter. Will
make the spectacular pass or the awful turnover on any given
possession. Sometimes careless with the basketball and prone to
turnovers and poor shot selection. Can score in bunches and is almost
unstoppable when his outside shot is falling. He is a streaky 31%
shooter from 3-point range. A mediocre defender who uses his height
(6-6) to bother shooters. Named 2nd team All-ACC as a sophomore and
certainly the best player on the squad.

Eric Hayes (10.3ppg, 4.4ast) A pass first point guard who alternates
with Vasquez as the primary ball handler. Usually tries to let his
teammates score but can hit an open shot from 3-point range if given
space. Prefers to be a spot up jump shooter and doesn't do well on the
move. Below average quickness makes him a liability on defense and
struggles to contain speedy guards off the dribble. Not much of a
scoring threat.

Landon Milbourne (8.5ppg, 3.6reb) An athletic SF who needs to get the
ball in good positions to score. Not able to create scoring
opportunities himself though he will take it to the rim on occasion. A
decent 3-point shooter (38%) and solid from the foul line (80%). Lacks
great instincts on the defensive end though he can be a weakside shot
blocker. Has struggled recently.

James Gist (15.8ppg, 7.8reb) A dynamic and impressive athlete with a
good shooting touch out to 3-point range. Will often settle for jump
shots and doesn't like physical play in the post. A weak one-on-one
defender in the post who excels at shot blocking. Not a particularly
strong rebounder. Struggles to finish inside after contact. A good
free throw shooter overall. Named 2nd team All-ACC.

Bambale Osby (11.2ppg, 6.5reb) A stout but undersized center who
prefers to play with his back to the basket. Can score on a variety of
drop step and pivot moves but will also turn the ball over. A decent
passer out of the low post. Has improved his dreadful foul shooting to
66% but usually misses free throws in bunches. A good low post
defender for his size. Has exceptional timing with his shot blocking.
A throw back style of player and will draw fouls with his physical

Bench: SG Adrian Bowie and wing Cliff Tucker are the two main bench
players. Bowie is a slashing guard who is a very good finisher around
the basket. Plays a very instinctual game. Both Tucker and Bowie like
to get out in transition and are adequate defenders. Bowie is getting
much more playing time recently and is averaging 10.6 points in the
last three games. Jerome Burney, a rebounding and defensive post
player, is the first big man off the bench.

Outlook: Maryland usually plays stout defense only to fade in the 2nd
half. This group has a hard time holding leads because the offense
sputters for long stretches. They are vulnerable to pressure defense
and offensive rebounding. Three point shooting is not a large part of
the offense and they like to try to get the ball inside early. I think
the team is worn out by all the minutes the starters have been playing
and I wouldn't be surprised by an early NIT exit.

March 17, 2008

Nobody reads blogs during March Madness do they? HOFFARBER

Sorry for lack of posting. Surprisingly I have had very little time to blog but I'll do my best to get some post season tournament previews out there.

Congratulations to the Gophers (women) for making the NCAA Tournament!

While the NCAA's for the men would have been a blast, congratulations are in order for making the NIT and even getting to host an ACC team (that beat UNC none the less).

Without winning the Big Ten Tourny, it was still a blast to watch because of this, which I just cannot get enough of...

unfortunately you have to watch the Delaney inspired, mafia directed, three blind refs executed rash of fouls in the memory of Sampson; against Minnesota. But it gets better when they give the MN radio guys audio of The Hoff's shot.

Bring on the Turtle.

March 14, 2008

Breaking Down the Box - Indiana (B10 Tourney)

Minnesota - 59
Indiana -58

This would be worth watching for Gopher fans...

What is lost in the big Hoffarber buzzer beater is the overall Gopher effort. Without question Indiana is more talented and started the game flat and uninterested. After the 8-min timeout in the first half they flipped their switch and made a nice 11-2 run to cut the lead back to a manageable four point game with 24 minutes left. But Minnesota didn't back down, they actually extended the lead to seven as they hit half-time.

Then IU started the second half with their switch flipped and they clamped down not allowing Minnesota a point for the first 5:30 while DJ White was scoring all of their points and looked poised to single handily send the Gophers home.

But once again this team didn't back down and actually held the lead for all but 1.5 seconds of the last 5:10. Then predictably this team that isn't used to winning big games gave it away by Coleman going soft to the hoop, silly fouls and not boxing out (twice). But amazingly Hoffarber gave us his left handed impression of Christian Laettner and we live to finally take out the Illini.

Player of the Game - Damien Johnson
17 points
4 offensive rebounds
1 block
1 steal

Hoffarber's shot will get all of the press but Johnson was outstanding tonight. With a thin frontcourt and Coleman in foul trouble he kept things from getting ugly inside. Big Jon Williams had what may have been his best game as a Gopher but Johnson was the key to the win tonight.

Tempo Free Zone

For as bad as the rebounding appeared while watching the game, we actually out rebounded Indiana. We boxed out well enough to get 63.4% of their misses and we got back 43.2% of our own misses. That's not our worst rebounding effort of the year.

I do miss the old days of forcing turnovers. Remember when we used to press on most made baskets? And remember when we'd turn teams over on 23% (or more) of their possessions? I'm not sure why we abandoned the press but I for one miss it. Forcing Indiana to turn the ball over on only 11% of their possessions is not going to be good enough tomorrow.

Up Next - Illinois

Another chance to avenge an 0-2 Big Ten record. Screw that, can we PLEASE not make it 20 straight losses to Illinois? Two things have killed us vs. the Illini. Rebounding and three point shooting.

Illinois during the Big Ten Season shot 32% from behind the arc in their other 16 conference games. Against Minnesota they shot 53.6%. That is an alarming stat. They shot over 50% only three times all season (conference games only) and two of those were of course the Gopher games.

I know that rebounding is going to be the most talked about key for the Gophers but I put that as #2 behind keeping their 3-pnt FG% to something under 40%.

Does anybody else wonder if we'll be better off with Williams starting and Tollackson sits? Let us remember that he hath given us 5 rebounds vs. Illinois (that is combined folks)! Williams won't score but maybe he'd be willing to box out and give us 6 total boards. And most importantly maybe he'd be able to keep Pruitt or Randle from getting a couple extra offensive boards.

The Illini are beatable and fortunately they won't have the 'one fewer game played advantage', they were a Thursday team just like us.

Did anybody catch the end of the Gopher / Hoosier game?

Thank you Mr. Hoffarber!

After IU was handed 5 free throws in 2.5 seconds and after the game appeared over I sulked to my computer to complain to friends on IM and preparing an NIT post. Instead I leaped out of my chair, kicked the card table, spun around and somehow ended up in my kitchen.


In what will likely be the most satisfying outcome of this will be that we no longer have to watch highlights of Hoffarber's ESPY shot (which we got to see every single game this year).


On a sadder note, Gopher hockey lost to MN State-Mankato in double OT on a short handed goal.

Conference Tourney Time

So I missed any pre or post game coverage of the Northwestern domination (thank you Mr. Westbrook). Here is a box score widget for you...

It is nice to see that we only had 10 turnovers as that has been a problem for us lately. And we outrebounded the Wildcats giving up only 2 offensive rebounds. Apparently the football pads in practice paid off. Getting to shooters on the defensive end will have to improve or IU will kill us inside and out.

Next up is Indiana. The Hoosiers are not a great match up for us because of their balance and athleticism. Teams with athletic players like Gordon, Ellis, Crawford, etc. are just bad for us as we are not an overly athletic team.

Obviously if we don't play a full 40 min game we will exit the B10 Tourney through the NIT door.

I do not believe in the adage that "it's tough to beat a team three times." So we DON'T have that going for us. Unless the teams are relatively equal the team that is 2-0 is usually 2-0 for a reason. Indiana is a better team and this should be a W for them.

What we can hope for is the Hoosiers will be as disinterested as they have been since the Sampson firing resignation. If you throw out their 14 point win over Minnesota they have been very average since the Purdue win.

Let's also hope that the 1st half ugliness we witnessed yesterday can be chalked up to "looking past" Northwestern. This group of Gophers is not known for their mental toughness so looking past a team they had beaten twice is very plausible. They will need to come out and apply pressure for 40 minutes. Can they cause turnovers that they turn into points? Can they regain their man-to-man pressure that kept them in games against Indiana and Michigan State in January?

I give us about a 20% chance to win, but it wouldn't be the biggest shocker of the year.


Let's all root for Georgia today. We could possibly see the highest rated NIT game in the last decade if Minnesota were to face Kentucky in Madison Square Garden.

March 13, 2008

Big Ten Power Poll - FINAL

Final poll here, Congrats to the Badgers for sweeping the Big Ten regular season title as well as the BTBBBPP, a truly great season unexpected by everyone (except me :) ).

Best team of Bloggers - Iowa - Black Heart Gold Pants was not only the most consistent entry into the power poll, but collectively they were the most entertaining. Northwestern's Lake the Posts was the leading candidate for this award, but since he missed 3 or 4 weeks worth of polls I just couldn't in good conscience give it to him even though he was a participant when his team was the worst BCS team in the world.

Wost team of Bloggers - Ohio State - very lackadaisical in their participation. I guess when their team isn't on pace to finish as national runner-up they lose all interest. Hats off to Eleven Warriors for giving us an Ohio State entry in the last week.

Without further adieu here is the final poll as we head into the Big Ten Tournament this afternoon. And yes, that is one vote for Iowa as #1.

Avg Pts Tot Pnts
1. Wisconsin (8)
10.67 128
2. Purdue (3)
10.08 121
3. Michigan State 8.58 103
4. Indiana 8.33 100
5. Ohio State 6.92 83
6. Minnesota 5.58 67
7. Penn State 4.75 57
8. Iowa (1)
4.42 53
9'. Illinois 3.25 39
10. Michigan 2.33 28
11. Northwestern 1.08 13

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


March 10, 2008

Gopher Quickies

Sorry for the lack of posting, I know many of you rely on GN for the highest quality Gopher coverage on this world wide internet. I feel like link dumping...

** McKenzie and Coleman earned post season awards. I should use the word awards loosely. With 11 teams earning third team (McKenzie) and honorable mention (Coleman) is nice but it isn't exactly an exclusive club considering nearly half of the league's starters were named to one of the post season teams. I'm a little disappointed that Nolen didn't sneak into the All Freshman team or All Defensive. I understand why when looking at the names on the list, but I thought he had a chance.

** Pardon my Aaron Gleeman moment but one of GN's fine authors accurately predicted that Wisconsin would finish as Big Ten Champs! Anybody else call the Badgers as champs? Now I also called Michigan State would prevail in the Big Ten Tourney so we'll see just how brilliant I am.

**Big Ten Awards - DJ White was Player of the Year, Matt Painter was Coach of the Year and Eric Gordon was Newcomer of the Year.

** Current Freshman are on pace to be in the Gopher record books (pdf link). Al Nolen and Blake Hoffarber are "on pace" to finish their careers at the top of a couple Gopher records. "On pace" is kinda dangerous. Injuries or more talented players could come in to steal minutes. But on the flip side one could expect that as they get older they will earn more minutes which should in theory give them greater numbers when all is said and done. So this is pure speculation but based on their freshman numbers here is what we can expect from Nolen and the Hoff.


  • 3 pnt FGs made single season - made 61 this season which is good for 6th best single season tied with Sam Jacobson.
  • 3 pnt FTs made career - on pace for 244 total over his 4 years. Gopher record is 191 held by Michael Bauer. This record should come down.
  • Career points - on pace for 996 which means Hoffarber has a shot at the 1,000 point club.
  • Steals single season - 58 steals as a freshman ties him with Vincent Grier for 8th on the single season list.
  • Steals career - on pace for 232. The Gopher record is 215 held by Melvin Newbern. Chances are good for Nolen assuming he stays healthy and gets plenty of minutes in his next three seasons.
  • Assists career - on pace for 396. Ariel McDonald holds the record with 547. Unless Nolen's minutes greatly increase and he gets used to finding Sampson, Hoffarber and Joseph I don't see this record coming down. But he is on pace to finish 3rd all time which isn't too shabby.
** Hoosier Report gives some good facts about the Big Ten Tournament and BTT history.

** I didn't take the time to recap our 19th consecutive loss to the Illini, but PJS as usual gives analysis that ranks among the top 2 or 3 Gopher bloggers out there. He gives his thoughts on the best gopher starting lineup. I would go with
PG -Nolen (I can be talked into Westbrook)
SG - McKenzie
SF - Johnson
PF - Coleman
C - Tollackson
Bench (in order) - Hoffarber
Bench - Westbrook
Bench - Williams
nobody else in a perfect world
That is all I have for now. Minnesota takes on Northwestern on Thursday afternoon. I challenge Lake the Posts to a bet on this one! After NU upset the Gophers in 2003 they are 1-1 all time when facing the Wildcats in the BTT. This one is huge!

March 5, 2008

Basketball Blog Poll - week 17

#1 is becoming a dangerous position to be in. UNC @ Duke could give us our third consecutive week with the #1 team going down.

On a side note, here are my #1 seed projections...


Likely (in order)
North Carolina

Next in line
Kansas/Texas winner in B12 Tourney
Duke or Stanford should they win their conference tourney

nobody else stands a chance.

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

HERE is a link to everyone's individual ballot.

Gopher basketball @ Indiana

Heading into tonight's match up the Gophers are solidly on the bubble of the bubble. Win tonight on the road and people start to put us in the conversation. I don't want to get too far ahead of ourselves because even IF we pull out the win in Bloomington there is still a lot of work to do.

So the question that is tantamount to this whole conversation is...

Can Minnesota get their first significant road win at Indiana tonight?

The answer is yes they can. Will they? Probably not but it is more plausible than it was a month ago.

When the Hoosiers came to Minnesota they were arguably playing their best basketball of the season and we were a couple of Tollackson free throws from winning that game. Now they are playing their worst basketball in the wake of the Sampson departure.

-- 3 pnt win @ Northwestern
-- 3 pnt win over Ohio State at home
-- 29 pnt loss @ Michigan State

Indiana is reeling and this is an opportunity for the Gophers to pounce! They were thoroughly dominated by the Spartans and Indiana was disinterested in getting back into it.

So that leaves us with another important question... Did the Michigan State beatdown crush their spirits or will they come out tonight with renewed energy and passion?

How the Hoosiers answer that question will determine the outcome. I really think that we are capable of winning tonight but the key is Indiana's attitude / energy.

March 4, 2008

Big Ten Power Poll - Week 9

Purdue and Wisconsin distanced themselves from the Spartans and Hoosiers. Michigan State's statement win along with a couple nail biters over has dropped Indiana two spots. The Sampson hangover is in effect and we can all hope it lasts through Wednesday!

My Kinda Guy Award - Off the Tracks recognizes that there are not a lot deserving bubble teams around the country and lays out the necessary scenario for the Gophers to get into the Tourney.

Comparing the Comparison Posts - the BTBBBPP has consistently been a poll of comparisons. 80s bands, presidential candidates, He-Man characters, constitutional amendments etc. Black Heart Gold Pants was kind of the leader in this genre and has done a little look back on some of the better Power Poll Posts.

Here is the poll...

Avg Pts Tot Pnts
1. Purdue (8)
10.60 106
2. Wisconsin (2)
10.20 102
3. Michigan State 8.90 89
4. Indiana 8.30 83
5. Minnesota 6.90 69
6. Ohio State 6.10 61
7. Penn State 4.80 48
8. Iowa 3.50 35
9'. Illinois 3.30 33
10. Michigan 2.20 22
11. Northwestern 1.20 12

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


March 3, 2008

Gopher Baseball wins DQ Classic

Over the weekend the Gophers won their first DQ Classic since 2004. Minnesota finished 2-1 and was one strike away from going undefeated against some very good competition. Those who follow college baseball more closely than I do figured the Gophers had a chance to maybe win a game. Winning two or even winning the Classic was unreachable but John Anderson's Gophers took the momentum from their Tulane victory and defeated Pepperdine to win the tourney.

Friday Game 1
TCU - 7
Minn - 4
Box Score

Minnesota had a 1 run lead in the bottom of the ninth but gave up the tying run eventually to lose in the 12th. Heading into the tourney this appeared to be the most winable game of the three but the game was lost late and dropped the Gophers to 0-4 on the season.

Saturday Game 2
#18 Tulane - 5
Minnesota - 7
Box Score

I was fortunate enough to attend this game. Tulane was a solid team that had capable hitters throughout the lineup. I was planning on being able to head home early since Minnesota was 0-4 (getting killed by #4 Ole Miss) and Tulane is a top 20 team with aspirations of making the College World Series.

The Gophers had their chances getting guys on base early in most of the innings. But a couple pick offs and a general inability to get runners moved over killed their chances to put up that big inning.

Tulane got six solid innings from starter Aaron Loup who gave up 4 hits, 2 runs and 6 strikeouts. But the bullpen didn't fare as well and that was when Minnesota pounced. Josh Zeid entered in the 7th inning giving up one run and working out of a jam. The 8th is when it all fell apart. Zeid was unable to get an out facing three batters then Preston Clairborne came into face three batters as well but also was unable to record an out. Nick Pepitone was the third pitcher of the inning and got the big outs, but the damage was done.

On the flip side, Minnesota's inexperienced bullpen pitched great in the last 4 2/3 innings giving up 1 run, 3 hits and 6 strikeouts.

Freshman Mike Kvasnicka hit his first collegiate HR when he tied the game with a 2-run blast in the 8th.

CF - Matt Nohelty was 2/5 with 3 RBIs
LF - Eric Decker was a late inning PH and finished 1/1 with a walk and 2 runs scored.

Sunday Game 3
#30 Pepperdine - 2
Minnesota - 5
Box Score

I think most fans would have been pleased with the Tulane win, but the Gophers had their sights on actually winning their own tournament. Pepperdine is a solid club with some very strong hitters in the middle of their lineup. But starter Dustin Brabender combined with freshman Phil Isaksson (and 2/3 of an inning from Scott Fern) to give up only 4 hits, 2 runs with 8 strikeouts and Minnesota beat their second nationally recognized program in as many games.

Pepperdine has been picked to finish second in the West Coast Conference and will very likely be an NCAA Tournament team with a legit shot at the College World Series. Minnesota was fortunate to not have to face preseason All-American pitcher Brett Hunter, but this was a great win none the less.

Additional Thoughts...

** Eric Decker (#30 pictured below) was a difference maker in Saturday's win over Tulane. It is my opinion that once he gets some at bats and his timing down Decker will be our everyday LF.

** I think we have a future stud in Mike Kvasnicka (#9 pictured below). The kid hits the ball hard, but is clearly adjusting to collegiate pitching. The fact that he can play RF and C is a huge plus and will ensure him many innings this season. Kvasnicka had four RBIs and two home runs this weekend, one from each side of the plate.

** While the starting pitching is OK, the bullpen has been very impressive (and they are YOUNG).

  • Phil Isaksson - true freshman. 4 Ks, 3.2 innings, no hits, no runs vs. Pepperdine. Retired 9 straight batters.
  • Chauncy Handran - JUCO transfer, throws HARD. 4 Ks, 2.2 innings, 1 run allowed
  • Seth Rosin - freshman looked impressive in his save vs. Tulane
  • Scott Matyas - freshman putting up good numbers all year
There are more but those kids have stood out to me

** Positions that are locked down. Currently 3B, SS, 2B and CF are solidified by guys who will start nearly every game.

** Positions waiting to be earned. 1B, LF, RF and C are all kind of platoon positions. I think by the time we hit Big Ten play Decker will lock down LF and Kvasnicka will own RF to give the entire lineup more stability.

** CF-Matt Nohelty was tournament MVP as he hit .467 with 5 RBIs.

** The wins over Tulane and Pepperdine should go a long towards an NCAA Tournament at large bid. Getting killed by Ole Miss was bad, but beating two teams who will likely be participants in the NCAAs will be huge.

Photos from my trip to the DQ Classic.

If you get a chance to go watch the Gophers play, I highly recommend it. I have never been to a college baseball game and I am here to report that it is a lot of fun. You are close to the action and you watch players who really enjoy what they are doing.

March 2, 2008

Breaking Down the Box - Ohio State (home)

Ohio State - 57
Minnesota -71

Through 28 games things have gone as they should for every game with the exception of two. Home to Illinois is a game where the Gophers sat higher in the standings/RPI than their opponent and lost. Home to Ohio State is a game where the Gophers looked up in the standings/RPI to their opponent and won.

While this isn't the statement win that beating Michigan State or Indiana would have been, it is better than losing! The loss drops Ohio State outside of the RPI top 50 so we still don't have a win over a team in the top 50 but lets not get too caught up in the ESPN generated RPI hype. This was a solid win and puts the Gophers in position to finish 5th in the Big Ten. Raise your hand if you thought we could finish 5th after last year's three win conference season.

In the season's first matchup the Buckeye zone was active and proved difficult to crack. But for the rematch adjustments were made and for the first time in a couple weeks we were the more aggressive team on the floor. On a side note Ohio State looks lifeless and just playing out the season. But on Senior Day McKenzie led the Gophers in points and passion as they dominated the second half.

High praise from Ohio State coach, Thad Motta...

“Those guys were making the plays we were unable to make and we just didn’t have the toughness to get the stops, get the rebounds. I thought defensively in the first half we played about as well as we could play, with the exception of rebounding the ball; they had nine offensive rebounds in the first half and that's too many."
Good game, good win and it was fun to see them beat the Buckeyes.

Player of the Game - Lawrence McKenzie

20 points
4 assists
3 rebounds
3 threes made

After an ugly first half with zero points and more than his share of turnovers, McKenzie proved to be the best player on the floor scoring all 20 points in the first half and actually LEADING the Gophers to a win.

It isn't a secret that McKenzie is very talented, but taking over a game and leading his team to a win has been missing in his game all season. With the end of his college career looming maybe Lawrence will continue to be they we look to for leadership and production when needed.

Tempo Free Zone -

A recent trend for these Gophers has been their rebounding. For the third game in a row we have rebounded pretty well. Grabbing 71.8% of Ohio State's misses is impressive and very out of character for us.

The more disturbing recent trend has been turnovers. For much of the season we were very good at creating turnovers but recently turning the ball over ourselves has been a problem. It will be interesting to keep an eye on turnovers for Wednesday's game @Indiana. When the Hoosiers came to the Barn we created 26 turnovers.

Up Next - @ Indiana

Bubble talk is still crazy, but watch it heat up if we can pull out a win in Bloomington. That would gives us a statement win and show that we are playing our best ball in March.

The Hoosiers play @Michigan State this afternoon and only have two days to prepare/rest for the Gophers. Indiana has won both games under new interim coach Dan Dakich but they have been less than impressive beating Northwestern and Ohio State by three. A win is a win , there is a chance that the emotional hangover from the Sampson firing will linger long enough for the Gophers to steal WON in Bloomington.