Friday, November 30, 2007

Mobley Picks OSU Over Minnesota

Acording to Rivals and the Star Tribune's Chip Scoggins, Eden Prairie's Willie Mobley has decided to play college ball at Ohio State instead of Minnesota.

I'm not incredibly surprised by this. How can we be surprised that a standout football player picks the tradition and legacy of Ohio State over playing football for the Golden Gophers? Tim Brewster or Jim Tressel? Right now, it's not even a comparison.

A few months ago I suggested that Tim Brewster's first big test would be to effectively put that so-called fence up around the state of Minnesota and keep the best Minnesota football prospects home. At the time, I suggested that it'd be a victory if Brewster were able to sign two of the top three Minnesota recruits available at the time: Cretin wideout Michael Floyd, Eden Prairie defensive end Willie Mobley and Cretin offensive lineman Joe Schafer.

Floyd is now committed to Notre Dame. Schafer is now commtted to Wisconsin. And Mobley rounds things out with a decision to play in Columbus. To be fair, I should note that the Gophers did sign linebacker Sam Maresh (as pointed out in the comments) who was ranked by some recruiting services higher than Schafer.

All is certinaly not lost with Brewster's first full recruiting class. Tom at Gopher Nation does a nice job here of going through the kids Brewster has been able to get on board.

I've said repeatedly here that I will be judging Brewster by his success or failures in the recruiting department. And the loss of Mobley doesn't make Brewster's first class a failure. But it certainly isn't a positive when out of the top four or five high school football players in the state you have only been able to land one. That tells me the fence Brewster wants to build still has many, many holes.

Don't Let The Door Hit You On The Way Out, Torii

Since I'm loathe to preview the men's basketball tilt between the Gophers and UC Riverside tomorrow, I'm going to turn my attention, if only briefly, to the Minnesota Twins. If you haven't noticed, the Twins are front-and-center in Hot Stove Action. And while I might eventually breakdown any trade involving Johan Santana, I want to comment today on the Twins' former center fielder.

As you know, the Twins let quote-a-minute Torri Hunter leave via free agency. Not only do I not blame the Twins for letting Hunter go, I'm pleased to see the development. I could rant about Torii's lack of patience at the plate or the fact that he's lost a step or two in the outfield. He's 32 years old, after all, and for the Twins to offer him 5 years for $90 million like the Halos did would have been insane.

And while I'll never forget him ramming through the Chicago White Sox catcher or stealing an All-Star Game homerun from Barry Bonds, Hunter never earned up to the nickname Kirby Puckett gave him many spring trainings ago: Little Puck. With his me-first public persona, Hunter has proved that the Puckett comparisons ended with the position they played.

It's possible that in my eyes no one could ever live up to the Puck, for on the field behavior and locker room leadership. But time and again, Torii's self-promotional attitude rubbed me the wrong way. Just last summer, during the season, Torii was on PTI, and asked about his contract. He said, with a big smile that has convinced so many to love him, "Pay Me." Torii, it takes more than a great smile to be the leader and sports icon Puck was.

And then in print articles, he talked about how Johan Santana would love to be in New York. Maybe it's just me, but I'd think Torii ought to speak for himself and not a Hall of Fame pitcher.

More recently, Torii has said that no free agents or stars ever will want to play in Minnesota without a roof on the new stadium. Torii might believe this, and it could be true, but it strikes me as incredibly arrogant for him to run his mouth about something he's no longer part of. And just the other day, as the Star Tribune's excellent fan blogger Howard Sinker points out, Hunter ran his mouth again. Here's what Torii said to the Los Angeles Times, as relayed by Sinker:

“I would have signed for less,” said Hunter, who had five-year offers, ranging from $70 million to $75 million, from the White Sox, Rangers and Royals, and the day before the Angels offer dined with Texas Rangers owner Tom Hicks.

What if the Angels offered less than those other teams?

“I still would have taken it!” Hunter said. “Arte [Moreno, Angels owner], he didn’t want to negotiate. It was like, ‘Wham, take it or leave it.’ I was like, ‘Whoa, that’s nice.’ They gave me 24 hours, and I gave them [my decision] in five hours. There was really no thinking, because that’s the team I wanted to be with.”
It's funny that Torii would say that, because, well, a few days prior he'd been quoted as saying the Angels weren't on his radar. He'd also previously said "Pay Me" to a national television audience and in other instances played up his role as "Little Puck," in those instances opining about how he wants to stay in Minnesota, where he's always been etc ...

In the end, I don't blame Hunter for taking the dollars. But I'll be pleased next season when I read Twins coverage and I don't see endless self-serving quotes (read: lies) from Hunter.

I want to make one more point, concerning the treatment of Hunter in the media, before I wrap this up. The Star Tribune has two great baseball writers in LaVelle E. Neal III and Joe Christensen. And Jim Souhan, now a columnist, did a fantastic job of covering baseball no matter what some popular Twins bloggers might have you believe. But I have one small gripe with LEN3 and JoeC. Their coverage of Torii has always been incredibly one-sided. When he got in a little spat with Justin Morneau, it was the Candadian who was the bad guy. When Hunter questioned Joe Mauer's ability/desire to play with injuries, there were no stories about Torii causing clubhouse anxiety. And the favoritism towards Torii went beyond that.

There is a rule in sports press boxes about cheering: It isn't allowed. And while it's natural to develop working relationships with those you cover, when it gets to a point, like it has at times with LEN3 and Torii, where the reporter can't be objective about his source, it's time to cover something/someone else.

Again, I think LEN3 and Joe C. do a tremendous job. But in this one instance I believe they have shown incredible favortism towards Torii.

Thankfully, I'll no longer have to see Torii's ego being stroked in the Star Tribune. Goodbye Torii, and for the sake of all Los Angeles-area sportswriters, here's hoping you keep running your mouth.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Thoughts On Tubby's First Loss

Marcus Fuller of the PiPress called it a "measuring-stick" game. The Gophers lost last night, 75-61 in a game that began as an up-and-down, fast-breaking affair. That was a style much better suited to the athletic Seminoles. That was the first lesson. We can't out run a more athletic team.

Tubby told Fuller he can use this game moving forward: "We needed a game like this so we can evaluate and measure where we are," Smith said. "We can learn from it and use this as a teaching tool." Hopefully it can teach Tubby to find a nice spot at the end of the bench for Kevin Payton. I digress.

The point here is there were both good and bad things that happened last inght. And while it would have been great to storm through the nonconference scheduled unblemished, it simply wasn't going to happen. But, the Gophers can take this game and make sure they correct some things and get ready for a 7 game stretch that they should sweep, before the nonconference season ends with a game against UNLV in Vegas.

But that's all quite a ways down the road. Here are my thoughts on last night's loss.

Positivies:

** Blake Hoffarber was active on both the offensive and defensive ends. He continues to shoot with confidence and I'm beginning to think he can help this team out in more ways then just spot-up shooting. Hoffarber led the team in scoring.


** Damian Johnson continues to impact games with his reboudning and shot blocking abilities. His critics are correct that he needs to work on his offensive game, but he's just a sophomore and if there has been one big surprise to this season so far it has been Johnson.


** While Lawrence Westbrook took a couple ill-advised shots and was made to look silly when his layup was forcefully rejected on a fast break, the Gophers need him to be a fourth scoring option like he was to at least begin the game last night. He hit the three early on while Lawrence McKenzie was struggling and allowed the Gophers to play a three guard lineup against the quick FSU backcourt.


** Al Nolen starting. This is a positive if for no other reason Kevin Payton isn't on the court. Nolen looked a little jittery last night, made a few mistakes, but he's still a better option than Payton.


** Even down the stretch, when FSU had the game in the bag with about 5 to 6 minutes left, the Gophers kept battling. Hoffarber scrapped for rebounds along with Jamal Abu Shamala. McKenzie kept pushing the basketball. Spencer Tollackson, who did not have a good night, continued to battle on the boards. Hard work and intensity counts for something.


Negatives:

** Dan Coleman and Spencer Tollackson were completely neutralized by FSU's more athletic frontcourt. Tollackson couldn't do anything with his back to the basket--and he couldn't even win position in the post to allow an entry pass in from the wing. Meanwhile, Coleman, facing the basket, wasn't quick enough to to take the ball to the basket. His perimiter jump shot wasn't falling and his game, both offensive and defensive, was ineffective all night. In my opinion, the Gophers were better last night with Damian Johnson and Jonathan Williams on the floor. Though that mostly had to do with Johnson over Coleman. Tollackson was effective on the boards for most of the evening.


** Lawrence McKenzie needs to carry this team, much like Isiah Swann did for FSU. Too often, I thought, McKenzie was handling the ball on offense (this was when Nolen was on the bench). I'd like to see McKenzie play the two-spot exclusively, freeing him up to fire away from three-point land. In games where the opposition is more athletic, the Gophers need McKenzie to lead the way. Tubby told Fuller in the articled linked above that the team absolutely needs scoring from its senior leaders. That begins and ends with McKenzie, in my opinion. Coleman and Tollackson are more easily neutralized. It's McKenzie who needs to shoulder the scoring burden on those nights.


** Kevin Payton continues to show he has no business playing point guard at this, or any, level.


** The up-tempo game certainly didn't work in Minnesota's favor. I'm not sure if Tubby wanted them to push the basketball against FSU. He's been talking about a team that's going to push the ball. But the run-and-gun game helped FSU last night. And while that's not surprising, what is worrisome moving forward is that the Gophers made some poor decisions on the fast break. At times, our guards pushed the tempo when a fast break wasn't available. At other times, they forced long, cross-court passes that were interecepted. The entire team needs to make better decisions if its going to play a fast-paced game--especially against a more athletic team.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Minnesota at Florida State Game Thread

I've been away for a few days. First it was family stuff around T'Day and then work. Thankfully, I'm back in my recliner for Tubby's visit to Florida State, in the second of three nonconference games to get excited about. (If you're keeping track, the Gophers are 1-0 in these games, having won at Iowa State. The final game were watching closely is a game against the Runnin' Rebels in Las Vegas).

The Seminoles are coming off an upset victory over the in state rival Gators. And as this artcle from the Orlando Sentinel points out, the margin for error for the Seminoles in the nonconference schedule is virtually nil. Florida State, coached by Leonard Hamilton, has already suffered losses to Cleveland State and the University of South Florida Bulls.

The victory over the Gators looks nice, and likely feels good for the Seminoles who have traditionally struggled in this rivalry. No matter which Seminoles team shows up tonight, the trip to Tallahassee will give the Gophers another tough road test.

I'll try to give updates throughout the game.

** Oh, and as an aside, what are the chances that the Big Ten actually wins the Big Ten/ACC Challenge this season?

First Half:

** The Gophers started a three gurad lineup--Westbrook, Nolen and McKenzie--likely to counter the athleticism and good guard-play for Florida State. I wouldn't mind seeing this on a regular basis.

** After the Seminoles got off to a quick start, the Gophers have come back and looked impressive. Damian Johnson and Jonathan Williams came in for Spencer Tollackson and Dan Coleman and immeditately made a difference. Johnson continues to force offensive players to alter shots.

** The Gophers are firing from all cylinders from beyond the arc. Lawrence Westbrook is 2-for-2. Blake Hoffarber just hit a rainbow to give the Gophers a 20-18 lead with 12:20 left in the first half.

** Spencer Tollackson looks absolutely lost on the floor right now. He's not establishing position on the offensive end. He's not quick enough to get rebounds on the defensive end.

** As FSU has pushed out to a 25-22 lead, the Gophers have gotten into playing Florida State's style. I like the Gophers running when there is an opportunity, but feel with the talent on the floor the Gophers should try to slow the pace of this game.

** FSU's Isiah Swann continues to give the Gophers trouble. He's now hit three from three point land and has 11 points, putting the Seminoles up 28-24 with 7+ left in the first half.

** Lawrence McKenzie finally gets on the board with 6:30 left in the half with a three. The Gophers need his offense, while Tolllackson and Coleman are being marginalized.

****** Um, wow. Lawrence Westbrook all along but Jason Rich, one of FSU's athletic guards, comes out of nowhere and sends LW's layup attempt flying off the backboard. FSU turns aroudn, runs past the Gophers and capitalizes on the other end. 5:00 left in the half and FSU's spped and athleticism is why they lead 34-27.

** Finally, Spencer Tollackson's first points of the game come in a put-back with less about 4 minutes to play in the half. Tubby needs more out of Spencer, whether that be on the boards or on offense, if we're going to be able to pull out an upset on the road. The Gophers need Tollackson and the other big men, if nothing else, to bang on offense and pick up some fouls on FSU's big men. There's about 3 minutes left in the half and the Gophers haven't been to the foul line.

** Tollackson is playing much better the last five minutes on the boards. But the Gophers are completely stalled on offense. Score is still 34-29 and has been that way four 3 minutes.

** Damian Johnson gets to the line and nails two. 34-31. Free throws. Sweet!


HALFTIME: FSU 38, Minnesota 32.

PJS' Halftime Lecture: I haven't addressed the point guard play in the breakdown above. That's because I'm trying real, real hard not to be too critical of student athletes. With that said, Kevin Payton, you are playing point guard for a Big Ten team. With this in mind, you should know not to pick up your dribble for no good reason 5 to 10 feet beyond the three point line. You should also know not to throw cross court, errant passes. Additionally, you are responsible to get the team into its offensive sets. When you are on the floor, Kevin, the offense takes huge steps backwards. You need to step up, concentrate on protecting the ball, and take some pressure off of Al Nolen.

Second Half:

** To start the half it looks like the Gophers are making a concerted effort to get the ball inside. This is a good decision in my opinion, if they can play inside-out. 40-34, FSU at 18:00 mark.

** Someone just criticized Damian Johnson in the comments for his lack of offensive skill. I understand this thought process. But Johnson just used his athleticism on offense to haul in a pass in the post, then composed himself and finished. He's the only forward on our team (perhaps Coleman) who could make that play. Nonetheless, FSU continues to play more efficiently on offense and leads 49-41 with 15 minutes left.

** It says something about this Gophers team that they are in this game with 12 minutes left when Tollackson has four points and McKenzie and Coleman have three points each. Lawrence Westbrook leads the way right now with 10. But for the Gophers to come back, they need the big three to make a mark.

** WIth 6 minutes left, the Seminoles largely have the game in the bag. A couple things have been large factors: The Seminoles have been to the free throw line 22 times (converted on 19). The Gophers meanwhile are 5-for-8 from the line. You can't win games with that large of a margin. The second key difference tonight has been athleticism. The Seminoles were better at finishing on the fast break. They were able to disrupt our offense with their quickness to the ball and their ability to deny our posts position.

** Barring a miraculous comeback, I'll be back tomorrow with some positivies and negatives to today's game. We shouldn't get too upset about this outcome tonight. FSU is the type of team we're going to have trouble with until the talent level on Tubby's team rises.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Preview: Minnesota vs. Central Michigan

Let's just say that the Central Michigan Chippewas aren't the class of the Mid-American Conference. The Chippewas (0-3) have started the season with three losses. An opening day loss to Missouri is excusable. But the Chippewas followed that up with a loss to DII Central Missouri State. A few days later, the Chippewas lost to Niagra.

There's no reason to believe the Chippewas' slide is going to end Saturday against the Gophers. Minnesota has the clear size advantage, and I expect senior Spencer Tollackson to dominate the paint. This is a game where the Gophers should win the day on the boards.

Minnesota's point guards will be challenged, however, as the Chippewas have a senior floor leader by the name of Girodan Watson. A quick point guard who can fill up the net could cause problems for someone like Kevin Payton (not quick enough) or Al Nolen (not as experienced as Watson). It will be interesting to see if Tubby puts Lawrence McKenzie on the point guard.

Anyway, here's a quick look at a few Central Michigan players.

Names to know:

Giordan Watson, Sr. Guard - At 5'10, Watson has racked up the minutes in the Chippewas last two games. After fouling out against Missouri, Watson has averaged more than 32 minutes per game. He can be a threat from beyond the arc (about 37 percent career) but has been in foul trouble in every game.

Jeremy Allen, Fr, Guard - Slashing guard Jeremy Allen had a nice coming out party against Missouri in his first collegiate game (17 points, 3-for-6 from three-point land), but came back to Earth in the Chippewas last two games.

Nate Minnoy, Jr. /Forward - Minnoy you might remember from his stint at Purdue, where he put up 10 points per game for the Boilermakers in 2005-06 before suffering a knee injury. He then made a stop at the JUCO ranks before signing on with Central Michigan. While Minnoy had some success at Purdue, he's certainly a different type of forward. He's bruising (270 pounds) but stands at only 6'3. Despite his stature, Minnoy leads the team in rebounds with 7 per game.

Marcus Van, Jr. Forward/Center - Van, a JUCO transfer just beginning his career at Central Michigan, was supposed to be the guy to help the Chippewas on the boards. But he was injured halfway through the team's second game and didn't play against Niagra. If Van is healthy, he'll be back in the starting lineup (I couldn't find an update). If not, he'll be replaced by 6'8 junior Chris Kellerman (outside shooter) or 6'7 senior Chris Blevins. But no matter who makes up the Chippewa frontcourt, the Gophers have an advantage in size with Tollackson and Coleman.

A couple posts down I suggested this could be a trap game of sorts, after the nice road win at Iowa State and before the Big Ten-ACC Challenge and a trip to play Florida State (also struggling, by the way). But what I'd like to see Saturday night (on ESPN 360 in case you were wondering at 8et/7ct) is a dominating performance, where the Gophers get up early and bury the Chippewas. A big lead would allow someone like Blake Hoffarber to get his feet under him at this level, allow Damian Johnson to get more minutes and allow the team to get more comfortable running the half-court trap.

I predict an easy Minnesota win, with Spencer Tollackson leading the way with his back to the basket. Prediction: Minnesota 88, Central Michigan 62.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Tubby's 2008 Class Takes Another Big Step

Four-star guard Devoe Joseph has picked the Gophers over Vanerbilt and Texas. GopherNation has more on this here.

This is excellent news for the Gophers and it catapults Tubby's 2008 class up to the top of the Big 10. Some had already considered it a top 15-30 class nationally.

In Marcus Fuller's blog report for the PiPress, Joseph's AAU coach indicated that one of the reasons Joseph picked Minnesota was because Tubby was after him the longest. The same can be said for fellow recruit Ralph Samspon III. Tubby was after him long before other college coaches, at least according to the recruiting Web sites, began to take notice. Kudos to Tubby for finding the guys he wanted and sticking with them.

Oh, and Joseph's coach also mentioned to Fuller that Joseph was impressed by how warmly the student section at Williams Arena embraced him during the Army game. Kudos to the drunk students!

Joseph, who I think can play both the point and two-guard spot, joins four-star forward/center Ralph Sampson III and three-star forward/center Colton Iverson as freshman in next year's class. Paul Carter, a JUCO transfer, will have three years of eligibility. He's a 6-8 scoring forward who experts say will be able to have an immediate impact and can start right away. The fifth commit is Devron Bostic, another JUCO transfer who will have two years of eligibility. I'll try to have a thorough roundup of each of these new commits in the next week or two.

Until then, how about a little 2008 lineup speculation? Listed first is my predicted starter at that position followed by their first subsitute. Johnson is going to have to earn that spot, but for now I'm liking what I'm seeing.

PG: Al Nolen/Devoe Joseph
SG: Devoe Joseph/Lawrence Westbrook/
SF: Damian Johnson/Devron Bostick/Blake Hoffarber/Jamal Abu-Shamala
PF: Paul Carter/Jon Williams/ Colton Iverson
C: Ralph Sampson III/Colton Iverson

Thoughts On VIctory At Iowa State

I figured I'd put the long car ride to the inlaws to good use by blogging today. You have to love these fancy new Internet cards.

Like most of you, I was thrilled with the outcome Tuesday night. During the Dan Monson era, the Gophers were beyond terrible on the road. And while Iowa State doesn't appear to be a NCAA tournament team, and they were without one of their best players, many thigns about the Gophers win impressed me. And during the hard-fought win, we gained some insight into the rotation to expect in the future. So, here are some general thoughts.

** Damian Johnson is going to be a big part of this team. We shouldn't expect huge offensive numbers, but what he has provided is a prescense on the boards. He's changing shots and being active on defense. I criticized his quickness earlier this year, but at least defensively, he's been up to the challenge. After Spencer Tollackson, it appaers to me that Johnson is the best rebounder on the team. With Dan Coleman playing out on the perimiter a lot, having Johnson banging will help.

** Tubby has no faith in Kevin Payton. Yes, he's still starting, but Payton was nowhere to be foud during crunch time. Al Nolen was getting those minutes. And while Nolen made a couple of mental errors, it's clear the Gophers are a better team offensively and defensively with Nolen on the floor.

** Tubby's defensive schemes impressed me. The Gophers switched up defenses a few times in the second half when the game was going back and forth. The half-court zone trap forced Iowa Sstate into shots it wasn't comfortable taking. And as a former coach, that was one of the things I always wanted when we applied half court or full-court pressure. The turnovers are nice, but forcing the opposition out of its comfort zone is the overriding objective. This is another area where I think Johnson can be effective all season, hanging out with his wingspan ready to take thise risky cross-court passes. I will say, however, that the Gophers struggled a bit, I thought, rebounding when in the 2-3 zone. That's always a problem, but the lads just got to find someone to box out.

** Lawrence McKenzie and Spencer Tollackson carried this team. Most nights they will have to. Tollackson desperately needs to stay out of foul trouble if the Gophers are going to beat some of the upper-echelon Big Ten teams.

** I liked Jonathan Williams' bank shot from 15 feet!

** Tubby seemed to shorten his bench in the second half with the game on the line. The key contributors were Nolen, McKenzie, Tollackson, Johnson, Williams, Westbrook and Coleman. Blake Hoffarber and Jamal Abu-Shamala, it would appear, were losing minutes in crunch time to Johnson and Westbrook. When McKenzie, Tollackson and Coleman are putting up offensive numbers, I expect we'll continue to see this: Tubby choosing Johnson's defense over Hoffarber's and Abu-Shamala's spot up shooting.

** I'm going to be paying attention all season to the progression of Nolen. I'd love to see him become a pass-first, foor leading point guard. I'm not criticizing him here, and I'm not saying he shouldn't look to score. But for the Gophers to succeed, they need someone to penetrate and kick, someone to run the offense and get the ball into the post. Kevin Payton is not the answer in this area. Nolen can be. And with the Gophers 2008 recruiting class full of forwards/centers, the pressure will be on Nolen far beyond this year to deliver, and eventually, lead.

** The Gophers now host Central Michigan Saturday in a game the team should win, but since it's situated between the ISU win and the ACC-Big Ten Challenge, it has the potential to be a trap game.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Guest Post: ISU Blogger Gives Gophers The Edge

PJS Note: With the biggest game in the Tubby Smith era set to tip off Tuesday night, PJS and CrossCyed at the Clone Chronicles decided a little cross-blog cooperation was in order. Below you'll get CrossCyed's mostly pessimistic views on the Cyclones' 2007-08 season and what to expect from ISU Tuesday night. You'll find my preview at the Clone Chronicles here.

Guest Post
By CrossCyed

For those of you looking for a good-looking win against a Big 12school, Tuesday night may be your chance.

LIKELY STARTING LINEUP:

G Diante Garrett OR Sean Haluska
G Bryan Petersen
F Rahshon Clark
F Craig Brackins
C Jiri Hubalek

Iowa State really appears to be a team in disarray. With lackluster performances in all of the first three games, it's really hard to get a read on the team, and the game against the Gophers will be a good test.

I must preface the article by saying we will likely be missing our best player in 6-7 Wesley Johnson, quite possibly the best sophomore in the Big 12 not named DJ Augustin.

We're also without SG Lucca Staiger, who is currently ineligible due to the NCAA and it's bass-ackwardness. The backcourt provides question marks at both guard positions. Sean Haluska is the real wild card to start - he's looked pitiful in regular season play and has had trouble hitting the jumper.

Both Garrett and Petersen will run the point Garrett is silky smooth with an unpredictable shot. Petersen is undersized with a nice shot. Clark is by far our best defender and is an aggressive rebounder. He has a decent shot at times from beyond the arc and will also throw down the occasional big time dunk. Brackins is the highest rated recruit to come to Ames since Marcus Fizer. Has a good outside shot and can face up down low, but needs work with his back to the basket. Gets easy rebounds, but not the tough ones. Fun to watch, but McDermott doesn't like to give him a ton of minutes.

Hubalek is coming off injury, and appears to be a lot closer to the guy that frustrated us his sophomore year than the guy that matched up against guys like Maric from Nebraska. Has the occasional urge to shoot the jump shot, which he usually misses. Incredibly frustrating guy to watch. Off the bench, the main guard sub will be Charles Boozer, younger brother of Carlos. He basically shoots a knuckleball but can catch fire. Really hard worker, but was also a redshirt candidate, so he still has flaws. Cory Johnson, Duluth native, is the backup at the forward position. Has a nice shot and will look to score, but is undersized. Max effort guy.

Alex Thompson (Iowa transfer) and Clayton Vette will be the big man subs. Alex Thompson makes me cringe every time he comes in, pretty much worthless. Vette has impressed me with his nose for the ball down low. Carries weight, but not quite tall enough. Overall, we are going to need big games from our big guys to win. We can't be depending on our backcourt for the scoring like we did at Bradley.

With the students gone for break, the homecourt advantage will be somewhat diminished too. Minnesota may have been bad last year, but I tend to think we're bad this year. Not having Wes hurts a ton, because it's losing a double-double from the shooting guard position. I expect Minnesota to win a close game, probably in the high 50s or low 60s. I can't get a proper read on this team right now, but I'm leaning more towards a team that will miss the NIT than one that will make it.

Blogpoll Week 12

So, I took some heat via email (OK, it was one email, but still) about placing Kansas #2 last week over teams like Oklahoma, Oregon or West Virginia. I suppose when the proprietor of the Blogpoll bashes Kansas and ranks them 10th, some blog readers might think a #2 ranking for Kansas is a bit high.

But, Kansas took care of business this week against Iowa State, while Oklahoma laid an egg. Going 10-0 isn't easy, especially during an era of increased parity in college football. I'll continue to give Kansas credit for getting those wins. And does no one remember the absolute drubbing the Jayhawks handed Nebraska? I realize this isn't your father's Nebraska, but still.

The Jayhawks will have a chance this week to prove their worth in a primetime affair with Missouri. Won't this be neat? Missouri vs. Kansas for a chance to stay in the national title hunt. We might not ever see this again.

While Kansas remains at #2, I believe we'll eventually see a LSU/West Virginia title game. I think the loser of Kansas-Missouri could well lose in the Big 12 title game, opening the door for someone. And West Virginia is in the best position to make that leap.

Let me know what you think. Agree with Kansas? Should Oregon drop six spots after losing largely because their star quarterback was out?

RankTeamDelta
1LSU--
2Kansas--
3Missouri 2
4West Virginia 2
5Ohio State 2
6Virginia Tech 3
7Georgia 1
8Arizona State 3
9Oregon 6
10Southern Cal--
11Oklahoma 7
12Boston College--
13Virginia--
14Illinois--
15Clemson--
16Florida 4
17Texas 1
18Hawaii 1
19Wisconsin--
20Tennessee 1
21Connecticut 4
22South Florida 2
23Boise State--
24Cincinnati 6
25Texas Tech 1



Dropped Out: Michigan (#22).

Links: Clint Brewster Grabs Headlines

With a 1-11 season now in the rear-view mirror, there has been plenty of Internet discussion on Tim Brewster's first year at Minnesota. In this assortment of linkage, I'll bring you a host of takes on Brewster (Tim and son Clint), Gophers football, Tubby's recruiting class compared to Kentucky's and our standard potshot at Dan Monson.

We'll start with the Tim Brewster discussion.

** In looking for a silver lining for the 2007 Minnesota football season, PiPress columnist Tom Powers takes a few typical shots at Brewster:

You're probably wondering what good came out of all this. Where is the silver lining? After all, the team went 1-11 after the coach had visions of Rose Bowls dancing in people's heads. So you're rehashing Year 1 of the Brewster regime in search of that elusive bright spot.

Exactly.

People are thinking about Gopher football. They are talking about Gopher football. Maybe what they're saying is: "That Tim Brewster is an idiot." Nevertheless, the program is on their minds. And that's tangible progress in what had become a sea of apathy.

And ...

Some of the more jaded will insist they won't allow themselves to be suckered in by the hype again. They'll give 10 reasons why they're done with the Gophers. Then they'll give 10 more. And if no one interrupts, they'll keep talking nonstop about the disappointing season. Talking about Gopher football. Discussing Gopher football. All this, even as they are gritting their teeth.

So folks will keep on eye on Brewster's recruiting. After all, he says he's really good at it. Let's see if he is for real.

"I'm so driven to make us great again," he said.

And when they tee it up to kick off the 2008 season, everybody will be watching. How can that be terrible
?
** We all have come to learn that Tim Brewster likes to talk. But I didn't learn until now that his son picked up the jabbering gene. A couple media reports indicate Clint Brewster had a little post-game altercation with Wisconsin's kicker. The STrib's report can be found here. Meanwhile Sunday Morning Quarterback and Badgercentric take the younger Brewster to task for his role in the spat. Here's a pull-quote from the STrib.

Wisconsin kicker Taylor Mehlhaff also accused Gophers freshman quarterback Clint Brewster, son of the head coach, of jawing at him after the game.

"I just went over to say good game to their kicker and this kid, the coach's son, comes over and I don't want to say what he said, but he just said, 'You guys are terrible' and this and that, we're 1-10 and we should have beat you and this and that," Mehlhaff told Wisconsin reporters. "I'm just like, 'Wow.'

"I was giving their guys high-fives ... and telling them good game. I just couldn't believe anyone would come up and be like that. And then he said, 'How many kicks did you miss today?' That's pretty bold. I just said, 'I've got to go celebrate the axe.' "

According to team policy, Clint Brewster is not available for interviews until he plays in a game.

You know, we really have to hand it to these Brewesters. They really know how to grab a headline.

** In this Scout.com article, Tim Brewster remains "relentlessly optimstic."

** In this AP article hosted by The Sporting News, I acutally like the way Brewster comes off. He expresses discontent, yet remains positive about the team's youth. His quotes in this article strike me as honest and sincere. That-a-boy, Timmy. The AP writer leads with a fact lost at times by many pundits--including myself--that his tenure started off with a public relations disaster that was completely out of his control. Think Videophone Sex Gate.

** Tim Brewster's team-worst 1-11 record also wasn't lost on Denver Post writer Terry Frei. But in this column, Frei makes a solid argument for why Minnesota fans should give Brewster at minimum 5 years. I agree, but as I've said before, Brewster needs to deliver on his recruiting promises and show growth in the coming years as our general on the sidelines.

OK, now on to other matters. ...

** It took overtime against Idaho State, but Dan Monson now has his first victory of the season.

** I've been waiting for an opportunity to bring your attention to a new Minnesota Gophers blogger. From The Barn , as the name would suggest, concentrates on the happenings inside Williams Arena. The blog is still young, but off to a very nice start. Here is the blog's latest post, in which the writer calls the Minnesota-Iowa State game tomorrow "the most important game since the Gopher’s NIT loss to Cincinnati a few years back."

** There were a few links to choose from for this final topic. But some Kentucky fans find it unfathomable that Tubby Smith's first recruiting class at Minnesota could even be discussed in the same breath as Billy Clyde's first class at Kentucky. The fact that Kentucky fans are even discussing this should be considered great news for Minnesota basketball fans. Ski-U-Mah!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

For The Record

As some of you might now, Tom at Gopher Nation has been diligent this season in keeping track of all the football picks made by members of the Big Ten bloggers group. I bring this up not because I'm winning this esteemed contest. I'm not. I rode the Tim Brewster bandwagon to far too many losses earlier in the season.

Still mathematically alive in the contest, I made the following selections this week. Here's the email I sent to the group.


Ohio State over Michigan
PSU over MSU
Indiana over Purdue
Minnesota over Wisconsin (Timmy Brewster gets his first conference win!!!)
Illinois over NW
Iowa over WMich

Whew.

PJS
I bring this to your attention because the Gophers are one half away from pulling the upset against Wisconsin and, I imagine some of you who insist I'm too hard on Tim Brewster would have never believed I made this call.

I will say I was impressed with this: Mike Dunbar came out in the first quarter, already down 3-0, and decided to run the football. The Gophers marched down the field--keeping our inept defense on the sidelines--and tied the score. I hope to see more as the second half goes on, and maybe, just maybe, Brewster will have the Gophers crawling back into the locker room with an axe on their backs!

** 4th Quarter/Harold Howell Update: The Gophers offense did the job it had to do, marching down the field. Ernie Wheelright came out of his shell. Adam Weber was throwing with confidence. Then, the defense came up with three stops. The Gophers were going to be in a position to drive the field for a game-tying store with the axe on the line. But it wasn't to be. Harold Howell, who has made me cringe all season, looked like an 8th grader on an attempted punt return, muffed the catch, and gave the Badgers the ball in the redzone with about 5 minutes left. The Badgers, of course, quickly converted for 7.

Brewster had paid a big price this season as he's played kids like Weber, Howell and basically an entire secondary filled with underclassmen. In this instance, it would have been wise for Brewster to put a veteran out on the field for that punt return like Eric Decker. This has been an entertaining game. And I'm sorry to see the Badgers take control late after a boneheaded play by Brewster's prize recruit Harold Howell.

Brewster Has 'Earned' Skepticism

The Star Tribune's Patrick Reusse writes today that Tim Brewster has "earned" skepticism from Minnesota fans. Reusse is completely right. I shook my head in agreement when I read Reusse's column this morning.

The following quotes that Reusse provided brought two things to mind: Brewster has been a terrible game-day coach and that he has done himself an incredible disservice by running his mouth at every given opportunity.

When introduced as the new coach in mid-January, Brewster offered this prognosis for his first season:

"Our expectation is to win a Big Ten Championship now. We're not interested in any rebuilding process. I'm very fortunate that I'm not coming into a situation that is decimated where there are no players. There are players here.

" ... We're in a little different situation here than it is at most places that are going through the hiring process. I'm very excited that it's not a complete rebuilding process."

No one knew what to expect from Brewster as a game-day coach. We all know he had never been a head man or coordinator anywhere other than the high school level. During his initial season as Minnesota's head man, Brewster has consistently not had his players ready with a solid game plan heading into games. And recently it has seemed the players have mailed in their performances--the Iowa loss seemed a little better in this regard.

I assume Joel Maturi is going to give Brewster time to right this ship. Afterall, Brewster's only claim to fame when hired was that he could recruit. So far, according to the recruiting services, Brewster has excelled in this department.

But if Brewster really meant what he said above, that he was coming into a situation where he could win immediately, Minnesota fans must question his ability to scout talent. And most importantly, we must wonder if Brewster has the coaching acumen to win with whatever level of talent he can put on the field.

Today marks the first time in recent years that the Wisconsin-Minnesota game has meant little or nothing. In the Glen Mason years, the Gophers at least were playing for a bowl game, or to move up a notch in the middle of the Big Ten standings. That alone proves Reusse's point: We should be skeptical of this coach.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

To Open Their New Stadium, The Gophers Will Face ..

Nebraska? No. Notre Dame? Nope. North Dakota State? We want to win the first game at TCF Bank Stadium, don't we?

While Tim Brewster has talked a lot about improving the Minnesota schedule, and rightfully so, the Gophers will face Air Force to open TCF Bank Stadium in the second game of the 2009 season. I'm not going to complain about this because opening against Air Force brings a little charm along with it. As was mentioned at the Star Tribune's Gophers blog in a post by Chip Scoggins, the Air Force tilt will likely provide for a kick-ass flyover to begin a new, outdoor era in Minnesota football.

And while it would have been nice to open the new stadium against Notre Dame or Nebraska, or someone with a higher profile, the Gophers could have done worse than Air Force. I'm thinking Florida Atlantic, the University of Minnesota-Duluth, etc.

What are your thoughts? Who would you like to have seen open the new stadium?

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Links: Brewster Getting Blasted From All Corners

If you're anything like me, by mid-afternoon on workdays you've already read every one of your favorite Web sites at least once and are clamoring for something else of interest. With that in mind, I bring you the following items that mostly relate to how Tim Brewster is now on the losing side of the public relations battle.

** CBS Sportsline took a potshot at Tim Brewster this week by first quoting the quoteable coach saying this: "I asked them in the locker room after the game, 'Who feels like they've been stuck in the gut with a searing knife?' Brewster said after a 21-16 loss to Iowa. "Everybody did, and I said that's good. That means we've got a chance."

Then, senior writer Dennis Dodd delivers the ultimate low-blow. "The Gophers are 1-10.
Big Ten coach of the year? Glen Mason. Somehow he got this bunch to seven bowl games in 10 years. Only one problem. Mason currently is working as an analyst for the Big Ten Network."


Ouch.

** It wasn't such a good start at Long Beach State for Dan Monson. He now has a 49er cheerleader on her blog suggesting "I don't think it can really get much worse." In a related post on my favorite LBSU blog, cheerleader Courtney tells us what it takes to become a "Monson Maniac." In case you missed it, Monson's new team was throttled by BYU 74-34. During a postgame interview Monson said he "wasn't concerned" with where the team is at. Shooting 19 percent from the field probably didn't worry Danny either. I'm wondering, did Minnesota cheerleaders ever bash Monson?

** The blogger from "Heading In Another Direction" uses this post to state they were "completely suckered, bamboozled and taken in by Tim Brewster." Later, the blogger calls Brewster a "snake-oil salesman." I offer this up to you without comment!

** The Star Tribune's blog titled "Yesterday's News," had an amusing tidbit about Gophers football. Here's a taste:

University of Minnesota football coach Tim Brewster needs only 135 more victories to match the school record set by Dr. Henry L. Williams, who coached the Gophers from 1900 to 1921. Gophers football was a big deal back in the day. And coaches had to do more than diagram plays, give pep talks, shill for car dealers and talk to Sid Hartman. Dr. Williams frequently tended to his players’ injuries and, in one case, performed surgery on one of his stars. The New York Times reports:
Check out the link above to see pictures of Williams tending to his player's injuries. I imagine Brewster has time on Saturday's to pick up the slack for the trainers. He doesn't call plays and all I ever see him dong is walking aroud with what looks like a tiny index card in his hand. What is that card anyway?

** And finally ........... a new blog I've hesitated to bring attention to.

Clearly everyone can tell I've been frustrated by some of the things Tim Brewster has said. But, I haven't yet gone so far to call for his dismissal, like the relatively new blog Fire Tim Brewster does. I just found this site a few days ago and I am somewhat surprised that someone would be calling for Brewster's head after one season. I previously suggested that University of Minnesota football fans need to grade Brewster on his recruiting, which so far he has excelled at. If he can't put the pieces on the field to win with the spread offense--which he is dead set on installing--then a year or two from now I'll jump on the Fire Tim Brewster bandwagon.

But now? It's way too early for that, in my opinion. I hope Brewster is humbled by his first year as a head man, tones down his rhetoric and finds a renewed energy to recruit and hopefully win some football games. This will be Minnesota's worst season in history. If that doesn't humble Mr. Brewster, I'm not sure what will.

Blogpoll Week 11

RankTeamDelta
1LSU 25
2Kansas 24
3Oregon 23
4Oklahoma 22
5Missouri 21
6West Virginia 20
7Ohio State 19
8Georgia 18
9Virginia Tech 17
10Southern Cal 16
11Arizona State 15
12Boston College 14
13Virginia 13
14Illinois 12
15Clemson 11
16Texas 10
17Hawaii 9
18Cincinnati 8
19Wisconsin 7
20Florida 6
21Tennessee 5
22Michigan 4
23Boise State 3
24South Florida 2
25Connecticut 1

Dropped Out:



I missed last week's poll, so that's why the Delta isn't showing.

Thoughts:

** I know some have made arguments that Kansas hasn't played anyone, so they shouldn't be in the very upper echelon of the rankings. I don't buy it. If Nebraska, Colorado or Oklahoma had an unblemished mark through 10 games in the Big 12, they'd be the consensus #1 team in the country right now. Kansas gets the nod at #2 and will have a chance to prove their worth in two weeks when they host Missouri.

** I don't think there is any argument that LSU is probably the most talented team in the coutnry, so they take the #1 spot after Ohio State's meltdown against Illinois.

** Golden Gophers are ranked dead last, in case you were wondering about my entire ballot.