Sunday, November 11, 2007

Thoughts On The Army Win

It didn't take long for Tubby Smith to equal the number of wins compiled by that other new University of Minnesota coach. And Smith did so in impressive fashion. When you can beat anybody, even if it's Army, by about 30 points when your best scorer doesn't even score five points ... then you've done something right.

I'm not going to go too crazy about this win. The fact is the beginning of the non-conference schedule will tell us a lot. Two of the next three games will be tough for the Gophers, as Tubby's crew travels to Iowa State and Florida State. But, for now, I'll cover the good and the bad from Saturday.


Damian Johnson: And I'm not talking about his career-high in points. That's nice, don't get me wrong. But Johnson impressed first when he subbed into the game early in the first half. He flew across the court to grab a rebound, and on a many later possessions, Johnson made his prescense felt on defense by using his long frame to impact shots. He also looked much quicker than I expected. Some of that could have been the competition, but it also could be I sold him short. If Johnson can contribute like this all season, we'll all be happy Gopher fans.

Blake Hoffarber's release: If there was one thing I worried about for the ESPY winner it was whether or not his shot release would translate to a faster game at the college level. I wasn't pleased with all of the decisions Hoffarber made against Army, but he seemed able to pull the trigger on his shot fast enough to get it off. He'll improve in the other areas.

Team Defense: It was nice to see the Gophers press a little bit, wasn't it? It was also nice to see our guards apply pressure to the ball. The lads forced 25 turnovers, held the Black Knights to around 35 percent from the floor.

Weight: Is it just me or is Spencer Tollackson in the best shape of his career? Jon Williams looked pretty thinned out too.

Running The Floor: If the Gophers have primarily three scorers, then they'll need to get every cheap hoop they can. The big guys ran the floor well yesterday, and I thought I was seeing the Gophers try to execute a secondary fast-break. These are all good signs for an offense that struggled to put up 50 last year.


Williams Arena Fans: I missed about 5 to 10 minutes of the second half and got back to my computer with about 5 minutes to play. The game was well in hand, but Spencer Tollackson, Lawrence McKenzie and others were still in the game. Meanwhile, the seats behind Tubby Smith were empty. Not everyone left of course, but from my vantage point, and granted I wasn't there, it looked like half the Barn empty by the time the final whistle sounded. I understood lackadasical fans during the forgetful Monson era. But c'mon everyone, this is the first game of the Tubby Smith era and we should cheer them on in victory for 40 full minutes.

Lawrence McKenzie's Offense: I'm putting this here because it's true. But that doesn't mean I believe it will be a long-term issue. McKenzie is a proven scorer who was likely just cold yesterday. Gopher fans shouldn't worry about McKenzie.

Shot Selection: This isn't a huge concern either, but, please, Jonathan Williams, don't try and shoot from 15-feet plus in the future. You're a banger, buddy, and need to throw your weight around. We don't need you taking jumpers from beyond the free throw line.

*** I was thoroughly impressed overall with the first win of the season and it looked, at least for one game, some afterthoughts during the Monson era--Williams and Johnson come to mind--can be contributors in Smith's first season. I think the offensive improvement was clear and the defensive tenacity was present. One down, 17 to go to get to my prediction of 18 wins!


Not David Derush said...

empty seats=losing season

From the Barn said...

The average fan doesn't have much reason to get excited yet. If the Gopher roll through the preseason like they should, the barn will be rocking (though not the way it once did) during the Big 10 season. Even during the Clem Era the barn was sorta dead during early games against horrible teams.

PJS said...

It's true, from the barn, but I don't have to like it. A buddy of mine was there and he called to report today after he read this that he left with about 7 minutes left because the game was out of hand.

Alex said...

As someone who was in the student section for this game, I can assure you that the students were loud for all 40 minutes, including multiple strong "We want Joseph" chants.

I can't vouch for the other sections though, they didn't look that empty though (especially when compared to times last year).

As for Jonathon Williams, yeah, he shouldn't have been shooting the shot from the top of the key, but that was near the end of the game when we already had it well in hand. I'm not too concerned about it, especially since the team took fine shots for the rest of the game.

PJS said...

I agree with all your points, Alex. The commentators on were talking about the "Tubby Stare" all game long. After Williams' brick, they said Tubby was looking quizically at his assistants.

And I used to be a member of that student's section. The audience shots I saw were of the sidelines behind Tubby. It won't be a big deal if this team keeps winning, it just irked me because I would have done just about anything to be at the first game of the Tubby era.

From The Barn said...

Judging by the glare alone, Tubby has lost all confidence in Kevin Payton.

Alex said...

Less Kevin Payton is good, the man is a turnover machine. Meanwhile, Al Nolen looks like he's going to be a hell of a player, especially if he can keep improving his offense. I'd much rather see Nolen than Payton on the court.

Anonymous said...

20+ W for Minnesota this season.