Thursday, November 22, 2007

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.


From The Barn said...

A trap game! I love it! You can't have a trap game without the expectation of an easy win, and last year at least, it was hard not to expect a loss. I feel like I am 15 all over again, road wins, good recruiting classes, a competent if only the barn could be loud again.