Monday, March 17, 2008

Gophers Draw Terrapins In NIT Opener

PJS Note: Before we delve into the National Invitation Tournament, I want to direct your attention to Down with Goldy, the sarcastic Gophers blogger. DWG is hosting a NCAA Tournament bracket challenge, replete with prizes, or so at least that is alleged. I was going to host one myself, but seeing no reason to double-dip, I instead encourage joining DWG's bracket challenge. Your favorite Minnesota bloggers--Gopher Nation, DWG, PJS, From the Barn, and various readers--have at least been invited to participate. Hopefully you'll join the fun.

Now, on to the NIT!

The Gophers have been given a 4-seed in the NIT and will host Maryland Tuesday night at 9:30 eastern time. Should the Gophers survive they most likely will face Syracuse.

Typically I'm uninterested in the NIT, but the great coaches just in this portion of the NIT bracket provide some interesting story lines. Tubby Smith versus Gary Williams, two coaches with large bling on their fingers meet in Minneapolis. And one of those coaches will likely face Jim Boeheim in the second round. Those three could just as easily be in the Final Four together.

In various reports, Tubby Smith made a case for why the Gophers should be in the big boys tournament. He said, in part, the Gophers were playing their best basketball at the end of the season. Tubby had to make these statements, but that doesn't mean the Gophers deserved an NCAA bid. They didn't. In fact, if it weren't for a cream-puff filled non-conference schedule, the Gophers wouldn't be in the NIT either.

Minnesota's only signature win of the year came last week via the Hoffarber Miracle. Glorious as it was, that simply wasn't enough for a team that went 8-10 in conference play and lost to Illinois three times.

In Maryland, the Gophers face a team that can actually beat Illinois (the Terps beat the Illini 69-61 in November). But the Terps have fallen flat down the homestretch, losing six of their final eight games, with lone wins coming against Florida State and Wake Forest.

And while Minnesota is the home team, I feel Maryland is the favorite. The Terrapins competed in a more athletic and deeper league in the ACC. The Terrapins aren't a great shooting team, in fact they are at or near the bottom of the ACC in many shooting categories. They have some quality guards in sophomore Greivis Vasquez (who leads the Terps in scoring) and sophomore Eric Hayes. Senior forward James Gist, a 6'9 235 pound big man, gives the Terps an inside presence.

The Terps were an average ACC team. The Gophers were an average, to below average Big 10 team. I give the advantage to the ACC team.

That said, I'm going to watch the Gophers' offense closely. Some of us in the blogosphere have begun to look warily at the offensive sets the Gophers are running. We've begun to question Minnesota's inability to get quality looks coming out of timeouts. We can write some of this off to a lack of talent and athleticism, but I'll be paying close attention to whether or not there is any indication of cohesiveness on offense.

Finally, I'm really going to watch Damian Johnson and Lawrence Westbrook. These two players have the defensive ability to shut down an opponents top threat. But they also need to look to take over games offensively. I'd like to see Johnson be aggressive in the post and Westbrook to pick and choose his opportunities wisely. Westbrook needs to stay under control, yet attack when the opportunity is right. That's a tough middle ground.

For the faithful at The Barn, this is one last chance to watch Dan Coleman, Lawrence McKenzie and Spencer Tollackson. Talent-wise, they might not be missed. But all three would seem to have represented the U well.

Prediction: Maryland beat North Carolina, the NCAA's #1 overall seed. A win against Maryland would surely indicate the Gophers are the best team in college basketball. I don't think that's the case. Pick: Terps 78, Minnesota 62.


snyde043 said...

I'm wary of the Terps also.

My recall of Gary Williams' teams is that they play very physical and I don't see the Gophers matching up well with that.

Friend Of Tubby said...

Gophers by 1.

Hoffarber does it again (somehow).

Anonymous said...

A matchup with Syracuse is likely the setup for the worse Gopher loss of the season. They will overpower you. I hope it happens.

WWWWWW said...

Thanks for the advertisement. Hopefully we get a lot of signups. There really are prizes.

Note: Things found in my closet or basement still count as prizes.

alex said...

I signed up for the DWG pool... why not. I'll end up in last place though :p

PJS said...

Wow, anon, sounds like you are very anti-Minnesota. Thanks for your comment! And while I'll admit that Syracuse is likely the more talented team, it shouldn't be overlooked that different teams bring different mindsets into the NIT. Some teams see it as a reward and others see it as a personal insult.

whogoofed said...

I think Minnesota's offensive woes are more talent issues than Tubby's schemes. I will defer judgement until next year. Actually, Considering they have no post or inside scoring option I thought they did extremely well to get to the semi's in the big ten.

Friend Of Tubby said...

The #1 thing I learned about the Gophers this season is how limited their talent was on 2008 roster.

More talent, less experience in 2009.

Anonymous said...

Welcome to Tubbyball, Gopher nation! Get ready for 10 more years of this. :D

Go Cats!

WWWWWW said...

FOT - come join the DWG bracket. Win fabulous prizes.

PJS said...

anon, seem a little angry still. Your one reason why most college basketball fans and pundits was happy for Tubby Smith that he got out of an unseemly situation. Show some class.

Also, I'd just point out that the Gophers were 9-22 last season and with the same guys won 20 games this season. I'd suggest Tubby had quite a nice impact.

Enjoy your 11 seed and your classless coach (Gillispie ordering Stevenson to block that free throw was beyond classless).

Friend Of Tubby said...

No, thanks.

Friend Of Tubby said...

Anon - the last 15 years of Tubby ball have produced 375 W (25 W per season) at Tulsa, Georgia, Kentucky, and Minnesota. Only 3 cocahes have more in that timeframe - K, Roy Williams, Calhoun.

9 Sweet 16 appearances in those 15 years - only 1 coach (K) has more but Roy Williams and Calhoun also have 9.

Only 3 coaches have more NCAA W (Tubby has 29) in that timeframe - K, Roy Williams, and Calhoun.

Tubby is African-American but I'm guessing U already knew that...

PJS said...

Hey now, let's not go play the race card first with seemingly hateful UK fans.

Friend Of Tubby said...

Stating facts, PJS, just the facts.

It's either Pure Ignorance, Racism, or some of both.

Anonymous said...

Hey pjs...

The last I checked, that 11 seed still trumps the hell out of the
N.ot I.n T.ournament. :)

Tubby is a fine coach, statitically...just not passionate enough for U.K. standards. That bug-eyed stare doesn't win games, or motivate players. Billy G. did more with the kids Tubby ran off and left, than Tubby EVER COULD. He made men out of Bradley and Crawford...who both floundered under Tubby.

Friend Of Tubby said...

Tubby was 22-12 and 22-13 with those same kids (winning 1 NCAA game each year) in 2006 and 2007.

Gillispie was 18-13 (losing 1st round NCAA game) with them.

Crawford and Bradley got better every year. Their senior year numbers were a bit better than their junior year numbers but they both played more minutes as seniors.

Doing more how???

Anonymous said...

@ friend of Tubby...

Tubby also went 9-7 in SEC in both those years. Billy G. had a rough start, and yet managed to pull the team together and finish 12-4 in SEC.

Sure, both coaches were new to their respective schools/players, but Billy G. had the MUCH tougher task. Tubby dumped his team...plain and simple; he didn't even hold a team meeting to explain things. The psychological effects of that ALONE were a huge obstacle for Gillispie...let alone having to gain the player's trust, and teach a new system, in such short order.
Tubby walked into a situation where there were ZERO expectations, and players eager for a new coach, and new outlook.

I laugh at people who cling to Tubby, and cry for him. The man was the highest paid coach in college basketball, at the highest profile program...and had done nothing but underachieve in the last 5 years. And anyone who gives him credit for the '98 Champ., is a fool. Anyone with half a brain knows those were Pitino's kids, with Pitino's coaching still in them. They'd been to 2 straight title games prior to Tubby arriving; they knew what it took to win. Fact is, the previous 2 teams were dominant; Tubby's had to be labeled "The Comeback Cats", because of his inability to teach offensive fundamentals. Tubby's teams couldn't shoot, couldn't hit FT's, couldn't set a screen to save their lives. Not to mention, Tubby's historical inability to create a scoring play out of a timeout...particularly with time running out. The last several years, I got so sick of seeing UK guards just dribble the clock away, only to get a TO or throw up a wild shot. That's Tubbyball, in a nutshell...and I'm happy to see it gone.

Anonymous said...

BTW, in reference to "racist" thing...grow up. If someone is racist, they wouldn't/couldn't watch sports...PERIOD. 90% of college/pro athletes are non-caucasian...and I for one am fine with that. In fact, prior to Gillispie being hired (and still, considering his nomadic ways) I wanted to see Jamal Mashburn as a candidate (The man has a HUGE b-ball IQ, is being wasted at ESPN), or at least as an assistant, with John Pelphrey as HC. Reggie Hanson would have been my second choice, but I'm not sure he's really interested in coaching.

Friend Of Tubby said...

No one cries for Tubby. Most are HAPPY FOR HIM.

Racism is clearly part of why UK fans didn't like Tubby but IGNORANCE is a bigger part, no doubt.

Tubby AVERAGED 12-4 over 10 years of SEC play. He was 20-5 (80%) in SECT games at UK.

The players ON THE 1998 TEAM say it was Tubby's coaching that won NC for them. He is the only UK coach to beat Duke in 30 years.

And INDEED you are racist, Anon. No doubt about it. In fact, I'm quite sure U R Mark Sanatangelo, Katman 2000, the ultimate bigot.

Friend Of Tubby said...

Career highlights
Overall 407-159 (72%)

NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Championship (1998)

SEC Tournament (1998, 1999, 2001, 2003, 2004)

Missouri Valley Conference Coach of the Year (1994, 1995)

SEC Coach of the Year (1998, 2003, 2005)

Jim Phelan Coach of the Year (2005)

Henry Iba Award (2003)

Naismith College Coach of the Year (2003)

AND you forget THESE years below:
Kentucky Wildcats (Southeastern Conference) (1997 — 2007)
1997-1998 Kentucky 35-4 14-2 1st NCAA Champions
1998-1999 Kentucky 28-9 11-5 3rd NCAA Elite 8
1999-2000 Kentucky 23-10 12-4 T-1st NCAA Round 2
2000–2001 Kentucky 24-10 12-4 T-1st NCAA Sweet 16
2001–2002 Kentucky 22-10 10-6 T-2nd NCAA Sweet 16
2002–2003 Kentucky 32-4 16-0 1st NCAA Elite 8
2003–2004 Kentucky 27-5 13-3 2nd NCAA Round 2
2004–2005 Kentucky 28-6 14-2 1st NCAA Elite 8

1993–1994 Tulsa 23-8 15-3 1st NCAA Sweet 16
1994–1995 Tulsa 24-8 15-3 1st NCAA Sweet 16

Georgia Bulldogs (Southeastern Conference) (1995 — 1997)
1995-1996 Georgia 21-10 9-7 T-3rd NCAA Sweet 16
1996-1997 Georgia 24-9 10-6 4th NCAA Round 1

Anonymous said...

friend of Tubby...

You are a moron. To continue to wield the race card like it's the be-all-end-all of such a debate, is proof of your ignorance. I'm not wasting another response on you, because I now realize what a pathetic waste of time...and really are. If you're so convinced that others are racist, in spite of the facts...or lack thereof...then YOU are the bigot. After all, bigotry, at it's core, is the passing of judgement on a person, or group of people, based on pre(mis)conceptions rather than rational reasons. Enjoy your Tubbyball, loser.

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