Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Terps End Minnesota's Season

Tubby Smith's first season as Minnesota head man came to a close Tuesday night in very anti-climatic fashion. The athletically superior Maryland Terrapins took control in the second half and cruised to a first round NIT victory.

The final game ended with three senior leaders watching from the bench. Lawrence McKenzie played just for a minute or two during the second half due to a bum foot. Dan Coleman went scoreless in his finale as a Gopher, again besieged by foul trouble and an inability to provide offense against athletic foes. And Spencer Tollackson couldn't stand to watch the final seconds, his head lowered as his college basketball career slipped away.

For whatever reason ESPN was going in and out last night on my DirecTV satellite, so I'm not going to break down the loss. Fact is, however, this team might have overachieved this season. One year ago the Gophers were 9-22, without a coach and with talent that many of us thought would be susceptible to a team like Winona State.

Unlike the situation at Michigan, this wasn't a complete throw-away season. The Gophers competed. We saw drastic improvement on defense and a 180 degree change in attitude. Instead of refusing to apply defensive pressure because of concerns about a lack of talent, Tubby Smith turned the Gophers into a team known for its defense.

Fact is, Tubby Smith got so much more out of this crew than Dan Monson did, it should serve as a reminder as to why many of us wanted Monson out. Damian Johnson, once considered a bust even by me, was flying around Williams Arena last night. I can't wait to watch his progression over the next two seasons.

Over the course of the next few months, I'm going to look ahead to next season. But before I do that, I'm going to put together a short series on the season that was. I'll look at the careers of the three departing seniors, the change in attitude surrounding the program and Tubby Smith's impact and style.

Until then, feel free to provide your post-mortem on the season below.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

RIP

Hoopraker said...

Tough to loss to an ACC team but Maryland simply had more firepower than Minny last night. After watching him in Indy over the weekend, you're on the money with Johnson. He's one Gopher that you could see developing game by game. His defensive effort is a joy to watch and he's becoming threat on offense. If he fine tunes that jumper, his ceiling is cathedral-like.

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PJS said...

Even more than the jumper I'd like to see Johnson develop an interior game. He showed some signs against Indiana (I recall a nice pivot away from DJ White at one point for a short jumper).

Johnson certainly excelled under Tubby's ball pressure system. He flies aroudn, throws his body on the floor, and has some talent to go with that hustle. He was defintley Minny's most improved player this season.

The Sports Guy said...

Wow, look at all of the injuries last night:
http://www.startribune.com/blogs/gophers/

How Tubby won 20 games with this group is amazing. I didn't really realize this until last night. Travis Busch? JAS? Kevin Payton?

Congrats to the team, staff and especially the seniors for a fun season.

BTW, PJS' fave player (Payton) had two turnovers down the stretch on back-to-back plays and I thought about you. I screamed - LEAVE!

alex said...

A 20 win season with the talent we had was impressive, despite the weak non-conference schedule. I can't wait for next year, and can't wait to see Ralph Sampson III, Devoe Joseph and company wearing the maroon and gold.

On a different note, anyone else find the moment hilarious when Tubby began clapping above his head after the refs finally called a foul on Maryland? He seemed to be pretty pissed off at the refs, and I don't really blame him. A 31 to 9 free throw advantage for one team is ridiculous, and basically kept the Terps in the game in the first half.

Friend Of Tubby said...

11 W better than last season.

How does that rank in terms of improved W totals over 2007?

Pretty high, I'd guess.

PJS said...

I love Payton, sports guy, what on Earth are you talking about?!?

Alex, yes, that moment was quite funny. Tubby looked awfully perturbed. However, MD was the aggressor, so it was hard for me to blame the zebras.

FOT, I belive I saw reported somewhere that the 9 win increase was the second best in the country--it was at least top 5--as of last weekend.

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