The Golden Gophers men’s basketball team lost for the fifth time in a row. Granted, it was a loss to an up and coming Hoosier squad. However, it was both the nature of the defeat and what happened after game, nearly 800 miles away, that made this loss a bit more painful.
This year’s Gophers team has been ravaged by injuries and, a team that was initially forecast to break through and challenge the upper echelon of the Big 10, has struggled to get out of the basement. Certainly, the injury to All-Big 10 forward, Trevor Imbakwe has had a lot do with that fall. Although, that said, most teams in college basketball are going to get hit by the injury bug at some point in the season. It is a true measure of a team whether it can weather the loss of those players.
The point should also be made, and has been in space, that the loss of super-recruit Royce White has hurt this team’s ability to battle through that particularly key injury. However, as much as Royce’s defection hurt, perhaps a more troubling trend was exemplified by something that happened after the Hoosiers were finished whupping the Gophers.
Bo Ryan’s Badgers squad was hanging tough with the #5 ranked Ohio State Buckeyes. Although, at this point, we ought to consider re-labeling the Badgers the Golden Gopher East squad. 3 of the 5 starters on the floor for that squad are native Minnesotans. That is right, senior leader and All-Big 10 PG, Jordan Taylor, glue guy Mike Brusewitz, and do-it-all forward Jared Berggren all are from Minnesota.
Today, it was Taylor and Berggren that carried the day for the Golden Gopher East squad. Taylor made a couple big shots down the stretch and played relentless defense on super-sophomore, Aaron Craft. He also assisted on Berggren’s big 3 with less than a minute to play. And Berggren iced the victory with two huge free throws. It was a team victory. No doubt. Unfortunately, that “team” is made up of players from west of the St. Croix. And, as a fan of the Golden Gopher West squad, that stings.
Golden Gophers Head Coach Tubby Smith has taken a lot of flak this year for a wide-variety of reasons. One thing that has not been talked about is his inability to close down the border. This failing is even more apparent because of the success that the Golden Gopher East squad is achieving. They are now near the top of the Big 10, and are almost assured of another solid seed in this year’s tournament.
In a season filled with a laundry list of what-ifs, imagine if Tubby, upon his arrival to Minnesota, had closed the border as effectively as Coach Kill. Imbakwe’s injury would not have hurt nearly as much because team leader, PG, Taylor would not let the squad fall apart. Berggren could step in and pick up the scoring slack, while Brusewitz is the perfect rebounding/defensive engine for any winning team.
There is a decent chance that, at the end of this year, Tubby will be asked to retire from his position as the head basketball coach. If he does keep his job, one way to be sure that he keeps that job for a while, is to make sure the home grown talent stays at home. Otherwise, if Gophers fans are forced to watch as another Golden Gopher East squad makes a run in the NCAA Tournament, you can be sure Tubby might be watching them like the rest of us, as a fan on his favorite couch.