Category Archives: Badgers v. Gophers

Gophers Hockey: Primed for Pittsburgh

It’s a good time to be a Gophers hockey fan. The women just completed an undefeated season, capped by a national championship. The men look to duplicate the national championship when the tournament starts tomorrow.

The Gophers received the no. 2 overall seed in the tournament. And their “reward” is a bracket with the North Dakota Sio… North Dakota Wioux, who are ranked 7th in the country. So, unless my gorilla math is wrong, the Gophers clearly got jobbed. Yet another example of the NCAA hating on the WCHA since it housed all four spots in the 2005 Frozen Four. But, ironically enough, this potential second-round matchup against the hated Wioux may be exactly what this team needs. More on that later.

Before getting ahead of ourselves and thinking about the nicknameless, the Gophers face a pesky and brilliant Yale team. Yale is 15th in the country and isn’t to be taken lightly, having beaten both CC and Denver on the road. The Don will be sure to make note of this to make the squad doesn’t overlook the Bulldogs. And as Gopher fans know, you can never overlook the lower seeds after Holy Cross pulled off Miracle 2.0 (or so their announcer thought).

Still, the Gophers should be able to dispatch with Yale. Building off a Frozen Four run from last year, this Gophers squad is deeper and more talented. Most important to this success has been the emergence of freshman goalie, Adam Wilcox. Blessed with an unreal season from Kent Patterson last season, the Gophers have had no drop-off in production when they turned to the freshman. He simply has been great all season. In 38 games, he’s boasts a 92% save percentage and 1.85 goals against. As hockey fans know, its imperative to have hot goaltending to make a run. And the Gophers have that in Wilcox.

The Gophers otherwise have an embarrassment of riches in talent on the blue line and offensively. From Bjugstad and Rau, to Marshall and Schmidt, talent litters the roster from the first line on down. And now the fourth line has really started to come together, reminding some observers of the 2002-03 National Championship teams, where the fourth-line was gritty, hard-working, and, importantly, understood their roles. Every good team needs this.

But, to what’s important. The Gophers are just about as well-balanced as you could wish. They rank 1st in the country in scoring 3.51 goals per game. They house the nation’s top power play, converting on an absurd 25% of their chances. They’re third in the country in only giving up 1.97 goals per game. And, in what is almost disappointing compared to the other stats, the Gophers’ penalty kill ranks merely 7th in the country. Finally, the Don has the Gophers playing strong and disciplined, averaging only 9.05 penalty-minutes per game, good for second-best in the nation.

It’s this overall depth and balance that makes the Gophers what they were throughout the course of the season – the nation’s best team. Because of this, the Gophers should prevail tomorrow over Yale and face the Wioux in the regional final.

As always, the hated Wioux will be a physical game, requiring the Gophers to stay disciplined and let their overall talent take-over. The one elephant in the room for any Gopher fan is the Gophers inconsistency of late in back-to-back’s. The Gophers went from mid-January to the second-week of March without sweeping a series. And even in March, the Gophers swept Bemidji St. in an OT game and another one-goal game. In the one-and-done format, the Gophers cannot afford to be inconsistent.

Which brings me back to the start – facing the Wioux in the second round in a back-to-back setting may be exactly what this team needs. There is simply no way the Gophers won’t be fired up and mentally ready for a regional final game against the hated Wioux.

This Gophers team is primed, not only for a Frozen Four run, but also a run at their 6th national championship. The quest starts tomorrow. Ski-U-Mah!

Tweetbag – Gophers v. Gators Recap (Let the Fire Tubby Chants Begin…)

Welcome to a special Sunday edition of the Tweetbag!! Everyone wants to know if the Madness will continue for your Minnesota Golden Gophers.

As always, we are using your tweets, as they happen, to tell the game recap. Y’all are far more interesting.

Giddyup…

Even this Florida hoops squad --- the first --- might have outwitted Tubby's overmatched Gophers' squad.

Even this Florida hoops squad — the first — might have outwitted Tubby’s overmatched Gophers’ squad.

15:34 – Gophers 7 Gators 10

@AmeliaRayno – “Interesting lineup here as the #Gophers go zone on Florida.”

Interesting is one word Amelia?! Why does Tubby think he can play zone defense against a team that loves, and I mean LUUUUUUUUUVS to rip it from outside. Very questionable coaching decision. Roasio immediately punishes the Gophers with 2 3PTs to extend the lead to 16 to 10.

13:02 – Gophers 12 Gators 19

@daddycoolguy – “3 straight 3 point possessions = no good, you guys. #Gophers #Gators.”

First off, love the handle. Second, could not agree more. No good indeed. The Gophers offense looks like the offense from their 5-15 stretch to end the season, not the 15-1 stretch that they had to start the season and flashed on Friday evening against the Bruins.

Gophers started the game by isolating the Gator guards on the low block and taking advantage of their size and strength. Worked great. Hollinsanity both got open looks. However, they missed a couple of those looks and completely abandoned that plan. Need to get back to it.

Ben Wallace's jumper was so bad, teams would encourage the Pistons to pass him the ball 10+ feet from the hoop - Oto is entering the Wallace Zone. Ick.

Ben Wallace’s jumper was so bad, teams would hope the Pistons would pass him the ball. Oto is entering the Wallace Zone. Ick.

10:15 – Gophers 14 Gators 24

@Gopherapolis – “Why are we going so deep to our bench so early?! This is what infuriates me the most about Tubby. Oto should never leave the bench. #Gophers.”

Trust me, @Gopherapolis, it is not just you that is infuriated. Oto’s mom is angry at the amount of minutes he is getting for this team. He has never developed into the solid SG that he was represented to be when Tubby recruited him. The main reason for that is because he cannot shoot. He should get single digit minutes if that, only enough to spell either of the Hollins cousins.

What is worse, opposing teams know that and basically leave Oto alone like he is the second coming of Ben Wallace. Just no respect for his jump shot. And remember, he is supposed to a shooting guard.

7:54 – Gophers 15 Gators 30

@dip4516 – Lady who screams right before every #Gophers free throw: shut the hell up.”

I am not sure when this started, but it seems like this year’s tournament is the year of the “screaming like a maniac during the opposing team’s free throw.” Frankly, this has got to stop. I am not pushing a golf-like restriction on crowd noise, but we, as fans, need to use the gray matter between their ears. Call it a a common sense test. If everyone WATCHING ON THEIR TV is annoyed with the screaming, that is probably too much.

Oh, and Oto just air-balled a 15 footer. Again, this guy is  a shooting guard?!

4:24 – Gophers 18 Gators 37

@DustyTrunks – “You laugh at Oto now, but next year when he is starting, you will laugh even harder. #Gophers”

Okay, last one. I just could not resist.

3:42 – Gophers 21 Gators 39

@kskrigbaum – “At the moment Billy Donovan looks bored. #gophers”

Never good when the opposing coach is checking out and we are not even through the 1st half. Serious problems. Evidently he was only playing though, he just drew up a defense to thwart the Gophers side-inbounds play. No joke, Gophers could not execute a side-inbounds play.

More than anything this season, the Gophers inability to inbound the basketball is direct reflection of Tubby. I know the players need to make plays, but seriously?! An inbounds play?! You run these when you first decide to pick up a basketball. It is embarrassing that the Gophers struggle with this as much as they do.

Not sure if the Gophers are so frustrated with Tubby that they miss Clem, but we are getting close.

Not sure if the Gophers are so frustrated with Tubby that they miss Clem, but we are getting close.

3:12 – Gophers 25 Gators 39

@krewmom – “I hope they can pass the “wake up juice” to the #Gophers!”

Whoa, whoa, whoa @krewmom. We already are celebrating a Final Four that did not happen, thanks Clem, not sure we want to have to take down our “Round of 32” banner from this year because of PEDs.

All kidding aside, a little energy from someone not named Hollins would be nice. Though, at this point, even Tubby looks to have checked out of this game. Body language on the Gophers’ sideline looks like someone died. What was that, this team murdered its fan base’s hope and expectations for this year and potentially years to come…aaaahhhh…that explains it.

Half – Gophers 27 Gators 48

@GophersSports – “Back to Back National Champs! RT to congratulate @MNWomensHockey on winning the NCAA title! #Gophers”

And that is where we are ending the Tweetbag. That is right, the Gophers women’s hockey team clutched up and ran its winning streak to 49 games. Won its second national championship. Evidently the sports gods could only allow the U to succeed in one sport on this particular Sunday in March.

Sure, Dre Hollins made a run in the 2nd half. He quite literally made a game of it all by his onesy. However, aside from him, the rest of the team was lethargic. And when Dre was not on the floor — he got a 4th foul and Tubby obviously took him out — the lead quickly ballooned to 15+. This move is a perfect example of Tubby not knowing what to do. This was a not a regular season Big 10 game. It is survive and advance. Dre was the ONLY Gopher putting points in the basket. Trust the kid to play with 4 fouls.

Instead, it is another lackadaisical performance from the Gophers. As a result, Tubby will yet again come under fire. There is a decent chance that he gets his walking papers. A lot of Gophers fans would not complain if that happened. The good news is that Shaka’s VCU Rams lost too, so maybe his buddy Norwood will convince Shaka to jump ship. Or perhaps Andy Enfield, coach of the darling of this year’s tourney – Florida Gulf Coast University – is interested in graduating to the Big 10.

Worst case scenario, if Tubby does stick around, next year’s squad (and perhaps the year after) is not going to be good. Sure, Hollinsanity is going to be around, but our inside presence will be nonexistent. And, Tubby has not locked up either of the stud Minnesota recruits — Tyus Jones or Rashad Vaughn.

I was one of the fans who initially loved the Tubby signing, but the romance is over. There have been to many coaching deficiencies. The U needs a change of leadership. Hopefully, this drubbing at the hands of the Gators is enough to convince the U’s brain trust to move forward with that change.

 

Tweetbag: Gophers v. UCLA Recap

Here we go!! The Madness is about to begin for your Minnesota Golden Gophers.

As always, we are using your tweets, as they happen, to tell the game recap. Y’all are more interesting than the standard recap anywhoo.

Giddyup…

16:27: Gophers 2 UCLA 0

@Christopher_Stewart – “#gophers will beat #ucla 79-68.” 
We got a ways to go to hit that number. Yikes. Gophers 2-run HR (i.e. Hollins’s FTs) the difference in this one early. No flow for either team. UCLA’s Drew travels a sloppy foul from super-senior Trevor Mbakwe. Gophers have shown that, in games where the offense clicks, Rodney and Mbakwe get going early. Both teams are a combined 0-18 to start. Not. Good. 
The zebras in tonight's game were not close to good. We probably would have done better with actual zebras refereeing the game.

The zebras in tonight’s game were not close to good. We probably would have done better with actual zebras refereeing the game.

14:20 – Gophers 4 UCLA 2

@VitrualMurph – “Ok officials in Austin, we get it. You’re on the court too. #gophers”
No joke. UCLA already in the bonus!?!? Check that, double bonus. Hold on, triple bonus. Oh man, these refs are out of control. If the refs are going to call this like a UCLA Alumni Choir pick-up game, this bruising Big 10 squad is in trouble. Plus, and maybe most importantly, Gophers cannot win a race at the charity stripe.
11:42 – Gophers 9 UCLA 9
@ammarden – “Whistle whistle whistle. Basketball or train station? #ncaa #Gophers”
Love the old school reference. Wish it was not true though. This game is so disjointed. Neither team can get into a flow with all the whistles. Both teams are already in the bonus. Again, race at the charity stripe is not a race the Gophers want to be involved in. Gophers shoot 68% from the stripe. UCLA clocks in at nearly 73%.
10:59 – Gophers 12 UCLA 9
@FromTheBarn – “MOmentum!”
Great run from the big fella, Mo Walker. His 4 points off the bench currently account for a 1/3 of the team’s total. What is so infuriating about big Mo is that, if he lost 15 to 20 lbs, he could be a dominant big. Instead, all he has are moments or flashes of good plays. It is never sustained.
8:32 – Gophers 14 UCLA 13
@vikingsrube – “Free throw shooting is going to be the factor #Gophers”
Okay, now I am worried…Mbakwe just air balled the front end of a 1 and 1. Really. Not. Good.
E Squared's relationship with Dre could prove a promising one for Gophers' fans. Particularly if E Squared improves on the defensive end.

E Squared’s relationship with Dre could prove a promising one for Gophers’ fans. Particularly if E Squared improves on the defensive end.

5:24 – Gophers 26 UCLA 19

@andrewlacy52 – “Elliott playing well so far with four point. #Gophers”
Make it six Andrew!! E Squared cans a 20 footer off an Mbakwe double team and then lays in a pretty shot off a strong cut to the rim. The guy has been instant energy all season. He does have his deficiencies on the defensive end, but on offense he is solid.
If he can continue to improve on the defensive end. He actually might be able to replace Mbakwe next year down low. He does not have Mbkawe’s grittiness in the post, but he can definitely be a contributor on that end of the floor.
4:25 – Gophers 33 UCLA 19
@AmeliaRayno – “As a #Gophers beat writer, you learn not to assume to much from a 33-19 lead.”
We have our first Amelia sighting!! Welcome back to the Tweetbag Amelia. Though, what is up with the negativity. I mean, sure, the Gophers are shooting their highest percentage of the year. But, that does not means they are going to start missi…nevermind. You are right. Preparing myself for the worst.
1:32 – Gophers 35 UCLA 22
@goldandgopher – “Here we go. Mbakwe hits a jumper. #Gophers up 35–22. Shabazz has had no impact.”
Mbakwe shows a little versatility with a 15 foot jumper. Then, in true Gophers form, he misses another front end of a 1 and 1. Normally a very solid shooter at the stripe, he has now left 4 points there in the first half. Gophers need to tighten up the way the officials are calling this game. Also, need to buck the trend and start earning their scholarship at the stripe.
Half – Gophers 35 UCLA 25
@redma032 – “Up 10 at half, how are they going to blow this one? #gophers”
Amelia?? Is that you?? Are you ghost tweeting as @redma032??
In true Gophers fan fashion, no one is comfortable. No one knows how to react. In fact, I think if the score were flipped, Gophers fans would feel far more comfortable.
It is not like you can blame us. We have watched the tale of two teams act all season. The one blessing from this game is that at least the good half came first. This means the Gophers have a better chance of hanging on down the stretch.
Gophers need to continue feeding the bigs. Mbakwe, Eliason, and Walker accounted for  19 of the Gophers 35 points. We clearly have an advantage there. Plus, considering UCLA’s foul trouble, every shot should go right at the rim.
18:13 – Gophers 39 UCLA 27
@timegan2 – “RODNEY WILLIAMS!!!”
I appreciate the EMPHASIS Tim. Rodney flexes the potential by hammering home an offensive rebound. Gophers are pounding the rim and are relentless on the glass on both ends. Need to keep that up.
For Gophers fans who wanted to see Coach Saunders leading the maroon and gold, this performance against the Bruins may have assured Tubby's continued reign.

For Gophers fans who wanted to see Coach Saunders leading the maroon and gold, this performance against the Bruins may have assured Tubby’s continued reign.

14:56 – Gophers 44 UCLA 34

@flip_saunders – “#gophers looking good. We are so much quicker and more energized. Next 5 minutes huge! Bury em. Luv changing defenses.”
Coach Saunders…errrrr…I mean, Flip!! Spot on analysis. Changing defenses are causing this young Bruins squad headaches. Though, Gophers need to be careful. UCLA still has not made a run. One is coming. Burying em would be very nice. And now is the time.
13:32 – Gophers 50 UCLA 41
@MINNESOTA_NICE – “I am extremely confused as to why Otto O. has played so many minutes. #Gophers.”
Ouch. Is that handle sarcastic? I mean, I agree with you, but ouch.
11:54 – Gophers 54 UCLA 42
@Border_Rivals – “Terrible call against Oto?!? Guy actally makes a positive play and the refs take it away from him. #ZebrasHaveToGo #LetThemPlay #Gophers
Okay, I could not resist. I feel a little bad piling on Oto, but it really was a great play. Slid in front of David Wear and took a charge. But, these tewible refs decided to call a block. I thought these refs were supposed to be elite.
7:04 – Gophers 69 UCLA 54
@GopherHole – “Wow, Andre Hollins is playing fantastic tonight!! #Gophers”
Fantastic might be an understatement. Dre just canned his 5th 3 PT of the night. He has 24 total and has abused all UCLA defenders who have tried to keep up with him.
His performance tonight is looking a little like the run he put together in the NIT last year. If he can get on that kind of run, this Gophers team can be very dangerous.
 3:28 – Gophers 79 UCLA 56
@kellerjustin – “Good show, #gophers. Equally fortuitous draw, lucky they didn’t face Florida Gulf Coast. UCLA is flat out turrrrrible.”
Love the Sir Charles reference. This one is over. Gophers are up by 20+ and continue to attack. Not even the Tubby-led Gophers could find a way to lose this one.
If Dre plays even in the ball park of how he played today, Florida is going to have its hands full on Sunday.
We will be running a Tweetbag for that game too. Enjoy the Madness.

Tweet Bag — Gophers v. Nebraska

Welch was really steady at the point for the Gophers. But, can he continue the solid play against Diet Wisconsin??

Welch was really steady at the point for the Gophers against Penn State. But, can he continue the solid play against Diet Wisconsin??

Well, the Gophers get a chance to continue their winning ways against a slow, unathletic Nebraska squad. Think of them as Diet Wisconsin. Nebraska will use 32 of the available 35 seconds on the shot clock. They will be lucky if they have one dunk all night. And yet, they still might find a way to stay in this thing. Hopefully not.

As always, these are actual tweets from during the game.

20:00: Gophers 0 Nebraska 0
@AmeliaRayno – And as expected, Ingram and Welch are both starting. I can’t really believe Andre Hollins is coming off the bench for this lineup. #Gophers

Amelia!! Good to have you back in the tweet bag.

I am not sure what I think about Tubby’s new line-up. I know they dominated Penn State. But, it was Penn State. I know they beat Michigan. Though, in all fairness, Big Blue was probably looking past the mighty Nitanny Lions to their border rival: Michigan State.

Supposedly, having Welch in the starting line-up allows Dre to play off the ball — definitely his more natural position — and supposedly feed Mbakwe in the post. We will see…

15:14 – Gophers 7 Nebraska 9

@apearson #gophers no longer dead to me. For heavens sake don’t blow it at Nebraska.

This is the sentiment of most fans. After the thrilling win against Indiana and the stomping of Penn State,

9:19 – Gophers 15 Nebraska 15

@tsquared2001 – Nebraska reminds me Englishmen playing basketball for the first time. Hack, hack and hack all the time #Gophers

I am not entirely sure what this means, but both teams look like Englishmen playing basketball. Very slow pace (even for a Big 10 game). We are on pace for just south of a 47 to 43 game. Not sure that style fits the Gophers game. They always do better when they are running and pushing the tempo.

7:52 – Gophers 17 Nebraska 17

@MarkWittig – @icedavis5 I did not know you let football players play basketball at Nebraska. #gophers

To provide a little insight to this comment, Nebraska has a…guy…Andre Almeida, who looks like he could eat Mbakwe (whole) playing center. No joke, this guy looks like he could be Honey Boo Boo’s older brother. Amazingly though, he has incredibly quick feet and soft hands. He is sort of the anti-Mo Walker. Or, because he is Brazillian — and let’s face it, Brazillians are smooth — he might just be the Brazillian Mo Walker.

3:53 – Gophers 19 Nebraska 20

@FromTheBarn – Defense by the #gophers is pretty pathetic tonight.

Why limit it to the defense Jonathan? The offense is not exactly lighting the world on fire. Currently 17 of the 19 points are from Mbakwe, Ingram, and E Squared. That does not paint a rosy picture for the second half. Also, our projected final score is decreasing by the minute.

The one bright spot (and I swear this is not a jinx): Julian Welch. He has actually looked pretty comfortable as the PG. He is making good decisions and forcing the ball down low. Literally seconds after I write this, he bricks two FTs. Never mind.

1:54: Gophers 19 Nebraska 23

@FromTheBarn – lazy basketball by the #gophers, with a side of stupid

I think you are getting warmer Jonathan. Yikes. Gophers look absolutely amateur on offense and defense. About the only thing keeping them in this game, Nebraska’s inability to hit WIDE OPEN jumpers. Cannot continue to rely on that.

0:43: Gophers 21 Nebraska 23

E Squared has been a strong presence in the post for the Gophers the last two games. Maybe losing Mbakwe next year won't cripple the squad...maybe...

E Squared has been a strong presence in the post for the Gophers the last two games. Maybe losing Mbakwe next year won’t cripple the squad…maybe…

@DailyintheBarn – Eliason, who averages 2 points per game, leads the #Gophers with 7. Minn. down 23-21 w/ 43 seconds before half.

If not for E Squared, who is playing well in his homecoming, the Gophers would be in BIG trouble. Eliason has hit open 15 footers and been a presence inside. He is on quite a run now and looks to be a promising player for next year’s squad, IF, and that was intentionally a big if, he can continue to get stronger. Perhaps next year’s team will not be a complete step backwards.
HALF: Gophers 21 Nebraska 23
The Gophers looked pretty lifeless in the first half. This was definitely not the team that beat the number one team in the country. This looks a lot more like the team that lost 8 of 10 going into that Indiana game.
If the tempo does not pick up, the energy does not get cranked to 11, then there is a good chance the Gophers squander away the capital they have added to their resume the last two games. They need to get back to what they do best: pound the ball inside, crash the offensive glass, and play solid man-to-man defense.
20:00 Gophers 21 Nebraska 26
@Border_Rivals – Most telling statistic: Gophers average 8.1 steals a game. In today’s tilt: 0. Yikes. #Gophers #ActiveHandsTimes??
Okay, I had to help out a bit. But seriously?!?! Zero steals??? Brutal. The bigs are playing well. Mbakwe, Ingram, and E Squared looking good. Need the Hollins Cousins to step up and play like they have all season. Right now, completely absent from this game.
16:30: Gophers 22 Nebraska 28
@gopherjon – Not going to win many games if you can’t make free throws…#gophers
Not that Tubby’s teams have ever been great at shooting FTs. Though, this particular Gophers squad loves to get themselves in trouble by regifting points at the charity stripe. Cannot win games like that. In tonight’s game, they are currently connecting on just under 29% of their FTs. #brutal
14:11: Gophers 24 Nebraska 33
@gopher33j – SET A SCREEN!!! #Gophers
Whoa, whoa, whoa, let’s slow down a bit Jon. Maybe we teach them what a screen is AND THEN we ask them to set one. The offense is beyond stagnant and stale, it is entering the rigomortis phase. Just not good. If it were not for the impromptu block party, the Gophers would be down 15+ right now.
11:45: Gophers 26 Nebraska 34
@Amelia Rayno – In his time of need, Tubby has gone back to his original starting five. But #Gophers playing under pressure now.
Amelia!! Don’t jinx them!?! It is bad enough the Gophers are having a hard time figure out how to go about getting the ball through the orange rim, let’s not add to the pressure.
Need to make a mini-run in the next 4 minutes. Something in the range of 8-0 or 12-2. Make it close with 6 to 8 minutes left. They should be able to escape with the win if they can do that.
11:36: Gophers 29 Nebraska 34
@goldengopher – *puts in Journey record* ‘Don’t stop…….believiiiiiiiiing’ #Gophers
I used to love that song. Gophers need two offensive rebounds off missed FTs to score 2 points. I am not belieeeeeeeving.
10:23: Gophers 32 Nebraska 36
@knategiesen – Take over the game Mbakwe! We need you to win this for us!
Could not agree more Knate. Mbakwe grabs ANOTHER offensive rebound off a missed FT and slams home the dunk. Hopefully he has another solid 10 plus minutes left in him tonight.
My fault for the long delay here. This 6 minute gap represented a period of basketball that was so horrendous, like Snooki in the club at 3:30 a.m. horrendous, that I thought it was wrong to capture it in writing. Now back to our regularly scheduled programming…
4:28: Gophers 37 Nebraska 41
@937JohnGaskins #Gophers 6-16 at FT line, down 4, 4:58 left. Couldn’t capitalize on 3-on-1 drive. Credit Gallegos forcing tear drop #Huskers
You know you are in trouble when the Husker fans are starting to believe. Or…excuse me…beliiiiiiiiieve.
Gophers in the double bonus the rest of the way. Normally, you would say get to the rim so you can get to the stripe. Something tells me John and his fellow Husker fans would be all for that strategy.
Trevor did all he could against the 300 pound behemoth. Unfortunately, his guards do not understand how to get him the ball. Not. Good.

Trevor did all he could against the 300 pound behemoth. Unfortunately, his guards do not understand how to get him the ball. Not. Good.

3:15: Gophers 41 Nebraska 43

@sullivanneal – Gophers need to find a way win thus one. #Gophers #BiG
Right on cue, Maverick snags an offensive board off a Hollins air ball and puts in the reverse. Then, after a slow rotation let’s the mini-Cody Zeller, Ubel, exact a little revenge, Dre goes into cold-blooded mode and cans an open 3.
2:20 Gophers 46 Nebraska 46
@goldengopher – Dre Hollins is fouled on the rebound. David Rivers…HE GONE! 2nd player to foul out. #Gophers on the line to tie.
The refs are really bailing out the Gophers. Unfortunately, the Corn Huskers daywalker uses a HUGE screen from Andre Boo Boo to create a three point play. Gophers still down with less than two minutes to go.
0:35: Gophers 46 Nebraska 49
@ratty918 – Can’t wait to see this play Tubby draws up
Have to love the confidence in the coach. Though, turns out to be very prophetic. Gophers end up with a forced shot from Dre (that nearly goes in), though it had nothing to do with Tubby’s play design. At least, I hope it didn’t considering the result.
Somehow, Nebraska gives the Gophers (and Tubby) another chance to scheme a play to tie. The Huskers turned the ball over on the in bounds. However, the iPad-less Tubby comes through again and the Gophers get a 25 footer from Maverick Ahanmisi with 6 seconds left in the game. Not that giving the ball to Hollins (our SG) would have been a better idea considering he had 0 points on the evening.
Overall, another frustrating loss for the Gophers. Even though their ticket to the tournament was stamped a week ago, this loss assures them of a low seed, probably something in the 8 to 11 range. And, if they lose this weekend against a game Purdue squad or in the first round of the Big 10 tournament, it could be much worse.
At this point, I want to beliiiiiiiiiieve, but I am not sure I have the patience.

Illinois v. Gophers — Realtime Recap — Like You Were There

The Gophers need a win tonight. After a decent showing against the Spartans, they need to hold serve at home. That starts with a game against the giant-slaying Fightin’ Illini, who took down #1 Indiana on Thursday in dramatic fashion.

The only twist to tonight’s match-up, Gophers forward Rodney Williams is not playing. He is nursing a sore shoulder and, even though he warmed-up, reports are that he is unlikely to play. Considering his solid play, of late, this is a big loss for the Gophers. He is probably their second or third best perimeter defender, so we will see how that affects the Gophers.

Here we go…

1st Half

19:46: So much for Joe Coleman repeating the outstanding performance he had against these very same Illini. He clangs an 18 footer to start the game. Not a good sign for the Gophers.

16:10: Wait — so Trevor Mbakwe is a horse?!?! You are kidding??? Gophers feed the beast for two buckets. When Mbakwe is engaged early and often, the Gophers are a tough team to beat. While they cannot continue to feed the post with Elliot Eliason, getting Mbakwe touches is definitely the recipe for success.

He positions himself so well on the block and he has great body control. The body control allows him to get to the rim in a variety of different angles. And his massive shoulders make it very difficult for shot blockers to come over the top without fouling him. Put me down for the obvious statement of 2013, as Mbakwe goes, so goes this team. When he is not involved, the offense is pretty stale.

Gophers fans are usually not thrilled to see Maverick racing up the floor. It usually means bad things are happening for the team.

Gophers fans are usually not thrilled to see Maverick racing up the floor. It usually means bad things are happening for the team.

12:32: Maverick Ahanmisi bails out the Gophers with a wild, bank shot as the shot clock expires. Tubby’s mass substitutions now have Maverick, Oto Osieniks, Mo “Cheeseburger” Walker, Andre Ingram, and Austin Hollins on the floor. Not a recipe for offensive success. Maverick has provided a jolt or two for the Gophers in the past, but he is definitely a liability. Hopefully, the starters can catch their breath and get back in after the media timeout.

8:08: Mbakwe continues to take the ball right at the Illini defenders. He definitely has the right attitude. His dominance and Austin Hollins’ shooting has propelled the Gophers to a 10 point lead.

6:34: Austin Hollins continues to carry the Gophers. He has really stepped up for Rodney Williams, who at this point, is definitely a scratch for this evening. If the Gophers could stop recent YouTube sensation Tyler Griffey, they would be up by 20+. Instead, Griffey’s 7 early points are keeping the Illini in the game.

3:14: Let’s assess the situation — the Gophers have spent the last three minutes running the offense through  Mo “Cheeseburger” Walker who, no joke, is a man amongst boys, but who is too big and slow to play college basketball at this level. Furthermore, on the defensive end, his slow rotations left D.J. Richardson open for two consecutive threes. All of sudden, a 12 point lead is down to 4. Oh, and the Cheeseburger just turned the ball over on an offensive charge where the Illini defender literally had enough time to set his feet, tweet the following message – “Man, when is that big boy going to get here?! #Cheeseburger,”  finish a term paper, and then draw the foul. Tubby needs to stop playing Mo until he drops another 15 pounds. Period. I do not care how much he looks like a fat Royce White.

1:16: The Illini continue to rip 3 pointers to stay in the game. Brandon Paul, who has some of the worst looking shots in the conference, drains a pretty 3. For a guy who consistently clangs jump shots, when he makes one, the stroke is outstanding. Osieniks then compounds the issue by getting lazy with the ball, gifting Paul a steal, and then fouling Paul immediately.

Tubby has had little to smile about in the last half dozen Big 10 games. This one is shaping up no differently...

Tubby has had little to smile about in the last half dozen Big 10 games. This one is shaping up no differently…

Half: Gophers close the half like a junior varsity high school team. Hold up, that is an insult to junior varsity high school teams everywhere. It was more like a pick-up squad at a local YMCA (and even they might have played it better).

The Gophers take three terrible shots with the shot clock below 20 seconds. Rather than reset the offense following a pair of offensive rebounds and take the last shot of the half, the Gophers jack up three terrible shots. The Illini finally grab the defensive rebound and rush down to the other end to drain ANOTHER 3 and take a 1 point lead into the half.

This lack of execution falls on Tubby. No excuses. These are EXACTLY the type of plays that have come back to haunt this team.

2nd Half

19:46: Evidently the “…guard that Griffey kid speech fell on deaf hears. He quickly cans a 3 and puts the Illini up 4. The Gophers are struggling to guard an entirely one-dimensional team. This again falls on Tubby. All the Illini can do is hit 3s. That is it.

17:42: The Illini are wisely doubling Mbakwe (turns out we are a bit one-dimensional too). I guess the Illini coach actually tailors his team’s defensive strategy to the other team’s strengths. Crazy bastard. Thankfully, Dre finds a way to split the double off the pick and hit a rolling Mbakwe. Unfortunately, Joe Coleman continues to struggle. More than any one player, his season is the perfect analogy of the team as a whole.

Coleman started off the season hot as a pistol. He really looked like he had taken a jump and was ready to become one of the top players in the conference. That is not an overstatement. After a few solid games in the Big 10 (including a huge game against these very Illini), he has just fallen off the face of the earth. His jump shot was last seen on a milk carton at Washburn Elementary in Minneapolis, MN. His defensive intensity has waned and he consistently fails to rotate on the perimeter. If he ever regains the form from earlier this season, the Gophers will be a tough team to beat. Right now, he is a liability. When Rodney comes back, Eliason needs to get more minutes and Williams needs to slide over and play the 3.

14:06: Speaking of Elliot, Eliason continues to bring a lot of energy and intensity to the squad. However, having him feed the post or cutters on the baseline is like trying to landscape with hand grenades. It might work a few times, but the end results are probably going to be ugly. Coleman cannot handle Elliot’s fastball as he cuts to the rim. Turnover. Gophers should go back to feeding Mbakwe.

10:58: News flash!! The Illini can hit the 3 pointer. No, seriously. That Griffey kid cans another one. Looks like he wants to play the role of hero for another night. Unless Tubby can figure out a way to tighten up that defense, this game is going to end poorly for the home squad.

8:21: We have a Julian Welch sighting! His desperation 3 as the shot clock expires puts the Gophers back up 1. In fact, a little 6-0 run fueled by two 3 pointers has the Illini getting a taste of their own medicine. The Gophers cannot rely on this formula though. Shooting 3s is not a strength. They need to get back to pounding the ball inside and getting to the line. That is what this team does best.

6:49: Why is Andre Ingram getting minutes?!? He mishandles a great pass from Dre and the Gophers turn the ball over again. Still down 1.

The Gophers have been unable to find Hoosier-killer Tyler Griffey. He is looking to add Gophers to his hit list!!

The Gophers have been unable to find Hoosier-killer Tyler Griffey. He is looking to add Gophers to his hit list!!

5:08: Thursday’s hero likes the cape-look. Clearly. Griffey, who was 0-22 prior to the game against the Hoosiers, just canned his 4th 3 pointer of the evening. Evidently, Tubby’s game plan has been that the Gophers will refrain from guarding Griffey and see if he can beat them. Right now, he is annihilating them.

2:38: Austin Hollins, who has played a great game, commits the ultimate hoops no-no: fouling a shooter behind the line. D.J. Richardson hits two out of three and puts the Illini up 3. This is the EXACT kind of play that has killed the Gophers chances of being something more than a one-and-done tournament team.

1:12: The Gophers finally catch a break as a loose rebound bounces off of the Illini. Tubby has to draw up a good play here. Only down 1, the Gophers need to take the lead and put the pressure back on the Illini. Hopefully, something for one of the Hollins cousins.

Instead, Mbakwe panics when the double team comes and throws it into the 4th row. He has not handled the double team well this half. While he is normally a strong passer, the double team has really thrown him for a loop. Tubby should have recognized this and kept the ball in the Hollins’ cousins’ hands.

You just have a sense that the Gophers do not have the moxy to win this game. And just like that, Abrams promptly cans a 3 in Elliot Eliason’s grill. Play is eerily reminiscent of Austin Rivers’ 3 in Tyler Zeller’s face in a match-up between Duke and UNC. And right now, the Gophers are (shockingly) about as good as the struggling Tar Heels.

Final: Illini 57 Gophers 53

Couple of other quick things. Tubby’s offensive strategy, from game-to-game is brutal. As a head coach, the whole blaming the players schtik only lasts so long. The Gophers had a distinct advantage in the post and only rarely were running plays to capitalize on that advantage. Instead, the Gophers tried to kick and slash our way to the rim against a fairly athletic Illini squad. And I get that Rodney was a scratch, but still. Even in the game in Champagne, the Gophers carried the day by dominating in the paint. There was no such prolonged dominance in this game.

On the defensive end, it was the same old story. Poor rotation on the perimeter resulted in numerous opportunities from deep for the Illini. It was no suprise to anyone that the Illini were going to try and shoot the 3. I knew it. The fans knew it. The people watching the red carpet coverage at the Grammy’s even knew it. And yet, the Illini were 11 for 23 from deep. Nearly 50%. That is pitiful.

Until the Gophers coaching staff can figure out how to take advantage of their advantages on the offensive end and utilize their athleticism on the defensive end, this team will be, at best, nothing more than a one-and-done tournament team. At worst, we might as well book our tickets for the NIT right now to try and save on the flights.

Like You Were There: Tweet Recap

Gophers v. Badgers. Here. We. Go. We are going to use your Tweets, as they happen, to crowdsource this recap. The Gophers are on a disappointing 3 game losing streak. The Badgers are fresh off disappointing losses to Iowa and MSU. Both teams are desparate for a win. Should be a good one.

15:40: @AmeliaRayno nailed it “Well this is fun, let’s just shoot 3-pointers all day.”

Both teams are running completely inept offenses. Both run clock and then jack up a desperation three. Big 10 Basketball ladies and gentlemen!! Amelia, you might be my favorite Strib ink-stained wretch, but this should not surprise you.

13:30: @DanaLitman “I guess these teams are only allowed to score three pointers”

Seriously. Maverick Ahmnisi comes off the bench and hits two big threes. But both teams are showing a serious lack of offense right now. Is Mbakwe afraid of Berggren?? That is the only explanation I have for him not making any plays. This same thing happened in the Northwestern game. Mbakwe dominated for stretches of that game, but he just disappeared when the Gophers needed him most.

11:09: @mtperka “I’m too sober to be watching this team (Gophers) right now”

I agree.

10:53: @alnen32 “Great seal by Trevor. #Gophers need to pount it down low”

Could not agree more. Mbakwe finally realizes he has a day-walker (Brusewitz) on him and goes right at the rim. If the Gophers are going to win, they need to continue feeding the 6th year senior.

8:43: @KVanDeWalker “Did Rodney Williams make the trip to the Kohl Center? Waiting for him to show up”

Oh, he is here. He has already jacked up two TEWIBLE shots, one of which was very early in the shot clock. He just grabbed a big offensive rebound. That gives him a chance to do  something the Gophers have struggled with the last few games: makes free throws. He proceeds to make one of two. !?$?@?!@$?%

5:55: @GophersNow “Nice feed inside from Austin Hollins to Eliason for the basket. Almost thought the big fella woul fumble it  but good catch.”

The funny thing about Eliason is that he played really well in Mbakwe’s absence last year. He looks to be in good shape, maybe even a little bigger than last year. And yet, Tubby has him getting very few minutes. If he continues to play well off the bench, his minutes should increase.

4:34: @mtperka “Wow. Comparing Eliason to Zeller. I have heard it all”

Yeah, let’s not go crazy. For a minute there, I thought PA might have kidnapped the BTN color guy.

2:21: @KeelynP “Someone needs to stay in that Decker kid.”

Could not have missaid it better myself! As always, Gophers fail to close out defensively at the three point line and Dekker makes them pay. Someone needs to be in that kid’s pocket for the rest of the day. I am having flashbacks to the Northwestern game. Skinny white boys knocking down threes have been this teams Achilles heel.

HALF: @zmotalk “Another bad game by the #Gophers yikes time for tuby to go.” @mnglorydays “If Tubby can’t win with this #Gophers team, he absolutely has to go. Find a young guy that can build a program and wants to step up to B10.” @brennentoq “Its tubbys famous “stand around and hope somebody else makes a play” offense.”

Not hard to figure out the sentiment of the fans. And those are just the cleanest of the reactions we saw.

Unfortunately, they are right. If the Gophers cannot figure out how to capitalize on its most talented team in nearly 15 years, there will need to be a change. I know the practices facilities are less than great. And our students have to pretend to go to classes in subzero weather, but those are really poor excuses. Nebraska has a world class practice facility and I do not see them making serious noise on the national stage.

19:18: @AmeliaRayno “Only 5 turnovers for the Gophers in the first half — but they had the same number at Northwestern last game and then blew up in 2nd.”

Come on Amelia!! Cannot be so negativ…never mind.

18:45: @the realstecks “This game is not even worth watching. No scoring, missed dunks, turnovers, etc.”

Uh-oh, we are losing them. Hopefully the team has a little more confidence than the fans and beat writers.

17:54: @JBBauer612 “Only way Mbakwe might get touches is via offense rebounds. #Gophers need to feed that man inside and let him score.”

Stop me if you have heard this one before. Mbakwe is hustling to make plays on the offensive glass. He, quite literally, nearly broke his back. But all to no avail. Gophers trail by 2.

17:04: @DeepDish34 “Oh, now I see why Mo Walker never plays. He has been seriously bad this season for the #Gophers.”

Yeah, Mo has some talent, but he is about 35 pounds too big. He cannot move his feet quickly enough on defense. And he often times looks lost in terms of who he should be guarding. That said, he has shown flashes on the offensive end. I still think Eliason is the better sub for Tubby right now. He has been a spark for this team today.

16:34: @bs_wayne “@GophersNow let’s just be glad Mo is back on the pine.”

Well, Brandon, not sure we need to rub it in.

15:04: @bnmnetp “crazy officiating! #gophers so inconsistent from first to second half.”

I tend to agree. How is it possible that the Gophers are already in the penalty. They have not changed their style of play. Calling a lot of touch fouls, not Big 10 basketball.

13:05: @Aelias1908 “Andre Hollins is in BEAST MODE.”

Dre hits a big three and puts the Gophers up 2. He has 18 on the day and simply cannot be guarded. The refs have ruined the rhythm and flow of this game (definitely plays to the Badgers strength – solid ball control and slow play), but Dre will not be denied.

If he can tap into a little of the NIT magic he had late last year, the Gophers can win this game. Even if no one else on the team knows what to do on either end of the floor.

11:46: @3PtBadger “With a 6-0 run in less than a minute, #Badgers take a 37-33 lead against #Gophers, mid 2nd half!”

Huge problems again finding guys on the perimeter for this Gophers team. Not a good flaw when facing a team like the Badgers who love the three pointer.

7:29: @jsuthHN “We have no offense. Terrible. Slow down, set some shit up, and make sure @TMbakwe32 gets a touch on the block every single trip.”

What is sad, you could replace @TMbakwe32 with @Bergeron40 and this tweet could be a Badgers’ fan. Both teams are doing a tewible job running anything resembling an offense. Gophers cannot get the ball inside where they have an advantage. Badgers are having a difficult time finding their open shooters.

Gophers finally take @jsuthHN’s advice and get it to Mbakwe who gets fouled. He misses one of two. Just. Ugly.

6:01: @peekay622 “Breaking news: 3 points in a minute!”

Thanks for doing the math. Ick!

3:40: @BrandonHarrison “Mbakwe the difference for #Gophers so far in 2H: 8 pts, 10 reb. now. RT @JimPolzinMSJ: Mbakwe with 4 offensive rebounds in the 2nd half.

Mbakwe grabs a big offensive board because Tubby — if you are not going to draw up plays for him, he will get it himself — and then makes a big baby hook over Berggren. Gophers up 2. They have the fans right where they want them. Here comes the FG drought.

2:47: @streethistory “2 for 21 from Austin, Coleman, and Williams. Terrible.”

Not exactly inspiring. Even after an Evans TO, Badger fans have to feel good about their chances to close this thing out. Those numbers are downright scary.

And, right in line with the above stat, Gophers turn the ball over on a shot clock violation. Absolutely no rhythm to this offense.

1:47: @vikingsrube “Box out!”

Okay, so some context. Evans makes his 9th big flub of the 2nd half, missing his first FT. In fact, he only tickles the front of the iron. He then misses his second (hence vikingsrube’s advice: box out). Gophers do box out and draw a foul. Ingram promptly misses the first. The Badgers come back down the floor and tie it up. Was there any doubt?

0:39: @guylindvall “This offense is brutal.”

Quick, a fan of which team Tweeted the above?? I am not sure either. But, since it came shortly after Dre took an ill-advised drive to the hoop. Great acting job by Brush on the charge.

Badgers win on a shot after the shot-clock expires. Gophers didn't deserve it anyways.

Badgers win on a shot after the shot-clock expires. Gophers didn’t deserve it anyways.

0:02: @reporterbw “Already bracing myself for a soul-crushing #Gophers defeat.”

Say no more @reporterbw!! Jim Jackson, Jr. (4 for his last 17) hits a pull-up jumper as Mbakwe flies by to put the Badgers up 2. I would say soul-crushing about does it. Even more so considering the replay looks like Jackson did not get the ball off in time. Only a Minnesota sports team could find a way to lose like this. One last chance.
0:01: @droege32 “Wisconsin is lucky it was a foul… Mbakwe made the shot…”

Let’s explain this. So, the ball is inbounded and Mbakwe makes a great play catching it with one hand, turning, and nailing the fadeaway that would have tied the game.

Instead, as he is doing that, he is fouled by Brusewitz. Wisconsin is initially angry. But wait, Mbakwe is hurt. He cannot shoot the FTs. That means the Badgers get to pick who gets to shoot the FTs. Not good for Gophers fans. Mbakwe makes the shot that would tie it, and instead, the Gophers get to watch Rodney Williams try to make two FTs.

He makes the first.

He misses the second. Your season in a nutshell.

 

Capitalizing On Irrational Confidence

The Minnesota Golden Gophers square off tonight with the Michigan Wolverines in what is sure to be a classic Big 10 hoops game. Both teams enter the match-up ranked in the Top 10. Both have signature wins against ranked opponents. Neither squad will shy away from the challenge that the other presents.

For Michigan, the hype for this squad was present from Day One. This team was stocked with blue-chip recruits and returning sophomores/juniors, some of whom have an NBA-pedigree (seeing Robinson and Hardaway in Michigan jerseys is definitely a treat). Super sophomore Trey Burke was a half a bucket away from preserving the Wolverines unblemished season. Nobody in the media’s pre-season poll picked this Michigan squad to finish any lower than 3rd in the conference.

Coleman's aggressive and attacking style has been a major reason for the Gophers early season success.

Coleman’s aggressive and attacking style has been a major reason for the Gophers early season success.

For the Gophers, there was only a little local hype regarding this squad. Everyone knew that Mbakwe coming back from his 96th knee surgery (approx.) would improve the squad. I think most fans (present company included) wanted to believe that last year’s run in the NIT was a precursor to something bigger. Hollins Squared had the look of a solid back court. Rodney Williams and Joe Coleman had a nice mix of athleticism and toughness. But Gophers fans have had a tough run the last 12 years. So it was guarded optimism at best.

None of the Gophers teams in the last 10 to 12 years ever looked like squads that could beat any team in the country on any given night. Tournament worthy? Sure. Though, none of those teams were good to the point where you would have included them in the conversation nationally. And frankly, I am not sure this team is that talented either. But do not tell them that.

This Gophers team has used its nonconference success – only one loss to a tough Duke team – as a catalyst for a strong start to the Big 10 season: 3-1 with two wins over ranked teams. However, solid wins aside, it may be the Gophers’ lone loss in Big 10 play that has been most telling.

In last Saturday’s game against the Hoosiers, the Gophers got down big in the first half. They played their game and Indiana basically shot the lights out and went up by 23. 23 you say? Well, the Gophers promptly came out and dominated for the entire 2nd half; coming within an Mbakwe defensive rebound of taking the last shot to tie the game. Throughout the entire game, and particularly in the 2nd half, you just had this feeling like the team never thought they were out of it. That kind of confidence, irrational or not, is a powerful thing.

They just do not make movie posters like this anymore. Classic Van Damme.

They just do not make movie posters like this anymore. Classic Van Damme.

To more fully understand the power of that kind of irrational confidence, I give you the classic 1989 flick: Kickboxer. This is Jean Claude Van Damme at his finest. Here is a brief recap in case you forgot the plot: Van Damme’s character is the corner man for his brother, an American kickboxing champion. His brother is paralyzed by the Thai kickboxing champion/overall bad dude, Tong. Van Damme swears to avenge in brother’s defeat. After a kidnapping, training montage, and a rape and rescue, Van Damme finally gets his chance.

Van Damme is told that he will be fighting Tong in the old style, which evidently means the fighters dip their gloves in broken glass first. Tong, in the ultimate bad ass move, gives his gloves a lick after the glass is affixed to them (skip ahead to the 10:00 mark for the madness). It is at that point where most people are like, nope, that is enough of that, I am out of here. Have fun everyone. Try the shrimp and scallops. This fool is crazy with a capital C! But not Jean Van Damme!! He was born irrationally confident.

You can guess the rest. Despite taking a massive beating (think Manti Te’o in the press right now), Van Damme overcomes the glass-licking psychopath and avenges his brother’s injury.

This Gophers team has that same irrational confidence that Van Damme has in Kickboxer. They play with a swagger that they can ball with anyone. In fact, the way this team rebounds, Tubby might actually have this squad eating glass as part of their university-approved diet. The mindset that you can hang with anyone and come back in any game is sometimes the difference between a nice little squad that makes the tournament and one that intends to make some noise when they get there. Tonight’s game will give us a good idea as to what kind of squad this Gophers team is. Personally, I think Michigan should consider getting out while they still can.

Do not forget, if you want tickets to tonight’s big game, head on over to Ticket King. The Barn is sure to be rocking and these local guys have the tickets for any seat in the house!!

Game Recap (Like You Were There) Gophs v. Illini

All right ladies and gents, great match-up of some aspiring Big 10 contenders. The Gophers come in 2-0 with solid wins against Northwestern and MSU. The Illini are 1-1 in the conference and are fresh off a big home win against an always-tough Ohio State squad.

Playing in Assembly Hall is always a tough test. The place was rocking tonight for this Top 10 clash.

Playing in Assembly Hall is always a tough test. The place was rocking tonight for this Top 10 clash.

20:00: Here we go!! The Gophers have great energy out the gates, but seem to have a difficult time harnessing that energy. Energy without that focus just leads to chaos, especially on the offensive end. Tubby needs his guards, Hollins Squared, to settle the team down.

16:31: Well, its official, our JV Big 10 Network announcers are thoroughly confused. They thought Brandon Paul just posterized Trevor Mbakwe. Instead, it was the savvy senior who drew the offensive foul. Tubby has this Gophers teams rotating on the defensive end really well. Quick aside, how come we did not get Gus and Len for this game?!?! Match-up of Top 10 squads and we get these two hunyucks.

14:38: Gophers show that flash in transition that makes them so tough to beat. Coleman goes hard to the rim and finishes with a strong dunk. That transition, up tempo style is what makes the Gophers so dangerous. Forcing that style on the Illini definitely favors the Gophers in this game.

12:10: Gophers cannot get into a 3 point shooting contest with the Illini. Poor rotation in transition and D.J. Richardson, that is right, D.J. Richardson, puts the Illini up 3. Gophers need to force the Illini to beat them in the paint, where they are weaker than Mark Wahlburg doing the traffic/weather.

9:52: Evidently D.J. Richardson did not crack Tubby’s scouting report because the Gophers cannot find him on defense. He is just daggering the Gophs from deep. With two buckets in less than three minutes, you can be sure Tubby will mark him on defense for the rest of the game.

8:01: Instant energy from Oto Osenieks????? Whhhhhhhhaaaaaaaaaaaaat?????? You got it! Young fella has played much better  in the last few games and he triggers a little mini-run for the Gophs. My only knock on Oto is that he is supposed to be a shooting specialist and yet, it seems like we never see him let it fly. Not sure if it is a confidence issue or just not getting the opportunities.

Mbakwe's fingerprints were all over this game. He dominated on the offensive end, wiggling/powering his way to open shots all night.

Mbakwe’s fingerprints were all over this game. He dominated on the offensive end, wiggling/powering his way to open shots all night.

6:49: Trevor Mbakwe reintroduces himself to fellow senior Brandon Paul with a less than soft foul. Could it be that Trevor was thinking about the near posterization that occurred a few minutes ago when he was decided to lay the wood to Mr. Paul on that drive? Nah. Young fella, meet a man. Man, go easy on the young fella.

4:45: The transition game is eating up this Illini team. Solid passing and cutting leads to 4 big baskets and is punctuated by a thunderous Williams dunk. Gophers stretch their lead to the biggest of the game at 6. Need to keep forcing the Illini to play this way because that definitely favors the Gophs.

2:08: Gophers continue to miss golden opportunities to extend their lead. Instead, the whistle-happy zebras bail out Brandon Paul, gift him 2 free throws, and now the Gophers are only up 4. Just when things are starting to unravel, Austin Hollins drains his second 3 PT of the game. His shooting touch right now is just absurd. The heck with the transition game, let’s get him the ball until he shows us he can miss.

Half: Gophers lead it 34 to 30. Played a strong 1st half. The Gophers dictated tempo and rotated well enough on defense to prevent the Illini from getting those 3 PT attempts they love so dearly. Mbakwe and Coleman have been particularly strong and hopefully they can continue to dominate in the paint and in transition in the 2nd half.

17:29: Joe Coleman wastes no time. He has been absolutely terrific in transition tonight. He has consistently beat his defender down the floor and disrupted the Illini defense as a result. Another two FTs for the visiting squad, Gophs up 9.

16:17: Alright, so it must be something in the Hollins family tree. Dre just cans a 35 footer as the shot clock expired. Are there any other Hollins brothers or cousins that we could get in a jersey? At this point, I am fairly certain any player in maroon and gold with Hollins on their jersey is going to have in-the-gym range.

14:33: Pause. Your not-s0-friendly Big 10 match-up has been interrupted by the officials. Evidently the zebras have decided that they are the reason that everyone is at the zoo. Need to stow the whistles and let the kids play. Instead, they call an incredibly silly double foul against Mbakwe and the Illini’s Egwu for  doing some twisted version of a waltz.

No, this is not a photo of  one of the referees from the game. This is an actual zebra.

No, this is not a photo of one of the referees from the game. This is an actual zebra.

13:41: J.J. Abrahm’s cousin is single-handedly trying to get the Illini back into this game. He has woken the crowd up by attacking and finishing at the rim. Combine that with the suddenly stagnant Gophers offense and the lead has been whittled down to 4.

11:35: The unrelated Hollinses have not done anything in a while. So, Dre picks up an intentional foul on a solid steal and Austin cans his 3rd PT of the game. Gophers stretch the lead back to 9.

9:12: J.J. Abrahms cousin just picked up his 4th foul. That is huge. The Illini comeback has been almost entirely driven by his aggressive play. Coleman cans the FTs and puts the Gophs up by 7.  The Illini look lost on the offensive end and settle for a 26 footer. Without Abrahms out there to dictate the pace and run the sets, this is an entirely different squad.

7:09: Coleman continues to dominate in transition. Another easy lay-up for the stellar sophomore. He now has 18 for the game. He is a smooth finisher and has solid body control after he leaves the ground. If he continues to improve, he is going to be conference player of the year materials sooner than later. Mbakwe has disappeared a bit. Now would be the perfect time for him to reassert himself.

6:15: Mbakwe heeds the call, snapping up an offensive rebound and finishing for the old fashioned three point play. Even though Mbakwe is rarely the tallest player in the paint, he uses his body to position himself so well. Just instinctual.  On this play, he grabs the rebound with his right hand and finishes his shot quickly with his left. He now has 19 in the game.

Coleman has been a thorn in the Illini's side all evening. Causing them headaches on both ends of the floor.

Coleman has been a thorn in the Illini’s side all evening. Causing them headaches on both ends of the floor.

4:43: Coleman nails another 3!!! That gives him 23 points on the night. He is having a coming out party in Champagne tonight. Even though he is not normally looked to for his shooting, he has made both of the wide open attempts he has taken tonight. It is also important to note that Coleman’s shot was set up by a great ball-reverse drive by Dre Hollins off the pick and roll. This is a move that he has perfected, where Dre will take one step like the ball handler normally would on a pick and roll and, when he sees the defender going underneath, he then cuts back to where he came from, essentially following the guy who was supposed to fight underneath the screen and using himself to screen both players, opening up a shot for a teammate on the elbow.

2:52: D.J. Richardson remembers that he is D.J. Richardson. It could not come at a worse time. He air balls a 3 PT attempt as the Gophers continue to rotate well on the defensive end. More than anything, the Gophers improvement in perimeter defense is what makes this season so promising. Under the Tubby regime, that perimeter defense has been a persistent flaw. Instead, the Illini are 3 for 23 from deep tonight. This is one of the best 3 PT shooting teams in the country and they are getting their faces rubbed in it.

0:51: Coleman dunks home his 28th and 29th points. What an amazing night for the stellar sophomore. He continually beat his defender down the floor and finished consistently. Overall, probably his best performance in a Gophers uniform.

0:00: Strong win for the Gophers. They come out and drop 50 on the Illini in the 2nd half. Aside from the solid burst from Oto, the bench was pretty quiet tonight. But, the whole team played absolutely smothering defense and, except for one little mini-run, the Gophers were in control of the game throughout. Next up: Indiana. They match-up better with the Gophers than the Illini did.  But, if the Gophs can dictate the athletic tempo they like to play at, the Hoosiers are going to have their hands full.

Don’t Let the Door Hit You On the Way Out

We Will Never Forget You Brent.

We will never forget you Brent.

By now, you’ve heard the news that Brent Bielema has taken his pullover to the dirty (in the truest sense) south: Arkansas. Lured, presumably, by extra coin, Brent will have the pleasure of getting stomped by Saban, Miles, and Co. in the vaunted SEC. Losing the head coach that has taken the Badgers to now three consecutive Rose Bowls is devastating for the program, right? Not so fast.

On the surface, there is little doubt that Brent had a great amount of success in Badger red: 68-24 overall record in 7 seasons, including a 37-19 clip in the Big Ten. Back-to-back-to-back Rose Bowl berths, bowl appearances every year, and teams that continually appear in the top-25 annually. And he won the Big Ten Coach of the Year honors in 2006 when he led the team to a program record 12 wins. Gaudy numbers frankly. But, the numbers don’t reveal the whole story.

The key to Brent’s success is that he has beaten up on lesser programs en route to amassing these gaudy numbers. And his overall record against better programs are pedestrian for an alleged top-tier coach.

This is most notable in the fact that the Badgers have played one – let me repeat that, one – top-25 team during the pre-season slate of games. And that one team was the 21st ranked Fresno State in 2008. Yup, Fresno St. has been the “best” team the Badgers have faced heading into the season during Brent’s tenure.

The Badgers are 8-10 against ranked foes dating back to 2008. And Brent is 2-4 in bowl games (and would have been 2-5 had he coached through the Rose Bowl), including an unforgettable back-to-back stinging losses in the Rose Bowl. Not exactly impressive, is it?

But wait, there’s more to this point. Against the notable programs in the Big Ten – OSU, MSU, PSU, and Michigan (though UM was subject to the Rich Rodgriguez botched experiment during much of Brent’s tenure) – Brent’s record is similarly not impressive:

  • OSU – 1-5
  • MSU – 3-4
  • PSU – 2-3
  • UM – 3-2

The common criticisms of Brent have always been that he’s a poor game-day coach, insofar as his clock management, use of timeouts, and making adjustments. He was clearly out-coached in the last two Rose Bowls, particularly the TCU game. These shortcomings show the most when you play good programs with good coaches – evidenced by the less-than-stellar numbers above.

To his credit, Brent maintained status quo for a fringe-elite program that Alvarez had built from nothing. Though it seems easy to accomplish, ask Kansas State. And he did lead the Badgers to 3 Rose Bowls, all with players he had recruited. But, when you get past the overall numbers and take a deep look at what he accomplished at Wisconsin, losing Brent is not as detrimental to the program as many may think. And considering he’s willing to leave his team right before the Rose Bowl, well, don’t let the door hit you on your way out Brent!

Quarterback Controversies? What Quarterback Controversies?

The 2012 edition of the tilt for Paul Bunyan’s Axe contains one exciting subplot after another. Can the Gophers bounce back from subpar performances against Iowa and Northwestern? Will the Badgers be able to maintain their momentum fresh off their most complete victory of the season? Is Coach Kill’s seizure issue becoming a distraction for the squad?

But all those issues are secondary to the indecision that has surrounded both programs at the most critical of positions: quarterback.

The Gophers have run out two different starters during the first six games of the season: Marqueis “Maybe I Should Be Playing WR” Gray and Max “Stop Comparing Me To Andy Dalton” Shortell. The Badgers have deployed the tandem of: Danny “Seriously, I Am Not Russell Wilson” O’Brien and Joel “Freshman This!” Stave.

Coach Kill has flip-flopped worse than Obama…I mean…Romney…I mean, blast, cannot make a political joke without alienating half the readers.

Most recently, the Gophers have seen both Gray and Shortell fail behind the helm. This has only fueled the speculation over who should start. And while starting Gray at wide receiver and letting Shortell grow into the QB position might be the best approach for the team’s success now and in the future, Gray produces just enough magic when behind the center to continue justify giving him another shot.

The game against Northwestern is a classic example. There were a half dozen plays where Gray used his athleticism to escape Wildcat pressure and make a positive play. Most times those plays were with his legs, but occasionally he would find an open receiver. Unfortunately, he does not do this consistently enough to solidify his claim to the starting role. Furthermore, putting Gray at wide receiver still ensures his athleticism is on the field while, at the same time, improving the Gophers at a position of need. Unfortunately, the Gophers seem reluctant to name Shortell the starter.

Interestingly enough, Coach Kill has had success with two starting QBs (see Chand Harnish and Jordan Lynch), but I am not sure that same strategy will work with Gray and Shortell. Further, if Gray has any hope of getting a real paycheck to play football…er….I mean….to play for real money….I mean…..to play on Sundays, he had better get used to the idea of catching the football. What better way than to start showcasing his talents now. Accept the Hines Ward conversion and hope you can even have half the career he did in the National Football League. Plus, making a decision will probably give Shortell a shot in the arm and we can find out what we have with him.

Now, the Badgers have dealt with their QB controversy a little more affirmatively (and it may be the reason they are printing these same t-shirts next year too).

O’Brien started the year. Struggled. Bielema went to freshman Joel Stave, despite little pressure to do so, and Stave has returned a mixed bag. What seemed like a desperation move has seemed to spark the offense to a certain extent. Stave’s numbers are not overly impressive, as he has completed a tick more than 58% of his passes (significantly less than Danny Boy). But he has had made more big plays, completing one pass for 50+ yard in 3 of his 4 starts (O’Brien only had 1 in his 3 starts). It is this type of stat that has many clamoring for Bielema to let Stave off the leash and let him sling it.

Tolzein was certainly not the flashiest of QBs, but he completed nearly 75% of his passes in 2010 and had only 6 INTs all season. Game. Manager.

But, this type of football is the norm for the Badgers. If any major football program is known for producing game mangers, it is Wisconsin. From Jim Sorgi to Scott Tolzein, the Badgers have consistently had guys that thrived at not making mistakes and systematically marching the squad down the field. The play-calling has limited Stave to the game manager mode. But, he has demonstrated (in limited opportunities) that he has the skill set to be something more. Once the play-calling expands, the offense could really take off.

All of that being said, it might be Bielema’s decision to make a decision and name Stave the starter that separates the Badgers from the Gophers (and maybe gives them an edge — which means more of these shirts too). The Gophers lack an identity because their coaches seem unwilling to pick a horse and go with it. Stave, for all his differences from the Wisconsin mold, is the starter. The team knows it. The fans know it. But, maybe most importantly, he knows it.

Ultimately, it is Stave’s self-confidence that just might be the difference in this Saturday’s rivalry game at Camp Randall. While the Gophers QBs struggle to assert themselves, Stave can march out there knowing he is the guy. Misguided or not, that kind of confidence can be the difference between making a play when it matters and doing something that hurts the team. Controversy? What controversy!