Rushed Reactions: #11 Minnesota 83, #6 UCLA 63

Posted by WCarey on March 22nd, 2013

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Walker Carey is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after the Round of 64 NCAA Tournament game between #6 UCLA and #11 Minnesota in Austin.

Three Key Takeaways.

Did Ben Howland Coach His Last Game in Westwood?

Did Ben Howland Coach His Last Game in Westwood?

  1. Minnesota’s effort was outstanding. For a team that was woefully inconsistent in the regular season, the Golden Gophers put together a very strong performance in its victory over UCLA. In last week’s loss to Illinois in the Big Ten Tournament, Minnesota only managed to score 49 points and looked horrible on offense for almost the entire game. Friday night was a completely different story for the Golden Gophers as they took advantage of a very poor UCLA defense and exploded for 83 points. Minnesota got a ton of good looks throughout the game, which is evident by its 50% shooting mark from the field and its 60% mark from three. UCLA was not exactly top-notch competition, but the Minnesota team that won Friday night looked much more like the Minnesota team that had beat Michigan State and Indiana than the Minnesota team that put up 49 points against Illinois last weekend.
  2. UCLA played like it wanted its season to end. When Jordan Adams went down with a broken foot in the Pac-12 Tournament, it was huge blow to the Bruins. Many national pundits believed UCLA would struggle against Minnesota without Adams, as he was the team’s best defender all season. There is no way the pundits thought that the Bruins would struggle as bad as they did in the blowout loss. Minnesota came into the game averaging 68.4 points per game on the season and it scored 83 against the Bruins. Minnesota came into the game shooting 44.2% from the field on the season, it shot 50% against the Bruins. Tubby Smith‘s squad was able to reach these figures due to the countless open looks that were afforded them by the UCLA defense. Golden Gophers guard Andre Hollins finished with 28 points and was 5-of-8 from deep. UCLA did not make a single adjustment when Hollins started to get hot. There were also several instances of where Minnesota big men Trevor Mbakwe and Elliott Eliason just outworked the Bruins’ interior players to grab offensive boards to help their team retain possession. UCLA’s offense was also horrible, as it shot just 31.7% from the field including a ghastly 18.2% from three. While it is understandable that teams do have poor shooting night, what was so dumbfounding about UCLA’s is that it continued to take horrible shots on bad looks until the final buzzer. The Bruins played like they did not want to be in the NCAA Tournament and it showed on both ends of the court in their pathetic loss to Minnesota.
  3. It might be time for a coaching change in Westwood. While the Bruins did finish 25-10 and win the outright regular season Pac-12 title, with the riches of talent the team has possessed over the years, the team just has not won enough. UCLA has missed the tournament in two of the last four seasons and only has two tournament wins since 2008. Considering that Steve Lavin was let go by UCLA after making the tournament in six of his seven seasons in Westwood and taking the Bruins to five Sweet 16s, it should be to the surprise of no one if UCLA decides to make a coaching change after this flameout against Minnesota. Another thing that works against Howland is that according to a Chris Foster story in Tuesday’s Los Angeles Times, “he had received no indication from his bosses about his status or what his team had to accomplish for him to stay on the job.”

Star of the Game. Andre Hollins, Minnesota. The sophomore guard put forth quite the offensive performance for the Golden Gophers. He tallied 28 points on 8-of-16 from the field and knocked back 5-of-8 from deep. Hollins was Minnesota’s go-to guy all night and he responded with a very good offensive performance. If Minnesota wants any chance at beating Florida on Sunday, it is going to need a similar performance from Hollins.

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NCAA Game Analysis: Second Round, Friday Evening

Posted by KDoyle on March 22nd, 2013

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#2 Georgetown vs. #15 Florida Gulf Coast – South Region Second Round (at Philadelphia) – 6:50 PM ET on TBS

Florida Gulf Coast is one of the better stories in this year’s NCAA Tournament. Only in their sixth year as a Division 1 program, the Eagles are riding their first winning season in history thanks to the hiring of former Florida State assistant Andy Enfield. In Enfield’s first year, they finished 15-17, but were a game away from the NCAA Tournament as they lost to Belmont in the Atlantic Sun finals. This year, Florida Gulf Coast has been the team to beat, and it began with an early season win over Miami (FL). FGCU’s style of play greatly differs from today’s opponent, the Georgetown Hoyas. The Hoyas are predicated on a stingy zone defense that rarely allows for clean looks at the basket, and they play at a snail’s pace. Led by Otto Porter, Georgetown has a legitimate star that can carry them deep into the NCAA Tournament. FGCU very much likes to get up and down the floor with Sherwood Brown and Bernard Thompson leading the attack. If FGCU is able to get out in the open floor and score in transition, they’ll keep it close for much of the game. Problem is that not many teams control the pace of a game quite like Georgetown—that’s what makes them such a difficult opponent as they force the opposition to play their style of game. Historically, Georgetown has struggled in the NCAA Tournament under John Thompson III as they’ve failed to reach the second weekend in four of six appearances under him, but many believe this is a different Hoya team. FGCU is playing with house money and expect them to make a game of this, but in front of a heavy Georgetown crowd in Philadelphia the Hoyas are simply too much in the end.

Andy Enfield has his FGCU squad playing great basketball. (AP)

Andy Enfield has his FGCU squad playing great basketball. (AP)

The RTC Certified Pick: Georgetown

#2 Ohio State vs. #15 Iona – West Regional Second Round (at Dayton, OH) – 7:15 p.m. ET on CBS
One of the nation’s most balanced teams, the knock on the Buckeyes for the longest time this season was that they didn’t have a secondary scorer to help out junior DeShaun Thomas. We’ll get to that in a second, but let’s just say that Iona never had such a problem. Senior guard Lamont “Momo” Jones has always been the main offensive weapon on this team, never afraid to look for his own shot, but the Gaels have always trusted guard Sean Armand and forward David Laury to chip in heavily in the scoring column. And as a result, the Gaels have one of the most efficient offenses in the mid-major ranks. The problem for Tim Cluess’ team is the complete inability to stop teams on defense; only nine times all season have they held an opponent below one point per possession in a game. Given that Ohio State is one of the best defensive teams in the nation (sixth in defensive efficiency per KenPom.com), you can expect the Buckeyes to at least slow Iona’s prolific offense. And given that Thad Matta has been getting significantly improved offensive play out of guys like Aaron Craft, Lenzelle Smith, LaQuinton Ross and Sam Thompson, you can expect the Bucks to take advantage of that buttery soft Gael defense. While Momo Jones, et al. have the ability to make some exciting plays when they’ve got the ball, their inattention to details defensively will allow the Buckeyes to have more than their share of exciting offensive plays as well.

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Did Minnesota Save Its Season Tuesday night?

Posted by jnowak on February 27th, 2013

Minnesota has been at a karaoke bar for almost two months now, just belting out the chorus to Tom Petty’s “Free Fallin” on repeat, with Tubby Smith singing the lead vocals. But a team that is as frustrating as it is talented finally got its act together at just the right time on Tuesday night, upsetting #1 Indiana, 77-73, at The Barn. Perhaps it was the sports psychologist that Smith brought in this week. Perhaps it was the crowd and the team recognizing the opportunity of having a vulnerable #1 come to town in conference play. Or perhaps it was just this group of talented, athletic players finally figuring out how to play together. Whatever the case was, Minnesota needed this win, and badly. Fortunately for the Gophers, they’ve likely played their way safely into the NCAA Tournament field and only have games against Penn State, Nebraska and Purdue remaining before the Big Ten Tournament. Can they hold on? We’ll see. But here’s a few more thoughts on Tuesday night’s upset:

Minnesota needed the Big Ten Player of the Year-esque Trevor Mbakwe to show up on Tuesday, and that's what they got. (USA Today)

Minnesota needed the Big Ten Player of the Year-esque Trevor Mbakwe to show up on Tuesday, and that’s what they got. (USA Today)

  • The Gophers were clicking – There may not be a more athletic team in the country than the Gophers, which is exactly what made their recent struggles so puzzling. They didn’t seem to have any leadership, couldn’t find any chemistry on the floor, didn’t seem to be taking much direction from their coach and just weren’t appearing to be having all that much fun playing together. Funny what the No. 1 team coming to your house can do. What stood out most to me was that the Gophers did a great job of taking what the game and the Hoosiers gave them. If Indiana was going to get stuck with a smaller player on the red-hot Elliott Eliason, the Gophers kept feeding the post. If Minnesota needed a big basket, it would go to the stronger Trevor Mbakwe inside. And when Indiana refused to move away from its zone defense, the Gophers kept taking three-pointers. They weren’t always going in the basket early, but they were clean looks, and kudos to Minnesota for taking them. They eventually started to fall and were what allowed the Gophers to get over the hump midway in the second half. The Gophers have more than a handful of athletic, talented players who can beat you on any given night and that depth is hard to match in the conference. When they’re all on the same page, we saw what they’re capable of.

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Big Ten Slowly Eating the Golden Gophers Alive

Posted by BHayes on February 21st, 2013

Bennet Hayes is a regular contributor for RTC. You can find him @HoopsTraveler on Twitter. Night Line runs on weeknights during the season, highlighting a major storyline development from that day’s games.

Next time Tubby Smith feels inclined to show off his dance moves, he might think twice. After the old coach cut up a rug in the Gopher locker room following an overtime win over Wisconsin, all his team has done is go on the road and get smacked twice, dropping games to Iowa and Ohio State by a combined 47 points. Suffice it to say that there was no two-stepping going on in the visitor’s locker room in Columbus last night, as Minnesota has now dropped five consecutive road contests. Dazzling computer numbers and a handful of quality victories should prevent the Gophers from slipping all the way out of the NCAA Tournament field, but for a team that was once 15-1 and in the top 10 of both national polls, this late February predicament feels like one that never should have happened.

Tubby Smith, Minnesota

Tubby Smith Is Wondering What Happened To His Gophers

The Gopher offense still ranks in Ken Pomeroy’s top-25 nationally in regard to offensive efficiency, but the recent slide has coincided with some serious issues putting the ball in the bucket. Minnesota exceeded 70 points in all but two of their first 18 games; in the last nine affairs (a stretch where they went 3-6), Tubby’s crew has managed 60 points just twice. Star guard Andre Hollins’ production has been equally dismal over that stretch, having shot just 32% from the field over those nine games. Tubby Smith had to expect his team’s offense to drop off a bit when they hit Big Ten play, but the grade of that cliff has proven far steeper than he would have liked.

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Big Ten M5: 01.29.13 Edition

Posted by jnowak on January 29th, 2013

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  1. CBSSports.com‘s Jeff Goodman had an especially busy Sunday, watching Michigan State-Indiana in Bloomington before driving to Champaign to catch Michigan-Illinois. He got to see arguably the Big Ten’s top three teams live in a matter of hours, and here’s what he came away with: Michigan is #1 for the first time since 1992, and deservedly so; while Indiana, which was ranked in that top spot at the beginning of the season, is not playing to its full potential because its star, Cody Zeller, is not asserting himself. After watching both games Sunday — Zeller was a no-show for most of the Hoosiers’ close win against the Spartans, and the Wolverines handled sputtering Illinois at Assembly Hall — it’s hard to argue with either point.
  2. Just as soon as Minnesota‘s Trevor Mbakwe was working his way back to full health, the Gophers forward has been bothered by a right wrist injury in recent games against Northwestern and Wisconsin. But ESPN.com‘s Andy Katz said that the Minnesota staff expects Mbakwe to be available for tonight’s game against Nebraska. The Gophers, who have lost four in a row (three of which were on the road), need Mbakwe now more than ever. Four of their next five contests are at home.
  3. For years, Wisconsin has been associated with slow, grind-it-out basketball and low-scoring games. But, as Jim Polzin writes for the Wisconsin State Journal, the Badgers haven’t been winning many games this season by playing that way. Their victories against Minnesota and Nebraska marked the first occasion in the last 16 years in which the Badgers won two consecutive games without scoring 50 points. “It’s how this team has to win right now,” associate head coach Greg Gard said Sunday. It’s hard to believe, given some of the performances, but the Badgers remain right in the thick of things for a Big Ten title.
  4. For most of the early season, Minnesota was one of the biggest surprises of the season, looking much like a Big Ten title contender and possibly even a Final Four team. But then the Big Ten schedule hit, and the Gophers have been free-falling ever since. Marcus Fuller of the St. Paul Pioneer Press writes that Minnesota needs Rodney Williams to regain his previous form as soon as possible if the Gophers stand any chance of picking themselves up off the mat. According to Fuller’s story, Williams was leading the team with 13.0 PPG and 6.0 RPG while shooting 56 percent from the field and 69 percent from the line during non-conference play. But since Big Ten play started, he’s the team’s fifth-leading scorer at 9.0 PPG, while shooting 37 percent from the field and 57 percent from the foul line.
  5. If you tuned in to Indiana’s win Sunday against Michigan State, you likely heard the “Gary sucks!” taunts targeted at Michigan State freshman Gary Harris — unless they were targeting Branden Dawson, who hails from Gary, Indiana, but I seriously doubt that — and saw the way Harris responded. Battling through a bit of a freshman slump the last few games, Harris nearly helped the Spartans pull the upset by knocking down five three-pointers and totaling 21 points. This led the Lansing State Journal‘s Graham Couch to wonder whether taunting opposing players can only come back to bite home fans. It has certainly fueled the likes of Jalen Rose and Dawson over the years, and Tom Izzo chimed in with a story of his own.
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Set Your DVR: Weekend Edition

Posted by bmulvihill on January 11th, 2013

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Brendon Mulvihill is an RTC contributor. You can find him @TheMulv on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

College football is officially in the books and that means college hoops takes center stage. It’s going to be a great weekend of action highlighted by two Big Ten showdowns and an ACC battle that will shape the national picture. Good luck deciding which game you are going to watch at 12:00 PM EST tomorrow. Let’s get to the breakdowns.

#1 Duke at #21 North Carolina State – 12:00 PM EST, Saturday on ESPN (*****)

Mason Plumlee was hassled all night by Davidson's defense.

With the injury to Ryan Kelly, Mason Plumlee will need to muscle up on defense against NC State.

  • The ACC is starting to look like Duke, North Carolina State, Miami, and then everyone else. The big news for the Blue Devils going into Saturday is the loss of forward Ryan Kelly to a foot injury for an indefinite period of time. Kelly’s loss appears to be significant for Duke but we really will not know the entire story until Saturday’s game is over. Kelly’s outside shooting and overall scoring threat will be missed, but it may be his size on defense that is missed most. Duke will be left with either freshmen Amile Jefferson and Alex Harris or junior Josh Hairston to help Mason Plumlee defend the interior. With an extremely athletic front line, NC State will test the Blue Devils’ resolve right away. Expect the Wolfpack to try to overwhelm Plumlee down low by attacking the inside. By doing this, they will attempt to put Plumlee in foul trouble and get to the line. If Plumlee gets into foul trouble, it will be a very long afternoon in Raleigh for the Dukies. The team that plays better defense will win this game.

#9 Minnesota at #4 Indiana– 12:00 PM EST, Saturday on BTN (*****)

  • Minnesota made a statement in its blowout win at Illinois this week. They are looking for the Big Ten title and it’s going to take a great team to beat them. What’s most impressive about the win is actually their lack of offensive rebounding. That may seem like a crazy statement but when you consider how good they are on the offensive boards it makes sense. The Gophers lead the country in offensive rebounding percentage (OR%) at 48.5%. They are absolutely dominating that statistic. So when their OR% dipped to 25% against Illinois, their worst performance of the year, and yet they still won by 17 points, it means this team can do a lot more than just grab boards. Shooting 61% eFG proved that. Interestingly enough, however, it could be rebounding that derails the Gophers against Indiana. Minnesota actually struggles on the defensive boards and Indiana is ranked in the top 10 nationally there. With the incredible offensive weapons that Indiana has at its disposal, grabbing a bunch of misses is just salt in its opponents’ wounds. This game is going to be a great spectacle with tremendous match-ups all over the floor. Trevor Mbakwe against Cody Zeller might be the best big man battle we will see all year. If Minnesota can make it two road wins a row against the best in the Big Ten, watch out for Tubby Smith’s team.

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Minnesota Proves it has Staying Power; Illinois Continues Consistency Struggles

Posted by KTrahan on January 10th, 2013

Any remaining doubts about Minnesota’s ability to be a contender in the Big Ten were put to rest Wednesday night as the Gophers took down Illinois 84-67 in Champaign. On paper, it should have been a close game — #8 at #12 — but in reality, Wednesday’s game proved that Minnesota has staying power while Illinois could struggle to keep up its early-season pace.

The Gophers Have Proven To Be Much More Than Just Trevor Mbakwe

Statistically, Minnesota looks very likely to continue its early-season success. The Gophers are incredibly balanced with top players Rodney Williams and Trevor Mbakwe in the frontcourt and the emergence of Andre Hollins, Austin Hollins, and Joe Coleman in the backcourt. That has led to an offensive efficiency rating that ranks 1oth in the nation and a defensive efficiency rating that ranks #14 nationally according to KenPom.com. Minnesota ranks only #51 in effective field goal percentage, but the Gophers are the best in the nation at offensive rebounding, getting a second shot off a ridiculous 48.5 percent of the time. Add in a defensive block percentage that ranks sixth and a steal percentage that ranks eighth nationally, and Minnesota is getting many more possessions than its opponents. So even on an “off” shooting night, the Gophers will always be in the game because they get so many more chances to shoot than their opponents.

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Set Your DVR: Week of 01.07.12

Posted by bmulvihill on January 7th, 2013

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Brendon Mulvihill is an RTC contributor. You can find him @TheMulv on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

There are several very meaningful conference games this week, which is great to see so early in the conference season. There’s lots of great games and even more to cover, so let’s not waste any time and get right to the breakdowns.

#18 Notre Dame at #10 Cincinnati – 6:30 PM EST, Monday on ESPN2 (****)

Things Are Looking Good for Mike Brey, Who Just Might Win Another Coach of the Year Awayrd (AP Photo)

Can Mike Brey and the Irish buck history and win their first true road game? (AP Photo)

  • Notre Dame has played 14 games so far and this will be their first true road test of the season. Mike Brey is known for setting his schedule this way and it has not benefited the Irish much over the years. The Irish have lost their first true road game of the season for three straight seasons, and if you examine Notre Dame’s schedule in the Brey era, you will see that losing the first road game of the season is fairly typical. The Irish run up against a Cincinnati team that has lost two of its past three games, including back-to-back home games. The Bearcats can blame most of their recent troubles on poor shooting. They are under 50% eFG for the past five games. They are also struggling to get to the line, which is an indication that they are taking a lot of outside shots. Look to see if Cincy takes the ball to the hoop more to manufacture some points at the free throw line. Also, watch to see if Notre Dame can hit their shots on the road as well as they have at home. It’s doubtful, particularly against tough field goal defense like Cincinnati. The Bearcats should win in a close one.

#23 Pittsburgh at #14 Georgetown – 9:00 PM EST, Tuesday on ESPNU (***)

  • Many questioned how good the Panthers really were given their weak schedule, but with two consecutive losses, it’s looking more and more like the critics were correct. Pitt heads to Georgetown for a tough Big East road game in which a loss will drop them to 0-3 in the conference. Georgetown is coming off a tough road loss to Marquette where offensive rebounding and free throws killed them, much like it did in the Indiana game earlier this season. If Pittsburgh is to win this game, they need to control the offensive glass. They rank sixth in the nation in offensive rebounding percentage, but watch to see if the length of the Hoyas makes rebounding more difficult for Pitt. Additionally, the Panthers present relatively zero threat from three-point land. They rely on twos heavily and almost exclusively. With the Hoyas ranking 13th in the nation in two-point field goal defense, you can expect Jamie Dixon’s club to have a tough time scoring. It says here that the Hoyas should prevail at home.

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Big Ten M5: 01.02.13 Edition

Posted by jnowak on January 2nd, 2013

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  1. We’ve seen Minnesota get off to hot starts before, but this year is starting to feel a little different. The Gophers got a signature win at home on Monday against Michigan State — which had tormented Minnesota at The Barn in years past — and as Trevor Mbakwe gets back into the mix, the Gophers will only get stronger. Tubby Smith has taken his time to ease Mbakwe back into the playing rotation after he tore his right ACL just over a year ago. Playing without a knee brace for the first time this season, Mbakwe showed off the skills we’ve become used to seeing in the Big Ten the last few years — turning in a double-double and giving the Spartans trouble on both ends of the floor. As ESPN‘s Myron Medcalf wrote afterward, Mbakwe is an emotional guide for this team, which could very well compee for a Big Ten title in the toughest conference in the country.
  2. As the guys at CBSSports.com look at the Big Ten at the midway point of the season, Jeff Goodman says the conference is the most loaded in America. Illinois and Minnesota have been much better than we ever expected, Michigan and Indiana are surefire national title contenders, and Ohio State and Michigan State are expected to do their usual damage. Goodman takes a good look at the conference with this reset, looking at best match-ups ahead, some of the conference’s top players, and several other interesting news and notes.
  3. All players have their own unique ways of getting motivated before big games. Some turn to scripture, others use music. Athletes are famously superstitious and their habits are endless. Indiana’s Will Sheehey, for one, takes the bad and turns it into good. Sheehey told the Indianapolis Star that he uses criticism, chants from opposing fans, and negative things he reads about his game to motivate himself. It clearly worked on New Year’s Even in Iowa City, as Sheehey went for 13 points, five rebounds and two assists coming off the bench in a nice Big Ten opener road win for the Hoosiers.
  4. When it comes to criticism for Wisconsin sophomore Frank Kaminsky, he admits that no one is tougher than himself. Wisconsin players are expected to play hard, and the Badgers are one of those teams that give the Big Ten a bruising reputation. So when Kaminsky feels like he isn’t playing tough enough, he’s usually the first person to tell… himself. “I know that sometimes I play soft,” Kaminsky told Madison.com earlier this week, “and after I make a soft play I kind of mumble to myself about being stupid and how I need to play harder.” He’s an up-and-comer in the program and a guy Bo Ryan points to as one of the most improved in his short time in Madison.
  5. Once Big Ten play rolls around for Nebraska, the Cornhuskers are going to need as much scoring as they can find from all parts of the bench. If that means more scoring from David Rivers, that could be a huge plus for Tim Miles’ team. The sophomore wing dropped 20 points in the Huskers’ win against Central Michigan last week, after tallying only 20 points his entire freshman season. So the Omaha World-Herald asks, where has that been all this time? “It’s just been bottled up,” Rivers said with a smile. “I hope there are more of those to come.” If Nebraska is to make a reasonable showing in the Big Ten this year, Miles should hope so, too.
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Rushed Reactions: #14 Minnesota 71, USC 57

Posted by AMurawa on December 9th, 2012

Drew Murawa is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report from tonight’s Minnesota-USC game in Los Angeles.

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. 500 Wins. Tonight’s win was Tubby Smith’s 500th victory in his career and he becomes the 19th active head coach to reach that mark. Despite a national title, a National Coach of the Year award, and numerous other accomplishments under his belt, Smith gets overlooked regularly since he left Kentucky, but despite some offseason distractions, he looks like he has put together his best team at his current stop. After the game, he paused to reflect briefly and typically understated his accomplishment: “I have been in good situations and on programs who have been committed to basketball. Not everyone has that opportunity.”
  2. Golden Gophers For Real. Balanced scoring, superb athleticism up front, talented and savvy guards, depth and great coaching. Yup, that’s a pretty good recipe for a Top 25 team. Eight players saw seven minutes or more for Smith and seven of those guys scored at least six points. In the early moments of the game, it was clear that one of these teams was ready to go from the opening tip and one was not — Minnesota looked crisp, moving the ball around quickly and getting enough open looks to send USC looking for cover in a 2-3 zone. As it is now, Minnesota has a 10-1 record with wins over Memphis, Stanford, Florida State, and USC, and a loss to #1 Duke the only blemish. We knew teams like Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State were going to be a load, but coupled with Illinois’ big win at Gonzaga on Saturday, it looks like we can throw another pair on the Big Ten pile.
  3. Working Things Out. We’re a month into the season and Kevin O’Neill has no idea what he has here. His rotation seems to be little more than subbing guys in and out based on a whim. Eleven guys played in the first half, and while O’Neill tightened up his rotation to great effect in the second half, it just isn’t feasible to generate a brand new rotation every night out. Guys need to know their roles in order to give the coaching staff what they want. Start with the players you absolutely need to have on the floor (e.g., Byron Wesley, Jio Fontan, and Omar Oraby) and build an eight or nine-man rotation from there. There is enough talent here for the Trojans to make some noise in conference play, but O’Neill’s got to cobble together some type of coherent plan for that to happen. He certainly knows that, as he discussed after the game trimming his rotation based on effort.
Tubby Smith, Minnesota

Tubby Smith Earned His 500th Win Saturday Night With What Appears To Be His Best Minnesota Team

Star of the GameOmar Oraby. You hate to name a player on the losing team the star of the game, but in the second half at least, Oraby was the best player on the floor. He scored 15 points on 7-of-9 shooting, the Trojan offense ran smoothly through him in the post, he crashed the boards and challenged many shots at the rim, including a dunk attempt by Trevor Mbakwe on a breakaway that wound up with both players crashing to the floor. The whistle went against Oraby, but he maintained his innocence, even after the game. Oraby got 14 minutes in the second half and O’Neill sang his praises (except for his woeful free throw shooting) after the game, noting, “he’s gonna have to get a ton of time.”

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Big Ten M5: 11.30.12 Edition

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on November 30th, 2012

  1. Tubby Smith’s Gophers are rolling and have shown great depth but Trevor Mbakwe’s playing time has been limited. Gopher fans might wonder why Mbakwe isn’t starting but Smith is trying to shape the other players’ roles as Mbakwe returns to 100% game shape. Elliott Eliason has earned his spot at the forward position during Mbakwe’s recovery and plays a bruising style of basketball that Smith appreciates. Mbakwe will eventually return to the starting lineup and his athleticism will certainly improve the Gophers, but Eliason provides a different type of game that can complement Mbakwe”s skill set. Eliason pulled down 10 rebounds against a tough Florida State squad on Tuesday night and showed why he can add value. Regardless of when Mbakwe returns to the starting lineup, Eliason’s development will only help Minnesota as they appear to be one of the top five teams in the B1G this season.
  2. Tom Izzo prefers to play a traditional lineup with a center and a power forward rather than four guards and a center. He has played Derrick Nix and Adreian Payne together for most of the Spartans’ games this season but he might move away from that lineup soon. Nix has great post moves and Payne can run the floor with the best of them; together, they can cause unique match-up problems to opposing teams but it could also lead to spacing issues on the floor with both of them cloggin the lane inside. Nix and Payne struggled on the road against Miami earlier this week and Izzo might try to experiment by playing four guards on the court at the same time to mix things up over the next few games.
  3. Is there a “Free Laquinton Ross” movement waiting to happen? Ohio State played an excellent game for 34 minutes on the road against Duke on Wednesday night but fans might be wondering when the sophomore wing will get more playing time. Ross only played 11 minutes but scored nine points against the Blue Devils while another sophomore wing, Sam Thompson, played 25 minutes. Thompson is a bit more mature on the defensive end but Ross can put up points quickly if given a chance. If Ross improves defensively, Matta might give him more minutes but it is only a matter of time before he has a big impact on games. The Duke game proved that the Buckeyes will be a very competitive team throughout the season in large part due to their depth at the wing position.
  4. Speaking of players who have been let loose this season, Illinois’ Tyler Griffey looks like a brand new player in Champaign. Griffey is not a traditional forward who likes to play in the paint but he has a great jumpshot and the new coaching staff has convinced him to pull the trigger from beyond the arc whenever he wants this season. Griffey has been shooting a whopping 56% from beyond the arc thus far and he hit the game winning shot against Gardner-Webb at home last Sunday afternoon. He will continue to play a significant role in the Illini resurgence as head coach Johen Groce’s offense relies on players who can consistently shoot the ball from anywhere on the floor.
  5. Michigan’s Trey Burke could have entered last year’s NBA Draft and probably would have been picked in the first round but he decided to come back for another season in Ann Arbor to lead his team to a Final Four. After a hot start during the first two weeks of the season, he is quickly rising up the NBA Draft boards as one of the best point guards eligible for next year’s draft. Burke has been shooting 48% from the field but his assists have gone up from 4.5 to 7.6 APG as well this year. The sophomore has adapted very well to playing as a true point guard and it should continue to bolster his position on the draft boards especially if Michigan makes a deep run in March.
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Gophers Show Their Depth And Maturity Against Florida State

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on November 28th, 2012

Deepak is a writer for the Big Ten microsite of Rush The Court. Follow him on Twitter for more about B1G hoops at @dee_b1g.

Non-conference games on neutral courts are tough but they don’t present the same challenges as true road games. Tubby Smith’s Gophers had a great run during the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament last weekend but hot players can ride a streak when playing three games in three nights. Even though winning two games in three nights is very impressive, the Gophers had yet to play on the road until last night’s game against Florida State, so there were still a few questions about their composure away from Minneapolis. The Seminoles are a defensive-oriented team that would fit perfectly well in the B1G because of their grind-it-out style of play. Factoring in their fatigue (fourth game in six nights) and a road contest against an opponent that had not played a game in six days could have meant that the Gophers would have trouble, but Minnesota showed no signs of slowing down. Not only did they convincingly win in Tallahassee, 77-68, but they proved that their depth and maturity will be their greatest assets this year.

Andre Hollins leads a quartet of guards that provide great depth for the Gophers. (USA Today)

  • Depth at the Guard Position: Both of the Hollins, Austin and Andre, have a common last name but provide great diversity to Smith’s offense in the half-court. Andre Hollins showed that he can score from anywhere on the floor as he went off for 41 points against Memphis last week but he also showed that he can facilitate last night by dishing out five assists against FSU. He was the primary ballhandler and had some nice passes in transition to the other wings. Austin Hollins, on the other hand, has a great wingspan and consistently cuts to the basket. Even though he was only 1-4 from beyond the arc last night, he muscled his way into the paint for eight free throw attempts. The third guard in the starting rotation, Joe Coleman, has a great mid-range jumper. He is strong enough (6’4″, 200 lbs.) to set hard screens out top and roll off to drain 15-footers from the mid-range. If this trio of guards isn’t enough, Julian Welch can fill in perfectly for any of them if they get into foul trouble. Because Welch can score off the bench, Coleman or Austin Hollins can afford to take chances on the defensive end and be a bit more physical against the best wing on the opposing team. The starters played FSU sharpshooter Michael Snaer very closely Tuesday night and held him to just 33% shooting from the field. Minnesota might have one of the best guard combinations in the Big Ten. Read the rest of this entry »
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