If your a sports fan in the Twin Cities area like myself, you have to be totally disgusted by most of our pro and major college teams. We are named Loserville USA for a very good reason. Our teams flat out suck!! The only exception is probably the Vikings who really overachieved this year and the men’s and women’s hockey teams at the U. The team that has really disappointed many people in this area and are a constant topic on any sports talk show is the Minnesota Gophers men’s basketball team.
There were many high hopes for the Gophers this year. They had everyone coming back from a nice NIT run which resulted in a runner up finish. And to top that off, they were getting one of their best players back from knee surgery. Some experts even had them winning the very tough Big Ten conference. The team got off to a very good start and continued their fine play into the early portion of the Big Ten schedule. However, things have really gone downhill in the last month for the maroon and gold. After being ranked as high as 8th in the nation, they are now unranked and in danger of missing the NCCA tourney. How could this happen so suddenly?
I have watched a number of their games and probably can offer my 2 cents as well as anybody. First of all, they are absolutely pathetic on offense especially against any type of zone. Slap a zone on these guys and they look like a bunch of high school ballers out there! They have no idea on how to attack it and to top it off, the Gpphers have very few good outside shooters to bust a zone defense. Andre and Austin Hollins can get hot at times but neither is the consistent outside 3 point shooter that you need against a zone. Outside of those two players, nobody even comes close to having that ability or even score against any defense. When you need a big bucket late in the game the only guy that really scares me is Andre Hollins.
Any problem this team has is with too many turnovers. They really do not have a true point guard. Andre Hollins runs the show at the point but he is really a shooting guard who is not a good ball handler or passer. Their big men are terrible passers. Double team anyone down low and they have the look of a deer in headlights. You simply cannot turn the ball over 20 plus times a game and expect success, especially playing against good caliber teams.
And how about their bench players? Any good or great team can go deep into their rotation and I do not see that with this team. They have had some injury issues this year and that has hurt them with the weak bench. The best non-starter scoring average is a meager 3.6 points per game. That statistic tells a lot about their lack of firepower off the bench.
There has been a lot of criticism of their coach Tubby Smith and rightly so. I question some of his in game adjustments or lack of. His team’s defense and rebounding are always solid but I often wonder if he should hire an offensive coordinator. The team’s offense is like a sputtering car going down the road. Smith also needs to be held accountable for what I believe is very sub-par recruiting. How many really good blue chip players has he brought here? Not as many as people think.
Smith has received a lot of heat lately but let’s face the facts about this team. They are not as talented as some people think. I nearly drove off the road one afternoon when I heard some sports talk show host talk about the team having 4 first round draft choices. That is totally ridiculous!! There is not a single guy on that team who could make an NBA roster right now. They have a few guys with the potential to do so in the future, but just because you are one of the best dunkers in the country, does not mean that you are NBA material. They have some very good and explosive athletes in the starting 5 but not a good mixed of players to consistently play well and win.
It should be very interesting to see what will happen if the Gophers fail to get an invite to the NCCA tourney. It will go down as the biggest collapse I have ever seen from any sports team, pro or college. What will happen to Smith? In the meantime, there is still time left to turnaround the season. They play Indiana at home on Tuesday night and upsetting them would really turn things around and maybe kick start their season again. But I am just resigned to the fact that this team is no better than a 7th, 8th seed in the NCCA tourney. I would be happy if they even won a game in the tourney but making a deep run is very unlikely. People need to calm down and realize that this team was simply overrated to begin with, pure and simple. Now the reality is beginning to set in.