Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Gophers are comin...

Hey friends, Fuzz here. Since TKOT is your college basketball headquarters we thought we'd give a little love to the local team. If we started this blog last year not a chance in hell we breakdown the Gophers. With a new sheriff in town we have a different tone this year. On a daily basis I have to listen to my roommate and fellow TKOT writer pump up this Gophers program. It's non-stop. So, I thought I'd throw some questions at him and let him spout off a little more. So here are the insights from Dogg, one of the biggest Gopher backers I know on the state of the Minnesota Golden Gopher Mens Basketball team. Enjoy.

The Minnesota program seemed to get a shot in the arm with the hiring of Tubby Smith. Every Gopher Basketball fan has high hopes that he can turn this around. What are your thoughts on Tubby? You think he can do it? Anything you've seen that we already don't know?

Dogg: I thought a "shot in the arm" was usually a bad thing but maybe you're referring to the energy and excitement that has been brought back to this program along with its fans due to the hiring of Tubby. Well, it's been everything and then some since he arrived on campus. The players have been rejuvenated and students/fans have new re-found hope in this program. Do I think he can do it? Take a look at his recruiting class coming in next year and find somebody who says they think he can't turn this ship around. He is a recognized and big time name throughout college basketball and high school kids know who he is so his recruiting skills will come naturally. I've always said with the U of M campus and being in Minneapolis high priced talent will come here if we can bring in a high profile coach like Tubby and start winning which he will do. What I've seen is Law Mack get absolutely shutdown in a game this year but the Gophers still put a W in the win column. That would've not come close to happening last year.

Wow. I see you’re fully on board the Tubby train. How many years do you think it will be until we make the Big Dance?

Dogg: This is not a bias prediction at all but I think we are going to make the Big Dance this year! YES, I said the Minnesota Golden Gophers will be playing in the 2007-2008 NCAA men’s basketball tournament. The Big Ten will always take 5-7 teams and with the league being down this year, we're comin!

Hold up. A nine win team to the dance this year? Can you please explain why you think this? What signs are you seeing personally?

Dogg: This team was better than 9 wins last year but when you have a 2nd grade head coach it's tough to win games especially in the rugged Big Ten. I believe Tubby Smith has always put a strong emphasis on defense and that is what wins games in the Big Ten. Of course you need guys to score some points but that's why you keep the rock in Law Mack's hands and he'll make things happen for himself and his teammates.
Dan Coleman has underachieved more than any DI basketball player that I've ever witnessed. At 6'8" with dribbling skills and a very nice outside jump shot he's been used in every wrong way possible. Give him some freedom to post up the 6'5" players or take the 6'9" posts out on the perimeter. This game is about taking advantage of the mismatches and Monson couldn't have schemed a worse game plan that he did for the past 5 years.

What do you see out of the freshman this year? (Hoffarber & Nolen) Any of them have potential to be good Big Ten players?

Dogg: The way it looks thus far is Al Nolen might contribute immediately, which is a great sign. He did only average small double digits in points senior year of high school but I also believe he was the top assist man in the state which this team needs; a guy who can distribute the rock to the big three (Spence, Law Mack and DC). He has shown that his outside jumper is a strong point in his game, which bodes well for a PG who is a pass first guy.

Blake Hoffarber is the big name coming in but personally believe half that hype was due to the shot he made his sophomore year from his butt in the state tournament. I know he can score but so could Isaiah Dahlman and we know where he's at right now...stuck on the end of Michigan State's bench. The Big Ten is physical and isn't a great place for guys like Blake to be considered good Big Ten players. He might surprise some but I'm going to say that Al Nolen will be the guy to watch.

I think I'm sold now! I don’t know how you do it. Who do you see having a breakout year?
Dogg: I have a couple guys in mind to breakout this year. One being Dan Coleman who I mentioned has been utilized in the complete wrong way his entire career. I watched this guy in the Howard Pulley league take Trenton Hassell to the rack for an entire game and this guy is considered a poor mans Bruce Bowen but still a very good defender in the NBA. If you give him room he'll absolutely burry jump shots from 15' and beyond. He's an inside outside type of player and I like to think of him as a poor mans Shane Battier but have hopes that he'll play more like him this year (side note: I hate Duke and Shane Battier but he was a damn good college basketball player).

The next guy is Lawrence Westbrook. He was one of Monson's top-level recruits who other colleges actually liked coming out of high school as well. Tough to say that about any of Monson's recruits but this guy has million dollar talents with a 10 cent brain, so I hear. Watching him and hearing about him makes me think of Rico Tucker immediately who also had the talents but couldn't keep things straight with school, team policies, etc. Remember though fans, we have a guy named Tubby this year who doesn't let players slip and if we can get this kid to go out and play basketball like he's capable of we might have a star in the making.

Since you seem so plugged in do you have any inside info you can share with us? You hearing anything that we don't know?

Dogg: Al Nolen takes significant minutes away from Kevin Payton and Damian Johnson will be a nice role player. I know Johnson didn't show any signs of being anything worth while last year but he's a guy with good size who can put it on the floor. I also believe Tubby will make guys like him a smarter basketball player which will allow him to understand and let the game come to him instead of forcing the action. Being Minneapolis Patrick Henry alums, Law Mack is showing Al Nolen the ropes and are great friends already. A freshman having a 5th year senior on his side is always a good thing and Nolen will be this years BMOC.

I knew our program was going to get better with Tubby but I didn't know it was coming this quick. Is there a downfall of having too much success and having a big time coach like Tubby as your coach?

Dogg: Are you kidding me? Too much success? After what Gopher fans have had to go through in recent years there's no such thing as too much success. I personally haven't been this excited for a new coach to begin rebuilding a MN program. We are talking national titles at Kentucky, McDonald's All-Americans, top 5 recruiting classes, PTP'ers, Dick Vitale rants, etc. I've even been talking about guys leaving early for the NBA draft in next 5 years. I'm mean we are talking BIG TIME! Last year it was losing to DII Winona St. and hoping we could win a Big Ten game or two but this year and years to come will be a whole new story.

The Big Ten and the rest of America better watch out because Tubby Smith and the University of Minnesota are comin! We're comin! We're comin!


The Truth said...

It's weird you posted this because I was telling a friend of mine the exact same thing the other day...
I honestly think the Gophers have a legit shot at a NCAA Tournament berth this season. I think they will creep up on people and slip in.

Tubby has lit a fire under Tollackson, and defensively with Law Mack (did you see him harrassing Iowa State ballhandlers?). Sure we haven't played anybody really, but it's still been impressive. A win AT Iowa State last season would've been a huge accomplishment, this year it's looking like it could just be an addition to our resume. If they don't make the Tourney, they will at least come pretty close, which is a lot more than the rest of the nation would expect. I agree 100% with Dogg

Dogg said...

First off, love the name "the truth". Wining @ Iowa St. was a huge accomplishment for this team and will be a momentum builder for the rest of the season. We will crack the top 25 if we enter Big Ten play undefeated which we could do if we beat FSU this week. I've always though Law Mack, Spence and DC were good players not being utilized correctly so this team has hope. Tubby and the Gophs are comin!

Truth, get your buddies to hop on the bandwaggon now!

The Truth said...

Oh I will get them on the wagon alright, I even sent out a mass text message today proclaiming that the Gophers would make the NCAA Tournament this year. I've been on the wagon since I was born, and I still argue that the 1996-1997 Golden Gophers were the greatest sports team ever assembled at any level haha...
Eric Harris, Bobby J, Sam I Am, Courtney James, and John Thomas...
Quincy, Charles Thomas, Trevor Winter off the bench

That Final Four season was the most fun I've ever had watching ANY sport. (More then the '98 Vikes or '04 Wolves). I still think some diehard Gopher fans should break into the Barn and steal that infamous Final Four banner out of the closet!

Dogg said...

It was great watching the 1997 Golden Gophers but I had season tickets for the 1998 Vikings so that was probably the most fun I've ever had. Get ready though because Gophs hoops will be the thing to watch very soon.