Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Fuzz's Stew

You know that girl that you meet in a bar, a coffee shop, a whatever and is putting out the good vibes to you? You’ve all been there. Let’s use the bar setting. At the bar she gives you a smile and a come on the dance floor with me wave while you practically run towards her. On the dance floor she’s all over you grabbing whatever she can get her hands on giving you all sorts of hope. When it comes to closing time you’re thinking… her place tonight at the best or coffee on Tuesday at the worst. Then out of nowhere she takes off with a boyfriend, her girlfriends, herself... anyone except you. You’re standing there with a “what the fuck?” look on your face confused as hell what just happened.

That girl is the Gopher’s basketball team this year---a tease.

A new sheriff was hired in the off-season and boy has Tubby flipped the program around. Last year I went to a conference game and I left 25 minutes before the game. I live 20 away and I was walking into the arena at tip-off. I went to last Sunday’s game against Michigan State and left 45-50 minutes early and we just caught the National Anthem. Huron Blvd was even backed up on I-94, which is a true sign that Gopher basketball has returned to a hot ticket in town again.

The Gophers ended up losing to Michigan State by five, which was three days after a truly heartbreaking five-point loss to Indiana on national television. Two ranked teams on our court and we lost them both. We should have one at least one of those games. Or should we have? Maybe the fast start in that cupcake non-conference schedule has blinded everyone to what we really are.

To go back, we were 12-3 heading into the Indiana game with a bunch of average basketball players, which had nine total wins last year with pretty much the same Motley Crue. Still, we had hope and we had Tubby. He’s like a magician the way he’s getting this team to play. We haven’t seen this type of in your face brand of basketball in years and already at 12 wins in mid-January had people thinking “big dance.” But I’m afraid we’re going to fall short of this “big dance” dream that we’re all secretly holding out hope for.

Now, the Gophers are 12-5 after losing two great opportunity games at Williams arena. We have 13 conference games left plus the Big Ten Tourney. You win just over half of those and that puts you at 19 wins. You win eight of those (a big feat for this team) that gets you to 20 heading into the Big Ten tourney. You’re still going to need help unless one or two of those eight wins comes against a ranked opponent. That’s the other big issue…we haven’t beaten one ranked team yet. A gigantic negative for bubble teams.

Personally, I think they blew their chance. Yes, we have a lot of games left but winning one of those great opportunity games would have been so huge. You can put it on whatever you want--- not enough talent, not used to playing close games, coaching, all of the above, etc... Whatever you think it is, it boils down to the talent level from top to bottom in my opinion. We do have depth but that depth is below average. We have to play 10 deep because the starters aren’t these magnificent stars that deserve to play 35 minutes so we have to play these shitbirds. For example, I made a mental note during the Michigan State game when our five players on the court were: Hoffarbor, Westbrook, Damian Johnson, Abu-Shamala, & Jonathan Williams. I looked at one of my brothers and told him it’s not a good sign when your best player on the court is Hoffarbor, who I love, but can’t carry a team at this stage. He’s a freshman that hasn’t figured out how to create his own shot yet, but he was our best player on the floor against the #10 ranked Spartans. No wonder we lost. It finally came to my realization at that exact moment that I was teased into believing we had a chance.

Look, I love where this program is headed and I love that we compete in almost every game. Some people say that we should have higher expectations for our sports teams. Maybe so, but not with this team and the talent that’s on the roster. We’ve been abysmal for a long time that competing every night is good enough for me and with a bleak sports market right now, I love that Tubby has the Gophers as the talk of the town again. But like everyone else, I was sucked in to that 12-3 record. I started believing and believing and believing and then two heartbreaking telling losses came. Now, I’m standing here with the “what the fuck?” look on my face confused on what the hell just happened.

You guys have that look or do you still believe?

Five other Ingredients-

I’m a big ran of It’s one if not the best high school sports recruiting sites out there. I was doing some digging the other day and noticed a certain team popping up multiple times for 5-star basketball recruits, the highest grade you can get. Many of these are verbal commits but those usually hold unless your name is Eric Gordon. The 5-star rating doesn’t guarantee success for a player but it’s likely. Anyways, the University of North Carolina has six 5-star recruits total in the classes of 2008 & 2009. If you’re not familiar with the star recruiting scale let me tell you that number is off the charts! The #1 team in the country, the Memphis Tigers, has one 5-star player on their team. Kansas the #2 team does have four 5-star recruits, but that’s the whole team! UNC is getting six in two years! Duke brought in three McDonald’s All-Americans in this years class with Singler, King and Smith, which comes down to one 5-star and two 4-star recruits. The Gophers have had two 5-stars in the last 20+ years---Humphries and Tollackson. UNC is getting SIX in two years!!! I can’t get over this. Get comfortable saying “UNC in the Final Four” with this years team and the next 3-4 years. By the way, Spence dog was far from a 5-star, I think he actually recorded the first ever “–5-star” rating.

Could this be the year that both Memphis and Kansas make the final four? Both have been knocking on the door for the last couple years but have always come up short. Now, both squads are a little older and are winning at an alarming rate. Julian Wright left for the NBA yet I like Kansas’s chances more this year than I did last year. I can’t figure it out.

Butler is #15 in the country with a 17-2 record but I can’t name you one person on that whole team. Players, coaches, trainers, etc... I have no idea what their team name is! I know absolutely nothing about that team. Yet, they’re 15th in the land. I love college basketball! See, a team like Butler has a chance come March to show how good they really are no matter what conference they play in. Those kids get an opportunity to play for something. I love that and this is probably the same reason why I’m not a big college football fan.

For all the Arizona basketball fans that read TKOT that have been complaining for the lack of print they get… your team blows. That about covers it.

Finally, a Michael Beast-ley update: 16 games, 24.6 pts, & 12.6 boards. TKOT loves him and wants him to play next to Big Al next year. Al plays a straight post game and Beast-ley plays a little bit of both. He’s talented as hell and would help the T-wolves immensely.


Pup Money said...

Can't name on Butler player? How about the next Steve Nash in AJ Graves? Watch out for that little squad in Indiana. They will do some damage in the NCAA Tournament once again.

Sow Cow said...

Arizona is a great program and is just having a so so year. With 10 players on current NBA rosters, I'm pretty sure that the program will bounce back! They are fourth in that category behind UCONN (13), Duke (12), and UNC (12). I'd take an AZ all star team over a Duke all star team any day!

Anonymous said...

Nice post Fuzz

One ommission to point out: Talking about 5 star players: You may have elevated yourself with that big three to win the game last night - you reminded me of JJ Redick. Go Duke!


Fuzz said...

If I was talking about the comparsion of NBA players and which college they attended you might have a point. I'm talking about college basketball here though. I don't give a crap how their players translate to the NBA. They have a solid program but the last 2-3 years have been down.

Just for the fun of it, here's a look at the rosters from CbsSportsline:

Arizona (9)- Arenas, Bibby, Frye, Iguodala, Jefferson, D-Stoudamire, S-Stoudamire, Terry & Walton.

Duke (13)- Battier, Boozer, Brand, Deng, Duhon, Dunleavy, Hill, Jones, Maggette, McRoberts, Randolph, Redick & Williams

Assuming everyone is healthy here are the starting fives:

Arizona- Arenas, Terry, Jefferson, Walton & Frye with Bibby & Iguodala off the bench.

Duke- Duhon, Hill, Deng, Brand & Boozer with Battier & Maggette off the bench.

I don't know Sow Cow this could be debatable...maybe even a Voices from a Stranger/TKOT writer column...

Fuzz said...

To Pup Money-
Butler won again tonight so you might be on to something with this little team from Indiana. However, your boy A.J. Graves the next Steve Nash was 2-11 with zero assists. He might have a loooooong way to go to get to Stevie's level.

Sow Cow said...

Great idea Fuzz! I think we should definitely do a post of this nature... maybe even open it up to others who have huge loyalties. Fitz can't do Marquette, though, unless he puts William Gates in his starting 5.

P.S. Zona knocked off another top 10 opponent last night! They are good and their losses only happened when one of their top players was out!

Pup Money said...

To Fuzz:

Sure Graves' numbers are down from last year, but he's a floor general out there. He's had some big games this season scoring wise. I doubt he'll get recognition in the upcoming NBA Draft, but if he has another stellar NCAA Tournament like he did he could be a steal in the 2nd round.