Michigan State Spartans avoid upset at the Barn

Tom Izzo

This one truly was a barn-burner.

Coming off a five-game hot streak in the Big Ten, Michigan State was looking to keep its position at the top of the conference, but the Golden Gophers had a different idea in mind. The first half alone had 16 lead changes and 4 ties. Minnesota’s Ralph Sampson III showed off his creativity with a variety of baby hooks and shots in the paint. The battle between Sampson III and MSU’s Adreian Payne became so hot at one point in the game that a double foul was issued.

These big men don’t play around in the Big Ten when it comes to being physical.

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Can Gophers Ralph Sampson III Follow Dad to the NBA?

ralph sampson III

Minnesota Golden Gophers Coach Tubby Smith has seen drastic, if not dramatic improvements in the game of senior Center Ralph Sampson III.

“His consistency, his numbers have improved each year. They haven’t been leaps and bounds, but I think a lot of it has to do with Ralph getting in better shape, not that he hasn’t worked at it, but he’s had to focus on learning to breathe properly, I don’t know if he had asthma or another type of breathing disorder, but he’s got that under control better, and his stamina and strength are two issues he’s done a good job of addressing this summer and fall,” Sampson’s coach Tubby Smith said.

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Illini, Gophers, DePaul College Hoops News: 5-10-11

Minnesota cheerleader

It may be college basketball’s  offseason, but a lot of news surrounding teams in the Big East and Big Ten broke in the past couple of days. Whether you’re a fan of the Illini, DePaul or the Gophers, pay attention!

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Gophers Basketball Can’t Sleep on Michigan

darius morris

Glen Rice is long gone, the Fab Five are nothing but a distant memory, and recent stars Manny Harris and Deshawn Sims aren’t walking through that door. [Read more…]

Mbakwe Dominating Around the Rim for Gophers Basketball

Trevor Mbakwe

The Minnesota Gophers Basketball team struggled rebounding the ball at times last year.

While they ranked third in the conference in rebounding, some of their bigger losses came due to a lack of dominant inside force to clear the boards and not give the opponent second chance opportunities.

The last man that could be legitimately considered a competent rebounder for the Gophers was one-and-done Kris Humphries in 2003-04, and no one since has approached the 10.1 boards a game Humphries put up that season.

In fact, the only two people to average six rebounds/gm for the squad since that season were center Jeff Hagen at 6.1 in 2004-05, and shooting guard Vince Grier in 2005-06 at 6.3.

The fact that the team’s second leading single-season rebounder in the last eight years is a guard says a lot, but Tubby Smith may have found the long-awaited answer he and previous coaches had been looking for.

Two full years away from a Division 1 court and one court case later, Minnesota fans will tell you it’s been worth the wait.

Trevor Mbakwe’s journey back to prominence has been a long one, but he has seemed to learn a few things along the way.

Not only has Mbakwe matured physically, now nearly 22 years old as a junior, but it seems his court case and off-court struggles have taught him something.

Mbakwe has been a quiet force for the Gophers, just the way Tubby Smith likes it, on his way to 13 points and 10 rebounds/gm early on.  Not hearing from him off the court is the main issue at this point, because one more injury or suspension could doom the Gophers early conference season in which they face three ranked opponents in their first five conference matchups.

Mbakwe’s is a rebounding maven.  However, he is not just a one trick pony. Shooting an ungodly 61% from the field, obviously aided by his ability to offensive rebound at a 3.3 per game clip, Mbakwe is contributing in a number of different ways.

Creating second chances and getting to the line nearly eight times per game is giving a boost to the other two members of the Gophers front line, Colton Iverson and Ralph Sampson III, who are able to stay within their comfort zones since neither are particularly good offensive rebounders.

ralph sampson

Sampson is more interested in shot blocking, which he does better than anyone in the Big Ten, but that can also be dangerous without a strong rebounding presence to pick up the slack on the boards, leaving the door open for second chance opportunities.

Iverson tends to be rather soft inside at times, not getting physical enough and sometimes shying away from contact.  Mbakwe brings a nice workmanlike attitude and way of playing the game that compliments Sampson’s risk-taking defense and Iverson’s more passive offensive game.

colton iverson

Mbakwe has used his strength inside to get to double figures every game this year and record six double-doubles in the Gophers 10 games.

Not much else needs to be said about how Mbakwe plays after looking at his stat line from the Cornell game.

Mbakwe did not have the offensive touch, going 0-4 from the field, but still managed 12 points and 16 rebounds.

All 12 of those points obviously came from the line, and quite honestly he should’ve done better, with his poor free throw shooting being really the only hole in his game to this point (57%, 12-20 vs. Cornell).

He simply finds a way to be productive, even on his worst shooting day.

Mbakwe has yet to be tested by any dominant big men, but has shown that he can put up these types of numbers against some of the nations top teams (12 and 9 vs. UNC, 16 and 7 vs. West Virginia).

His athleticism should keep him near the top of the Big Ten rebounding stats, which he currently leads at 10.2 per game, with Ohio State Fab Freshman Jered Sullinger checking in at #2 with 9.9.

Considering his points are coming off second chances he creates, if he can continue to rebound at this rate his shooting percentage should be near the top as well, as he sits at 61%, second in the Big Ten to Michigan’s Jordan Morgan (61.4%).

There are no guarantees that Mbakwe can keep up this play in the Big Ten season, which is where his first real test will be, but his athleticism and strength project well in the conference.

Should he be able to find a way to keep it up, it will be a huge asset to Tubby Smith’s team and should be a way to keep some semblance of an offense regardless of what happens.

-Mike Gallagher

The Backdoor Cut Analyzes the Minnesota Gophers Basketball Team’s Hot Start

Blake Hoffarber

The Gophers Basketball Team is 5-0 with a Puerto Rico Tip-Off win under their belts and wins over four 2010 NCAA tournament teams….Trevor Mbakwe was named the Big Ten Player of the Week and the Gophers have smooth sailing to an undefeated non-conference season…The Backdoor Cut breaks down how the Gophers have done it and what they need to do to keep the good times rolling around Williams Arena.

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Minnesota Gopher Basketball Hot, but Can it Last?

Tubby Smith

The Minnesota Gophers basketball team is the hottest in the country right now.

As pretty as those words sound to what Tim Brewster once called “Gopher Nation”, the last two of that sentence are the ones that will matter the most in the long run.

With great success comes great scrutiny, and with great scrutiny you might start to see things that you may not want to.

Is that the case with this team?

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Mbakwe Wins Big Ten POW, Gophers Win Puerto Rico Top-Off, Minnesota Rolling

Al nolen

Losing your 2009-10 leading scorer, your best overall defender, and then right before the season your team’s most explosive scorer sounds like a lot to deal with for a program.

Apparently it’s not.  [Read more…]

5 Reasons Gopher Basketball Finishes in Big 10’s Top 3

Tubby Smith

Royce White gone, Cory Joseph never arriving, leading scorer graduated, no impact recruits.

Now that we have the negatives out of the way, it’s time to flip the script and turn our attention to the optimism flying around the Minnesota Gophers Basketball program with the top five things that could lead the Gophers to the top of the Big Ten conference. [Read more…]

2010 Minnesota Gophers Basketball Season Preview

Minnesota Gophers 2010 season preview

Some would say that the Gophers basketball team overachieved last year. [Read more…]

Paul Carter Leaving Minnesota

By Mike Gallagher

Gophers Basketball junior forward Paul Carter is leaving the University of Minnesota to move closer to his family, the University announced earlier today. [Read more…]

Gophers Basketball Season Recap

By Mike Gallagher

In a season full of more ups and downs than a VH1 Tool Academy marathon, the Gophers strangely faded off into the college basketball offseason without a peep. [Read more…]