Chicago Bears Don’t Want to Play In Minnesota

After the roof caved in on the Metrodome (and the Vikings season and Brett Favre’s consecutive game streak and Tarvaris Jackson’s days in a Vikings uniform) last Sunday, the Vikings were forced to move a home game against the New York Giants to Ford Field in Detroit. While the venue change wasn’t the reason the Vikings got shellacked it wasn’t exactly a non-factor in the team’s overall flatness.

This week’s Monday Night Football game versus the Chicago Bears was announced to be taking place at least in the same city at the University of Minnesota’s TCF Bank Stadium so the team could enjoy it’s final home game of 2010 at “home” (sort of). But now, the Bears are saying they’d rather not.

By Peter Christian

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Michigan State vs. Minnesota Preview

By Jeff Ghiringhelli

The Big Ten tournament is in full swing (just ask Ohio State and Michigan), and one of the more important quarterfinal games features Michigan State against Minnesota. The Golden Gophers are in desperate need of a deep tournament run, and a loss tonight would effectively eliminate them from contention for an at-large bid. They got off to a strong start last night when they blew out Penn State 76-65, though they will face a much tougher team in Michigan State. The Gophers produced a balanced offensive attack last night, as four players scored in double figures. Devoe Joseph led the team with 15 points.

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White: “I’m Withdrawing From the University of Minnesota”

By Mike Gallagher

Royce White has made many claims over the past four months, one of which already included him “quitting college basketball” via YouTube.

The claim as he was leaving a Hennepin County courthouse on a video posted on StarTribune.com, however, may hold a little more water than his previous claims of departure.

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Gophers Football Has Long Road Ahead

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By Mike Gallagher

When Tim Brewster took over the University of Minnesota’s football program three years ago, it was not a pretty sight.  That was reflected on the field in the 2007 season, when the Gophers went 1-11.

The idea from there was that the program would begin a rebuilding process that would have the team in the Big Ten’s contenders by at the earliest the third year of Brewster’s reign, but definitely the fourth.

What you have seen this year is what ultimately ruined that plan.

With the Gophers rapping up a regular season filled with hope, and then massive disappointment, things are looking as if they’ll get worse before they get better.

Looking into the stats shows nothing to inspire hope.  The offense ended the regular season 113th in the nation in yards/gm.  When an offense is this bad, you have to start at the head of the unit.  Adam Weber’s struggles have been chronicled, and were amplified this weekend vs. Iowa in which he failed to complete 50% of his passes for the fifth time in six games.  For only the second time all year, he didn’t throw an interception, but made up for it by fumbling twice.

Think he should be benched?  I did, and still don’t think it could hurt, but it’s painfully obvious that his backup, Marqueis Gray, is far from ready to captain an offense.  In limited but consistent duty this year, he completed only 38% of his passes.  He showed his football immaturity this past weekend, throwing an interception while scrambling out of the pocket.

Don’t expect much help from their targets next year, either.  The U will lose their top two receivers, Eric Decker and TE Nick Tow-Arnett, to graduation.  Aside from those two, no one else had more than 300 yards receiving, even with Decker being out the last month.

The run game isn’t exactly a beacon of light either, it ranked 108th in the nation this year.  No Gopher running back averaged more than 4.2 yards per carry this year.  You’d think over the entire season someone would break one that brought that average up a little bit, but in reality no Gopher had more than a 29-yard run on the year.

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The only good news here is that the, ahem, three headed monster, of running backs (Deleon Eskridge, Kevin Whaley, Duane Bennett) are all back next year.  Maybe with another year under their young belts, they will be able to be more of a factor in the offense.

But does is matter how good the backs are?  As we know from my other recent articles (my 4 loyal readers would know), it all starts up front and the biggest problem this year has been on the lines.  While having one of the worst run blocking teams in the nation, they have also allowed the most sacks in the Big Ten this year.  After losing center Jeff Tow-Arnett for the season with an injury, there was no hope left for this patchwork group.

The bright side for the O-line is that only Tow-Arnett is graduating, leaving four of five starters on the line.  At this point, the Gophers top recruit is an offensive lineman, Jimmy Gjere.  With Seantrel Henderson still considering the U, this is a group that could be much improved.  But even big improvement might only bring them to average after how this year went.

On the other side of the ball, it’s simple.  The defense kept the Gophers in a lot of games, including this past week vs. Iowa.  They rank smack dab in the middle of the national rankings in scoring defense, at 60th.  The bad part is that they’re graduating their entire front seven.  Nate Triplett and Lee Campbell will be sorely missed at linebacker, while they also graduate Kim Royston and Treye Simmons, key contributors in the secondary.  The defense will be gutted, leaving many to wonder how they’ll be in any games next year.

Looking at the very near future, they have a bowl-game to prepare for, what will likely be the Little Ceasers Pizza Bowl.  Obviously this game is of very little importance to this program, which is why I’m paying no attention at all to it.

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The big picture is what matters, and there’s virtually no shot that AD Joel Maturi will make a coaching change this offseason, so the Gophers are going to have to work with what they have, coach included.  What they have right now is not very much, especially heading into next year.  Brewster has gotten practically nothing from his recruits, and that will need to change in order for there to be some progress since they graduate a very productive group of 27 seniors.

This was a key year to see the direction of this team, and with the way they performed and all the talent they’re graduating, how can there be any excitement around not only this bowl game, but the years to come?

After this year, there is no light at the end of the mediocre tunnel anymore.  The tunnel just got a lot longer.  Tim Brewster needs to find a way to get more out of what he’s got, because if he doesn’t, he won’t be around to reach the end of that tunnel.

Gophers Basketball Showing Depth Despite Off Court Troubles

jmp 8 gopher mens media day

By Mike Gallagher

While Trevor Mbakwe was in suit and tie on the bench, Devron Bostick home sick, and Royce White nowhere to be found during the Gophers 82-42 drubbing of Stephen F. Austin, Rodney Williams Jr. was making the Williams Arena crowd forget those three were ever part of the Gophers 2009-10 plans.  The crowd began to chant his name after the third of his explosive dunks on the night.  He finished with 14 points after his 15 point effort vs. Tennessee Tech.

Williams has stepped up early, taking over for those that overshadowed him in this recruiting class.  Mbakwe and White, White being a top 50 recruit while Mbakwe took the JUCO route and greatly improved his stock coming to the D-1 ranks this year, were both expected to compete for time at the PF spot. Williams was not expected to play a lot this year with the addition of those two because of that.  But with Mbakwe and White out because of their problems with the law, Williams was called into duty. At this point, Williams is building a strong case to get playing time even if Mbakwe and White return.

His versatility has brought a great deal of flexibility to a lineup that is only dressing ten guys.  Junior starting forward Paul Carter is more suited to play the three rather than the four, so Williams stepped in at the four and the offense was much smoother in the second half, putting up a whopping 56 points.

Williams athleticism is not only an asset at the offensive end, but at the defensive end he is able to guard the power forward spot without a problem.  He will need to improve his strength in order to guard the spot consistently, but his leaping ability and speed make up for some of the muscle he may give away.  With him playing extensively at the three and four, the Gophers have held their two opponents under 30% from the field.

Another early surprise has been the play of Devoe Joseph, the backup at the point to Al Nolen.  He has averaged 11 a game over the first two contests as opposed to the five a game he gave them off the bench last year.

devoejoesph

Obviously it is early, but if he is relied on more this year and continues to get the opportunities to perform and can continue to put up points, putting him and Nolen in the backcourt together could be a nice look to throw at teams to give Lawrence Westbrook a rest.

The team will be able to experiment with that and many other things, as they will not be challenged by a majority of their non-conference opponents.

The matchups against Butler and Miami (FL), however, will be their two early season tests.  Those two games will be a good barometer of how this depth, specifically Williams and Joseph, will be able to hold up against, in Butler’s case, top competition.

The rest of the Gophers non-conference schedule is extremely soft as well, which should be a good thing for Tubby Smith and Co., as they’ll have some time to re-tool some things off those two big matchups, and get their feet under them headed into conference play.

Once it is clearer what exactly the future of Mbakwe and White are, I’ll give my Gophers season preview.  I choose to wait because those two would make this team drastically different.

However, even without those two, the team looks very impressive right now, and with a big thanksgiving matchup vs. aforementioned Butler right around the corner, it will make for some exciting early season drama.

BREAKING NEWS: ROYCE WHITE SUSPECT IN CAMPUS THEFT

williams arena

By Mike Gallagher

A little over a half hour ago, more bad news broke about Royce White.  Reported by Startribune.com at about 8 p.m. this evening, Royce White found his way into an even stickier situation than he was already in. It’s been reported that he is a suspect in a campus theft that happened Saturday night at the University of Minnesota.  No further details of the theft or circumstances were immediately available.

This is an unbelievable development considering all that has just transpired with White over the last few weeks.  He is already on an indefinite suspension from the basketball program following a theft he committed from Macy’s at the Mall of America roughly two weeks back.

White stole $100 worth of clothes from the Macy’s, then pushed a security guard out of his way until he reached the exit.  He then drove away, but was stopped soon after by Bloomington police and forced to return the clothes.  When Smith suspended White, he emphasized that the suspension could be anywhere between two and twenty games.

Already considered a risky recruit by pundits around the nation, White has done absolutely nothing to dispel critics who claim he’s too much of a bad kid and a head case to be a productive basketball player.  He was kicked out of De La Salle High School in Minneapolis his junior season for academic misconduct.

But a source familiar with the situation told me that that was only half the problem.  The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that White’s response when the teacher confronted him with the cheating allegations was; “B****, I’m f****** Royce White.”

Trevor Mbakwe, the Gophers other elite recruit, is already suspended until his legal issue is resolved.  He is facing a felony battery charge and has a court date set for December 14th.  Joel Maturi announced the decision to hold him out of the team’s games last week.

With White already on that indefinite suspension, and Tubby Smith already clearly unhappy with him, don’t be surprised if drastic action is taken against White.  This could be one of the lengthier suspensions the University has seen if White even remains in the program after these allegations.

tubby-smith

Smith may wait until more details come out and until it is clarified that White is the man in question.  That being said, with all White’s previous history, and Tubby’s history of running a tight ship, Smith may not even wait for that.  He may go to the old adage; ‘why was he even in the situation to be a suspect in the first place?’

If White doesn’t have an answer, don’t expect Smith to have a great deal of sympathy.  This is strike number two within the last two weeks, and if you count his high school dismissal, that’s his third.

While Tubby Smith may not coach baseball, he knows as well as Joe Torre, three strikes and you’re out.

Royce White Finds Trouble Yet Again

royce_white

By Mike Gallagher

Tubby Smith has, and is doing amazing things with the Gophers basketball program.  The strides he has made with this program have been huge in every aspect, with recruiting being no exception.  ESPN ranked this year’s recruiting class 10th in the nation, headlined by Trevor Mbakwe and Royce White, both big names around the Twin Cities and nationally as well.

White in particular has gotten national attention for his skills, as he was ranked 32nd in the nation among recruits coming into the year.  But while he has gotten attention for his performances on the court, White has seemingly received just as much attention for his thuggery off of it as well.

Word came down earlier this week that White was caught stealing $100 in merchandise from the Macy’s in Mall of America.  When confronted with the theft in the store by a security guard, White repeatedly pushed the guard until he forced his way out of the door.  He was later stopped by Bloomington police, and was forced to return the stolen shirt and pants.

This is not the first incident for White, who was expelled from De La Salle High School in Minneapolis last year for academic misconduct.  Specifically, White cheated on a test, which as we all know, happens all the time in high school.  But when caught and confronted by his teacher about the cheating, he probably put the last nail in his own coffin when he responded with a number of profanities directed at the teacher.

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The aforementioned Mbakwe is not without his share of issues either.  Having transferred from Miami Dade Community College in Florida to play with the Gophers, his baggage transferred with him.  He is facing felony aggravated battery charges for allegedly punching a woman in the face in April.

Joel Maturi has decided to hold Mbakwe out of games until the legal matter is resolved.  This move may end up meaning that Mbakwe may redshirt if the process spans too many of the Gophers’ games.  He has a court date set for December 14th.
Tubby Smith has made it clear he will not stand for this kind of behavior from his recruits, and responded to White’s theft charge by suspending him indefinitely.

Smith made the same move with senior guard Devron Bostick, who’s “violation of team rules” was not revealed.  When asked what indefinitely meant, Tubby’s time table was rather wide.

“It could be two games, it could be five, six,” Smith said.  “It could be more, it could be 20.  It depends on what I want, what I decide.”

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While those moves only leave the Gophers with 11 players, at this point in the year that’s ok.  Tubby is showing he has confidence in the guys he has, and if you don’t play by his rules, the program doesn’t need you.  He is exerting his authority and in some cases, that’s exactly what kids need to get things ingrained in their head.

White in particular is one of those kids.  When he got expelled from De La Salle one of the things he reportedly said to the teacher when confronted with the cheating was; ‘I’m f****** Royce White.’

As a junior in high school, that is a completely ridiculous and undeserved attitude to have.  His sense of entitlement just because he can play basketball is absurd.  He has accomplished nothing, yet he continues to act as if the world revolves completely around him.  Stealing $100 worth of merchandise from a Macy’s is such a petty thing to do, but it continues to show that he is just a kid who doesn’t know right from wrong.

The disturbing part isn’t the stealing, it’s what he did when he got caught.  Just like on the test at De La Salle.  He pretended he did nothing wrong and continued on with what he was doing because he’s ‘f****** Royce White.”  If he has the same attitude on the basketball court, if he sees it at all this year, the team chemistry will be gone, which will lead to a very disappointing season.

Mbakwe shouldn’t be as much of a worry, because the word on the kid is that he’s a very nice, personable guy, and that maybe, as he claims, the girl did mistakenly identify him as the one that hit her.

That being said, it is very unsettling to have so many off the court issues before the season even starts.  Even if Mbakwe is innocent, why was he in the position to get accused of something like that?  Why does Royce White not get the message that it’s not all about him and he needs to fit in on the basketball court, as well as in society?

Tubby Smith is doing all he can to get those messages across to these kids, because the season is exactly one week away, and White and Mbakwe were going to be heavily relied on to shore up a power forward position that has been spotty of late.
Being a top 50 recruit coming out of high school comes with responsibility and an ere of class to represent your school the right way.  Too many great basketball players have wasted their careers because of off-the-court issues and not having it where it matters most, your head.  While it is still early in White’s basketball journey, he hasn’t started out on the right path.  If he doesn’t turn things around quick, he could go from that great basketball talent conversation, to that great talent that shoulda-been conversation.