By Andy Weise
When I saw a clip on ESPN the other day about bubble teams, I didnâ€™t even see anything on Minnesota. The reason why is incredibly easy â€“ they havenâ€™t beaten any really good teams. The Gophers sit at No. 6 in the Big Ten with zero, yes, ZERO, wins against the five teams ahead of them in the conference. You can kiss the tournament goodbye ladies and gentlemen. It was a good run, but weâ€™re on to the N.I.T. now!
Tubby Smith has realized one thing this year; he needs talent in order to accomplish something. Freshmen Al Nolen and Blake Hoffarber look like they could be mainstays for Smithâ€™s rotation in the next few years, but besides that he inherited a team that could never finish anywhere higher than the middle in the Big 10. There are some talented players but they miss the top impact players that get you over the hump.
Most recently, the Gophers were trailing Penn State last week by two points at half and were able to overcome a lousy start and close out winning the game at home. While that game was saved, at Purdue, vs. Ohio State, at Indiana and at Illinois is not a pretty way to end the season. We donâ€™t need to go back and see the record the Gophers have in Champaign. It seemed like the only winnable game left, but they havenâ€™t won there in forever!
The Gophers fell to the Boilermakers on Wednesday night. What is with Purdue anyway? They came out of nowhere this year. Three of their top four scorers are freshmen and their only losses are at Michigan State and at Indiana. Wisconsin dropped their only two Big Ten games to Purdue. Crazy! Mind Boggling! Maybe Iâ€™m just still an anti-Boilermaker because Brian Cardinal and Brad Miller were two of my most-hated players when they played for Purdue. OK, back to the Gophsâ€¦
A question was posed on a local sports station here in Minneapolis. The question was: Would Tubby consider leaving in a year or two to go back to a higher powered program? No, because he was already at Kentucky and even when they got to the Sweet 16 it was considered a failure. Minnesota fans would LOVE consistent Sweet 16 appearances!
Tubbyâ€™s patience for the Gophersâ€™ program is the key to the success here in Minnesota. If Tubby can remain patient with next year (five new recruits, three freshmen, one sophomore, one junior) I think this program gets back into the NCAA Tournament next year.Â It will take an adjustment period when they lose seniors Spencer Tollackson, Dan Coleman and Lawrence McKenzie, but Tubby can only help this program get better.
Now letâ€™s hope the Gophers can win at least one of their last three regular season games. They could definitely be a spoiler team in the second round of the Big Ten tournament too. Knowing the teamâ€™s luck though, theyâ€™ll somehow end up playing the Badgers and we donâ€™t need to give those Wisconsites yet another reason to hate on us. By the way, did Favre retire yet?Follow paulmbanks