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What to make of the Gophers

January 25, 2009 - Per Peterson
This year’s Gophers men’s basketball team is confusing me. The Gophers, who you would assume would be an improved team from last year, beat the teams they were supposed to beat in the preseason this year, and even pulled out a bit of a shocker when they took care of then 9th-ranked Louisville on a neutral court. Louisville, by the way, has since beaten Pittsburgh, undefeated and ranked No. 1 in the country at the time, and have played their way back into the Top 10. The Gophers rolled into the Big Ten season undefeated, but then lost for the first time this year in the conference opener at home against Michigan State, which has been in first place in the conference most of the season. That loss puzzles me. First of all, you get the conference opener at home. No, it’s definitely not a sure win, but you would think veteran coach Tubby Smith would’ve had his team more prepared for the game. They ended up losing by a dozen. They also lost to Purdue at home — another good team, but also a very beatable one, especially on your home court. On the other hand, the Gophers' win at Indiana on Sunday was their third conference victory on the road — not bad for a team that once played scared away from The Barn. Included in those wins is a victory at Wisconsin, and no one wins at Wisconsin. The Gophers have 17 wins and are tied for fourth place in the Big Ten. It’s a pretty safe bet they’ll be invited to the NCAA Tournament — what they do once they get there, however, is anyone’s guess. I can see them losing the first game, and I can see them winning their way to the Sweet 16. They’re an enigma. I don’t think they’re on the same level with Michigan State or Illinois yet, but they’re close. I’ve said all year that with two freshman bigs and a couple key junior college players that next year could be that special season when they win the Big Ten and maybe get a top four seed in the tournament. I think they’re a year away. In the meantime, however, it’s clear the program is making progress. Then again, these ARE the Gophers, so my advice to sports fans is to not get to giddy when it comes to Tubby’s troops. Because the second you do, they might just let you down. • On a side note, the Gopher women scored just 43 points in a three-point win over Northwestern on Sunday. Eighty-three points in a Big Ten game. Sad. The AP called it a "rugged" game. Rugged? This wasn't rugged, it was hideous — just look at the numbers. The Gophers whot 30 percent from the field and were 2-for-20 from three-point range. Rugged? No, try gross, dismal — especially for a team contending for a Big Ten title.


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