Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Gopher Preview

The kind folks over at Gopher Nation agreed to give Turtlewaxing readers a quick scouting report on their team. As you can see Tubby Smith is a bit more appreciated than he was at his previous job.

The Gophers have been arguably the most predictable team in the country. They have beat every team they should have beat and they lost to every team they should have lost to. While that may not seem like a great season it has been a very successful season for Gopher fans. A year ago this team had a nearly identical roster but their win percentage has been anything but status quo. Last season's Gophers finished with 9 wins and this year's version has posted a 20 win season for only the second time since Clem Haskin's final season as coach. The 1998-99 season (unofficially, 1992-93 officially due to NCAA sanctions).


PG - Lawrence Westbrook (8.4 ppg, 3.4 reb and 2.4 ast) - sophomore who plays good defense and has the ability to score in bunches. Westbrook as a prep player led the nation in scoring with 41.0 ppg. He obviously hasn't carried that knack for taking a lot of shots into the Big Ten but he can be dangerous if forgotten. Westbrook's biggest flaw is his knack for turnovers. He doesn't lead the team in giving the ball back to the opponent but he tends to make bad decisions that often lead to balls sailing out of bounds.

SG - Lawrence McKenzie (12.2 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 2.8 ast) - last season's leading scorer who needed some adjusting time to Tubby Smith's offense. McKenzie is a local product who originally signed with Kelvin Sampson at Oklahoma State but soon transfered back to Minnesota and has had a nice few seasons. McKenzie, like Westbrook, is capable for scoring a lot of points in no time at all. He has had a few games this year where he was very average in the first half but would explode for 17 in the second and carry Minnesota to the win. If McKenzie has a weakness it is his decision making on offense. If he makes a shot or two early he won't hesitate to think he is "feeling it" and take a few terrible shots before he receives the Tubby Stare on his way to the bench.

SF - Damian Johnson () - Johnson is a glue guy. He can hit the outside shot but isn't a prolific scorer. But Johnson will block shots, get rebounds and do things necessary to help the Gophers win. He has arguably been the most improved player from a year ago and has deserved every minute he has been on the floor. Johnson has great verticle quickness but doesn't move laterally with the same explosiveness. He is solid but not flashy.

PF - Dan Coleman () - Coleman is our most talented player but has lacked the necessary drive to take his game to the next level in his senior season. He is an athletic and strong powerforward and he has the ability to dominate the boards and be a very tough matchup for his opponent. But DC often goes soft and disappears for long stretches.

C - Spencer Tollackson () - Solid but nothing spectacular senior center. Tollackson has good size and is capable of scoring in the post but he lacks the athleticism to guard athletic centers. You never know what you will get from Tollackson he could produce a 4 point, 6 rebound night or he could just as easily give you 16 and 9.

Bench - primarily two freshmen guards. Blake Hoffarber is making a name for himself after his game winning shot to beat Indiana in the Big Ten Tourney. The Hoff is a VERY dangerous shooter who is on pace to crush the Gopher all-time three point record. While his range and touch may resemble JJ Redick, he does not have a complimentary offensive game to go with his shooting making him very one dimensional. Along with Hoffarber, Al Nolen will come off the bench to play PG. Nolen has a unique knack for the ball and will steal passes or pick your pocket. But he then tends to turnover that steal and negate his defense. In the frountcourt we have 6'10" Jonathan Williams. He is a big guy with limited offensive moves but he rebounds well and plays solid defense.

Outlook - I know very little about the Terps but I will be most intrigued to watch the head to head mind game of Tubby vs. Gary Williams. Both men have their NCAA Championship rings and are desperately looking to put that NIT ring on their middle finger to...nevermind.

As a homer I am going to predict a Gopher win for a few reasons...

1. It is at home and The Barn presents a unique home court advantage.
2. It seems as though Minnesota is playing better (beating Indiana in B10 Tourney) while Maryland is regressing.
3. This is all about revenge for stealing our women's coach. If you were Michigan you'd be stealing our softball and volleyball coaches next, we wont' stand for that!

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