Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Golden Gophers and Big Ten Basketball

Every Wednesday, Myron Medcalf from the Star Tribune releases Big Ten Power Rankings on his Gold in the Barn blog and I was lucky enough to be chosen as a contributor on his poll (which can be found here: http://www.startribune.com/sports/gophers/blogs/Gold_in_the_Barn.html).  One of the other contributors--Tom for The Daily Gopher--decided to take our involvement to the next level.  He sent out questions to all the contributors and is going to compile all of our answers in a sort of round-table conversation.  Here you can read my responses.  I will also be posting the link to Tom's final response so you can read what some other Gopher basketball fans are saying.


The Gophers endured probably the most difficult start to the Big Ten season that one could imagine.  On the road against three of the league's best all resulted in a loss, though two of those games were one possessions games with under a minute to go.  Now Purdue is the only road game left against an upper-tier Big Ten team, but what about the other road games?  What road game against a mid or lower tier team concerns you the most and why?
At this point, I wouldn't discount anyone in the Big Ten.  Home-court advantage is going to play a huge role in deciding who takes top honors in the conference and I'll be honest--I'm a little nervous about how the Gophers are going to do on the road against teams like Michigan and Penn State.  The Wolverines look awful playing against conference teams but were able to push Kansas to overtime at home.  The fact that they are coming off a five-game losing streak makes me extremely nervous, especially if the Gophers revert back to their slow starts like we had to watch against Eastern Kentucky and Akron.  Penn State fell to Purdue at home but was able to notch wins against Big Ten powerhouses Michigan State and Illinois at the Bryce Jordan Center.  They've proven that they have the talent to pull off wins against teams that count and since I haven't seen the Gophers play an entire game with cohesiveness, I'd put the Nittany Lions at the top of my 'oh man' list.

The Gophers haven’t won a Big Ten title, officially, since 1982. Even if you include the vacated Big Ten title in 1997, this program has finished top three in the Big Ten two times since the 1980-81 season.  “What will it take for this program to make the strides necessary to compete for Big Ten titles in basketball?”
I think it all goes back to recruiting.  With what has happened within the program in the last few years--basically, the drama--I think more emphasis needs to be placed on finding well-rounded recruits.  While I love Gopher athletics, there is nothing more annoying than athletes who are given an opportunity to play at a Big Ten school and throw it away by doing something stupid.  Granted, I understand stuff happens that isn't in the athlete's control.  But I think our recruiting needs to start focusing on finding players who are fully dedicated to playing out their eligibility at the U, players whose focus is more on basketball at a collegiate level and less on what might be waiting for them in the NBA.     


The Barn...stand up or sit down? Here is your opportunity to rant...
I took my dad, Jim, to the game on Sunday when the Gophers struggled passed the Hawkeyes.  You know it is a bad reflection on your fan base when my 71 year-old father wants to stand and cheer throughout the entire game but can't because the Debbie-Downer fans behind us think they're at a tennis match.  Nadine Babu brought up a great point in her blog--Is the Gopher Basketball fan base too old?--which looks at the fact that the barn is nearly silent during most games, sans the student section.  Since I usually sit in press row and am trying to get some game notes done, I rarely pay attention to what is happening in the stands.  But on Sunday--while in the stands--it was blatantly obvious that yes, our fans are too old.  The first ten rows of the lower bowl at Williams Arena look like they are at a poetry reading, barely moving in their chairs except for the occasional trip to the bathroom or to get chocolate ice cream (I see you Sid Hartman).  When I expressed my annoyance at the fact that no excitement or noise comes from those closest to the floor, someone pointed out that the University has no where to move those fans--the so-called big money contributors.  While that may be the case, especially for those fans who have been season ticket holders for 50+ years, it's still obnoxious when I turn on a Michigan State game and am nearly blown over by the noise radiating through the t.v.  They understand what their role as a fan at the game is supposed to be.  Gophers fans, take note.  



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