Everyone else is putting out all-decade lists so why not TDG? What began as a chore turned into a fun stroll down memory lane and ended with a couple pleasant surprises and a few excruciating decisions to be made. But I won't bore you with my roller-coaster of feelings and emotions, let's get to the process and the team.
I tried my best to keep things strictly within this decade. I began by looking at the 2000-2001 roster and worked my way to the current roster and their stats to the current day. Anything that that happens in 2010 will not be counted (PSU game not counted as the statistical legwork was done prior to the game). The one small leg I'm missing are stats from the 2000 portion of the 1999-2000 team. My apologies to anyone affected but that season will be ignored completely.
As a team the Gophers made it to two NCAA Tournaments after earning five trips in the 90s. 2005 and 2009 were NCAA Tournament years but both ended in a first round loss. The NIT was a favorite destination for the Gophers as they made five trips (2001, 02, 03, 06 and 08). But ultimately this was a down decade for the Gophers. Three 20-win seasons, three seasons with a winning Big Ten record and just one season finishing in the top five of the conference. This was not an impressive 10 year run. Much of the decade was the Monson era which had it's own issues but also was forced to fight through the repercussions of the academic scandal left by Clem Haskins. Getting through the scholarship losses, recruiting restrictions and the stigma led to an empty barn and mediocre seasons for most of the decade.
The decade ended however with a new era led by Tubby Smith. You've all seen the numbers of increased ticket sales, increased TV exposure and most importantly an increase in wins. The quality of basketball we all expect is back in the Barn and hopefully the next 10 years will be a vast improvement over the previous. With that said, let's get on to the teams...
First Team All-Decade
PG - Al Nolen - 2007-current
Nolen is a classic PG and has put up very good numbers in all PG categories. As noted he is on pace to set career Gopher records for assists and steals, but that really wasn't a factor in him landing as the 1st Team All-Decade team. Over the last decade of Gopher point guards it came down to Nolen, Aaron Robinson, Adam Boone and Lawrence McKenzie who was really more of a combo guard. When the numbers were compared it wasn't even close. Nolen leads all guards for the decade in assists and steals (and it isn't even close) all in a little more than two seasons. Nolen is not a scorer but as a sophomore he was the catalyst to the Gophers win over top-5 ranked Louisville and was a major contributor to the Gophers getting to just their second NCAA Tournament of the decade. This was an easy selection.
Despite only playing two years in a Gopher uniform Grier is the decade's MVP. Grier Ultimately his averages and leading the Gophers to the only NCAA Tournament appearance in the Monson era earned him this spot. In just two seasons Grier wracked up 992 points for a 17.4 per game average which is by far the best for a Gopher guard in this span. 335 rebounds in two seasons as a perimeter player averaged out to be 5.9 per game which also leads this group. He gave this program a shot in the arm and probably gave Monson two more years of life as a Big Ten coach. He was the perfect compliment to the 2004-05 Gophers that had a handful of steady contributors needing a scorer. Grier was that scorer and he was a lot of fun to watch. He was no Bobby Jackson but easily the best JUCO transfer of this decade.
Bauer started his career right in the heart of the darkest era of Gopher basketball. The recruiting restrictions and post-season bans played out during the heart of Bauer's career as a Gopher. That was clearly a factor in the lack of wins but Bauer put up good numbers over his Gopher career finishing with over 1,100 points, 500 rebounds and 150 blocked shots. He is one of four Gophers to finish in that club. So his name is listed along with Kevin McHale, Randy Bruer and Mychael Thompson. Their numbers were much higher than Bauer's but they are all in the same club. Always good though he never really took off after a very promising freshman season where he averaged 11.4 ppg. His point production was relatively flat over his four years but a 10 ppg average for a career is nothing to sneeze at.
PF - Dan Coleman - 2003-08
A member of the 1,300 point, 600 rebound and 100 blocks club. Coleman is another who was always pretty good but never was able to take that step to being very good. His JR season was his most productive and the adjustment to a new staff when Tubby came to town saw his points and rebounds diminish slightly. Although he never took that next step, Coleman's numbers are impossible to ignore. 15th on the Gopher's all-time scoring list and 8th all-time for blocked shots. Coleman's career win total was derailed by the Monson resignation mid-season, which led to just a nine win total as a junior. But he, and Tollackson, did manage to be a part of two 20-win seasons. A rare feat in this decade.
C - Spencer Tollackson - 2003-08
There were not a lot of great choices for Gopher centers this decade. Choosing the shooting guards and forwards gave me a couple headaches, but centers were light and Tollackson clearly stood out. His numbers don't blow you away but he was steady and reliable. Were it not for an injury during his junior season Tollackson would likely be a 1,000 point scorer. Most of you reading this are more than familiar with Tollackson as he is a recent grad and does the color commentary on the Gopher radio broadcast. Tollackson lands here as much for being the emotional leader of a team that was part of the program's turnaround.
2nd Team All-Decade
Many may not remember the tiny point guard out of Rockford, Ill. Robinson was an effective and hard working guard for Dan Monson and was a key player in the run to the 2005 NCAA Tournament. Monson was often criticized for "not improving players" over their career but Robinson is one case that disproves this notion. His scoring improved by 66%, 40% and then 72% each season. His assists improved by 41%, 32% and 54% as well. Overall numbers are not that great and as far as the list of great Gopher point guards go, you won't hear his name whispered. Solid player and part of the winningest class of this decade.
2nd Team SG - Lawrence Westbrook 2006-current
I struggled with where to put Westbrook for this exercise and it largely came down to him and Lawrence McKenzie. Total numbers put Westbrook on top but McKenzie's averages were much stronger. McKenzie made a LOT of threes in his two-year stint with the Gophers but Westbrook was a part of more wins. This is where I was stuck. But in the end I went with the four-year body of work over the two years McKenzie contributed to the Gophers. Westbrook came into the Gopher program after averaging 40 ppg at his Arizona prep school. The scorer has increased his production every year and will likely finish as an 1,100 point scorer. Among the perimeter players considered here, Westbrook led all players with 71 starts in the decade. He may be best remembered for his 29 point performance last year in Madison as he led the Gophers to an OT win over the Badgers.
2nd Team SF - Maurice Hargrow - 2001-04 and 2005-06
This was the surprise to me. When I started my initial list of backcourt candidates I glossed over Hargrow until I started looking at some of the stats. At that point I could ignore him no longer. For backcourt totals Hargrow led the Gophers for the decade in points and rebounds. He was second in assists, games played and starts. He was the Gopher's only 1,000 scorer for the decade (Westbrook will surpass 1,000 but not within the time frame of the decade). With all of those numbers, Hargrow misses the first team for two reasons. First was his one year hiatus from the team. You may recall that he played two seasons as a Gopher, transferred to Arkansas but never played, transferred back to Minnesota but had to sit a year before returning in the 2005-06 season. And secondly, despite his career numbers (30th on all-time scoring list) he never played in an NCAA Tournament. Winning, in a decade that didn't see a lot of it, has to count for something and Hargrow never led the Gophers to more than 19 wins and never higher than 6th in the Big Ten.
2nd Team PF - Damian Johnson - 2006-current
Another current Gopher, and why not as this is one of the best teams we have seen all decade. Johnson has been a do-it-all forward over his Gopher career. Racking up blocked shots and steals has been an art that he has mastered while scoring and rebounding are things he does well but isn't going to land on any record lists in these categories when his career is over. Johnson has been the glue player on a couple very good Gopher squads. He is a great defender and savvy offensively. His numbers along are good enough to land him on this list but he is also one of the few players this decade to be a part of back-to-back 20 win teams. Johnson is a fan favorite and DJ Swat will not soon be forgotten when he is finished playing. One could easily make the argument he should be on the first team, I'm leaving him here as the biggest snub on the second team.
2nd Team C - Rick Rickert - 2001-03
One could make the argument that Rickert could be the first team center. His numbers are better than Tollackson's and he played in just two seasons. Rickert's 1,100 points in just two seasons is very impressive and he earned several Big Ten awards including Freshman of the Year in 2002, All Big Ten second team in 2002 and All Big Ten first team in 2003. Rickert's career ended before it should have as he decided to leave the U to pursue his NBA dreams. Rickert was drafted 55th overall, never scored an NBA point and may be best known in NBA circles as the guy Kevin Garnet punched during a Timberwolve's practice. As a Gopher Rickert produced big numbers but his lack of any leadership and selfishness left a LOT to be desired which relegates him to 2nd team here.
Third Team All-Decade
3rd Team PG - Lawrence McKenzie - 2006-08
As I mentioned above McKenzie was nearly a 2nd team guard but I'm demoting him for choosing Oklahoma over Minnesota out of high school. McKenzie is another player with all the talent in the world who was very good but never quite as good as most thought he should be. Good numbers but really what moved him to my third team was that he rarely did much to help the team win. When he scored he was good to have on the floor but he did nothing to make his teammates better and struggled to really contribute when he wasn't scoring. Good player, good scorer but I'm putting him on my third team.
3rd Team SG - Blake Hoffarber - 2007-current
As far as pure shooting guards go, there is none better than Hoffarber. The Hoff has a sweet stroke and with more than a season and a half left he has already topped 150 threes made in his career. For being a white kid from Minnesota he is deceptively athletic, savvy on defense, a very good passer and rebounds well from the perimeter. Given a few more games under his belt Hoffarber could easily be a first team selection. But guys like McKenzie and Grier, who have fewer games played, were more productive in their games. He was on my second team for a while but ultimately I bumped him down for Westbrook, maybe I was swayed by LW's Penn State game this week.
3rd Team SF - Dusty Rychart - 1998-2002
A fan favorite and one of the harder working players of the past decade. I'm not sure that anybody did more with less than Rychart. Finished his career 16th on the Gopher's scoring list, 9th in rebounding and 6th on the career FG% list. Played his JR and SR years in this decade which is the only thing keeping him from moving up this list (he should get credit for second half of his sophomore season but I'm not doing that work). Rychart has carved out a decent career playing over in Austrailia after his Gopher days were over. You can follow his Twitter feed here if you'd like to keep up. His numbers below are a bit of a guesstimate. I took his SO (1999-2000) averages and multiplied that times the 17 games he played that year in 2000. Not an exact science but close enough. One could easily argue that Dusty should be higher, I wouldn't argue with you but I've made my decisions.
3rd Team PF - Kris Humphries - 2003-04
Maybe the best player to wear a Gopher uni during the decade. But just one season as a Gopher and the selfishness he displayed en route to a 12-18 season puts Humphries on the third team. His talent and single season output cannot be ignored. But his attitude and the program's second worst season of the decade cannot be praise either. His team was not devoid of talent, consider the fact that just the next season with Humphries playing in the NBA the Gophers improved by nine wins and made the Big Dance. Getting him to sign with the Gophers was a real coup and he did put up some big numbers as he earned the Big Ten's Freshman of the Year award. Gopher fans can't help but wonder what might have been had Humphries stuck around another year with a new attitude.
3rd Team C - Jeff Hagen - 2000-05
Hagen, along with Robinson, was part of the senior class that won the most games over a four year stretch in the decade. He improved as he went along and had a very good senior season that ended with the lone Monson NCAA Tournament appearance. His numbers won't blow you away and given career numbers Ralph Sampson and Colten Iverson will go down as better Gopher centers. But with the constraints of the decade's numbers and Hagen's leadership during the 2005 NCAA Tournament season and the 70 wins over his career he sneaks into the third team.
Ralph Sampson III - it came down to Hagen or Sampson and when I looked at the numbers I just couldn't justify putting Sampson on the third team. He is a better basketball player and will have better numbers but he has just a season and a half in this decade so I couldn't justify.
Colten Iverson - Similar to Sampson in that his decade career was short and the numbers don't justify. He's good but not quite.
Travarus Bennett - Big Ten defensive player of the year. Good player, not great.
Kevin Burleson - put up decent numbers but if we had a strength it was at his position.
Adam Boone - PG wasn't a strong group but Boone never had nearly the impact we thought he would. Numbers were OK but not good enough.
Zach Puchtel - not really but great story and that Indiana game where he finally gave our team some toughness and attitude was a lot of fun.