I asked the following questions of the Big Ten Power Poll voters. I received a couple responses via e-mail (not voter has a blog) and a few were posted around the Gopher Nation interwebz. Here are links to the other responses followed by a recap of the responses...
Myron has profiles of all of the Power Poll voters here if you'd like to learn more about everyone. Not everyone who participates in the power poll took part in the roundtable, maybe next time we'll get more responses but this is what we've got.
On to the questions!
1 - 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?
Down With Goldy (DWG) - Nathan goes with the unique pick of Iowa. "A bigger worry is a look at exactly when they head to Iowa - it's right after home games against Ohio State and Illinois. Can you see the Gophers getting one or two very big, nice home wins and then going and laying an egg the next time out in Iowa City? Of course you can, you're a Gopher fan. You've been here before."
Gopher Hole (GH) - Picks Penn State, largely because of Talor Battle and the timing of the game. "the Nittany Lions may still be on the bubble looking for another resume-building win. With Michigan State next on the schedule for the Gophers, everyone may be overlooking the trip to University Park, and it could be a let down game as the Gophers are coming down the last stretch in Big 10 season."
Lindsey Guentzel (LG) - is concerned about all of our road games but ultimately decides on Penn State. "I'd put the Nittany Lions at the top of my 'oh man' list."
Christopher Cramer (CC) - picks Penn State because of their improved supporting cast and our loss of Westbrook. "I believe that the way PSU has played lately, with the emergence of Talor Battle's supporting cast and Jeff Brooks in particular, they have been significantly better than they were last season. PSU is now better than Northwestern and Indiana as opposed to last season when the Nittany Lions were the last-place team in the Big Ten. Plus Lawrence Westbrook isn't around to hit a buzzer-beater to give the Gophs a win at PSU this season."
Josh Powers (JP) - Northwestern, pointing out that they are a tough matchup for the Gophers because of their systems and their more athletic frontcourt. "Think about this lineup: Michael Thompson, Drew Crawford, Jershon Cobb, John Shurna, & Luka Murkovic. All five guys can shoot the three with effectiveness, which poses difficult matchups for guys like Ralph Sampson, Trevor Mbakwe, and Colton Iverson. The Gophers should be able to pound the ball inside and score well, but as we all know the Gophers offense in the half court has not been great, so if the NW threes are falling they will have a hard time keeping pace on the scoreboard."
Eric Johnson (EJ) - Penn State is his pick, "I definitely have to throw my vote in the Penn State hat. They're a surprising team as is, and playing well at home, the Gophers could be walking into a hornets nest."
The Daily Gopher (TDG) - Penn State, and it isn't even close. "Penn State entered the Big Ten season 7-4 losing all four games by double-digits including Maryland by 23 and Maine by 10. Their seven wins were arguably the least impressive collection of wins in the league as well. But now the Nittany Lions are a surprising 3-3 in conference play. They beat Michigan State and Illinois at home before they came within 3 of beating Ohio State on the road."
2 - The short bench and minutes played by starters has been a hot topic lately. To me there are two angles to this topic. First of all this means we are forced to rely on a few true freshmen in the backcourt for the rest of the Big Ten season. By the time we get to the Big Ten tournament which of the freshmen will step up (if any) and be a consistent factor off the bench. Secondly, can the current starters (plus Iverson) continue to play the extended minutes they are playing for the remaining schedule? Will they be able to apply pressure defense and play transition offense without wearing down?
The answers to this question would certainly be different today (the question would be different as well) with the news of Nolen being out at least 4-5 weeks. Everyone seems to be in agreement that the freshmen aren't consistent enough to really be relied upon and most are pleased with the shorter bench being utilized in the Big Ten games. I'll highlight CC's response as he sums it up nicely and gives us hope that this is the way to go...
As Steve Lavin liked to point out on ESPN telecasts, John Wooden's philosophy was to play only seven players and rotate one guard and one forward off the bench, and he was pretty successful with that. 2010 national champion Duke was #315 in the country (347 teams) in terms of bench minutes as a percentage of total minutes. National runner-up Butler? #319. Big Ten champs Ohio State? #347. I would argue that too many players are getting minutes for the Gophers.
Obviously the loss of Nolen is a huge blow to the rotation and now Mav, Chip and Austin all will be more heavily relied upon over the next 12 Big Ten games. JP took the time to revise his answer with the news of Nolen's injury.
With Al potentially being out for the remainder of the season, it is looking like his minutes will be filled in using a point-guard-by-committee approach. Expect Blake, Armelin, and Maverick Ahanmisi all to receive time. The reason I think Tubby will increase minutes for Chip is that when Blake is at the point, Chip can be out there as the 2-guard, and can even spend some time at the point with Blake at the 2-spot. I think his defense is underrated, and he brings athleticism and the ability to slash to the basket, something that Al did well.
3 - 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?"
DWG - "Talent wins out. Good coaches can coach lesser players up, but in order to really compete at the top of the basketball world you need talent and that comes from recruiting. Whether it's getting the highly rated prospects or identifying future stars that aren't as nationally recognized, the talent needs to get better."
GH - "I'm a firm believer that a program is only as successful as the Athletic Department wants it to be. There are many people who commend Joel Maturi for his work turning around the fractured Athletic Department when he got here. At the time, he was certainly the right man for the job. But it's very clear that he puts more of an emphasis on total program success as opposed to the success of the Big 3--Football, Basketball, and Hockey."
LG - 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.
TDG - "Time, patience, luck. When you are not a traditional power you need to get the right staff in place and give them some time. Even then you need some luck or at least you need to avoid bad luck. Last year's team could have easily been a top 3 team had they been able to play. And that same team could have been special if would have come to school with his head on straight and ready to give us an offensive boost we were lacking."
CC - is asking for talent and character. "get good class balance where you've always got Senior leaders and always get players who fit the program. The latter part is where the Gophers have struggled, as they have succeeded in getting some highly regarded recruits, but some of them such as Royce White and Devoe Joseph just did not seem to have the team-first mindset to win Big Ten championships. I consider character a part of recruiting as well - you can find 4* and 5* players who will put the team first and be good locker room guys. If you recruit the right guys, team chemistry will fall into place without much effort. Once you have enough of the good character kids with the requisite amount of talent spread over all the positions, you will build a great program that will eventually be capable of contending for Big Ten titles"
EJ - wants more from recruiting. "Obviously winning helps, but there has to be a reason for the top prospects in America to come here (outside of Tubby). IMO, it's going to require recruitment of NBA one-and-done talent (as much as that may not sound appealing) to reach the next level."
4 - Let's move on to some Big Ten talk. We've all been participating in the power poll and Ohio State has been the near unanimous #1 all season. It would be hard to argue that anyone else will win the league but when all is said and done who will be the second best team in the conference and why?
DWG - Illinois. "They're a good, but not great, team and have enough talent spread out amongst all their players to be a threat on any given night, so I'd expect they'll end up finishing second when the season schedule is through. They'll also lose in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, and that's a guarantee."
GH - Illinois. "Illinois might not be the consensus number 2, but given how most of the Big 10 (other than Ohio State) hasn't stepped up to seize it, they've gotta be the answer at this point."
TDG - Wisconsin. " It will probably be at least three teams within a game of each other or even all tied but if I had to project my Big Ten #2 it would be Wisconsin."
JP - Illinois. "They have a senior PG in Demitri McCamey, viable options to score in the paint in Mike Tisdale and Mike Davis, and versatile swingmen in D.J. Richardson, Bill Cole, and Brandon Paul that can provide additional scoring punch."
CC - Purdue. "the Boilermakers are a clear #1 in the Big Ten in efficiency margin in conference games and JaJuan Johnson is arguably the best player in the Big Ten. Purdue just had a long road winning streak snapped in the Barn, so they are a good road team."
Minnesota Wisconsin. "The way everyone is playing, it could honestly be Minnesota. This isn't a homer call, this is a non-bias opinion. When you look at that upper-echelon of talent (Minn, MSU, Illinois, Wisc, Pur) it's basically a group that will and have beat up on one another. This trip down to West Lafayette is going to really put us in our given place. If the Gophers pull out the W, I see no reason why they can not finish second in this conference. However, when it's all said and done, my money is on Wisconsin."
5 - The Barn...stand up or sit down? Here is your opportunity to rant...
This has been a hot topic lately on various Gopher message boards. I'm going to quote Lindsey here with here more passionate response...
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.
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.
Josh Powers also makes a very solid point.
I don't mind if people are sitting as opposed to standing - but at least make some noise. The Barn used to be an intimidating building, and it is turning into an atmosphere that resembles the Target Center.
That's all I've got. Be sure to click on the links back at the top to check out everyone's full answers. This is a good group of Gopher fans who love to talk Gopher sports.