Underwhelming in their exhibition opening win over St. Cloud State, but underway.
It is hard to get anything concrete out of these games, especially with five players brand new to the program. But there were a few interesting notes worth discussing.
Lets start with who started. Starting in the backcourt were Al Nolen at point and Westrbrook at shooting guard. There is nothing surprising about this as most anyone who has paid attention would have predicted this as the starting backcourt. The frontcourt is where things were as the three starters along the front line are all brand new to the program, two of them being freshmen.
SF - Paul Carter (SO)
PF - Ralph Sampson (FR)
C - Colten Iverson (FR)
That is a fresh line up of bigs and will be fun to watch. I think it is safe to assume that one of them will be coming off the bench when Damien Johnson returns from injury. But for those of you who thought Jon Williams would be starting because of his experience and potential improvement I think we know that will not be happening. In the brief moments I was able to watch the game I was impressed with Iverson. He moved well, was fluid, active and played hard. With the incoming class I think he and Carter were the two who least excited the base, but they may be the two who contribute the most in their first year.
The second thing to watch for in games like these are the different lineups Tubby puts out there as he looks for chemistry and how his team can best defend or score. One very interesting lineup was the one that ended the first half, it looked something like this...
G - Nolen
G - Westbrook (may have been Joseph, I can't recall)
F - Hoffarber
F - Bostick
C - Busch
Yes that is five guards playing at the same time. It was only for a few minutes but it was intersting to watch. Defensively they are obviously vulnerable in the paint, but on the perimeter they were all over the place and forcing SCSU to move faster than they wanted to causing a couple turnovers. I'm not advocating this lineup but it was interesting and we'll have to see if Tubby gives this unit more time in the remaining exhibition and early non-conference games.
Ultimately they won the game and the team will finally have something concrete that they can look to for positives and negatives. There is plenty of room for improvement and I don't think that was lost on the coaches or players immediately following the game. "Minor" things like turnovers, rebounding and chemistry were recurring themes in post game and Tubby graded this first game as a C or C-minus.
Al Nolen - “At halftime Coach Smith told us we needed to take care of the ball, especially the point guards. We really need to get out, go after it and get more deflections on defense.”
“I was not really worried about turning the ball over or how many points I scored tonight. However, come the regular season I am not going to turn the ball over as much. Right now we are just trying to work out the kinks in preseason.”
Tubby Smith - “Exhibition games are designed to measure where you are,” Smith said. “It’s like being in a classroom. You start the season and it has to start somewhere. We did some good things, we did some poor things. But we recovered and did a good job. We tried to play a lot of guys. We’re about where we expected.”
Plenty of room to grow, but this is way too early to glean anything. We will be more athletic and quicker at every position. We will be deeper with more scoring options on the perimeter. And we should be athletic enough to defend at a higher level. Tubby is the ultimate teacher and class is in session for this brand new version of the Gophers.
Thursday night you can watch the second exhibition game against Northern State, but only on BigTenNetwork.com where you can watch a live stream of the game.