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Golden Nugz for 12-22-08

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If things go as we'd all like, the win against Louisville was the beginning of Minnesota's presence on the national stage. For the first time in years, the Gophers emerged from their proverbial hole, looked around the national stCaddyshack_gopher_mediumage and felt comfortable enough to keep their head above ground. Or something.

The program had to win on the court to get consistent national attention. We now have that win.

By beating a top 10 team for the first time since 2000, and with back-to-back top 20 national recruiting classes, Tubby Smith's Gophers are set up for big thing and lots of attention. Minnesota's upset of Louisville earned the Gophers the top spot in ESPN's college basketball Weekly Watch section penned by Andy Katz.

A player you might not have heard of, Al Nolen, scored 13 points from the free-throw line. The Gophers got Samardo Samuels to foul out, wouldn't let Earl Clark dominate them and defended the 3-point shot well enough that Louisville was 4 of 17. Foul trouble limited the Gophers' top scorer, Lawrence Westbrook, to only two points; yet the Gophers proved they have balance. Two reserves, Travis Busch and Blake Hoffarber, scored in double figures.

Smith is one of the best coaches in the country. He has a legit shot, like Michigan's John Beilein, to take his team to the NCAA tournament in his second season at the school. The Gophers should go into the Big Ten opener against Michigan State on Dec. 31 undefeated after playing Southeastern Louisiana and High Point. The Gophers open at home with MSU and Ohio State, two preseason top-four teams. Minnesota could end up being one of the last undefeated teams if the Gophers can protect what is always one of the tougher home courts in the conference.

Our Gophers are emerging from a long hibernation, and the college basketball world will soon begin to learn the names of Al Nolen, Damian Johnson, Colton Iverson, Ralph Sampson III and someday soon, Royce White, Rodney Williams and Trevor Mbakwe.

  • In its notes section on the Louisville game, From the Barn praises the play of Devoe Joseph. I agree with most of this, though Louisville being the best defensive team in the country is debateable.
    His statistics won’t jump out, and his play didn’t either necessarily, but in this case that is a good thing. The freshman played 15 minutes, and had three points and four assists. The [Louisville] defense will eat many freshman alive this season. For Joseph, who is really more of a shooting guard, to fill in, fly completely under the radar, and have a solid game against the best defensive team in the country is very impressive.
  • I enjoyed the headline in the Louisville Courier-Journal's game story. "Cards fall to 10-win Tubby." If you don't get it, UK fans who wanted Tubby out of Lexington used to deride him as "10-loss Tubby."
  • As Inside the Hall notes, it was a productive Saturday for Big Ten basketball. Along with the Minnesota win, Purdue destroyed Stephen Curry and Davidson and Michigan State, with Goran Suton back, grabbed a big win on a neutral site against Texas in Houston. Add those wins with Ohio State's wins over Notre Dame and Miami and Michigan's wins over UCLA and Duke and the Big Ten is shaping up to be one tough conference this season.
  • On football for a second, how good of a story is Sam Maresh. Sid Hartman writes that Tim Brewster believes Maresh will be ready for spring practice about one year after having heart surgery.
  • A BigTenNetwork.com editor basically looks at the needs of the 11 B10 basketball teams.Goran Suton would be an ideal present for the Gophers, according to the writer.
  • As I noted in the game thread, I was shocked with a few minutes remaining that Tubby switched from his man-to-man defense to a 1-3-1 zone. Louisville promptly rotated the ball and Jerry Smith hit a three. A Louisville beat writer also noticed and was surprised. Anyone care to make an argument as to why switching to a zone at that point was a good call? I know Louisville was struggling from the outside, but we seemed to be keeping them off balance with our man pressure.