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The Daily Gopher Fix 9.10.08

Is Tubby Smith's honeymoon over with Minesota fans? It is, according to Basketball Prospectus.

The honeymoon is apparently already over for Tubby Smith at Minnesota.

Smith led the Golden Gophers to a 20-14 record and a berth in the NIT last season, his first as coach after leaving Kentucky. That came after Minnesota went 9-22 in 2006-07.

However, Smith is taking heat from Minnesota fans for putting together what they feel is a weak non-conference schedule that includes an opener against Division II Concordia-St. Paul along with home games against such minor-conference schools as High Point, Southeastern Louisiana, Eastern Washington, North Dakota State and South Dakota State.

Smith, though, believes the schedule is the best way for his team to gain some confidence before jumping into Big Ten play. Minnesota lost its three leading scorers to graduation. Smith, the president of the National Association of Basketball Coaches, also says teams from major conferences cannot afford to put together a difficult non-conference schedule for fear of missing out on postseason play.

Now, it's true that many Minnesota fans and a certain crabby columnist at the Star Tribune would like to see a schedule packed with top-25 teams. And I'll join the chorus in suggesting that it'd be wise for the program's national profile to dump a South Dakota State or Southeastern Louisiana from the schedule in exchange for a higher profile opponent.

But to suggest Tuby's honeymoon is over is ludicrious. Fact is, we don't know what other program's Tubby Smith tried to bring in. Is it possible some other major programs declined invitations to WIlliams Arena? And as the playing field levels between major conference schools and mid-majors, is it wise to bring in a Southern Illinois?

Bottom line, this year's schedule could hurt come tournament selection time, and it needs to be improved next year when Tubby's four new freshman have some experience. But a weak non-conference slate--not something only seen at Minnesota--is not a reason to be down on Tubby Smith and the Gophers.

  • Big Ten Geeks provides an early preview of your 2008-09 Gophers basketball team.
  • Tubby's successor at Kentucky, Billy Gillispie, apparently has hired a public relations firm!
  • Where was Tubby on Monday? Golfing! For charity with Bill Self, Pat Summitt and others to raise funds for cancer research.
  • The Sporting News suggests that Ohio State is playing for the pride of the Big Ten this week against Southern Cal. "History tells us an Ohio State loss doesn't disqualify the Buckeyes from reaching a third straight national championship game (though it would become a pretty difficult quest). But "USC 35, OSU 17", or something of that ilk, means the playing-small-in-big-games stigma sticks with the Buckeyes at least until the first week of January."
  • There is no name on my jersey agrees. Big Ten fans should be rooting for Ohio State. OK, I'll root for Ohio State. But it won't matter. Prediction: USC 42-OSU 23.
  • Finally, as you surely know by now, Duane Bennett is out for the year. But I bring this up again because I really like the way Tim Brewster sounds in this article from the AP. One word comes to mind: resilient.

Accusing assembled reporters of sensationalism and an interest in doom and gloom, Brewster touted Bennett's backups with a rise in his voice during his Tuesday news conference.

"We're a good football team. We've got good football players. We're going to replace Duane Bennett with a good football player, and Duane understands that. We've made peace with that as a football team," Brewster said.