Happy Thursday everyone. Enjoy the Nugz!
- It's a pleasant surprise to see that folks around the nation are starting to take notice of the Gophers. For instance, here's the Tallahassee paper from yesterday.
- Eamonn Brennan from ESPN is buying in.
Minnesota might just be that good: Sure, sure, this Florida State defense is not your typical Florida State defense. After years of being the best defense in the country, the post-Bernard Scott Seminoles are merely OK on that end of the floor. Even so, Minnesota went from an impressive run in the Bahamas, to a stopover in Tallahassee, and emerged with a 7-1 record and a host of very tired-seeming tweets. Impressive stuff.
What else we'll be talking about in the morning: Minnesota is more than just an also-ran in the Big Ten.
Heading into the season, everyone talked about the loaded Big Ten. Most of that talk centered on Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State -- and even Wisconsin. Minnesota was mostly regarded as an afterthought, with most people thinking of the Golden Gophers as a middle-of-the-pack and likely bubble team. Not after Tuesday night. Tubby Smith's troops went into Tallahassee and thoroughly handled Florida State, 77-68. Wins over Memphis and Stanford were good, but this was on another level. Minnesota got off to a great start, knocking down perimeter shots, grabbing offensive rebounds and taking care of the ball. The Gophers got points in transition and were unselfish. Moreover, they defended tremendously well -- forcing Florida State to shoot below 38 percent from the field. Guys like Andre Hollins and Rodney Williams are scoring well, and Trevor Mbakwe is still getting back to 100 percent.
Minnesota won't win the Big Ten but the Gophers are certainly more than an afterthought in the conference race this season.
The Gophers’ current starting center, Elliott Eliason, did plenty to win the job at the end of the year last year and at the start of this season this year … and now, that spot is his to lose.
Eliason is a guy whose effort is never questioned, the rare athlete that takes responsibility for his shortcomings and displays incredible self-awareness in interviews. He’ll tell you when he played poorly, and when he shakes his head and tells you how he’s trying to improve daily and get better – well, you believe his passion.
So what happens now? Judging by the attitude I’ve seen from Day 1 from Eliason, that give-it-all mindset isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. So does Mbakwe just play off the bench for the rest of the season?
Herein lies the problem: for all of Eliason’s attributes – and there are plenty – Mbakwe is unquestionably more talented. Mbakwe in the starting lineup makes the team better. It’s not a question.
I like how Tubby has been easing Trevor back into the lineup. For one, it gives the players who will be here next year the chance to improve more. Secondly, it helps Trevor to get back into form, and third, as noted by many in the recap comments, it proves to the team that they can win without one of their stars.
- The Daily says the upcoming game with UNF offers the team the chance to face an easier test. Hopefully that doesn't include the team losing focus.
- The STrib highlights the two SC Top Ten dunks that Rodney Williams had on Tuesday, as well as some of his greatest hits.
- Looking at recruiting, FSN talks about Tyus Jones and how he is staying grounded and keeping his wits about him as he navigates the crazy world of a big time recruit.
- Grantland has been featuring this great piece on Minnesota hockey (and the rivalry with WI) on it's front page. It's a must read IMHO. The whole thing is great, but here's a little bit that reminds me why I love Gopher hockey fans (and why we really are the Yankees of college hockey):
When I arrived at the 21st century I came to within earshot of a dad and his kid, both decked out in Minnesota gear. (There's an apparel store inside the rink that easily rivals anything I've seen at a professional game.) The dad stopped at the 2005-06 team photo that included Toronto's Phil Kessel and Winnipeg's Blake Wheeler and sighed with dramatic regret. "That was God's team," he told his little boy. "They should have won a national championship, but then they got lazy. That was God's team." God's team, it turned out, had gotten upset by Holy Cross in the first round of the tournament;2 the NCAA title that year was ultimately won by … Wisconsin.
- Roman says that Erik Haula would have been named an assistant captain sooner if not for his drinking related arrest this summer.
- The WCHA Blog moves the Gophers up to #2 on his WCHA Power Rankings.
- The Daily says the Gophers are taking momentum into their weekend series with Omaha.
- GopherSports previews the UNO series.
- Freshman goalie Ryan Coyne has a Caddyshack themed mask. Love it.
- Shama hits many of the same points.
- Despite having his season production cut down by injury, MarQueis Gray was voted team MVP by his teammates at the football award banquet.
Moving the Chains
- I know it's a little late, but here is the MTC drive summary for Michigan State. NSFW.
Animated Drive Chart brought to you by Gameday Depot.
- Work continues at Siebert Field, as chairbacks are being installed.
- Off Tackle Empire put up their "End of the Regular Season" Power Poll with a Sopranos theme. The Gophers check in at #8. As usual, Ted knocks it out of the park. Fave entry?
11. Iowa, 15 Points: Uncle Junior
You used to be a top notch mobster, but as of late, you've really gone downhill. And it's puzzling. Do you just not care anymore, are you really going nuts, or do you just want us to think you are, and somehow, you're outsmarting us all and we just don't see it yet? If you walk onto Kinnick for the first game next year wearing nothing but a headset and underwear, we'll have our answer. I think.
- In case you missed it, the ACC/Big Ten Challenge ended in a 6-6 tie. The B1G maintains possession of the Commissioner's Cup since we won it last year. Both Wisconsin and Ohio State coughed up leads in the final minutes. Boo.
- Facts about Illinois football that will blow your mind are contained in this piece by A Lion Eye. Such as:
Wait, there’s more: There have been eight winless-in-the-Big-Ten seasons the last 16 years – WE OWN FOUR OF THE EIGHT. No other team even has two. Not even Indiana. Illinois 1997, Northwestern 1998, Iowa 1999, Illinois 2003, Illinois 2005, Indiana 2011, Illinois 2012. Are you kiddin’ me?
But, of course, there’s a flipside. There have only been 27 college football programs with two or more BCS bowl appearances – and we’re one of them. Teams that only have one BCS bowl appearance: UCLA, Texas A&M, Pitt, K-State, Georgia Tech, Clemson, Arkansas, Washington, and Oklahoma State. Team that has two: Illinois.
- CNNSI has an in depth look at how Maryland's athletic finances got so messed and why the B1G's offer was so attractive to them.
- Denard, you will be missed (at least, when you play everyone but the Gophers).
- A rare B1G hockey link in this segment...Minnesota is the only future member of the B1G hockey conference that is playing well right now.
- Lucas Oil Field is getting prepped for this weekend's title game. Go Huskers!
- Les Miles turns Arkansas' job offer into more money.
- Kentucky makes a great head coaching hire, trading in Joker Phillips for FSU DC Mark Stoops.
- Mike Leach is a mad pirate all right.
- WOW. There is an AD who is more incompetent at handling the hiring/firing of coaches than Joel Maturi. And he is at CoLOLrado.
- Yea, things were pretty sour in Auburn land even before the losing started. Sounds a lot like our hidden problems under Brew.
- Charlie Weis does a cool, non-dick thing. MAYANS!
Interest in this weekend's ACC Championship Game isn't exactly at an all-time high. Considering you can use a $5 bill to buy a ticket and still get $1 back in change, we're going to say Charlotte isn't abuzz about Florida State vs. Georgia Tech this week.
- LSU's FB equipment guys have a "tactical gum box."
- Interesting anonymous survey of CBB players by Athlon Sports. Two things that jumped out at me:
Have you ever received benefits from a booster?Yes (13.7%)No (86.3%)
Have you ever had a grade changed because you were an athlete?Yes (15.1%)No (84.9%)
- A sign that the expansionpalooza has gone too far? The WAC is adding something called Grand Canyon University. Yes, that is a school that exists.
- Black Heart Gold Pants has put up two great Batshit Insanity posts in the past week or so. Hilarious work you Iowa bastards.
Delany then adjusted his bicorne hat and directed his adjutants to prepare his white stallion, Fritz Crisler, for departure. As his mount was made ready, he explained his broader strategy. "The ACC and SEC are far too dug in along the Mason-Dixon line for our forces to make a frontal assault, and we regard the barren wastes to our west as scarcely worth the candle of an invasion. Therefore our only option is to move our forces across the sea to Europe, then circle around and attack from the south. No conference can sustain a two-front war, as the Conference USA demonstrated so memorably."
Meanwhile, the invaders expressed confusion at the refusal of the Iowans to bend their knees and accept the rule of the Nebraskan invaders. It was unheard of, they said. Their superiority was self-evident, they said. Even the blindest and most self-deluded of Iowaegians must be able to see it, they said. They had the greatest fans in the world -- nay, the universe, they said. By god, they had FIVE NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS, they said.
- I hate officials who make the game about them. Anytime I see a ref gesticulate wildly I know I'm safe in assuming that A) they're a jackass and B) they probably got the call wrong and are covering for it. Eddie Hightower? I'm looking in your direction.
- FAN FAIL: