Gopher hoops has a B1G tilt Sunday against Northwestern,. The Gophers are coming off a huge win over Michigan State earlier in the week while the Wildcats are licking their proverbial wounds after getting their arses kicked last night by #2 Michigan 94-66. The Wolverines hit 13 threes last night, including 4-6 from behind the arc from the, at least in this case, aptly named Trey Burke. We'll have a preview and game thread and all the usual goodies for that one to get you set for Sunday.
E!SPN's Jay Bilas has the Gophers as one his 5 underrated teams (Insider only because obviously E!SPN doesn't make enough money). Amelia says really? The 9th ranked team in the country is somehow underrated? Granted the Gophers haven't been nationally relevant for a few years, but after a big win over Sparty underrated doesn't quite feel like the right term.
SI.com and CBS Sports' college hoops analyst Seth Davis has posted his annual college basketball stock report and recommends whether you should buy, sell, or hold a team. For the 13-1 Gophers he says to hold:
The more I see the Gophers, the more I like them, but how much higher can they possibly climb...If the Gophers can split their road games at Illinois and Indiana and beat Michigan at home on Jan. 17, their stock will enjoy an uptick. But once again, this is just a brutal league.
Some Gopher Hockey notes from Michael Russo, including news that Nate Condon will take Erik Haula's spot as the second line center. Head coach Don Lucia told Russo that Condon played center his whole life before getting to the U, so the transition from wing back to center shouldn't be that difficult for him. Condon had hopped up to the top line wing with Nick Bjugstad and Kyle Rau for the wildly successful Mariucci Classic, but that revolving door of a wing spot will continue to swing again for the next few games with Haula out. Maybe it'll be Christian Isackson getting another go on the top line, maybe somebody else. From Lucia's interview with Russo earlier in the week on KFAN, sounds like he likes Budish and Warning on the 2nd line, so it's likely not one of those two moving up, but we'll see.
Lucia mentioned earlier in the week that he hopes Haula will only miss three games with what the team is calling an "upper body injury" but what Russo basically confirms is likely a busted finger suffered from a slash against BC. He's listed as "week to week" and while this is certainly a different injury than Sam Warning suffered earlier in the season, Warning was "week to week" too and he missed about a month. The Gophers host #2 Notre Dame Tuesday, then get back into WCHA play when UAA comes to town next weekend. After that it's the Fighting Whioux in the last regular season conference series ever between the two teams. Of course you'd love to Haula back against the Whioux, but he's as important a player as the Gophers have, and you want him as close to 100% as possible for the stretch run, so if that means he misses a couple of weeks, well, it's what has to be done.
As mentioned the Gophers, who are the country's new #1 team after trouncing Boston College, are getting set to face #2 Notre Dame this Tuesday night at Mariucci. As you've probably heard, Lucia's son Mario, who was recently named the CCHA Freshman of the Month, plays for the Irish and will likely suit up Tuesday night. He and Team USA returns from Russia and the World Junior tournament the day before, and despite what would likely be some pretty serious jetlag, Russo expects Mario to play. Gopher defenseman Mike Reilly is also on that team, and Lucia wouldn't say whether he'll put the freshman defenseman back in the lineup against the Irish or not. Reilly has played fairly well for Team USA, who is going for gold tomorrow morning against defending champs Sweden. If you get the NHL Network and feel like getting up early on a Saturday morning, the game will be at 7am. The US has won gold just twice at this tournament (2010 and 2004), so it would be a huge win for USA Hockey.
SB Nation's Western College Hockey Blog takes a look back at the Top 12 College Hockey stories of 2012 And yes, the Fighting Whioux losing their nickname is #1 on the list.
Pretty sure this was mentioned in an earlier Nugz this week, but great news for departing Gopher QB/WR MarQueis Gray as he announced he's been invited to the NFL Scouting Combine. There's been some disagreement on this blog and around the Gopher webisphere about Gray's NFL potential, but this invite shows he's definitely on the NFL's radar. What position will he play? Wide receiver? Tight end/H-back? At his current weight of 250+ pounds, he could have a future as a tight end, but if he's able to slim down and that ankle is 100% for the Combine, he could look like a WR. For a man of his size with the speed, agility and athleticsm he has, a good Combine showing could get him drafted in the later rounds. Best of luck to Q in the process, and thanks again to a guy who was moved around a lot in his Gopher career and never publicly complained once.
If you're unaware, Offtackle Empire is now covering B1G hoops, and breaks down what they deemed was a program changing victory for Minnesota over Michigan State. Of course, they're still covering football too, and look back at yet another bowl season of moral victories for the B1G.
In other college football news, Oregon stomped K-State in last night's Fiesta Bowl 35-17. Ducks HB De'Anthony Thomas started it off by housing the opening kickoff 94 yards, and Oregon never looked back in what is very likely the last game of the Chip Kelly Era. The "Nike" Ducks and their ever-changing uniforms have been a polarizing team under Kelly that have changed the way teams dress and the way a lot them play offense with his light-speed uptempo offense. Can Kelly's offense work in the NFL? I think it can, based off of opinion's from people much smarter than me like Chris Brown of Grantland and Smart Football, who back in November broke down why he thinks Kelly's schemes can work at the next level. It's a must-read article if you're into offensive designs and schemes, and Brown basically dispells the notion that Kelly's brand of "read-option" offense will get an NFL QB killed, as he points to the offenses' success with past QB's who don't run it super well. Yes, last night's starter Marcus Mariota is a speed demon, but as Brad Nessler pointed out time and again last night during the broadcast, Kelly sees Mariota as "a QB who can run" not the other way around. Kelly's quarterbacks actually don't run the ball very much at all (on actual runs not counting sacks, I believe Mariota carried an average of less than 10 times per game), and as Brown quotes him:
Kelly explained that he merely needs a quarterback who, if the defense "forces" him to run, "can do it effectively." Although this rules out some of the NFL's best quarterbacks — from Peyton Manning to Tom Brady — it doesn't mean that his offense requires Cam Newton or RG3.
Kelly apparently has two or three interviews lined up in Phoenix today with NFL teams, and at this point it'd be a shocker if he returns. Oregon already announced they're going to promote OC Mark Helfrich if/when Kelly leaves. While Helfrich knows the offense about as well as anyone and SHOULD lead to the least disruptive transition, it's not a certainty that Helfrich, or anybody else, would be able to keep the Ducks rolling along like Kelly had them. I loved watching the Chip Kelly Ducks and will be very interested to see how he does in the NFL next year and how Oregon does without him.
One college coach NOT leaving for the pros is Penn State's Bill O'Brien. After interviewing for the Browns' head coaching vacancy, O'Brien issued this gem:
I'm not a one-and-done guy. I made a commitment to these players at Penn State and that's what I am going to do.
Uh huh. He's not a one-and-done guy because Cleveland didn't offer him a job. That, or a certain Penn State booster is giving O'Brien a "bonus" to stick around that will bump his salary from $1.3 million to $3.6 million annually. All he needs now is a toxic $20 million buyout, and then he's in Kirk Ferentz contrat territory!
From this week's "The Big East is Dead" files, Boise State announced they are staying in the Mountain West Conference instead of joining the Big East in 2013. The MWC was able to renegotiate their TV contract, which enabled them to give the Broncos a better deal than the Big East could. BSU wanted sole rights to sell their home games to TV networks, and while the MWC wouldn't grant them that, they agreed to package them separately, and give the schools' who appear on national TV a much larger cut of proceeds than those who don't. Guess which school will likely be on national TV a lot? Yep, Chris Petersen's Boys in Blue. Also apparently part of the deal was letting the Broncos wear blue jerseys on their home blue field again, a rule that seemed a little ridiculous in the first place. The Broncos backing out also means San Diego State isn't going either (there was a clause in their contract with the Big East that they could leave penalty-free if there wasn't another school in the conference west of the Rocky Mountains), but they're not getting welcomed back to the MWC with open arms, as apparently the conference is looking at SMU and Houston who, yes, are also supposed to join the Big East.
Expect SMU and Houston to back out and join the MWC, and SDSU to find a spot in that conference too, leaving the Big East basically DOA. All that's left now in the Conference Realignment merry-go-round is for the Maryland/ACC exit fees lawsuit to play out. If the Terps are forced to pay all of the $50 million exit fee (or anything close to it) then the realignment shuffle grinds to a hault. But if, as insiders expect, the exit fee is far less than $50 million, expect the poaching of the ACC to begin again in earnest and the dawn of the Super Conference Era will be upon us.