If you didn’t know or had adequately flushed it from your memory, the Gopher basketball team was embarrassed last night at Illinois. The previously winless Illini not only beat a Gopher team with aspirations of making the NCAA Tournament, but they depants’d them by 27 points (and it really wasn’t that close).
This embarrassing loss has led to the Gopher interwebs exploding with second guessing Richard Pitino and the direction of this program. Fair...to some degree. But I would like to caution people that this was just 1 game. I’ll come back to Pitino, but first lets go back to November.
430 yards rushing for Illinois and 55 points given up to the worst team in the Big Ten West.
Today I went back to some of our posts after that game and read some comments.
“I’m advocating for not kidding ourselves that firing (Robb) Smith is going to solve the problem.”
“The fish rots from the head.”
“In my opinion, he (Fleck) is in over his head,”
“Row the Boat to a different school PJ
Embarrassing, Embarrassing, Embarrassing,”
My point is not to call out posters here but it drive home my point that none of those commenters would be calling for PJ’s head today after allowing the season to play itself out. There were reasons to be upset with that staff and the results, particularly stemming from that game. But it turned out to be correctable and the staff & players turned things around. The season was allowed to be carried out.
Understanding that Pitino is further along in his Gopher tenure and there may be very good reasons for his tenure to be over at the end of the season. And I have no doubt that there will be plenty of discussion around whether or not Pitino should be back for next year, why he should or shouldn’t and there will certainly be talk about who could possibly replace him.
But the point today is that this one game is not the reason why. I believe and read several comments after the Wisconsin game about how Pitino came into the game with a great gameplan, made adjustments and his team was prepared to beat Wisconsin in Madison. Just a few games later he is no longer a competent coach.
I understand that the Illinois game is fresh in our minds and it is easy to say that a team the plays like that will never get into the NCAA Tournament. That is 100% accurate, but that is not how this team has played every game. And going back to my football comparison, that team who gave up 430 yards rushing and 55 points to Illinois was never going to win another game. But they adjusted, winning three of their next four. A seemingly unimaginable feat at the time.
This team can make the NCAA Tournament, they are talented enough to win a couple games they shouldn’t and they are schizophrenic enough to lose games they shouldn’t.
There are problems and red flags. There are also reasons to believe we should stay the course. But this coaching staff gets to have the rest of the year to make their case.
Lets see how this plays out the rest of the season. Sometimes this team is really fun to watch.