Minnesota lost to Nebraska 78-74 in Lincoln. The Gophers drop to 6-12 in conference play and have no chance to make the NCAA Tournament short of winning the Big Ten Tournament. Since they are not going to do that, the next few games are pointless. While we will still be here, I would advise everyone to do something else with those few hours of time.
Somehow the team that took the court today smoked Michigan. Sure, that team had a fully healthy lineup, but even the lineup that was on the court today should beat Nebraska. The Cornhuskers are a miserable basketball team. Fortunately for them, the Gophers are dead men walking at this point. Dead men who cannot shoot a basketball. Minnesota was 24-70 from the field, and 8-30 from distance, and somehow still only lost by four points.
Marcus Carr set a new career high with 41 points, with four rebounds, four steals, and just three assists.
As I said in the Northwestern recap, in any normal year the Gophers would be looking for a new coach. The collapse of this team is particularly egregious given the stakes and self control of their destiny heading into February. They are the worst road basketball team since the Monson years, and made sure to cement that designation by losing to the Huskers.
I should say now that I do not like calling for people to lose their jobs. While highly compensated, losing a job sucks. Losing a job publicly doubly so. Still, I was asked a few games back by another member of the blog what I thought about coaching changes. My response is that the full season matters. When we previewed the season, I said that on paper this is a NCAA Tournament team, and the Tournament is the standard that Minnesota should aspire to at this time. The season was going to be strange, but the Gophers had the talent on paper to make the tournament. If the team could not make it two years in a row, then the AD should seriously consider a change in direction.
At the time I was asked, Minnesota still was safely in the tournament. Moreover, the Gophers was looking at the easy part of a brutal schedule. The hardest game left on the schedule was Rutgers, and that was going to be at home. Now five straight losses later, and failing to look competitive in the majority of them, I believe this season to be a failure.
Here I caution that a new coach does not imply that the Gophers will immediately become a title contender. We commit a selection error by only remembering the new coaches that turn around programs, and not the coaches who fail hilariously. Nor should past performance guarantee future success. Nebraska’s recent hires should make that point vividly clear. This is not a reason that Minnesota should stick its current situation, only a reminder that for many fans of the program the question has never been just about whether they are satisfied with the here and now.
Financially speaking, getting a new coach will be difficult. Minnesota is looking at a budget flooded in red ink. However, a University is an infinite horizon institution. Budget concerns would have been a clear issue if the Gophers missed the Tournament because they could not beat the top teams when it mattered. As the US hurtles back to some return of normalcy, and all signs point to fans returning to stadiums next fall, I no longer believe that the budget considerations should be a factor.
Thus, I close this recap by sharing that I am sad as a fan about where the team is at this juncture. I am sad to watch a team with lots of good pieces not gel into the team I believe they could be. I know they could be so much better because I watched them smoke two #1 seed contenders this season, and even in those games thought they could hit a higher gear. I am sad that I never got to see it.