aMAILia BAG is a new installment on this blog where you send me Gophers basketball questions (and sasquatch questions) and I answer 'em. Send your queries to firstname.lastname@example.org. Sign your email exactly as you want to be referred to in the post, whether that be just your first name, a made-up name, or if you want to include your home town or your Twitter handle. If you don't sign your email I will you the name attached to the email. Thanks for all your great questions!
Questions below are in bold and my responses in regular type.
The Gophers have a seriously difficult start to the Big 10 schedule. How many of the 1st 5 do they have to win to keep their confidence going for the rest of the schedule. Asked another way, will a 1 and 4 start threaten the whole season?
Well, Bob, that’s kind of a dramatic way to put it, but yes, I think a 1-4 start would put the Gophers’ season in a something of a headlock. After going 12-1 in the non-conference schedule and moving up to No. 13 in the national rankings (they could be even higher today), a 1-4 start would not be acceptable and it would put a lot of pressure on the squad to turn things around while playing from behind. That said, I don’t think that will happen. You say a “seriously difficult” start, but I don’t think it’s beyond the Gophers at all. In fact, I think the first two games make for a pretty good draw for Minnesota.
First of all, the Gophers are able to start out their season at home vs. on the road, as they did a year ago. And I like Michigan State as a first game, too because, well, I just don’t think this Spartans team is nearly as strong as it was billed to be this season. Even so, Michigan State still has the name and the reputation, so a win over the Spartans would be a great confidence boost to start the year. Northwestern follows, which is certainly an attainable game. Then the Gophers embark on a tough road trip to Illinois and Indiana. Yes – both of those games will be rough, but I don’t think it’s ridiculous to believe the Gophers could pull out one of them. All in all, it wouldn’t shock me if we almost reversed your worst-case scenario and the Gophers began the Big Ten schedule 3-1. After that comes Michigan, which will be hard game to pull out – which makes the 3-1 jump out of the gate even more important. A 3-2 start is workable. 1-4 is difficult to return from.
*Side note: I think it says a lot about the heartbreak in a fandom when a team is 13th in the nation and the fans are talking about a 1-4 start!
Do you think Tubby, in general, is fairly slow to pull the trigger when offering players. Amir Coffey, a 2016 wing, has an offer from Iowa State and just got invited to some sort of Team USA camp. He's doing some good things for Hopkins as a freshman. My real fuss is Jarvis Johnson, though. Why haven't we offered him? Nearly all MN prep hoops insiders and Gophers fans are in unanimous agreement that Johnson will at minimum pan out to be a solid B1G guard.
Tubby was also slow to offer Henry Ellenson (Iowa State and Georgetown offered before) and "the kid from up North" (I'm sure I'm butchering Illkainen's name).
OK, well I don’t think there’s any reason you should be flipping out about Amir Coffey already. He’s a FRESHMAN. There is so much time. The guy only just recently got a Rivals page. And just because the Gophers haven’t offered, it doesn’t mean they aren’t interested. With Jarvis Johnson, I think the Gophers are aiming for Tyus Jones first and foremost as their point guard of the future, and maybe they want to feel out a little more thoroughly whether they have they have a chance to make that happen.
I won’t sit here and blindly defend the Gophers’ recruiting efforts because – let’s be real – there is plenty to criticize there. And in general, I DON’T think that that Minnesota has been aggressive enough when it comes to going after prospects. But sporadically offering every talented kid in the region isn’t a fix-all solution either.
Grades a factor in [Eliason's] not playing all all? Was he hurt? is this another transfer in the works?
Patrick L. Thompson
Patrick! Step away from the edge of the bridge! Eliason is definitely not transferring, so let's carefully take that off the table. He wasn't sick or hurt, either, however. Smith didn't want to get into the details, but it sounded disciplinary in nature. That surprises me because Eliason does not seem like the type you would have to discipline. Let me guide you to the blog I wrote on the subject Saturday night.
Did Tubby play the bench players more than usual to build their confidence going into Big Ten play next week or for some other reason?
A really long bench with substantial minutes isn’t anything new to Tubby Smith (of course), but I don’t think we would have seen as much of guys like Wally Ellenson, for example, if it wasn’t such a blowout. Then, with Trevor Mbakwe (stitches over right eye) and Elliott Eliason (benched the whole game) out in the second half, Smith was just playing what he had for a frontcourt. I’m a little surprised he didn’t play his starters a little bit more considering the long layoff, but Smith also made it clear after the game that he wasn’t very pleased with how the starting lineup performed at the beginning of the game.
Realistically, how much playing time can we expect Tubby to play Wally Ellenson in conference games?
Not as much as last night, certainly, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets around 10 minutes a game now that the redshirt is gone.
With the Big Ten seeming mediocre, does that mean the Gophers have higher finishing expectations in the Big Ten?
First off I don’t agree with your statement. Big Ten mediocre?? You can say it’s not living up to expectations in the last week or so, but discounting a conference that has so far put five teams in the top 15 as “mediocre” is a little ridiculous. Saturday was a bit of a down night in scores for the Big Ten elite, but I don’t think it was indicative, necessarily, of the conference’s strength. Ohio State lost to a very good Kansas team and the Illinois-Mizzou matchup could have gone either way – and might have gone the other if Phil Pressey hadn’t suddenly woken up. Illinois, I still believe, is the real deal. Michigan has looked just as good as projected. Indiana – with the exception of the Butler game in which the Bulldogs had an insane shooting night – has been convincing. And then there’s teams like Iowa, dare I bring up Nebraska, who look better than expected. No, I don’t think the Big Ten is having a “mediocre” year.
But I still haven’t really gotten to your question. I think the Gophers have higher finishing expectations anyway. Regardless of the conference’s strengths, a No. 13 team should be able to hang with that competition and finish certainly in the top half, maybe as high as fourth, by my prediction. Now, you and I know that Minnesota hasn’t lived up to that billing in the past, even when they were ranked just a spot lower in the AP rankings two years ago – but talking what they SHOULD do, yes, they should have the capability of hanging with the rest of the league this season.
Is Joe Coleman better suited as our 6th man? Adds great scoring and versatile players as first guy off the bench!
I really like this question and I think it’s worthy of serious conversation because it’s not a bad idea. The assumption, of course, is that Coleman can almost work in a vacuum and can be as offensively productive and dynamic as he is now but in spurts. Coleman does give the team a lot of pop offensively and he can play like a wing or more like a shooting guard, so that would certainly give Smith some good options. Right now, the closest thing the second group has to a scoring leader is Maverick Ahanmisi, who has been playing pretty solidly this year, but is somewhat limited.
Part of my concern with that possibility stems from the idea that Coleman would likely be depended on to handle the ball more, do more dribbling in that scenario, and that’s not necessarily his strong suit, and my other thought is that he might view a move like that as a demotion and I wonder how that would affect his confidence/production.
Interesting option though.
BONUS BIGFOOT QUESTIONS:
Who do you think showers more frequently: Matt Moneymaker or James “Bobo” Fay? And does the lack of showering help or hurt the mission of finding squatches?
I’m going to go with Bobo here. Squatch Watching does come with sacrifices and sometimes that includes showers. And although Bigfoots are notoriously very, very smelly creatures, a smelly Bobo might just have a different odor that that of the natural squatch. The only way I could see the special scent helping is if nearby squatches (naturally curious animals) are just overcome with wondering WhatCouldPossiblyBeMakingThatSmell and decide to poke their heads out in the open.
Why doesn't Big Foot live in Southern Minnesota?
Too metro I think. But there are plenty up north!