This is Amelia Rayno's third season on the Gophers men's basketball beat. She learned college basketball in North Carolina (Go Tar Heels!), where fanhood is not an option. In 2010, she joined the Star Tribune after graduating from Boston's Emerson College, which sadly had no exciting D-I college hoops to latch onto. Amelia has also worked on the sports desk at the Boston Globe and interned at the Detroit News.

  Follow Rayno on Twitter @AmeliaRayno

aMAILia BAG: Revisiting an old question, Tubby's buyout, Gophers underrated? and what to feed Bigfoot

Posted by: Amelia Rayno under College basketball, Gophers players Updated: January 29, 2013 - 10:41 AM

 

 

aMAILia BAG is a weekly installment on this blog where you send me your questions and I answer them here. Please send queries to amelia.rayno@startribune.com or to @AmeliaRayno on Twitter with the hashtag #aMAILiaBAG. Sign your emails with how you’d like to be referred to in the blog.

Questions below are in bold, while my responses are in regular type.


Amelia,

I asked you this on Twitter after the game, but didn't get a reply. I also don't have the game recorded, or know of a way I can go back and look at this. I swear there was a 3 point shot by Dre Hollins, at around the mark in the 2nd half it was 31-28, that was ruled a 2 point shot. The announcers said it was going to be reviewed at the next stop in play. They showed a quick replay of it and his foot was behind the line. The first stop in the game after that was 33-31, and expected another point to go up on the board for the Gophers after the timeout, but never saw one...and never heard it mentioned in the game after that. Did you see anything like this? Nothing would change, of course...and I wouldn't even ask if it wasn't a 1pt loss. Curious if you know what happened.

Thank you,

James


Thanks for following up, James. Unfortunately, I just can’t get to all the hundreds of tweets I get around gametime. (Is it unfortunate? Yes, we’ll go with that.)

In any case, here’s the deal. The shot was review at the next stop in play, as they announced and found – like you’ve said – to be a 3-pointer. There was a second Minnesota shot in this time, however, that was reviewed, that was called a three, but was actually a two. So basically, the two shots evened each other out. A little confusing and weird, since it was hard to tell what happened with that first shot from a viewer’s perspective, but that’s what happened.

Amelia,

I copied my question from earlier this year and thought it could be fun to revisit it. Perhaps I was justified in being a bit apprehensive haha. Keep up the good work. Thanks

Here is what I sent you earlier this year:

Amelia,

Every year I get super excited about the team's up-tempo style and success in non-conference play. Yet, it seems we always struggle come conference time. I realize it is a step up in competition level and a different style, but I was just wondering if there was any indication of us doing a better job of dictating the tempo and having more overall success in conference play? This is clearly Tubby's most talented team, but I worry about our ability to win drag it out, slow down, half-court conference games which happens frequently in conference season.

-An optimistic, but worried to commit (because of past years heartbreak) Gopher fan
Kent


Oh goody, I get a chance to answer this one again.

Well, I think the things I said when you asked the first time still make sense. At that time, they really did look like a different Gophers team. That is to say, the way they performed prior to the Big Ten was certainly superior to the way they performed prior to the Big Ten a season ago. I stand by that – all signs pointed to [Not This]. I won’t go through all that again, but since then, we can identify two problems:

1) The Gophers have gotten away from the things they’ve done well, and
2) They’re facing (much) better competition

Let’s look more at that first one. Because against Big Ten competition, we’ve seen sparks of these traits, still. We know the Gophers are capable of great defense – we saw that most notably against Illinois and in the second halves against Michigan State and Indiana. We know the Gophers can be efficient offensively, can impress off the fast break – we saw that against Illinois and in the second half in the home game against Northwestern. We know they can be tough – they out-toughed Michigan State from the start. We know they can shoot – they actually shot pretty well through their first five games, and were able to get close to Indiana and Michigan that way.

The concern is that they did not maintain the intensity of those traits throughout the Indiana and Michigan games. But in the last two games in particular, the Gophers have gotten away from those traits completely, it’s seemed. And more than ever this season, Minnesota is exhibiting the signature characteristics that did the team in last year:

  • An affinity for turnovers -- that’s been present all year, but it’s just getting exposed now. That this is still an issue is not a good sign.
  • Deference – We could otherwise call this a lack of leadership. There are times when it seems like Andre Hollins or Rodney Williams are waiting for someone else to drive this ship.
  • A lackluster half-court offense – How has Tubby Smith not dreamed up some better plays to utilize his athletes? How is it the Gophers have the hardest time feeding to Trevor Mbakwe in the low post? He says he tries to run things for Williams – but I don’t see nearly enough of that. You can’t totally blame Williams for not getting involved if there’s no real design for him to. And in general, Minnesota’s motion offense is pretty … motionless. Maybe it’s time to go back to the flex?
  • Lack of a killer instinct – I used to like the Gophers in close games. At the beginning of the season, they showed the eagerness to put opponents away and the ability to take it to a new level in close games. Where has that gone?

Basically, I’m close to filing a very long missing persons report because this simply does not look like the same team I was covering early in the season. And we can only continue to say they are STILL that team at the heart of them if they start acting like it right away. Good teams don’t get to take four-game breaks.

Amelia,

I know I am no basketball expert, but it seems the gophers struggles in their losses are very apparent: inability to shoot free throws and TURNOVERS!! You would think these are relatively easy areas to improve on, but I haven’t seen any improvement all year and Big Ten play is exposing it badly. Is this a coaching issue, or players who simply lack the composure? I love the gophers, but it’s maintain hope when it looks like the same show we’ve seen the past few years . . . heartache.

-MN in Arizona


Well, those two things are certainly part of the problem. Free throw shooting in the last three games has been horrendous, and turnovers have been an issue all season long and is certainly the more concerning problem of the two.

Those two things – it’s tough to blame on the coach. The Gophers’ guards are not strong ball handlers and their point guard is somewhat out of position, but they will face this type of pressure all season long and they simply need to adapt. You can simulate pressure situations in practice -- and if Smith isn’t making that an emphasis he certainly should – but at the end of the day, it’s the player holding onto the ball. Free throws are even more of a player’s responsibility, because that is something a guy can practice in the gym at night, by himself, with a rack of balls. Unless you’re changing someone’s shot, there’s not a whole lot of coaching to be done there except to say “do that.”

But those are hardly the only issues this team is faced with (see above).

How big is Tubby's buyout?

@natotorn8o


I figured it wouldn’t be long until these questions started.

Since Smith got his extension in July, his buyout has gone up from where it was after last season. May 1, 2012, triggered a half a million drop in his buyout, from $2 million to $1.5. Now, with the extension, his new buyout is at $2.5 million, which is where it will be for the next two seasons. The deal, done by athletic director Norwood Teague, also includes a new clause that says Smith cannot be fired mid-season.

Do the #Gophers practice free throws? Seems like #Bigfoot could do a better job at times.

@BeeHeintzSKOL


It does seem like that, doesn’t it. I personally have never witnessed any bigfoots free-throw shooting, but then, Smith doesn’t allow media to watch Gophers’ practices, so I don’t see the players’ free-throw shooting much out-of-game either. They tell me they do practice free-throw shooting, and so I just have to believe them there. I do think that every one of these starters works very hard on his game and certainly wants to improve – practicing from the line is a no-brainer. I know it’s been a real focus for Rodney Williams, and Saturday’s 2-for-4 performance aside (with the last one being huge, obviously), while he’s still not where you’d ideally want him to be, the forward has improved for two consecutive seasons. It’s not as consistent a problem as it has been in the last two games, but I think some of that is because the Gophers panicking on all fronts. That’s when you know a slump has become mental -- on free throws, the hoop seems the size of a baseball.

Pomeroy still has the #gophers at 9 this morning: he said that the loser of the game is the "most underrated team.” Thoughts?

@wtfblatz


I’d say with all due respect to Ken Pomeroy (I have overflowing respect for the man), he should watch a little more of this recent Gophers ball. They don’t look like the same team they were earlier this season. They haven’t just had “a bad game,” they’ve had four very bad games where they seemed clueless how to turn things around (for long stretches in the first two games and at all in the last two). Their offense has been exposed. Their ball handling has been exposed. And right now, they have the attitude and demeanor of a reeling team – that might be the worst one. Thats' not to say the Gophers won't pull out of this and become that good, tournament-bound team they were before this -- only that you can't surmise that from these last four ugly games.

Is it your opinion that the players may be quitting on Tubby as other scribes have surmised?

@ckmn3


I certainly don’t think that Smith trashing his team in postgame is helping anything. It’s pretty clear by now that they don’t respond to that particular fire. Smith has got to take some major responsibility for this four-game collapse – unless he wants us to believe all of his players are dumb; that he really had a brilliant play or offensive adjustment drawn up and the team just ignored it in entirety. I don’t think they are QUITTING on him. But it does feel like there is some uneasiness between player and coach right now.

BONUS BIGFOOT QUESTION:

I think there is a #Bigfoot living in Memphis, TN near our house in swamp w/ wild dogs. #aMAILiaBAG what should I feed it?

@rdupyapee


Great question. I would suggest leaving out a pile of (counted) apples in a secluded area of the swamp, surrounded by soft mud. Some great bigfoot imprints have been gotten this way. They seem to like fruit.

However, I would warn you not to put anything too closely to your house. It can be dangerous to habituate a bigfoot too much.

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