Patrick Reusse has been covering sports in the Twin Cities since 1968. He has been a Star Tribune sports columnist since 1988. His sportswriting credo is twofold: 1. God will provide an angle; 2. The smaller the ball, the better the writing.

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Gophers benefit from big minutes for Eliason

Posted by: Patrick Reusse Updated: March 23, 2013 - 9:11 AM

The wide-eyed believers who went along with the "the Big Ten is so tough'' as the theory to explain the Gophers' fall from grace this winter had no problem deciphering what was witnessed on Friday night in Austin. Tex. They watched Tubby and the Underachievers destroy UCLA 83-63 and said:

"I knew this team was good enough to make a tournament run. All our players needed was to get back their confidence.''

Surprise though it might be to occasional readers, I don't aways embrace the rosiest view of local sports teams. Thus, for now, I'm sticking with the theory that this has been one of the most-disappointing, even most-disgusting, efforts witnessed from a team with high expectations in the annals of Minnesota sports.

Which leaves me to break down the responsibility for Friday's result in this manner:

Forty percent for the very good play of the Underachievers after the first TV timeout; 30 percent for the putrid play of the Uclans for the entire evening; 20 percent for the tight officiating that made success remote for the too-thin Bruins; and 10 percent for the decision of Tubby Smith and his coaches to put the Gophers in a zone.

What was clear to me once again -- as it was after the upset victory over Indiana in Williams Arena last month -- was many of us were way off base in early January when he pined for this to be Tubby's lineup for 30 or more minutes per night:

Trevor Mbakwe at center and Rodney Williams at power forward, with Austin Hollins, Andre Hollins and Joe Coleman on the outside.

Those have been the starters since Big Ten play opened, with only a couple of variations. Included was Williams missing the home loss to Illinois with a shoulder injury.

The wide-eyed believers said after that game, "The Gophers would've have won if Rodney had played.''

The fact is, Rodney had a horrible final season of Big Ten play. He wasn't Ralph Sampson III of 2012, so bad that Tubby stopped playing him, but he was dang near Lawrence Westbrook of 2009 ... downhill in realibility as a senior rather than uphill.

Here's my conclusion: Ruggedness is an asset for the Gophers. And the Gophers are much more rugged when Elliott Eliason gets plenty of minutes. And that makes the Gophers better when Eliason is on the floor with Mbakwe to beat the Hades out of people in the post, than when Williams is on the floor with Mbakwe.

The Gophers are going to start Rodney again Sunday vs. Florida, and why not? Why make him feel any worse about his disappointing last season? But the most minutes should go to Mbakwe and Eliason on the inside, the Hollins lads at the guards, and Williams getting his time in shifts with Coleman.

OK, you see a ball bounce off Eliason's hands on occasion. Go ahead, scream "Elliott'' at the TV. This is still a big man with as much to offer as did Colton Iverson, who left the Gophers unfulfilled and became a star at Colorado State.

Conclusion: I like the Gophers with Eliason on the floor. More importantly, I think opponents like playing the Gophers more when he's not on the floor.

Rodney can make an opponent feel bad with a dunk. Eliason can make an opponent feel bad with sore ribs.




New England 2/1/15 5:30 PM
Portland 0 Postponed
Brooklyn 0
Sacramento 0 Postponed
New York 0
Philadelphia 74 FINAL
New Orleans 99
Minnesota 84 FINAL
Oklahoma City 92
Orlando 94 FINAL
Memphis 103
Boston 99 FINAL
Utah 90
Denver 98 FINAL
LA Clippers 102
Army 68 FINAL
American Univ 66
Wright State 64 FINAL
Detroit 53
Syracuse 83 FINAL
North Carolina 93
Cleveland State 56 FINAL
Oakland 59
Delaware State 54 FINAL
NC Central 55
High Point 63 FINAL
Presbyterian 54
Howard 45 FINAL
Bethune-Cookman 42
Coppin State 84 FINAL
NC A&T 71
Nicholls 51 FINAL
Northwestern St 80
Hampton 56 FINAL
SC State 65
Gardner-Webb 59 FINAL
Campbell 78
MD-Eastern Shore 72 FINAL
Florida A&M 65
Stephen F Austin 82 FINAL
Lamar 65
Central Arkansas 67 FINAL
New Orleans 87
Norfolk State 70 FINAL
Savannah State 54
SE Louisiana 61
Sam Houston St 80 FINAL
Abilene Christian 63
McNeese State 84 FINAL
Incarnate Word 86
Milwaukee 48 FINAL
Valparaiso 73
Alcorn State 66 FINAL
Alabama A&M 78
Southern U 59 FINAL
Alabama State 63
Prairie View 68 FINAL
Ark-Pine Bluff 105
Texas 86 FINAL
Iowa State 89
Texas Southern 85 FINAL
Miss Valley St 84
Long Island 85 FINAL
Bryant 88
Central Conn St 51 FINAL
St Francis-NY 49
Fairleigh Dickinson 0 Postponed
Sacred Heart 0
St Francis-PA 87 FINAL
Wagner 74
Delaware State 59 FINAL
NC Central 66
Howard 53 FINAL
Bethune-Cookman 61
Coppin State 49 FINAL
NC A&T 67
Hampton 88 FINAL
SC State 53
Norfolk State 54 FINAL
Savannah State 56
MD-Eastern Shore 54 FINAL
Florida A&M 64
Angelo State 55 FINAL
Abilene Christian 70
Samford 32 FINAL
(25) Chattanooga 49
Prairie View 83 FINAL
Ark-Pine Bluff 66
Alcorn State 58 FINAL
Alabama A&M 55
Southern U 53 FINAL
Alabama State 49
Texas Southern 63 FINAL
Miss Valley St 52
(12) Texas A&M 61 FINAL
(1) South Carolina 79
Robert Morris 68 FINAL
Mount St Marys 44
East Tenn St 72 FINAL
Mercer 70
Wofford 56 FINAL
Furman 58
Morehead St 64 FINAL
Tenn Tech 54
Illinois 57 FINAL
Michigan 70
Quinnipiac 0 Postponed
Manhattan 0
Saint Peters 0 Postponed
Rider 0
(18) Miss State 59 FINAL
Auburn 48
(15) Nebraska 72 FINAL
(20) Iowa 78


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