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Friday (Another Gophers fold down the stretch) edition: Wha' Happened?

Posted by: Michael Rand under Sports Updated: February 18, 2011 - 8:52 AM

We're starting to see a pattern with the Gophers men's basketball team under Tubby Smith, and this year it could be worse than ever:

2007-08 season: 3-5 down the stretch of Big Ten play, a nice little run to get to the Big Ten tournament semifinal game, a loss there and a home loss in the first round of the NIT.

2008-09 season: 3-6 down the stretch of Big Ten play, a loss in the Big Ten tourney quarterfinals and a loss in the NCAA first round. Highest ranking during the season: No. 18. Ranking at the end of the regular season: not ranked.

2009-10: 4-4 down the stretch of Big Ten play, a well-timed run in the Big Ten tournament, a loss in the conference tournament title game and a loss in the first round of the NCAA tournament. Highest ranking during the season: No. 16. Ranking at the end of the regular season: not ranked.

2010-11: 1-5 in its past six games after a loss to Penn State last night. Four imminently winnable (or losable) games left, followed by the Big Ten tournament. Highest ranking during the season: No. 13. Current ranking: not ranked.

Have there been mitigating circumstances? Sure. This year, for instance, losing Al Nolen and Devoe Joseph was a very big deal. Do a lot of other teams face mitigating circumstances and still win? Sure.

Are we saying Tubby Smith is a bad coach? No. Would his tenure be judged more harshly if not for that very well-timed and somewhat fortunate Big Ten tourney run a year ago that got Minnesota into the NCAA tourney? Absolutely. Will this season be considered a disappointment if Minnesota doesn't make the NCAA tournament? Absolutely.

Are we saying one of these years we'd like to see the Gophers have a sustained peak in February and March that builds on early-season momentum instead of making it seem like a distant memory?

It sure would be nice.

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