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Friday (Gophers basketball -- when you least expect it) edition: Wha' Happened?

Posted by: Michael Rand under Gophers Updated: January 13, 2012 - 9:19 AM

Phrases become cliches in part because of our own laziness and in part because of truth. They become short-hand realities -- sanitized and generalized until we no longer recognize what the first person to think or say them was intending to express.

Sports, of course, are filled with cliches. Specifically, they are filled with several similar ones that can be boiled down to: "You never know what's going to happen, so you'd better keep watching." That's why they play the games ... etc.

We assume Tom Brady and the Patriots will crush Tim Tebow and the Broncos, but we are fascinated by the "what if ..." Sports thrive on presenting a logical outcome and then pre-supposing that the exact opposite could happen. They are an Eli Cash novel. Everyone knows Custer died at Little Bighorn. What this book presupposes is: Maybe he didn't.

Everyone knows the Gophers arrived at Assembly Hall last night dead on arrival. But ... maybe they didn't?

And the beauty, such as last night's stunning (though not fluky or gimmicky based on the action) Gophers victory at No. 7 Indiana, is that things are turned on their head enough to make us keep believing.

Minnesota, of course, was 0-4 in the Big Ten. Gopher Hole was starting to turn into Vitriol Hole, and the national view was putting Tubby Smith on the hot seat. Indiana had already knocked off the then-No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the country at Assembly Hall as part of a stunning fourth-year turnaround under Tom Crean. And the Gophers, in a backs-against-the-wall type of game at home against Purdue on Sunday hadn't shown nearly the requisite fire or acumen. Surely, 0-5 was 40 minutes of basketball away, and after that 0-6 (at Penn State) might not be far behind.

Instead, there were 39 minutes of pretty close to the best basketball this team can play (to go with one minute of hang-on-for-dear-life at the end). As Reusse points out, the biggest difference was strong guard play. Smith might have finally found the right three-guard combination for his starting lineup, with Julian Welch being adept enough at handling the ball (and still being a shooting threat), Joe Coleman able to at least put pressure on a defense with basket cuts and occasional drives, and Austin Hollins getting enough space as the result of the other two being out there that he can find open shots to go with his defensive prowess.

Can the Gophers keep it up at Penn State? As they say, on any given Sunday ...


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