So, Minnesota has lost three straight non-conference games for the first time since 2009-10 and the long stretches of poor play and bad decision-making that has been on display in that frame has inspired fans like you to open up a vein about their deep concern and frustration.
In times of crisis, there are always questions – not just about Gophers basketball, but other important quandaries such as “are tacos sandwiches?” and “where are the bigfoot bones anyway?” There’s an element of questioning everything that comes into play when your favorite basketball squad isn’t performing up to par.
Well, there’s good news: I’m here to help you in your time of need. I’ve got some of the answers and the other ones I’ll take a hack at anyway, and you all can bookmark this link and flood my Twitter page with it when I’m wrong – just so I can ease some of the anxiety swirling around in your little maroon-and-gold brains.
Deep breath. The peace of elightenment is just a few scrolls away.
Will this painful season be worth it at some point? Is there any real help on the way that could make it all worthwhile?
I don’t know if losses like that one to South Dakota will ever be “worth it” and I’m not sure a team needs to get stomped for three straight games to learn they need to compete, you know, the whole game and stuff. But you could argue that some day Minnesota fans will look back on this year as a sort of ground zero for a foundation that could be pretty good over the next couple of years. I do think that the Gophers have a chance to be pretty good next year with Amir Coffey and Eric Curry coming in, Reggie Lynch and Davonte Fitzgerald removing their redshirts and this year’s freshmen gaining a full year of playing together at the college level. There is individual talent on this Gophers team, even though we’re really seeing it only in individual terms at the moment – at some point next year, it will be collective talent, and that team could be pretty interesting.
If his last name wasn't Pitino would he still be here?
Yes, you can certainly speculate about how much Richard Pitino’s last name helped him originally get the job, but it has nothing to do with why he’s “still” in Minneapolis. Why is he here?
a)The current athletic director, Beth Goetz, still has the tag “interim” next to her name. She’s not likely to fire anyone, especially not in the knee-jerk manner that canning Pitino mid-year after losing a few non-conference games would be.
b)Pitino was always hired for his upside, which doesn’t necessarily manifest overnight. Minnesota knew it was not snagging a finished project; the hope was that the Gophers could take advantage of his low “buying” value and wind up with someone who would grow into a great coach – the kind they wouldn’t be able to lure at his peak value.
c)Assume former athletic director Norwood Teague was still here. He couldn’t fire Pitino because as an AD, firing someone you hire within three years is a very bad idea. Why? You’ll have to convince the next guy you won’t do the same with him if he has a couple of down years at a school with no recent history of success. It’s already tough to lure top-tier coaches to Minnesota at the moment so adding “fear of unreasonably little job security” to the list is not smart.
d)Assume there was a new permanent AD at Minnesota now. He/she likely wouldn’t fire Pitino even if he/she wanted to. Why? Well, most ADs give inherited coaches at least a year to observe the program up close. And taking over a school’s athletic department is chaotic as it is. Launching immediately into a coaching search is not very attractive.
Do you think high motor Murph will show up more consistently as the season wears on?
I love this verb you use – “as the season WEARS on.” If I was a psychologist I might tell you I’m sensing you’re not looking forward to this passage of time.
Anyway, yes, I do think we’ll see more and more of “High-Motor Murph” from freshman Jordan Murphy as the season continues. We’ve seen that version in three of the last four games. And the long, athletic forward absolutely has the tools to continue that dominance come Big Ten season, especially considering the conference might be down a notch this year. Consistency will come as he gets more comfortable with that takeover role. He’s so laid back and respectful of the process, I imagine that has something to do with the slower moments we occasionally see now. I expect him to be a very, very good player by next season.
From your perspective, what's the popularity of Gophers basketball in comparison to other B1G teams?
It’s an interesting dynamic, for sure. Because of recent lackluster history, the Gophers don’t have the same national followings as some Big Ten teams. Locally is a different story. Of course, Minnesota is a big state and the Gophers are the only Division I program in it, and they probably steal most of North Dakota support and chunks of South Dakota by geographical default. So on the one hand, it’s obvious there is a large potential fanbase to draw from, and many who follow the team do so obsessively, I’ve found, gettin very, very angry about losses even if there is no reasonable expectation that there should be fewer of them. On the other hand, I’ve been surprised and the lack of financial support from that contingency. Minnesota has never had an easy time raising money – thus the lag in facilities. Even this most recent groundbreaking was only put into action after taking on the majority of the cost – some $90 million – in loans. It’s like Minnesota fans are dying for success …unless it costs them anything. As with anything, I expect that attitude would shift to some extent if the Gophers surged. Perhaps Minnesotans don’t feel now that their dollars would inspire much change.
Is there an end of the season tournament below the NIT?
Yep, there is the CBI (College Basketball Invitational) and CollegeBasketballInsider.com Postseason Tournament. But most Power 6 teams – including Minnesota last year – decline participation in those lower tournaments.
How does South Dakota out recruit the Gophers ????
Don’t you think that’s a little bit of an overreaction? Yes, South Dakota and South Dakota State beat Minneapolis and there might be quite a bit more polish on at least the latter of those teams than there is in Minneapolis at the moment. But the Gophers had a top-50 recruiting class this year (and it was probably underrated) and have a top-20 class coming in next year. Recruiting has certainly been trending upward at Minnesota in the last couple of years. But that doesn’t mean a team from South Dakota that doesn’t get as many game-ready recruits as Minnesota can’t take the Gophers down in the right situation. There are matchup issues, youth, chemistry, confidence and experience to consider beyond sheer talent.
Will the gophers ever get to the NIT final again?
That probably shouldn’t be the question you’re asking for the immediate future. (I’d talk in terms of the NCAA tournament, not the NIT for next year and moving forward, and in terms of no-postseason for this year.) But sure, it's possible.
Are tacos a sandwich?
I understand you’re under a great deal of stress John, but really. Are tacos a sandwich? How can a plural thing even be a singular thing? No. Tortas are sandwiches. Paninis are sandwiches. Hoagies are sandwiches. Smørrebrøds are sandwiches. Bocadillos are sandwiches. Arepas are almost sandwiches but not quite. Tacos, meanwhile, don’t toe any line of confusion. Tacos are tacos.
Over/under 5 Big 10 wins. Who do they beat? #aMAILiaBAG
Five sounds about right to me. I think Minnesota can beat Rutgers twice and Illinois at home, then there’s a slew of toss-up games – at Penn State, vs. Northwestern, at Nebraska, at Indiana, at Illinois and even at Ohio State -- and it’s not unrealistic to believe the Gophers could snatch two of those.
What were your favorite books in 2015?
I’ve been on an Ernest Hemingway kick this year, but I’d probably put Farewell to Arms – my first time reading it – at the top. I also read A Moveable Feast, the Sun Also Rises and a few of his smaller novellas this year.
Is @RevivalMpls the best "southern" restaurant in MPLS?
Yes it is and I think it could be if there was strong competition, but the fact is Revival might be the ONLY notable southern restaurant in Minneapolis (I can’t name another).
What effect do you think the on the court struggles have on recruiting?
Not much. You’ve got to remember, no one was committing to Minnesota because it was a powerhouse. That storyline never existed. And recruits, in my experience, often have big egos (which can be good and bad) and believe they can change the status quo anyway.
Your thoughts on "athleisure" clothing fad?
Terrible. Yoga pants are for yoga, not the mall and same with those teeny tiny tight tank tops that are really underwear not outerwear.
What's your drink recommendation for Gophers fans who want to watch a game sipping something tasty while eliminating feelings?
How about the Negroni, a maroon-and-goldish form of entertainment that doesn’t know anything about breaking your heart? It also happens to be my cocktail of choice.
It’s easy, all ya do is mix equal parts gin, Campari and sweet vermouth, pour over ice, garnish with an orange peel and let your basketball sorrows drown in that silky bittersweet pool of Italian jubilation. Now that’s the kind of winner everyone can get behind.
Last March, you had Iowa ST and BYU going pretty far (good memory I have). Who are your dark horses this year?
Oh …how handy for me that your memory is so keen.
And how handy for you that I’ve already answered this question.
Favorite B10 venue?
Assembly Hall in Indiana – just the loudness and the intensity there and the old school vibe. One thing I don’t like though? The media seats! Wooden benches with fans’ knees implanted into my back and potentially tipsy 19-year-old screaming into my ears. Not exactly prime working conditions.
Why haven't scientists found any Bigfoot bones anywhere? Are they that good at hiding/getting rid of them or? I must know!!
Nasty, the answer is obvious. Bigfoots obviously bury their dead – what do you think, they’ll just leave their grandmothers and their cousins out there to rot like animals?