No playoffs since 2004 for the Timberwolves. For the Gophers, there have been no NCAA post-season victories since Tubby Smith took over the men’s basketball program. After back-to-back years in 2009-2010 when they did make the tournament, it’s been tough sledding for basketb1all in this state. The only glimmer of hope came last year when the Gophers did go 5-1 in the NIT as runner-up to Stanford.
The Timberwolves made headlines this season by turning back the clock, deliberately composing a virtually all-White team for 2012-13. So far it’s not working.
All-Star Kevin Love, yes, is hurt again. The team’s record of 18-30 is not getting it done as we approach the NBA All-Star break. With six teams in the powerful Western Conference already with 30 or more wins, including 40 by San Antonio, realistically the Timberwolves have no shot at the playoffs now.
Tubby’s Gophers cracked the AP top-10 and were 15-1 on January 9 just rolling along 3-0 in the Big Ten. Expectations started going through the roof around here. However, since that date they are just 2-6 in the rugged conference that is believed to be the strongest in the land.
After painfully losing to Illinois 57-53 Sunday before 14,625 at Williams Arena, the Gophers are now 5-6 in the Big Ten. They were rated No.18 in the polls a week ago, but back-to-back losses might push them out.
The wall they have hit in the Big Ten extends from Indiana to Michigan State, Michigan and Wisconsin. Tubby appears to have a solid team that’s in a mental funk, a bunch of talented good guys who lead the conference in rebounding and missed opportunities. With seven games left in conference play and only three at home against Wisconsin, Indiana and Penn State, there are no guarantees.
Frustration has characterized the state of men’s basketball in Minnesota while watching the Timberwolves flounder and the Gophers slide. Time, as we know, is promised to no one. But unless the Gophers continue to lose, we surely believe they are capable and good enough to pick it up and return to NCAA post-season play.
Can they somehow get back to the basics of attacking and regain the confidence and form that they had when they were rolling along at 15-1? That’s a puzzle we hope Tubby can solve before the Big Ten Tournament.
Larry Fitzgerald can be heard weekday mornings on KMOJ Radio 89.9 FM at 8:25 am, on WDGY-AM 740 Monday-Friday at 12:17 pm and 4:17 pm, and at www.Gamedaygold.com. He also commentates on sports 7-8 pm on Almanac (TPT channel 2). Follow him on Twitter at FitzBeatSr. Larry welcomes reader responses to [email protected], or visit www.Larry-Fitzgerald.com.