Monday, September 26, 2011

Tubby, Tubby, Tubby

I haven't written about Tubby Smith and the Gopher men in awhile. I don't want to pile on. I mean, the '11 Gophers collapsed down the stretch. One can make the argument that it wasn't Tubby's fault. Point guard Al Nolen gets hurt just about the time back-up Devoe pulls a Stephon Marbury and decides he's gotta be da man. This bein' part of a team stuff is such a drag.... Of course, Tubby took a lot of heat for not keepin' Devoe happy, as if....

But enough of that. Devoe is all about the past, and I'm all about the future here.

Gopher Recruiting Not Going Well?

And now the word out on the discussion boards is that Gopher recruiting among the 2012s and 2013s is not going well. About the time the word goes out that the Gophers are courting some top 100 stud or other, some killjoy will post a link to the kid's profile on ESPN or wherever that lists the 13 schools the kid is actually considering, and the Gophers are not one of them.

A consensus is emerging that the best the Gophers can do is 3-star kids, like Wally Ellenson. I mean, no offense to Wally, but he is the lone Gopher commit for 2012. He's from Rice Lake, WI, and, of course, he's a 3-star guy whom the Badgers didn't offer. The Gophers are also among the top contenders for Matt Thomas of Onalaska, WI, guard Matt Thomas. So far he's been offered by Iowa State, Creighton, Northern Iowa and Wisconsin-Green Bay. No Badgers, no Hawkeyes, no Big 10, and so the Gophers are in the running.

Then there's Nick Fuller of Sun Prairie, WI. I think I'm seeing a pattern here. A 2013, Fuller has offers from Butler, Marquette, Northern Iowa, Creighton, Dayton and the Gophers, and all indications are the Gophers are in the running.

But when the Big 10 comes knocking, the Gophers don't fare so well. 7-foot post Adam Woodbury, an Iowan, is staying home to play for the Hawkeyes.

Still it appears that the Gophers remain in the running for a couple of highly-regarded big men, A.J. Hammons of Oak Hill Academy in Virginia and Phillip Nolan of Milwaukee Riverside. Both are scheduled to visit the U, but on the other hand they are rumored to favor Purdue or Dayton (Hammons) or Clemson or Oregon (Nolan). Another big guy, Chad Rykhoek from Texas, expressed interest in Minnesota (and about a dozen more schools at that time) but eventually chose Baylor. Nick Banyard, a 6-8 power forward, also a Texan, chose New Mexico over Minnesota and others.

Andrew White of Chester, VA, was the hot rumor more recently. The 6-6 small forward is rated #57 among the 2013s, and the recruiting grapevine had him interested in Minnesota and a host of other schools. Then came word that he'll be visiting Kansas, Texas and Louisville.

In short, it's late enough in the recruiting season to be thinking that 2012 is not going to pan out, but it's way to early to worry about 2013. It's probably nothing that a little success on the court couldn't fix. And Gopher recruits from 2008, 2009 and 2011 will have everything to do with that.

So How About 2011-2012?

The class of 2008 was rated #23 nationally, but of course Joseph, Paul Carter and Devron Bostick are no longer around. Ralph Sampson and Colt Iverson are, however, and Tubby has to be hoping for improvement from the 2 big guys in their senior seasons.

The 2009s were rated #24 but Royce White and Justin Cobbs are gone, gone, gone. Rod ney Williams and Trevor Mbakwe are still here, however, and Mbakwe, at least, will be a national top 10 type of performer based on his play for the U.S. national 17Us this past summer. Just today he was named 2nd team all-American by the Blue Ribbon Yearbook. Williams has as of yet not come close to fulfilling the initial expectations.

Still those 4--Sampson, Iverson, Mbakwe and Williams--plus Mo Walker make up one of the Big 10s deepest and best front lines, so don't forget that the Gophers have the potential to make some noise in the Big 10. No, really.

But Who Plays the Point?

The question marks going forward are the same ones that destroyed the 2011 season--is there a guard who can run the offense, protect the ball and get it to the big guys where they can score? Perhaps there is, but the ultimate answer to that question will be the biggest factor in establishing once and for all whether Tubby is a top-tier recruiter and coach or not.

There's quantity, in other words, but the quality remains to be seen. The contenders are, in alpha order:

• Maverick Ahanmisi. Not highly recruited out of high school, Maverick played more minutes last year than could have been anticipated and recorded highs of 7 points and 6 assists after Nolan's and Joseph's misfortunes. Still, he has the look of an OK backup more than a Big 10/BCS starter.

• Chip Armelin. A great athlete, not so much of a polished hoops player. Still he scored in double figures against Big 10 powers Ohio State and Michigan State, and I would expect him to be a significant contributor off the bench this year. But he's clearly more of a shooting/scoring guard than a ball-handler and distributor.

• Andre Hollins. The 2011 Tennessee Mr. Basketball scored 23.5 ppg for a 30-7 state semi-finalist, and scored 46 points against a nationally-ranked opponent. He is thought to be the better of the 2 Hollins,' and if that's true then it is not unlikely that Andre and Austin will be on the floor together a fair amount this season. And if that's so, I would think Austin is the 1 and Andre the 2, but if Andre is out there with Armelin or Joe Coleman, say, then Andre is probably the ball-handler.

• Austin Hollins. Scored 19 ppg for a 24-9 team as a senior in high school. And like all of Tubby's guards, he got a lot more minutes last year than expected, posting highs of 5 assists and 5 rebounds, and scoring in double figures a couple of times. In short, he's a legit D1 guy and will contribute this coming year. Whether as a starter, well, who knows?

• Julian Welch. Here is the wild card for the Gophers' prospects in 2011-2012. Is this guy the true point guard that Tubby is looking for? Or just another back-up type? Not highly recruited out of high school, Welch had nevertheless scored 25 ppg and won 2nd team all-metro honors (Sacramento). He played his (redshirt) freshman year at UC-Davis, scoring 8 ppg and being named Big West conference freshman of the year and mid-major all-American. He transferred to Yuba City CC for his sophomore year and scored 19 points with 5 assists per game. Now 4 full years out of high school, perhaps his maturity gives him a leg up on these other guys, and perhaps his ability does, too. I mean, Big West freshman of the year? Pretty impressive, if you ask me. At least one pre-season forecast has the Gophers finishing 4th in the Big 10 with Welch projected as the starting point guard.

More About Recruiting

While visiting, I looked up the recruiting ratings back to 2003, like I did recently for the Gopher women. But while Pam Borton's crew has rated surprisingly well in recruiting compared to the rest of the Big 10, the men have not. Only twice in 9 years have the Gophers been rated among the top 25 to 30 schools in the country (discussed above).

By comparison, here are the results for the rest of the Big 10.

1. Ohio State. Rated 6 of 9 years, and 5 of them in the top 10. Their current roster includes kids from the #5, #3 and #10 classes in the country.

2. Michigan State. Rated 7 of 9, 5 of them in the 2nd ten and the other 2 in the 20s. No top 10 classes. Still, their current roster includes kids from the #11, #21 and #22 classes.

3. Indiana. #4, #9, #11 and #27 (2011) in the last 9 years. That #11 and #27 are on the current roster.

4. Illinois. Rated in the top 20 4 times in 9 years, and their current roster includes #11, #13 and #14.

5. Purdue. Rated only twice but that includes a #6 in 2007.

6. Minnesota has those #23 and #24 classes though, again, several key recruits did not stay put.

7. Iowa. One #25 and that was 7 years ago.

8-11. Michigan, Northwestern, Penn State and Wisconsin no rated recruiting classes.

Okay, But How About 2012

Recruiting the 2012s is not a done deal but look out! As of today, it looks like the 2012s could bring the Big 10 back to the top of the heap in college basketball. These kids will not be on Big 10 rosters this coming year of 2011-2012, however.

1. Indiana has the #16-17-48 and 131 recruits.

10. Michigan has the #34 recruit Glen Robinson III, yes, son of the former Purdue all-American, among others.

12. Michigan State has #80-82 and 84.

19. Iowa grabbed #96 Adam Woodbury, the 7-footer from Sioux Falls whom the Gophers had coveted.

24. Purdue got #45 and #150.

Again, it looks like 2012 will be something of a bust for Tubby and the Gophers, but 2013--hey, wait 'til next year!

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