Thursday, December 12, 2013

Game, Player and Coach of the Day December 7-13, 2013

Fri., Dec. 13--Eastview girls 56 Hopkins 54

#2 beats #1, and they did it on the road and without a field goal from leading scorer Madi Guebert, who scored 10 points on 10-of-10 FT. Kari Opatz scored 15 to lead the Lightning.

Player of the Day--Kenisha Bell, Bloomington Kennedy, scored 29 points as the Eagles weathered the Storm of Chanhassan 79-66. Coach of the Day--Melissa Guebert, Eastview girls.

Thurs., Dec. 12--Eden Prairie girls 48 Lakeville North 41

This turned out to be the only high school game of the night, boys or girls, matched two rated teams. North led 22-16 at the half, but the Eagles came out and owned the second half. Lakeville's Polly Sjoberg led all scorers, however, with 17.

Player of the Day--Joey Witthus, Chanhassan boys, scored 36 points in a 75-66 win over Mound-Westonka. Coach of the Day--Chris Carr, Eden Prairie girls.

Wed., Dec. 11--Carleton men 76 Bethel 74

The Carls knock Bethel out of the MIAC lead. Each team now has 1 loss. Mitch Biewen scored 6 points inside of 2 minutes as Carleton wiped out a 4-point Bethel lead.

Player of the Day--Jordyn Sammons, Hamline women, 28 points in a losing cause, 85-58 to St. Thomas. Coach of the Day--Mark Hanson, Gustavus men, and John Herbrechtsmeyer, Bethel women, each of whom won to go 4-0 and take 1st place in the MIAC.

Tues., Dec. 10--Apple Valley boys 96 Hopkins 90

Tyus Jones scored 34 points to lead #1 Apple Valley to another tough win.

Player of the Day--But the PoD is Minnesota Gopher Austin Hollins who scored 20 points with 14 rebounds and 5 assists, to go over the 1,000 point mark for his career and lead the Gophers to a 75-59 win over South Dakota State. Coach of the Day--Rick Adelman of the Minnesota Timberwolves who won a surprisingly easy win at Detroit, 121-94.

Mon., Dec. 9--Mpls. Washburn girls 79 Tartan 71

Tia Elbert of Tartan outscored Chase Coley of Washburn 37-29 in the individual battle between 2 of the top 5 seniors in the state, though Coley added 21 boards and 9 blocks.

Player of the Day--Coley. Coach of the Day--Brian Harris of the Dover-Eyota girls who shocked #4-rated Plainview-Elgin-Millville 102-70 to go 5-0 themselves.

Sun., Dec. 8--Minnesota Gopher women 46 North Dakota 44

How much does Rachel Banham mean to the Gopher women? Well, play without her, even against one of the weakest opponents of the year and the Gophers are never more than a step away from disaster.

Player of the Day--And it would have been a disaster but for Gopher post Amanda Zahui who scored 25 with 10 rebounds and 4 blocks.

Sat., Dec. 7--Apple Valley boys 73 DeLaSalle 63

The game of the decade or of the century proved to be somewhat less than that as DeLaSalle stud Travis Reid was unable to play due to a stress fracture in a foot. And so Tyus Jones and Apple Valley won, well, not with ease exactly, but the outcome was not in doubt from late in the 1st half, which ended with the Eagles up 36-28.

Player of the Day--Tyus Jones with 29 points 11 assists and 7 rebounds. I'll say this, once Tyus Jones gets it in his mind to go to the rim from 20 or 30 or 40 feet, say, nobody gets there quicker. Coach of the Day--Greg Amundson, Centennial girls, who knocked off Minnetonka 61-49 at the Breakdown Tip-Off.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Game, Player, Coach of the Day November 29-December 6, 2013

Fri., Dec. 6--Hopkins girls 67 Bloomington Kennedy 57

Hopkins defeated Kennedy in a replay of last year's state title game, though with a twist. Hopkins' best player, T.T. Starks, was unavailable due to an injury, but Jasmyn Martin has transferred from Kennedy to Hopkins. Martin scored 12 points and Molly O'Toole 14. Kenisha Bell scored 16 for Kennedy.

Player of the Day--Bryanna Fernstrom, Chisago Lakes, 40 its and 17 rebounds as the Lakers defeated Duluth Denfeld 80-52. Coach of the Day--Brian Cosgriff, Hopkins girls

Thurs., Dec. 5--Minnesota Gopher women 74 Miami (Fla.) 67

The Gophers ran out to a 38-13 lead early and it's a good thing. Miami roared back with a 23-4 run including 13-0 to open the 2nd half. Four times in the 2nd half the Hurricanes got within 6 starting with 42-36 at 15:32. Three times Minnesota pushed the lead back up to 10. Rachel Banham made 9-of-10 FT and scored 12 of her 27 points in those four spurts. Micaella Riche scored 8 of her 15 points in those four spurts, while Shayne Mullaney and Sari Noga each had 3 assists.

Player of the Day--Rachel Banham, Minnesota Gopher women with 27 pts. Coach of the Day--Justin Morris, Lyle/Austin Pacelli girls, who defeated #6 rated Blooming Prairie by the unlikely score of 58-19.

Wed., Dec. 4--St. Thomas men 71 Augsburg 53

The Tommies have now made a mockery of the MIAC title race, hammering the previously unbeaten Auggies who were picked to finish #2 in the MIAC. It was 37-27 at the half.

Player of the Day--Marcus Alipate, St. Thomas 22 points. Coach of the Day--Sean Pinkerton, St. Kate's. The Kates shocked St. Ben's 70-69 for their 1st win over the Blazers since 2007. Trailing by as many as 12 in the 2nd half, the Kates took the lead for good with just 23 seconds remaining.

Tues., Dec. 3--Minnesota Gopher men 71 Florida State 61

The Gopher continue to play well under coach Richard Pitino.

Player of the Day--Andre Hollins and Austin Hollins, Minnesota Gopher men. Andre had 21 points, 4 assists, 2 steals. Austin 16 points, 5 rebounds and 3 steals. Coach of the Day--Richard Pitino, Minnesota Gopher men.

Mon., Dec. 2--Park Center girls 67 St. Paul Como Park 27

What was expected to be a competitive game turned out not to be. The #2-rated 2014 Cayla McMorris scored 15 for the winners, and Park Center was able to hold the #2 2016, Andrayah Adams of Como, to 10 points.

Player of the Day--Kory Deadrick, Esko, scored 31 points but his #1-rated Eskomos were upset by Hermantown 77-70. Coach of the Day--Joe Schmitz, Hermantown.

Sun., Dec. 1--Oklahoma City Thunder 113 Minnesota Timberwolves 103

The T-wolves stayed with OKC for 3 periods but the Thunder dominated the 4th. If the Wolves played this well everyday, however, they would probably have 2 more wins on the season. As it is, they're now out of the playoffs by a substantial margin.

Player of the Day--Rachel Banham, Minnesota Gopher women, scored 24 points but could not prevent the Gophers from losing to Hawaii 77-71 in OT. She hit a shot with 4 seconds remaining to put Minnesota ahead, but a desperation shot tied it up at the buzzer. Banham was named tournament MVP. Coach of the Day--Pam Borton, Minnesota Gopher women.

Sat., Nov. 30--Minnesota State Mankato women 87 Concordia St. Paul 63

#17 Mankato def. #14 Concordia at Concordia, as they drained 9 3s in the 1st half alone. A 20-0 run put the Mavs up 30-17 at the 6 minute mark and Concordia was never able to challenge.

Player of the Day--Ali  Wilkinson, Minnesota State Mankato women 16 points, 3 assists, 3 steals. Coach of the Day--Emilee Thiesse, Minnesota State Mankato women.

Fri., Nov. 29--Minnesota Gopher women 63 Chatanooga 62 @Wahini Showdown. 

A win is a win, they say. The Gophers led by 14 in the 1st half, but neither team led by more than 4 in the 2nd. Chat missed a possible game-tying FT in the waning seconds.

Player of the Day--Rachel Banham, Minnesota Gopher women 36 points. Coach of the Day--Brian Cosgriff, Hopkins girls, who defeated Tartan 92-53 with two of their best players on the sidelines.


Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Game of the Day, December 2013


Sun., Dec. 1--Minnesota Timberwolves at Oklahoma City Thunder.

Mon., Dec. 2--Park Center girls at St. Paul Como Park.

Tues., Dec. 3--Florida State men at Minnesota Gophers.

Wed., Dec. 4--St. Thomas men at Augsburg. MIAC play gets underway.

Thurs., Dec. 5--Miami (Fla.) women at Minnesota Gophers. The ACC-Big 10 challenge.

Fri., Dec. 6--Hopkins girls at Bloomington Kennedy.

Sat., Dec. 7--Girls Breakdown Tip-Off at Hopkins Lindbergh. Everybody who is anybody is playing, including three boys games, including Apple Valley and Tyus Jones vs. DeLaSalle and Reid Travis. New Richland-Hartland--Ellendale-Geneva vs. Mountain Iron-Buhl is among the girls features.

Sun., Dec. 8--North Dakota women at Minnesota Gophers.

Mon., Dec. 9--Tartan girls at Mpls. Washburn. Tia Elbert vs. Chase Coley.

Tues., Dec. 10--Apple Valley boys at Hopkins.

Wed., Dec. 11--Philadephia 76ers at Minnesota Timberwolves.

Thurs., Dec. 12--Double your fun, or double trouble? Lakeville South boys at Lakeville North, and Lakeville South girls at Hopkins.

Fri., Dec. 13--Eastview girls at Hopkins. 

Sat., Dec. 14--Boys Breakdown Tip-Off at Minnetonka. Osseo vs. DeLaSalle would seem to be the feature game.

Sun., Dec. 15--Minnesota Timberwolves at Memphis Grizzlies.

Mon., Dec. 16--Duluth East girls at Edina.

Tues., Dec. 17--St. Paul Johnson boys at Eden Prairie.

Wed., Dec. 18--Portland Trailblazers at Minnesota Timberwolves.

Thurs., Dec. 19--Mahtomedi girls at Tartan.

Fri., Dec. 20--UCLA Bruins women at Minnesota Gophers.

Sat., Dec. 21--Concordia (St. Paul) men and women at Minnesota State Mankato.

Sun., Dec. 22--Minnesota Timberwolves at Los Angeles Clippers.

Mon., Dec. 23--Barnum boys at Proctor. Only game in the state of Minnesota.

Thurs., Dec. 26--Dick's Sporting Good Holiday Classic (for girls), at Hopkins. Key match-up is Anoka vs. Forest Lake in a replay of last March's OT sectional final.

Fri., Dec. 27--Washington Wizards at Minnesota Timberwolves.

Sat., Dec. 28--Minnesota Timberwolves at Milwaukee Bucks.

Sun., Dec. 29--Oakland women at Minnesota  Gophers.

Mon., Dec. 30--Dallas Mavericks at Minnesota Timberwolves.

Tuesd., Dec. 31--DeLaSalle boys at Eden Prairie.

Monday, November 25, 2013

What About Those Timberwolves?

The Minnesota Timberwolves started out smartly, hammering Oklahoma City 100-81 in their second game and winning in New York 109-100 in their third. But the Knicks turned out to be a terrible team, 3-9 now, and things have pretty much gone downhill for Minnesota since. After starting out 3-0, 5-2 and 6-3, they've lost 4 of 6 to drop to 8-7.

If the playoffs started today, they'd be missing out. This is not how things were supposed to be.

The Timberwolves score enough to win. But they simply cannot stop good offensive teams, or mediocre offensive teams, for that matter. They gave up 117 points at Denver, 104 to Washington, 112 at Houston, all losses.

They're 2-2 at home against teams with winning records, 0-2 on the road against teams with winning records, and 1-2 against teams with losing records on the road. It is only a schedule that has given them 4 home games against teams with losing records already that has kept them over .500.

And they don't play a team with a losing record at home again until Dec. 11. In the meantime there are 4, count 'em, 4 road games against teams with winning records starting Tuesday night in Indiana.

The way they're playing, 2-5 in their next 7 seems like a best guess, meaning they'll be 10-12 and further out of the playoffs by Dec. 11.


Saturday, November 23, 2013

Player of the Day, Nov. 22-28, 2013

Thurs., Nov. 28--Happy Turkey Day!

Wed., Nov. 27--Denver Nuggets 117 Minnesota Timberwolves 110

The T-wolves slide out of the playoffs with an utter lack of defense.

Player of the Day--Rachel Hansen,  Concordia St. Paul women 21 pts 11 assists as the Bears def. Northern Michigan 75-60. Coach of the Day--Paul Fessler, Concordia.

Tues., Nov. 26--Minnesota Gopher women 80 Chicago Loyola 36

OK, Loyola's not very good, but the Gopher women knocked 'em down and wouldn't let 'em up.

Player of the Day--Mollie Sir of the Northwestern (MN) women scored 31 while Jordyn Sammons of Hamline scored 35, as Northwestern surprised the Pipers 81-72 at Hamline. Coach of the Day--New coach Jim Hayes of Hamline men who defeated Northwestern 80-66.

Mon., Nov. 25--Syracuse men 75 Minnesota Gophers 67

The Gophers played very well against the #4 rated Syracuse Orangemen, staying within 67-65 with about 2 minutes left.

Player of the Day--Malik Smith, Minnesota Gopher men, who came off the bench to hit 4 3s and 16 pts. Coach of the Day--Richard Pitino, Minnesota Gopher men.

Sun., Nov. 24--Minnesota Gopher women 62 Navy 55

It was closer than expected, frankly. Minnesota led 43-34 early in the 2nd but Navy got within 1 at 43-42 and 46-45 and were still within 3 at 55-52 near the 2 minute mark.

Player of the Day--Again, it's Amanda Zahui with 16 points and 13 boards for the Minnesota women.

Coach of the Day--Kelly Boe, Concordia (St. Paul) men. The Bears completed a weekend sweep of Northwood and Ferris State, both of MI, while the 2 visitors also swung through Winona State, where both defeated the Warriors. Terez Van Pelt had 19 points and 4 assists.

Sat., Nov. 23--St. Thomas men 75 UW River Falls 69

The #15-rated Tommies trailed 40-29 at the half but rallied behind Zach Reidemann's 19 points and a 20-4 edge in 2nd chance points.

Player of the Day--Dylan Kilgour of the Macalester men scored 40 points as the Scots won at Lake Forest (IL) 92-89 in 3 OT.

Coach of the Day--Paul Grove, Minnesota-Morris men, who defeated their 2nd MIAC opponent, this time Gustavus 68-64 as R.J. Dean had 20 points, 6 boards and 3 assists.

Fri., Nov. 22--Minnesota Timberwolves 111 Brooklyn Nets 81

The Wolves beat Kevin Garnett for the first time since he left Minnesota and made it an unmerciful rout to boot, leading 30-14 after one period. The Nets were never in the game. Minnesota had 28 assists and 8 turnovers, Brooklyn just 7 assists and 20 turnovers. Kevin Love badly outplayed KG with 17 points, 16 boards, 4 assists and 2 steals.

Player of the Day--but the PoD is Dan Kornbaum of Augsburg with 29 points as the Augies def. Wisconsin-Superior 80-73, hopefully a harbinger of today's cross-border battle.

Coach of the Day--Chad Walthall, Minnesota State-Moorhead men, who hammered Concordia (Moorhead) in their annual cross-town game 102-55 as Ben Figini scored 16 for the winners.

Game of the Day October-November 2013

Tues., Oct. 29--Winona State women @ Minnesota Gophers (preseason). Unofficial debut of coach Pam Borton's somewhat-new-look squad. Is Amanda Zahui the real deal?

Wed., Oct. 30--Orlando Magic @ Minnesota Timberwolves. The official debut of Rick Adelman's semi-new-look T-wolves.

Fri., Nov. 1--Oklahoma City Thunder @ Minnesota Timberwolves. A big test for Wolves newish lineup.

Sat., Nov. 2--Minnesota State Moorhead women @ Minnesota Gophers (preseason).

Sun., Nov. 3--Minnesota Timberwolves @ New York Knicks.

Mon., Nov. 4--Concordia (St. Paul) men @ Minnesota Gophers (preseason). Is there enough firepower in the front court?

Wed., Nov. 6--Golden State Warriors @ Minnesota Timberwolves.

Fri., Nov. 8--Lehigh men @ Minnesota Gophers. Pitino's official debut is our top game of the month.

Sat., Nov. 9--Minnesota Gopher women @ Northern Iowa.

Sun., Nov. 10--Minnesota Timberwolves @ Los Angeles Lakers.

Mon., Nov. 11--Minnesota Timberwolves @ Los Angeles Clippers.

Tues., Nov. 12--Montana men @ Minnesota Gophers.

Wed., Nov. 13--Charlotte women @ Minnesota Gophers. Is it NCAA or bust for Pam Borton?

Fri., Nov. 15--Minnesota-Morris men @ Concordia Moorhead.

Sat., Nov. 16--Minnesota  Gopher men @ Richmond, and Minnesota Gopher women @ Creighton. Sad to say that here are a couple of severe road tests for the Gophers.

Sun., Nov. 17--St. John's men vs. St. Scholastica @ St. Cloud State.

Mon., Nov. 18--Southwest Minnesota State men @ South Dakota State.

Tues., Nov. 19--Colorado College men @ Minnesota Gophers.

Wed., Nov. 20--Los Angeles Clippers @ Minnesota Timberwolves.

Thurs., Nov. 21--St. Thomas women @ Wisconsin-Stevens Point. Two national powerhouses.

Fri., Nov. 22--Brooklyn Nets @ Minnesota Timberwolves. Kevin Garnett returns for the T-Wolves 14th game. Wolves need to be above .500 at this point. Another of our top 3 games of the month.

Sat., Nov. 23--Gustavus men @ Minnesota-Morris.

Sun., Nov. 24--Navy women @ Minnesota Gophers.

Mon, Nov. 25--Minnesota Gopher men vs. Syracuse @ Maui Invitational.

Tues., Nov. 26--Chicago Loyola women @ Minnesota Gophers.

Wed., Nov. 27--Denver Nuggets @ Minnesota Timberwolves.

Thurs., Nov. 28--Michigan Tech men @ Bemidji State.

Fri., Nov. 29--Minnesota Gopher women vs. Chattanooga @ Waikiki Beach Marriott Rainbow Wahini Showdown. That's easy for you to say.

Sat., Nov. 30--Minnesota State Mankato women @ Concordia (St. Paul). #1 vs. #2 in the NSIC is one of our top 3 games of the month.


Monday, November 18, 2013

Gopher women's 2014 class rated #24 nationally

Mark Lewis of Blue Star Media has ranked coach Pam Borton and the University of Minnesota Gophers' 2014 recruiting class #24 in the nation behind:

1. UCLA--has Savanna Trapp, Esko, Mn, from the 2013s
2. Ohio State--Big 10
3. Louisville
4. Duke
5. Connecticut--this represents a weak class for the 800-lb. gorilla of women's college ball
6. Notre Dame
7. Texas
8. South Carolina
9. Vanderbilt--has Minnesota's Rebekah Dahlmanfrom the 2013s
10. Tennessee--another weak class for the #2 power in the land
11. Maryland--future Big 10, coached by former Gopher coach Brenda Freese
12. St. John's--signed Kennedy's Tonoia Wade, #99 and #22 at her position, among the 2014s
14. Purdue--Big 10
21. Michigan State--Big 10

The Gophers rate ahead of:

26. Michigan--Big 10
28. Marquette--signed 3 2014 Mn guards, Kenisha Bell (#24/#11), Tia Elbert (#97/#23), Hannah Grim
30. Iowa--Big 10, signed Chase Coley, Mpls. Washburn, among the 2014s
34. Iowa State--has signed several Mn girls in recent years
38. Nebraska--Big 10
43. Illinois--Big 10

Conspicuous by its absence is Creighton, who signed 3 Mn girls among the 2014s. Also absent are Wisconsin, Northwestern, Indiana and Penn State of the Big 10.

Gopher Recruits

Coach Borton has basically recruited a "team," 5 players including a post, a forward, a wing and a couple of guards. This is a big big recruiting class (I mean, qualitatively) because, first, of its size (quantitatively). These 5 girls will represent darn near half the team. And second, because of the obvious near-whiff on "the mighty 2013s," coach needed a better showing in 2014 to keep disgruntlement at a minimum. The 5 girls are:

C- Josie Buckingham, 6-5, New Richmond, OH. Scored 21 points with 14 boards and 6 blocks per game last year. Rated #172 nationally by one service.

F- Rangie Bessard, 6-0, Houston Manvel. Scored 14 points with 10 boards for a 33-4 team. Rated #260 in the nation by one service.

W- Tory Jacobs, Irving MacArthur. Scored 24 ppg with 4 assists for a 24-9 team. Rated #118 and #179 by two services.

G- Carlie Wagner, NRHEG, Mn, 5-10. Rated #54 and #100 by 2 services and #9 among point guards by the former, though she is not a point guard at D1, she will be a 2. Scored 40 ppg in 6 state tournament games so far.

G- Grace Coughlin, Benilde-St. Margaret's. Rated #89 by one service (cited on GopherSports Web site).

Superficially, it's a pretty good class, a nice bounce back from the near-whiff in 2013. But let's look a little closer.

Ohio State and Purdue

The top 2 rated recruiting classes among current Big 10 members are Ohio State (#2) and Purdue (#14). (Future conference member Maryland is #11.) Interestingly, the Buckeyes and Boilermakers, like Minnesota, signed big classes, 5 players each. How do the 3 big and highly rated classes compare?

Post--At the center spots, Minnesota's 6-5 Buckingham, who is from Ohio, is rated #172. Ohio State signed Alexa Hart, 6-3, who transferred from North Ridgeville, OH, to Columbus Africentric and was ineligible last year. She is rated #82 and #16 at her position. Purdue signed Bree Horrocks, 6-5, from Georgia. She is rated #35 and #13. So at the post it's 1) Purdue, 2) OSU, 3) Minnesota.

Power Forward--At the 4, Minnesota's Bessard is ranked #260. Ohio State has a second post, actually, 6-2 Makayla Waterman from Kettering Fairmont, 27-1 and Ohio state champ last year. She scored 9 ppg with 7 boards, and she's ranked #69 and #14 at her position. Purdue also signed a second post, Haley Bodnar of Utah's state champions, who averaged 14 points and 10 boards last year, and was rated #149 and #20 at her position. So at the 4 it's 1) OSU and 2) Purdue, with Minnesota at #3.

Small Forward--Minnesota's Tory Jacobs is rated #118 and #179 by two services. Ohio State grabbed 5-11 Chelsea Mitchell, who is not highly rated (more about her below under the point guard section). Purdue signed Erica Moore, who scored 19 points with 7 boards for the Indiana state champ, and she's rated #78. So it's 1) Purdue, 2) OSU and 3) Minnesota.

Off Guard--Minnesota's Carlie Wagner is rated #54 and #100 by 2 services. OSU got Asia Doss, 5-7, from Detroit Country Day. She scored 18 points with a ridiculous 14.5 assists, and is rated #92/#22 at the point, actually. Purdue got Andreana Keys from Georgia, who has flown under the radar a bit due to injuries. So it's 1) Minnesota , 2) OSU, 3) Purdue at the 2.

Point Guard--Minnesota's Allie Coughlin is rated #89 in one service and outside the top #200 in another. Ohio State's Kelsey Mitchell is rated #23 overall and #3 at the point. Her sister Chelsea is obviously recruiting because that's what you had to do to get Kelsey. Purdue got Justin Hall who scored 17 ppg for the Colorado state champs, and she is rated #74/#14. 1) Ohio State, 2) Purdue, 3) Minnesota.

So among the top 3 rated classes, Ohio State got the top prospect 3 times and Purdue twice, Minnesota not at all.

Among all Big 10 teams, the top candidates would seem to be:

Center--Chatrice White, Illinois, 6-3, top 20
PF--Waterman, Ohio State
SF-- Kaylee Page, Nebraska, 6-2, wing, 40s
PG--Mitchell, Ohio State
SG--Wagner, Minnesota

Second Team

C--Horrocks, Purdue
PF--Moore, Purdue
SF--Jasmine Lumpkin, Michigan State, 6-0, #51-52-61 in 3 services
PG--Doss, Ohio State
SG--Kiara Leslie, Maryland, 5-11, #57

Third Team

C--Hart, Ohio State
PF--Kennedy Johnson, Michigan State, 6-2, #78
SF--Aja Ellison, Maryland, 6-3, F, 52 percent shooter, #45
PG--Natalie Romeo, Nebraska, #55
SG--Kristen Confroy, Maryland, 5-8, #51

Fourth Team

C--Chase Coley, Iowa
PF--Bodnar, Purdue
SF--Lexi Gossert, Michigan State, 32.5 ppg, #54
PG--Justine Hall, Purdue
SG--Ally Disterhoft, Iowa, 6-0, #69

Fifth Team

C--Buckingham, Minnesota
PF--Chandler Smith, Nebraska
SF--Tory Jacobs, Minnesota
PG--Amara Coleman, Illinois
SG--Katelynn Flaherty, Michigan

Given that there's a lot of guesswork in rating recruiting classes, let's not try to split hairs. Let's just divide 'em into groups.

Group 1--national leading class--Ohio State
Group 2--Big Ten leading class--Maryland, Purdue
Group 3--better than average--Michigan State, Minnesota, Nebraska
Group 4--middle of the pack--Illinois, Iowa, Michigan
Group 5--they also ran--Wisconsin, Northwestern, Indiana, Penn State, Rutgers

Been There, Done That

So, all in all, this is a pretty fair class--the Gophers, I mean. If there's a problem, it lies not with the class itself, but with the history. We've seen classes like this before and have pretty much nothing to show for them.

In 2008 the Gophers rated #16 (Buford, Mastey, Voigt)
In 2009 they rated #34 (Cotton, Dvorak, Loberg)
In 2010 #46 (Clay, Kellogg, Noga, Riche)
In 2011 #23 (Banham, Hirt)

In 2012, the class of Bailey, Johnson and Mullaney was not rated, and in 2013 the class of Hedstrom and McDaniel was not rated. Hedstrom was rated the #26 point guard, McDaniel the #57 wing.

The class of 2008 at #16, and followed up by three top 50 classes, would seem to have had great potential, and no one can possibly dispute that that potential was not realized. The class of 2011 was rated most closely to where the 2014s are rated, but it was not supported by a top 50 class until 2014, though it's true that the 2013 class did not include Amanda Zahui when the ratings came out.

But the point is simple. A Big 10 school with the #16, 34, 46, 23 and now 24-rated recruiting classes should have a tradition of winning going on, and Minnesota doesn't have that. So, no matter what you think of the 2014 class as high school players or rookies, why do we think they'll get better results than what we've had over the past six or seven years?

Because maybe the chemistry will suddenly work and create synergies so that the sum is greater than the parts? Or because suddenly women will be developing to their full potential and become as juniors and seniors the players we thought the could be when they were freshmen?

Just for the Record

Some possible lineups for the coming years.

2013-2014

C- Amanda Zahui 6-5 fr.
PF- Micaella Riche 6-2 sr.
SF- Sari Noga 5-10 sr.
G- Rachel Banham 5-9 jr.
G- Shayne Mullaney 5-10 soph.

2014-2015

C- Zahui soph.
PF- Jackie Johnson 6-2 jr.
SF- Kayla Hirt 6-2 jr.
G- Banham sr.
G- Mullaney jr.

2015-2016

C- Zahui jr.
PF- Johnson sr.
SF- Hirt sr.
G- Carlie Wagner 5-10 soph.
G- Mullaney sr.

2016-2017

C- Buckingham jr.
PF- Zahui sr.
SF- Jacobs jr.
G- Wagner jr.
G- Hedstrom sr.

Obviously there could be some 2015s or even a 2016 freshman by now (Nia Hollie will be a freshman in 2016-2017) but we don't know who they'll be.

So, OK, the talent looks pretty good. I was going to write about what a great job Pam has done with this class. She's semi-abandoned Minnesota as there are too many Minnesota girls who don't want to play at the U. Can't fault her for that.

But on closer look, the talent is "pretty good," but not great. And we've had pretty good talent before, and got pretty much nothing to show for it. If the effort down at Creighton proves to be anything close to typical this year. then there's no real rebuilding going on, just hanging on, surviving. Here again, I'm afraid the talent is good enough to keep hanging on, but not good enough to get over the top. How long is this going to continue?

So, sure, there's reason for optimism (talented women on the roster and coming next year). And there's reason for resignation (the failure to capitalize on similar talents in the past). Again, "how long" is the operative question. How long are we going to hang in limbo with this program? The caliber of talent we will have 2-3-4 years from now, we've got it now. If there's not a renaissance in 2014, why would we expect one in 2015 or 2016? This really ought to be the last shot. If Rachel Banham doesn't get to the NCAA tournament this year, she ought to get one more chance as a senior under a new regime.


Player of the Day November 15-21, 2013

Thurs., Nov. 21--Minnesota Gopher men 79 Wofford 57

A blowout from the get-go, as it should be, Minnesota led 13-0 and 20-2 early, and 50-24 at the half. Austin Hollins led the way with 18 points, but Elliot Eliason probably had the best night with 11 plus 11 boards and 7 blocks. Osieniks added 14 and appears to be getting comfortable out there. Mathieu continued his outstanding play. The Gophers had 20 assists on 30 buckets, with just 8 turnovers, and shot 51 percent.

Player of the Day--Elliott Eliason, Minnesota Gopher men 11 points, 11 boards, 7 blocks.
Coach of the Day--Paul Grove, Minnesota-Morris men, with just one assistant, knocked off St. John's 96-87 at Morris as R.J. Dean scored 12 points and added 6 boards, 6 assists and 3 steals for Morris.

Wed., Nov. 20--Minnesota Gopher women 70 Kansas Jayhawks 59

The women came back from a 32-30 halftime deficit with a whopping 40-27 2nd half margin. Rachel Banham scored 13 points in each half, but Amanda Zahui was also instrumental in the win. She got into foul trouble--again-- and sat out much of the 1st half. In the 2nd she roared back with 8 points and 7 rebounds, and finished with a triple double--11 points, 11 rebounds and a school record 10 blocks. Micaella Riche added 20 points and 6 rebounds and Shayne Mullaney 11 points and 5 boards. The Gophers lost the possession game--Kansas had 12 more offensive rebounds and 3 fewer turnovers. But Minnesota shot well over 50 percent, Kansas closer to 33.

Player of the Day--Amanda Zahui, Minnesota Gopher women. Amanda, pls avoid those early fouls and stay on the floor. 30-32 in the 1st, 40-27 in the 2nd.

Coach of the Day--Pam Borton, Minnesota Gopher women

Tues., Nov. 19--Minnesota Gopher men 82 Coastal Carolina 72

It was a "sluggish" performance according to the Gophers own Web site. But Player of the Day DeAndre Mathieu continued his stellar play with 17 points, 6 assists and 3 steals. Coach of the Day is Matt Marganthaler of Minnesota State Mankato, who clobbers Clark 117-56.

Mon., Nov. 18--South Dakota State men 83 Southwest Minnesota State 62

The most intriguing plot here was the performance of Jackrabbits freshman Anders Broman from Duluth Lakeview Christian, Minnesota's all-time top boys high school scorer. He came off the bench to score 10 points in 26 minutes, his first career double-figure scoring night. Over four games he has played 22 minutes (with 1 start for 33 minutes), he has scored 5 points per game on 6-of-18 (33 percent) shooting.

Player of the Day--Mitch Weg, Southwest State freshman from Worthington, who scored 8 points with 7 rebounds. Coach of the Day--Brad Bigler, Southwest State. His men didn't have a great night in Brookings, but Bigler is a great coach.

Sun., Nov, 17--St. John's 93 St. Scholastica 83

The Johnnies ran out to a 51-29 half-time lead and coasted to the finish line. Alex Schmitt came off the bench to score 22 while Mitch Kuck had 19 and 4 assists. Trevor Morlock was a one-man gang for St. Scholastica with 27 points and 13 rebounds.

Player of the Day--Trevor Morlock, St. Scholastics 27 points 13 rebounds. Coach of the Day--Jim Smith, St. John's, now in his 50th season at the Collegeville school.

Sat., Nov. 16--Minnesota Gopher men 74 Richmond 59

With 7 minutes remaining, Minnesota trailed at Richmond 59-55, but a 19-0 run to finish the game made the Gophers the winners.

Player of the Day--Andre Hollins, Minnesota Gopher men 26 points. Coach of the Day--Richard Pitino, Minnesota Gopher men.

Meanwhile, at the half, the Minnesota Gopher women were shooting 44 percent, Creighton 42 (for the game it was 45.5 percent to 39 percent), and the Gophers led in the rebounding 18-16. Oh, and the Gophers trailed 38-22. How is that possible? Turnovers. By game's end the turnovers were 23-7 and the points off turnovers 23-11. The final was 63-52. And most of the turnovers were not made by Minnesota's ball-handlers but by Sari Noga (5), Amanda Zahui (4), Micaella Riche (3) and Jackie Johnson (3 in 3 minutes). If the bigs can't hold on to the ball, the Gophers are in trouble.

Fri., Nov. 15--Pomona-Pitzer men 80 St. Thomas 77, and Whitman women 77 St. Thomas 76

#15 St. Thomas, 30-2 with a trip to the D3 Final Four last year, lost their opener this year at Pomona-Pitzer. The Tommies trailed the whole way but used a late 15-6 run to get within 79-77, but could not get another score on their final possession.

The Tommies women are also favored by MIAC coaches to win the conference title this year, but they too lost their opener on the west coast, at Whitman in Spokane (WA), as the hosts shot 58 percent from the field. On the brighter side, center Maggie Weiers, who missed all of last season with injuries, returned with 13 points, 7 boards and 3 assists.

Player of the Day--Zach Monaghan, Minnesota State-Mankato men, 22 points, 7 assists, 3 steals, and Coach of the Day--Matt Marganthaler, Minnesota State-Mankato men, who won their opener over Waldorf (IA) 94-50.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Tyus Jones going to Duke

But you knew that.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Player of the Day, November 8-14, 2013

Wed., Nov. 13--Minnesota Gopher women 90 Charlotte 55

Very impressive and on signing day, too. That is, Carlie Wagner and Grace Coughlin signed their national letters of intent and became Gophers today. Then the team went out and did this. I mean, demolition. 49-27 at the half, and the lead just kept growing in the 2nd half. Rachel Banham scored 20, Amanda Zahui 19 with 12 boards, Micaella Riche 12. Minnesota shot 48 percent to 25 percent for Charlotte.

But the Player of the Day is Kevin Love again, with 33 points and 8 boards as the Minnesota Timberwolves also blew their opponent away, the Cleveland Cavs, 124-95. The margin was 39 at its peak at 115-76. Corey Brewer added 27, Ricky Rubio 16 with 16 assists. And all of this with Kevin Martin sitting it out tonight.

Coach of the Day--Pam Borton, Minnesota Gopher women, who just may be in the process of saving her job. After 18-14 and 19-17 the past 2 years, this team looks much improved. 20 wins and an NCAA bid are required, of course, for Pam to continue, but right now those look like modest goals. 25 wins and top 3 in the Big 10 seems possible.

Tues., Nov. 12--Minnesota Gopher men 84 Montana 58

It was a pretty impressive performance by the Gophers, pulling out to a 40-26 halftime lead, using 12 extra possessions to build an early lead. In the 2nd half the lead ballooned to 54-28, then 80-53 and 84-55 at its highest. The 3 guards dominated: Andre Hollins with 24 points, DeAndre Mathieu continuing his impressive play at the point with 15 points and 5 assists, and Austin Hollins had 11 points and 10 rebounds.

Player of the Day--Andre Hollins, Minnesota Gopher men 24 points. Coach of the Day--Richard Pitino, Minnesota Gopher men.

Mon., Nov. 11--Los Angeles Clippers 109 Minnesota Timberwolves 107

The L.A. Clippers led the Wolves most of the way but Minnesota fought back with 7 straight 4th quarter points to lead 87-86. L.A. then scored 12 unanswered points to take a 98-87 lead. The Wolves almost caught up at 101-99, 107-105 and 109-107. Kevin Martin missed a shot to tie it with 3 seconds left.

Player of the Day--Who else but Kevin Love with 23 points 19 rebounds and 7 assists. Coach of they Day--Rick Adelman.

Sun., Nov. 10--Minnesota Timberwolves 113 Los Angeles Lakers 90

A 23 point margin, better than one for each of the 22 straight losses the Wolves have suffered to the Lakers since 2007. Who'da thunk?

Player of the Day--Kevin Love, Minnesota Timberwolves, who else 25 points 13 rebounds. Coach of the Day--Mandy Pearson, St. Mary's women. Sure, they lost, but D3 @ D2 usually works out that way.  But they kept it close, 39-37 at the half, 62-51 at the end.

Sat., Nov. 9--Minnesota Gopher women 73 Northern Iowa 55

A nice official opener for the Gopher women who romped to a 40-15 half-time lead with Amanda Zahui on the bench and Rachel Banham there, too, most of the way. Banham's problem was merely fouls. Zahui has some eligibility issue, which doesn't sound good until it does. Anyway, Banham scored 15, Shayne Mullaney 14, Micaella Riche 13 and (get this) Jackie Johnson 13. All you Jackie Johnson doubters out there, get over it.

Player of the Day--Jackie Johnson, Minnesota Gopher women 13 points 29 minutes. Coach of the Day--Pam Borton, Minnesota Gopher women.

Fri., Nov. 8--Minnesota Gopher men 81 Lehigh 62

What a day. Reid Travis picked Stanford. Mo Walker was suspended for 6 games. Oh, yeah, and Richard Pitino's official debut took place and it was a pretty good effort. Joey King continues to excel. I don't know if he was their MVP but he is the big surprise so far. Last night 20 points off the bench.

But the Player of the Day is Kevin Love of the Minnesota Timberwolves who had 32 points and 15 boards and the Wolves defeated the Dallas Mavericks 116-108 to run their record to 4-2.

Coach of the Day--Richard Pitino, Minnesota Gopher men.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Reid Travis picks Stanford

Ouch! The Minnesota Gophers and new coach Richard Pitino were never given much of a chance to recruit the Big Three 2014s of Tyus Jones, Rashad Vaughn and Reid Travis. But rumors swirled--in fact, we were guaranteed by one source--that Travis would pick Minnesota when he announced his decision today.

That made it all the tougher to hear that Travis will be going to Stanford. He liked their academics or some stoopid thing like that.

There is little or no chance that Jones or Vaughn will pick the Gophers.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Player of the Day November 1-7, 2013

Thurs., Nov. 7--Concordia (St. Paul) men 85 St. John's 71

This is more like it. DII is supposed to beat DIII and that's just was the Golden Bears did, beating the Johnnies by 14 in St. Paul. Concordia didn't dominate anything, but they out-played St. John's just a little bit in most aspects of the game. Mostly they out-shot 'em 47 percent to 45 and 56 percent to 27 from long-range.

Player of the Day--Terez Van Pelt, Concordia (St. Paul) men 22 points 4 assists 2 steals. Coach of the Day--Jim Smith, St. John's, now in his 50th year at Collegeville. I know he didn't win, I just think he's a better coach than Kelly Boe.

Wed., Nov. 6--St. Thomas women 66 St. Cloud State 56

Ruth Sinn and her #5-rated, defending MIAC champions from St. Thomas are rarin' to go into 2013-2104 after an exhibition win over DII St. Cloud State 66-56. The Tommies opened with a flurry to go ahead 13-3 and despite a few back and forth's, that's how it ended, a 10-point game. The Tommies may have found a new star as sophomore point guard Katie Stone hit 3 3s and finished 11 points. Kelly Brandenburg and Maggie Weiers scored 10 each for the Tommies, while Jessica Benson scored 20 and Sam Price 3 3s and 13 points for St. Cloud.

Player of the Day--Taylor Young, St. Thomas women 16 points. Coach of the Day--Ruth Sinn, St. Thomas women.

Mon., Nov. 4--Minnesota Gopher men 101 Concordia (St. Paul) 67

I missed Rick Pitino's exhibition opener, a 79-57 win over Cardinal Stritch but now in game 2 of the Pitino era, things look better. Here is Pitino's rotation so far, accounting just for the "major" minutes.

C--Eliason 14.5 minutes Walker 20
F-- Osenieks 15.5 King 22.5
PG-- Mathieu 22 Ahanmisi 14.5
SG1-- Andre 23.5 Ellenson 12
SG2-- Austin 21 Smith 19

Key stats would include:

C-- Eliason 6.5ppg 4reb 5/5FG Walker 13ppg 9reb 12/17FG. Walker has been more productive offensively but Eliason is a more advanced defensive player. In a Big Ten context, this is not going to be a strength, but it might not be a weakness.

F-- Osenieks 5ppg 4.5reb 4/11FG King 11,5ppg 3reb 10/17FG. At this rate, King will be starting soon and Oto's minutes may start to diminish any time now. OTOH Oto was much better in game 2 than game 1. Even so King looks like he belongs at high D1 for now. The Gophers are exceptionally lucky to have him after Tubby ignored him the first time around. Depth is a problem unless Oto gets it together.

PG-- Mathieu 9.5ppg 8asts 7/13FG Ahanmisi 6ppg 2.5asts but also 2.5TO. A true point who has fully 40 percent of the Gophers assists so far. He should help the Hollinses to be more productive on offense by relieving them of primary ball-handling duties. Ahanmisi is an acceptable back-up despite what some people say.

SGs-- Andre 13.5ppg 2 asts 10/19FG Austin 12.5ppg 1.5asts 10/19FG Smith 6.5ppg 3.5reb 4/9FG Ellenson 5ppg 2reb 4/6FG. Pretty solid here.

Player of the Day--DeAndre Mathieu, Minnesota Gopher men 12 its 6 reb 7 acts 4 stls 3 TO 5/7FG. Coach of the Day: Rick Pitino, Minnesota Gopher men

Sun., Nov. 3--Minnesota Timberwolves 109 New York Knicks 100

Say what? Another surprising win!? Already? The season is just three games old and the T-Wolves are already two games ahead of expectations. The real score was, well, 109-100, don't get all melodramatic. But another real story, let's say, is this: Kevin Love 34 Carmelo Anthony 22. The Knicks outscored the Wolves from the field 40 FG to 35, both teams shooting about 44-45 percent. But the Wolves got to the FT line 38 times to just 13 for the Knicks--Love 15 times, Anthony 5--and that, as they say, was the old ball game. It didn't hurt that the Wolves led 40-19 after one period. The Knicks closed to within 100-98 but Kevin Martin scored four of his 30 points to put it away.

Player of the Day--Kevin Love, Minnesota Timberwolves. Coach of the Day--Rick Adelman, Minnesota Timberwolves.

Sat, Nov. 2--Minnesota Gopher women 69 Minnesota State Moorhead 54

The Gophers pulled away from a 35-34 half-time lead to defeat the Dragons, who look for all the world like a contender for the NSIC title this year. What might have happened had Moorhead guard Haley Thomforde hit more than 2-of-17 shots? But Rachel Banham scored 21 for Minnesota, with five assists. Freshman post had 14 points and 12 boards. Sari Noga and Micaella Riche scored 11 and 10. Shayne Mullaney was the fifth starter. Freshmen Joanna Hedstrom (19 minutes) and Stabresa McDaniel (13)  are already in the rotation ahead of sophomores Mikayla Bailey (9) and Kayla Hirt (8), and Jackie Johnson, who played sparingly a year ago as a freshman, has also leapfrogged Bailey and Hirt with 20 minutes last night.

Player of the Day--Rachel Banham, Minnesota  Gopher women, 21 points. Coach of the Day--Karla Nelson, Minnesota State Moorhead.

Fri., Nov. 1--Minnesota Timberwolves 100 Oklahoma City Thunder 81

What a turnaround. Two nights after beating a mediocre Orlando team at home in OT, the Timberwolves brought their A+ game tonight, jumping out to a 34-19 lead after one period, and 88-60 after three, and hammering the Oklahoma City Thunder 100-81.

Sure, OKC was without Russell Westbrook. But, hey, they (primarily Corey Brewer) also held Kevin Durant, who scored 42 the other night, to just 13 points.

For the Wolves, Kevin Love led again with 24 points and 12 rebounds. Nikola Pekovic, who got badly outplayed against Orlando, bounced back to score 15 with 10 rebound and 4 turnovers. Ricky Rubio had 14 points, 10 assists.

Player of the Day--Cory Brewer, Minnesota Timberwolves, for his defense of Kevin Durant. Coach of the Day--Rick Adelman, Minnesota Timberwolves.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Player of the Day October 2013

Wed., Oct. 30--Minnesota Timberwolves 120 Orlando Magic 115 (OT)

Almost a HUGE OUCH here. Kevin Love had to hit a 3 from the left elbow to send the game into OT. Here is the Wolves rotation at this point:

C- Pekovic 30 minutes Turiaf 16 Love 7. Got outscored by Vucevic, mainly, 24-21 and out-rebounded 17-14. Not what they are looking for from Pek.

PF- Love 34 Cunningham 19. Better. Outscored Maxiell, Nicholson and Jones 34-22 and out-rebounded 'em 19-16.

SF- Brewer 40 Martin 13. Outscored Harkless and Oladipo 22-16.

PG- Rubio 40 Barea 13. Got out-scored 23-21 but had a 14-8 edge in assists.

SG- Martin 30 Barea 7 Shved 16. Got hammered 33-23 by Aflalo and others.

So on Day 1, Pekovic and Martin got outplayed badly for the Wolves.

Player of the Day--Kevin Love, Team of the Day--nobody, Coach of the Day--Rick Adelman.

Tues., Oct. 29--Minnesota Gopher women 82 Winona State 44

We've published a list of 12 pre-season candidates for player of the year. But the PoY need not be one of the 12, ultimately. The PoY will be based on what happens during the season. And now, the winter 2013-2014 season is one day old and a new candidate has emerged. I don't care who you're playing, 28 points and 19 rebounds is a DEBUT! Amanda Zahui B. stole the show for the Gophers in their exhibition win.

Player of the Day--Amanda Zahui B., Team of the Day--Minnesota Gopher women, Coach of the Day--Pam Borton.

I should add right here, right now, that the 2013-2014 season really began earlier this year. The summer season goes with the following, not the previous season. So the real (as opposed to the pre-season) roster of PoY candidates as of October 31 would have to include:

• Love and Zahui
• the five starters plus Monica Wright of the Minnesota Lynx
• plus the following Players of the Summer.

Boys

2014--Tyus Jones, Howard Pulley
2015--Connor Flack, MN Fury Johnson
2016--Brock Bertram, D1 Minnesota

Girls

2014--Tia Elbert, North Tartan Elite
2015--Sam Trammel, North Tartan both with the 2015s and later on up with the 2014s
2016--Jamie Ruden, Fury Sinn
2017--Jas Martin, Stars Martin, playing up with the 2016s
2018--Kayla Mershon, North Tartan

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

2013-2014 Minnesota Basketball Season Preview

The Lynx

One thing is already clear about the 2013-2014 Minnesota basketball season. The Minnesota Lynx are WNBA champions for the second time in three years, and they are the team to beat for Minnesota hoops team of the year. Cheryl Reeve is out ahead in the race for coach of the year honors.

But as to player of the year? Well, they Lynx have too many great players for any one to dominate. I guess I would pick Maya Moore as the Lynx' MVP, but Lindsay Whalen is riiiiiiiiight behind. Bottom line: The door is open for somebody else to be Minnesota's 2013-2014 player of the year.

The T-Wolves

But somehow the bloom seems to be coming off the rose of the Minnesota Timberwolves. Too many injuries, too many lost opportunities. Are they really ready to fulfill their potential in 2014? I am not convinced. Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovich, yes, they're among the elite at their respective positions. Ricky Rubio? Can he hit the shot? Can he be a complete player? Again, I am not entirely convinced. 

And Kevin Martin? Yes, he's a huge improvement. But I keep hearing that the Wolves must be a better defensive team, but you don't sign Kevin Martin for his defense. And Corey Brewer? Is he really that much better than two years ago? Can he hit the shot? Or is he another one-dimeinsial player? 

If I had to say, I would say the Wolves are a .500 team, and that isn't going to get you very far in the post-season, nor get you any player or team or coach of the year awards. 

Gophers

Similarly, I don't have a good feeling about the Gophers, men or women. Don't get me wrong. I'm a big supporter of Rick Pitino. He will get his kids to play harder and to get more out of their talent than Tubby did. But with Trevor Mbakwe and Rodney Williams gone, the talent in the front court is just not Big 10 caliber. I will be shocked if this is a .500 team, and if it's a .500 team in the Big 10 then Pitino should be coach of the year.

As for the women, well, the talent on the court could be a bit better than it's been if 6-5 Swedish post Amanda Zahui proves to be the real thing. But the talent level on the bench will be what it has been for the past decade, which means that getting out-coached will be a weekly thing and a late-season let-down will lurk unless it happens earlier. I expect that this will be a .500 team, but contending for the Big 10 title? No. And a trip to the NCAA tournament? Maybe, but then once-and-done.

The Small Colleges

Two words. Saint. Thomas.

Unfortunately, the only way anybody else is going to contend, much less win, an MIAC title is if the Tommies implode--and I mean the men, and I mean the women. The men went 30-2 last year and advanced to the D3 Final Four before losing in the national semis. Four prominent players from that team have completed their eligibility, but forwards Connor Nord and Zach Reidemann and guards Erik Tengwall, Marcus Alipate and Dylan Stewart return.

Augsburg center Dan Kornbaum is the top individual returnee.

The Tommie women went 24-6 last year and 31-2 the year before. They lost in the Sweet 16 a year ago and in the Final Four two years ago. Only one senior was lost to graduation and post Maggie Weiers, who missed the 2013 season with an injury, will also return in 2014. Taylor Young, Minnesota Hoops readers player of the year in 2012, also returns for her junior year, along with Kelly Brandenburg, Jenna Dockter and Anna Smith. Another 30 win season and another trip to the Final Four would seem to be reasonable ghost for the Tommies women.

In the Northern Sun, the men are down, down, down after 16 of last year's top 20 scorers completed their eligibility. The exception that proves the rule is Mankato State (sorry: Minnesota State Mankato) which has pre-season player of the year, post Assem Marei, and point guard Zach Monaghan also returns. That makes them the class of the NSIC, hands down.

There's a lot more returning talent among the women, but Minnesota State Mankato and Concordia-St. Paul, #1 and #2 in the regular season a year ago, will again battle it out for the title. Mankato forward Ali Wilkinson (17 points, 8 rebounds, 55% shooting a year ago) and UMD's Katrina Newman (16 points, 8 rebounds, 3 steals) look like the top two players.

The Boys

In a word, Repeat. Apple Valley with point guard extraordinaire Tyus Jones is an obvious (prohibitive?) favorite to win a second straight state title, while DeLaSalle with Reid Travis is an even more obvious favorite to win a third.

A and AA look to be more wide open. Rushford-Peterson, defending champion Southwest Christian, 2012 champ Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa and Battle Lake should all contend in Class A. The crystal ball says...Rushford-Pete.

AA is even more wide open. Instead of 5 or 6 bona fide contenders, there may be 10 or 12. Esko is probably the best bet to win a section, but state...? Fairmont and Minnehaha will be tough. And there are 3 or 4 contenders from Section 8 alone. The crystal ball says...

Well, Crosby-Ironton would at least be a sentimental favorite. Here's a school that played for the state title twice in the good old days (1944, 1947) and twice quite recently (2008, 2010) and always came up empty. Maybe this is the year. But on the other hand Perham and Hawley are at least co-favorites in Section 8. So let's just say that somebody from Section 8 will win.

The Girls

Stop me if this sounds like a broken record. Hopkins will repeat in Class AAAA. DeLaSalle...wait. Did you want to stop me? DeLaSalle is not the obvious favorite in AAA this year. After 3 straight titles, it appears that the losses to graduation are just too great. Fergus Falls, Park Center and Hill-Murray appear to be poised to finally get a share of the wealth.

In AA, New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva would appear to be a shoo-in for a 2nd straight title behind the exploits of Carlie Wagner, who has already scored 241 points in 6 state tournament games. In A, most of the teams that appeared last could be back. Best bets are defending champ Minneota and runner-up Ada-Borup, plus 2012 finalists Maranatha and Mountain Iron-Buhl, and Win-E-Mac from the frozen north.

Awards Contenders

Roll it all together and the most likely to win our annual awards next March-April include the following. But keep in mind, the awards are not limited to players, teams, coaches, etc., who are on this pre-season listing.

Team of the Year Top 10 Contenders...okay, 12

Minnesota Lynx
Apple Valley boys
Hopkins girls
St. Thomas women
DeLaSalle boys
Mankato State men
NRHEG girls
Rushford-Peterson boys
Mankato State women
St. Thomas men
Minnesota Timberwolves
Concordia-St. Paul women

Player of the Year Top 10 Contenders

Tyus Jones, Apple Valley boys
Rachel Banham, Minnesota Gopher women
Reid Travis, DeLaSalle boys
Maya Moore, Minnesota Lynx
Carlie Wagner, NRHEG girls
Kevin Love, Minnesota Timberwolves
Assem Marei, Mankato State men
Nikola Pekovic, Minnesota Timberwolves
Taylor Young, St. Thomas women
Deandre Mathieu, Minnesota Gopher men

Coach of the Year Top 5 Contenders

Cheryl Reeve, Minnesota Lynx
Zach Goring, Apple Valley boys
Matt Marganthaler, Minnesota State Mankato men
Ruth Sinn, St. Thomas women
Tom Vix, Rushford-Peterson boys

Best Games of the Year

As we've done in the past, we'll have a feature game every day...or two, really. There will be a list of games that is published beforehand, and then there's a list of games afterward, because let's face it. It usually turns out that there's a game each night that is better than the one you thought would be the greatest

And if we had to pick right now, the pre-season picks are:

Team of the Year--Minnesota Lynx. They'll be tough to beat.

Player of the Year--Tyus Jones. Especially if he decides to go to the U.

Coach of the Year--Cheryl Reeve.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Announcing: Northstar Girls Hoops now open for business

I set out to cover Minnesota hoops. All of it. Everything. From the high schools to the pros. And I've done that.

But from Day 1 it was obvious to me that what got the greatest readership was Minnesota girls basketball in the high schools and the clubs. You girls hoops fans just cannot get enough. Of course, there's the fact that the traditional media do a so-so job of covering girls hoops, at best, and the traditional media quite specifically does a totally crappy job of covering AAU ball.

So little by little at first--then by leaps and bounds with the addition of girls player rankings--Minnesota Hoops came to emphasize girls hoops quite a bit more than anything else. And don't get me wrong, I love girls hoops. But mainly, if it's what my readers wanted, I was happy to write about what got the strongest response.

Well, I'm not the only one who noticed this phenomenon. I mean, 1st and foremost you've got the dean, the deacon, the king, the jack, the ace, the foremost authority of Minnesota girls basketball, Kevin Anderson. (His Web site in case anybody doesn't know is kjasr.com.) I've had the privilege that past 2-3 years of working with Kevin. Right up to and including this summer's Tartan Meltdown, I send/sent my game reports to Kevin to publish on his Web site. Of course, you needed a subscription to read them.

Announcing North Star Girls Hoops Report

Some of you may be familiar with North Star Hoops Report. For the past year or so, they've been covering Minnesota boys basketball. But the fact is the North Star guys have a football site, too, and on Monday, October 21, they will launch a girls basketball site called North Star Girls Hoops Report. It will be located at:

www.northstargirlshoops.com

And the North Star guys have approached me and offered to pay me actual cash money to go to work writing for North Star Girls Hoops. Now I can assure you I'm not going to get rich doing it. Minnesota Hoops was a labor of love, totally. North Star Girls Hoops will still be 2 parts labor of love for every 1 part of anything else.

But I'm going to be writing about girls hoops--in the schools and in the clubs--for North Star Girls Hoops. And girls hoops is going to mostly disappear from Minnesota Hoops. And, yeah, you'll need a subscription to read my posts...and my player rankings.

Minnesota Hoops will continue. I'll be writing about everything except the girls. I hope you'll continue to visit, though I know that for many of you it's the girls that bring you here.

Thanks for visiting, thanks to everyone who sent in a comment. I think you know that your comments have influenced my player ratings and have influenced them for the better.

Again, I hope many of you will keep on coming. But for you girls hoops fanatics, I sure hope to see you over at North Star Girls Hoops.


Thursday, September 26, 2013

MORE as of Sept. 26/The Class of 2014 Blue-Chippers Are Finally Getting Picked Up

September 26--Cayla McMorris announced her choice a couple days ago--and it is the Wisconsin Badgers.

Tonoia Wade is going to St. John's (NY).

August 20--And more in the past few days:

Kendall Babb, Chaska--Marist (where she joins Sydney Coffey of Hopkins [2012])
Kaila Burroughs, St. Cloud Tech--Denver (where she joins Jordyn Alt of Cretin)
Michaela Rasmussen, Holy Family--Toledo (where she joins Lindsay Dorr of Rogers)
Grace Sawatzke, Monticello--North Dakota (where she joins Bailey Strand of Fergus Falls)

----------

August 11--Top 2014 recruit Cayla McMorris narrows list of colleges to 5: Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Michigan and Wisconsin. Speculation is that Minnesota came off the list when the Gophers got the verbal from Rangie Bessard of Dallas, TX. Like McMorris, Bessard is also a 6-1 forward.

----------

August 9--There have been a couple high D1 verbals since I wrote this. They are Tia Elbert (#4) and Hannah Grim (#13), both of whom are going to Marquette. Many of you know, of course, that Kenisha Bell (#3) is also going to Marquette. So that is quite the Minnesota backcourt, at least potentially.

Marquette compares, then, to Creighton which has Minnesota guards (but from different classes) Marissa Janning, MC McGrory and now Sydney Lamberty (#8 2013).

And that also compares with the Minnesota Gophers who have Rachel Banham, Shayne Mullaney, Mikayla Bailey and Carlie Wagner (#1 2014).

Cayla McMorris remains the top-rated 2014 who has not committed. I have been told that she has offers from Minnesota, Creighton and Marquette. And Pam Borton has said that with Rangie Bessard, the Gophers are done with the 2014s.

----------

With the announcement of Bailey Norby's verbal today and a variety of them in the past week, the recruiting process of Minnesota's blue-chippers in the class of 2014 seems to almost be done. 10 of the top 12 2014s have verbal led. Cayla McMorris remains the big prize but Tia Elbert will be a worthy recruit, and Hannah Grim and Grace Sawatzke can really play, too. Beyond that, there's a couple dozen D2 prospects and several dozen who are good enough to contribute at D3. But 1st we'll have to let the D1s play out. There are already 7 girls below the top 25 who have D1 offers and have verballed. But as a generalization, I think the top 25 are the real D1 prospects. So beyond the big 4, I expect Claire Lundberg and Tonoia Wade, in particular, to draw a high level D1 offer (not necessarily BCS high level but, you know, good basketball schools. Better perhaps than Valpo and Toledo, who have verballed MN girls in the past few days. Not that Valpo and Toledo aren't good offers--congrats to Anne Hamilton, Georgi Donchetz and Lindsay Dorr, who are going to those 2 schools.

And if that's correct--that the top 25 will command D1 opportunities, and 6 more below that already have offers--then that would be a total of about 31 D1s among the 2014s. That would be 1 more than the mighty 2013s, who got exactly 30. And the 2013s got 11 of those from BCS conferences and right now, I would expect 11 this year--10 of the top 12 plus Katie Quandt.

For the record the numbers for various years:

2014 (est.)--31 total and 11 BCS
2013--30 and 11
2012--23 and 8
2011--24 and 6
(numbers are courtesy of kjasr.com)

These numbers are perhaps skewed a little by the fact that Creighton was not high D1 (BCS) until now. I counted Creighton's recruits from previous years (Janning and McGrory) as BCS. The point is more that Creighton's change of status may have changed the way they recruit.

And, just for the record, the 2015s look more like a typical recruiting class--25 and 8--while the 2016s look more like the past 2 years--30 and 10ish.

But, returning to 2014, do the MN Gophers have any scholarships left? I didn't think so. Cayla McMorris would sure look in maroon and gold.

1. Carlie Wagner, NRHEG, 5-10, combo guard--Minnesota

2. Cayla McMorris, Park Center, 6-1, center-power forward--not verballed yet

3. Kenisha Bell, Bloomington Kennedy, 5-9, point guard--I've heard a report that she's verballed Marquette but it hasn't been confirmed

4. Tia Elbert, Tartan, 5-7, combo guard--not verballed yet

5. Chase Coley, Mpls.Washburn, 6-3, center-power forward--Iowa

6. Taylor Thunstedt, New London-Spicer, 5-8, combo guard--North Dakota State

7. Ellie Thompson, Chaska, 6-2, power forward-post--South Dakota State

8. Sydney Lamberty, Park, 5-10, off guard--Creighton

9. Bryanna Fernstrom, Chisago Lakes, 6-5, post--Iowa State

10. Bailey Norby, Forest Lake, 6-2, power forward-post--Creighton

11. Grace Coughlin, Benilde-St. Margaret's, 5-7, point guard--Minnesota

12. Kylie Brown, Simley, 6-3, forward--Creighton

13. Hannah Grim, Rosemount, 5-9, combo guard--not verballed yet

14. Maddie Dean, Jordan, 5-9, shooting guard--Drake

15. Grace Sawatzke, Monticello, 5-9, point guard--not verballed yet

16.-22. Michaela Rasmussen, Holy Family; Tonoia Wade, Kennedy; Clare Lundberg, Anoka; Bailey Strand and Brianna Rasmussen, Fergus Falls; Brooke Yaggie, Thief River Falls; Darby Youngstrom, North Woods--all not yet verballed

23. Alexis Alexander, Champlin Park, 5-8, point guard--South Dakota State

24. Katie Quandt, Lakeville South, 6-2, post--Boston College

25. Claire Ziegler, Mankato East, 5-11, forward--Mankato State

----------

31. Anne Hamilton, Minnetonka, 6-0, small forward--Valparaiso

39. McKenna Happke, Providence, 6-1, post-power forward--North Dakota State

41. Daijzah Morris, Centennial, 5-8, wing--Army

43. Georgi Donchetz, Burnsville, small forward-shooting guard--Valparaiso

45. Kyrah Fredenburg, Anoka, 5-11, small forward--Concordia (St. Paul)

47. Lindsay Dorr, Rogers, 6-2, power forward--Toledo

54. Destinee Morris, Centennial, 5-9, wing--Army

68. Alli Knuti, Mountain Iron-Buhl, 6-2, center-power forward--Bemidji State

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Orris Jirele won 4 Minnesota state basketball titles


Orris Jirele, who knew almost nothing but success on the basketball court, died last Saturday evening, September 21, 2013, of natural causes while duck hunting.

Orrie played high school ball at Austin Pacelli, leading the Shamrocks to the 1958 state Catholic championship. Austin High School won the MSHSL state championship that year, too, making this the only season ever in which teams from the same city (other than Minneapolis or St. Paul) won both the Catholic and public school titles in the same year. He then played college ball at St. Bonaventure (NY). He was the Bonnies' point guard at a time when they were rated as high as #3 in the nation (in 1961).

He returned to Minnesota where he taught math at Pacelli in 1964-1965. It was there that he met, and married, his wife of 48 years, Marie. They moved to Rochester the following year, where Orrie coached the Lourdes Eagles to the first three state Catholic basketball championships in the school's history. 

His first team, in 1965-1966, had no returning starters, no size to speak of, and no expectations of success. What they had was an aggressive full-court pressing defense—from baseline to baseline, and for 32 minutes. Nobody in southern Minnesota had ever seen anything like it, and Orrie and his kids just devastated teams with it. In the 1966 Catholic final, they hammered the DeLaSalle Islanders, who had won seven state titles in the previous dozen years, 64-43. 

The following year, Steve Fritz (yes, that Steve Fritz) transferred to Lourdes, rendering the Eagles unbeatable. But, as good as Fritz was in the lane, even he can tell you that the full-court defense of the Galuska brothers and Tom Resner was the key to their success. At the conclusion of Lourdes' unbeaten season, Jirele sent a letter to Duane Baglien, coach of the equally undefeated and two-time defending state (public) champions, proposing that the two schools meet during the 1967-1968 season. Jirele never received a response.

Lourdes won its third straight state title in March 1968, making it a clean sweep in the three years in which I lettered in high school hoops. The last game of my high school career was shellacking by Jirele's Eagles in the old Catholic regional tournament.

Jirele moved on to Green Bay, WI, in the fall of 1968, where he coached for five years. He returned to Minnesota in 1973, and coached (and taught math and was a counselor) at Albert Lea for 15 years, before retiring from coaching in 1988. Orrie took on a tough challenge, coaching basketball at the smallest school in the Big Nine and in what is generally regarded (and correctly so) as a "wrestling town." His son David was a wrestler. Still, his Tigers won three Big Nine titles, though they never played in the state tournament.

I had the pleasure of meeting Orrie many years later, thanks to his son David and granddaughter Andrea, who now plays ball at Eden Prairie. Among other things, I asked him where he learned the full-court defense that his Eagles deployed to such devastating effect. He said, oh, that was back east. Nobody played like that out here in the midwest in those days.

Jirele molded his strategies to the available talent

At Pacelli, Jirele played for legendary coach Marty Crowe who, like his protégé, also won four state Catholic titles—three in Wisconsin and the one at Pacelli. He "was known for molding his strategies to the abilities of his players," according to his obituary (in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in 1999). So it was with Jirele. He said he used full-court pressure because the Galuskas, in particular, were good at it. He never played the full-court defense at Albert Lea, he said, because he never had enough players who were good at it.

He also reminisced about the days (and confirmed that it happened) when the dads of great athletes from various and sundry southern Minnesota towns would mysteriously receive offers of good jobs at the Hormel meat packing plant in Austin on the condition, of course, that their sons would play for the Packers. He named names.

Jirele is survived by his wife, Marie, of Albert Lea; four children; and ten grandchildren. Funeral services are at 11 a.m. Thursday, September 26, 2013, at St. Theodore Catholic Church in Albert Lea. Visitation is from 4 to 7 p.m., Wednesday, September 25, at Bonnerup Funeral Service, and one hour prior to the service at the church. Memorials are requested in lieu of flowers. 

Orrie was a great basketball player, a great basketball coach, a devoted husband and father, and a wonderful, warm, engaging and very likable man who will be missed by many.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Look Out!

The Lynx got off to a good start in the WNBA playoffs, thumping Seattle 80-64 at home and winning again 58-55 on the road. Yeah, that 2nd game was a little closer than one would like. Seattle was ahead 55-54 when Seimone Augustus made the game-winner with 39 seconds left. But it's a sweep and a much stronger effort than the 2-1 win over Seattle a year ago, in which the Lynx lost game 2 on the road and won game three at home by 1 point.

Like I said in my previous post about the Lynx: So far, so good.

But wait! In another sense, I don't like what I'm seeing at all. Looking more broadly at the other 3 playoff series, the WNBA playoffs have started out like last night's Emmys: Surprises galore. And that could mean one of two things. Or it could mean two of two things. Some of these playoff teams are not that good. Or, some are peaking at the right time. Or both.

Take Indiana, please. Indiana 2 Chicago 0. Chicago, after all, won the Eastern Division title this year, while Indiana finished 4th. But this is the same Indiana team that put it all together last year at this time and clobbered the Lynx 3-1 in the finals. Well, they're obviously putting it together again this year. So there's the second case--a playoff team peaking at the right time...again.

In the other surprises, #3 Phoenix won at #2 L.A. in that 1st game, then L.A. turned around and won at Phoenix. This may indeed be a case of both teams showing off their weaknesses. And the visitor has won both games in the Atlanta (#2 in the East) vs. Washington (#3) series. Again, maybe both of these teams are signaling their weaknesses and their inability to contend for a WNBA final.

But, again, there can be little doubt that Indiana has the ability to contend for the WNBA title, and to play out of their heads at playoff time. And it's not as if they finished strong, they finished 4-4 to get to 16-18, when 1 more win could have gotten them the home court in the 1st round, at least. They did beat Chicago, however, 82-77, in Chicago. And in the 1st playoff game, the hero of last year's NBA finals, Shavonte Zellous, led the way again with 20 points. And in game 2, their other hero a year ago, Tamika Catchings, scored a game-high 18 points.

They'll play Atlanta or Washington in the Eastern final. Washington or Atlanta will have home ice, and Indiana will be favored.

The Lynx now move on to face L.A. or Phoenix in the final. They'll have the home ice and they'll be favored. L.A. remains a dangerous opponent. But for now, all eyes are on Indiana. A repeat of last year's finals are likely--in terms of the two contestants--hopefully not in terms of the outcome. The Lynx will have to slow down Zellous, and nobody could do that last year. And they'll have to find a way to score inside against Tamika Catchings, and nobody could do that last year.

But, first, L.A. Or, Phoenix. Like I said, L.A. remains a dangerous opponent. Phoenix, not so much. But all eyes are on Indiana. Go, Lynx!

Monday, September 16, 2013

So Far, So Good

The Minnesota Lynx met their 1st goal for 2013, clinching home court advantage throughout the playoffs. Considering the Lynx are 15-2 at home and 11-6 on the road--and considering the L.A. Sparks are also 15-2 at home and just 9-8 on the road, and considering that Chicago is 14-3 and 10-7--home court advantage is not window dressing.

A reasonable conclusion, without getting into the number crunching too deeply, is that the home court advantage at least doubles the Lynx' likelihood of winning their 2nd WNBA title in 3 years. They can do it without ever winning a road game.

And they finished strong, winning 8 of their last 9, including 7 in a row before a 1-point loss at L.A. and a finishing 79-66 homecourt win over the East Division champion Chicago Sky.

At the beginning of the season I said that the Lynx' chances of winning the WNBA title would ride with Maya Moore, now in her 3rd year and ready now to play like a WNBA MVP. And, indeed, she's done that. She is now listed on the WNBA Web site as 1 of 5 MVP candidates--along with Elena Delle Donna of Chicago, Angel McCoughtrey of Atlanta, Candace Parker of L.A. and Diana Taurasi of Phoenix.

Moore increased her scoring by 2 points per game to more than 18, 3rd best in the league, mostly by virtue of her deadly 3-point shooting. She leads the league, making 50 percent of her attempts. She is now perceived as being the Lynx' best player, a perception that last year at this time leaned toward Seimone Augustus. Moore has been player of the week several times, and her 35 points against Indiana are the most by any WNBA player this year.

But, somebody is quoted on the WNBA Web site saying that Maya is now the "focal point" of the Lynx, and this perception is somewhat flawed. Moore played every game for the Lynx while Augustus missed 3 games with injury. On a per game basis, Augustus took just as many shots as Moore did, and Augustus shot .516 to Moore's .509. The difference, of course, is those 3s. But Seimone's scoring average is the same as a year ago, surprisingly.

There's also been no slippage in Lindsey Whalen's game, which I had erroneously predicted. I mean, she's 31 years old. But her scoring average increased more than Moore's, from 11+ to 14+. Her shooting percentage dropped from 50 to 48 percent, but her assists increased from 5.4 to 5.8.

Put it all together and the Lynx look a bit tougher than a year ago, which is a good thing because a year ago they weren't quite tough enough.

First Round Match-Ups

Minnesota 26-8 vs. Seatttle 17-17

Seattle might have a very slight advantage inside with Tina Thompson but, seriously, that would be very slight and Minnesota has the advantageLynx sweep. at the other 4 positions. That's why the Lynx swept the season series 4-0 by an average of 79-62.

L.A. 24-10 vs. Phoenix 19-15

We keep waiting for some kind of explosion from Phoenix, but it hasn't happened yet. Meanwhile L.A. boasts one of he WNBA's top talents in Candace Parker and a solid supporting cast. Of course, Phoenix boasts one of the WNBA's top talents in Diana Taurasi, but the supporting cast is not quite as ready for the playoffs. L.A. in 3.

Chicago 24-10 vs. Indiana 16-18

This could be interesting. Indiana cranking it up a notch at playoff time a year ago to win a surprising WNBA title. Chicago presents a formidable obstacle, but is Elene Delle Donna 100 percent? She suffered a concussion late in the year and was subpar vs. Minnesota in the regular season finale. Indiana in 3.

Atlanta 17-17 vs. Washington 17-17

Angel McCoughtrey should be the difference here. Atlanta in 3.



Thursday, August 8, 2013

EDIT: ONE MORE/Jasmyn Martin to Hopkins, and Other Transfers

EDIT 7-8-13: Lizzie Odegaard is leaving Cretin to play for Minnetonka.

As has been long rumored, 6-3 freshman sensation Jasmyn Martin will not return to Bloomington Kennedy in the fall. It has now been reported that she will be playing for 3-time defending state champion Hopkins.

Martin is of course a world-class volleyball player as well as basketball player, and it just so happens that Hopkins has an all-America volleyball setter in Samantha Seliger Swenson, rated as the #1 sophomore (class of 2015) last year in the state of Minnesota by Breakdown Sports USA. She will be a junior this coming year, as Martin enters her 9th grade season. Hopkins was 27-5 last year, 5-3 in the Lake Conference. Eden Prairie won the Lake Conference title at 7-1 and defeated Hopkins in the section final to earn a trip to the state tournament.

Turning to Hopkins girls basketball, Martin joins a star-studded roster. Hopkins of course lost Nia Coffey, Mikaala Shackleford, Taylor Anderson and Erin O'Toole to graduation--all 4 going D1, though Anderson doing so in track and field rather than in hoops.

But the cupboard remains fully stocked. Here's a guess as to the Hopkins lineup come this fall.

F- Jasmyn Martin--6-3 freshman,  9 ppg with 6 rebounds at Kennedy last year, rated #1 in her class
PF- Molly O'Toole--5-10 senior, rated #26 in her class
SG/SF- T.T. Starks--5-9 junior, #2 in her class, scored 6 ppg a year ago
PG- Viria Livingston--5-7 junior, rated #15 but as high as #3 before sitting out Jan.-July with a knee
SG- Nia Hollie--5-10 sophomore, rated #3 in her class, scored 9 ppg

Bench

C- Liz Bulver--sophomore, rated #27 in her class
F- Ashley Omete--5-11 junior #66
G- Ashley Bates--5-7 sophomore #12
G- Kaezha Wubben--5-7 sophomore #34
G- Deanna Winston--5-4 freshman #13
G- Evelyn Knox--5-6 sophomore #36
G- Sierra Bagstad--5-9 sophomore #86

Hopkins' bench could probably win a couple of sections. Its full roster would seem to be utterly incapable of NOT winning a 4th straight state title. I mean, Martin moves them from heavily favored to prohibitive.

Other Transfers

A whole bunch of transfers are rumored. The ones that have been confirmed are:

Lindsay Malecha from Lakeville North to Hill-Murray
Brooke Heggie from Crookston to Alexandria
Kiara Russell from Bloomington Kennedy to Osseo
Aejah Lockett from Simley to DeLaSalle

Among the rumors are additional girls to DeLaSalle.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Another Gopher 2014 Verbal: Rangie Bessard, Houston, TX

Here's what the Alvin Sun said about the Minnesota Gopher women's latest recruit. This was at the conclusion of a summer 2013 event.

"Rangie Bessard, 6-1 forward, Houston Elite White (Manvel HS)
 Bessard continues to improve and over the weekend she showed a consistent mid-range game. She’s hard to handle in the paint, she can  score easily and rebounds on both ends. She’s also knocking down the three with regularity, even capping things off with a couple of four-point plays.  She is currently being recruited by Texas Tech, Minnesota, Mississippi State, Oregon State, Southern Mississippi and Texas Southern."

Someday Gopher fans are likely to look back on 2014 as a watershed year for the Gopher women. 2014 is now a huge group as recruiting classes go--6 girls. 

And it's notable by the fact that only 2 of the recruits are Minnesotans. 6 of 8 women on the roster as of today are from Minnesota. Only 3 of 8 in the incoming classes of 2013 and 2014 are Minnesotans. 5 of 8 are from Texas (3) and Ohio (2).

And basically coach Pam Borton whiffed on what is regarded as one of the greatest graduating classes in Minnesota history, "the Mighty 2013s." And only Carlie Wagner among the 3 current Minnesota verbals is regarded as a "catch."

Why Ohio and Texas? Well, associate head coach Curtis Loyd's hometown in Dallas, TX, and he was associate head coach at Akron U. in Ohio for 2 years from 2009-2010. Assistant coaches Ted Riverso and Kelly Roysland have no known connection to either state. 

Right now the 2016-2017 depth chart looks like this:

C- Zahui Sweden (Sr), Buckingham Ohio (Jr)
PF- Stapleton Ohio (Jr), Bessard TX (Jr) 
SF- McDaniel TX (Sr)
PG- Coughlin MN (Jr), Hedstrom MN (Sr)
SG- Wagner MN (Jr), Jacob TX (Jr)

The 4 "bigs" average 6-3.5 so it looks like the Gophers are also getting bigger. 

With the addition of Bessard, the Gophers have 1 scholarship left to give to a 2014 if they should choose to do so. It is notable that 1 of 2 offers that are known to be "out there" is also a 6-1 forward, Cayla McMorris, of Park Center. On paper she is almost a carbon copy of Bessard. The other is even taller at 6-2 but is more of a perimeter type player, Tonoia Wade of Bloomington Kennedy.  

Minnesota is known also to have an offer out to Nia Hollie, Hopkins, a 5-10 sophomore guard (class of 2016; she would be a freshman in college in 2017). No other offers are known. Among the 2015s, the #1-rated Minnesotan is Sam Trammel, Eden Prairie, 6-2, post; #2 is T.T. Starks, Hopkins, 5-9, 4 position player; #3 is Maddie Guebert, Eastview, a 5-9 scoring guard. Among the 2016s Hollie is #3. Jamie Ruden, Rochester John Marshall, a 6-2 post/power forward is #1; and Courtney Frederickson, Minnetonka, a 6-1 forward, is #2. It is perhaps a moot point, however, to wonder which (other than Hollie) the Gophers are recruiting.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

The Lynx at Half Way

You probably don't remember that I picked the Lynx to finish 2nd to the L.A. Sparks in the West and to lose to the Sparks in the division semis.

It's too early to say I'm wrong, but the Lynx have just had 1 hell of a 1st half to their season, winning 14 of 17 games, 1 more than at this time in both 2011, when they won the WNBA title, and in 2012, when they didn't.

And the Lynx are not just 1, not just 2 games better than L.A. at this point, they're 2-and-a-half better, 3 in the loss column. They're 2 ahead of the 2nd best team in the league, which right now is the Chicago Sky at 12-5.

So the Lynx and L.A. aren't the only or even the major surprises in the WNBA so far. Almost everybody is a surprise, beginning with Rookie of the Year candidates Brittney Griner and Ellena Della Donna. Griner, the favorite initially, is now running a distant 2nd to Della Donna in the Rookie race. And not only that, Della Donna, who is scoring a league 3rd best 18 ppg, has led the Sky to that gaudy 12-5 record, compared to last year's 14-20, good for 5th in the East and a seat on the outside looking in at the post-season.

Griner, meanhile, is scoring 14 ppg and Phoenix is off to a shocking 9-9 start, despite the fact that Diana Taurasi is leading the league in scoring at 22 ppg in her return from an injury that kept her out of play a year ago. (I had them 23-11, just 1 game behind the Lynx.)

Also surprising, in the East, are Connecticut and Indiana, whom I had had 1st and 2nd. They're 4th and 6th. Indiana is after all the WNBA champion but are 8-9 at the halfway point. Connecticut is a shocking 6-12 despite Tina Charles having yet another MVP caliber season at 18 points and 9 boards.

But the biggest surprise is L.A. Of course, they're 12-6, just a half-game short of the 2nd best record in the league, so I guess they're doin' OK. I mean, they gave the Lynx 2 of their 3 losses, and they were routs, 87-59 and 96-66. But they lost almost as big at Minnesota, 88-64. They're just 8-5 vs. the West. In 2 of their last 3 games before the All-Star break, they lost to Phoenix and Seattle at home.

And that brings us to the Lynx. They're playin' great.

Maya Moore leads the team in scoring, as I said she would, with 16 ppg. I said on the other hand that Lindsey Whalen's game might begin to slip at age 31. Quite the opposite. Her scoring average is way up to 16 ppg, she's averaging 5 assists and she's shooting 49 percent. Seimone Augustus' scoring average has dropped to 15 ppg, but she's shooting 52 percent. Rebekah Brunson hasn't slipped a white, averaging 10 points and 9 boards. And Monica Wright has become the super-sub that Candace Wiggins used to be.

And so the primary goal of the 2nd half of the season would seem to be quite achievable. Hold the home court for the playoffs. Of course that didn't guarantee success a year ago and it doesn't guarantee success in 2013. Still, would you rather have the home ice against L.A. (average score 88-64) or play 'em on the road (average score 62-92)?

I would have said the same thing a year ago, but I'll say it again anyway. The Sparks are the only team that stands in the way of the Lynx and another WNBA title. What if the 2 played on a neutral court?

As a team, the Lynx are out-scoring their opponents 83-74. The Sparks are out-scoring theirs 83-75. One for the Lynx.

The Lynx are out-shooting their opponents 46 percent to 40, the Sparks 47-41. One for L.A.

The Lynx are out-rebounded their opponents by a whopping 39-33.5. L.A. is even at 34-all. Another one for the Lynx.

And the Lynx are turning the ball over 12 times per game, their opponents 14. L.A. is averaging 14 turnovers, their opponents 16. So that's a draw.

In the post, L.A. has a big advantage with Candace Parker. At the small forward, the Lynx have the advantage with Maya Moore. At the point, I'll take Lindsey over former Lynx Lindsey Harding. Each has 5 assists per game, but Whalen is out-scoring Harding 16-12 and out-shooting her 49 percent to 46. At the off guard it's Seimone over Kristi Tolliver though her scoring edge is just 15-14 and both are all-stars. But Seimone is shooting 52 percent and Tolliver 47.

At the big forward again there's a pair of all-stars in Brunson (10 points 9 boards 47 percent) and Nneka Ogumwike (14 points 7 boards 58 percent). Gotta be Nneka.

But a slight edge at the 2 guards and a big edge in Maya Moore means the Lynx win on a neutral court. But, of course, they won't be playing on a neutral court, the Lynx will have the home court advantage.

But that brings us to Maya Moore. She leads the Lynx in scoring. She led the 4 Lynx in the all-star game with 14 (Seimone had 12 Brunson 11 and Lindsey 8). But in the last 3 games before the all-star game she didn't score more than 14 points. In 3 games against L.A. she's scored 21 points on 8-of-27 shooting.

I said in my pre-season post that Maya Moore was the key to the Lynx contending, much less winning, the 2014 WNBA title. I still think that's so. They'll need a more consistent performance from Maya. In the meantime, of course, it doesn't hurt that Lindsey, Rebekah and Seimone are also playing like all-stars.

Revised Playoff Forecast

Eastern Division

#1 Atlanta 2 Washington 0
#2 Chicago 2 Indiana 1
Atlanta 2 Chicago 1. Chicago's chances rest entirely on Elena Della Donna's successful recovery from a concussion suffering in the final game before the all-star break.

Western Division

Minnesota 2 San Antonio 0
L.A. 2 Phoenix 0
Minnesota 2 L.A. 1. Minnesota's win depends on maintaining the home court advantage over the Sparks.

Finals

Minnesota 3 Atlanta 1. Minnesota's win depends on Maya Moore playing like the Maya Moore of the Olympics and the all-star game, and not the Maya Moore who seems to defer to Seimone as a Lynx.


Friday, July 26, 2013

UPDATE Greatest Athletes of Minneapolis

Yahoo and facebook have now picked the top 10 greatest athletes of Minneapolis. They are:

Rod Carew--whom I said they should and would pick

Cris Carter--whom I left off both of my lists. I thought they would pick Jared Allen over Carter, and they did not.

Kevin Garnett--whom I said they would pick

Harmon Killebrew--whom I said they should and would pick

Joe Mauer--whom I said they should and would pick

Randy Moss--ugh!

Alan Page--whom I left off both of my lists, but he's a good pick nevertheless

Adrian Peterson--whom I said they should and would pick

Kirby Puckett--whom I said they should and would pick

Fran Tarkenton--whom I said they would pick

So I said they would pick Jared Allen, Tom Lehman and George Mikan and they did not. They picked Cris Carter, Randy Moss and Alan Page in their place.

I said they should pick Vern Gagne, Moose Goheen, Kevin McHale, Mikan, Bronko Nagurski and Lindsay Whalen and they did not. They picked Carter, Garnett, Mauer, Moss, Page and Tarkenton in their place.

Bottom line is their list is even worse than it had to be, I mean, Randy Moss? If they wanted somebody I didn't pick, they could at least have gone for Neal Broten.

Now the question is, Who are users of Yahoo and facebook going to elect as the single greatest athlete ever from Minneapolis? I would think Kirby would be a shoo-in, but we'll see. Maybe Randy Moss!? Or, seriously, I guess Adrian Peterson would be a threat, if only because the youngest generation, who didn't see Puckett, has seen AP.

Personally I think George Mikan is the right choice.

----------


Yahoo Sports and facebook are running a joint promotion called Greatest Athletes by City. They pick what they call the 10 greatest athletes of various cities, and then regular folks get to vote for 1 as the single greatest or "most beloved" or whatever athlete from that city. They've now posted their picks for 11 cities including, most notably, Boston and Chicago.

Boston's top 10 includes 4 former Celtics, 3 former Red Sox, 2 former Bruins and Tom Brady. So, yes, only professional athletes need apply. My personal choice for Boston's greatest athlete, among those 10, would be Bobby Orr ahead of Ted Williams and Yaz and Tom Brady and Bill Russell and Larry Bird. Boston has a pretty good list.

Chicago, too. My choice would reluctantly be Michael Jordan. I say reluctantly not because I have anything against Michael, but it's hard not to vote for Dick Butkus or Sweetness, Walter Payton, or Ernie Banks. The top 10 included 3 Bears, 3 Cubs, 2 Black Hawks, 1 White Sox and 1 Bull.

Not only are the lists limited to pros but they're pretty much limited to athletes that people living today have seen. So there's no old-timers like Tris Speaker or Joe Cronin in Boston, or Frank Chance in Chicago, nor are there any college players like George Mikan of DePaul (in Chicago) or Doug Flutie of Boston College.

So that brings us to Minneapolis. That's what's been promised, the best athletes of Minneapolis. What they mean, obviously, is the best of the Twins, Vikings, North Stars and Wild, and Timberwolves...and maybe the Lakers if that's not too long ago.

That's unfortunate, I mean that there's no room on these lists for old timers combined with the fact that it's pros only. Minneapolis, unlike many major cities, has a major university within its boundaries. In Illinois it's Champaign, not Chicago (though there is Northwestern), in Michigan it's Ann Arbor and East Lansing, not Detroit, in Ohio it's Columbus, not Cincinnati or Cleveland.

So here's who I think they'll pick, and then here's who I think they should pick.

Will Pick

Jared Allen, Minnesota Vikings
Rod Carew, Minnesota Twins
Kevin Garnett, Minnesota Timberwolves
Harmon Killebrew, Minnesota Twins
Tom Lehman, golfer
Joe Mauer, Minnesota Twins
George Mikan, Minneapolis Lakers
Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings
Kirby Puckett, Minnesota Twins
Fran Tarkenton, Minnesota Vikings

Should Pick

Carew
Killebrew
Mikan
Peterson
Puckett

plus Vern Gagne, U of M and professional wrestler
Moose Goheen, ice hockey player
Kevin McHale, U of M
Bronko Nagurski, U of M
Lindsay Whalen, U of M and Minnesota Lynx

First I like old-timers, and especially guys like Moose Goheen, the best ice hockey player the state has ever produced (with apologies to #2, Neal Broten) and Bronko Nagurski, the best football player (apologies to Heisman Trophy winner Bruce Smith).

Second, since the U of M is located squarely in Minneapolis, I would make U athletes eligible for this list--especially Vern Gagne, the best wrestler ever (apologies to Jesse Ventura) and Kevin McHale, the best male basketball player at least based on his pro career.

And third, would it kill 'em to have a woman on the list? Lindsay Whalen has to be on the list, and here I'm not even appealing to her U career but as the leader of the Lynx WNBA champs of 2011.

It was very tough leaving Broten, Mauer and Tarkenton off the list, and also golfer Patty Berg, one of the top 10 women golfers of all-time with a much-better career than Tom Lehman.