Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Big Game Feb. 28: Welcome to the New World Order


Northome Kelliher 75 Lake of the Woods 29 regular season game
Barnum 85 Hinckley-Finlayson 42 regular season game
Ely 88 Northeast Range 48 regular season game


Marantha 127 Learning for Leadership 5 Section 4A #1 seed vs. #16 I repeat 127-5
DeLaSalle 83 Fridley 14 Section 3AAA #1 vs. #8
St. Paul Humboldt 77 Cristo Rey Jesuit 12 Section 4AA #E3 vs, #14
Southwest Christian 65 North Lakes 6 Section 4A#2 vs. #15
Isle 72 Pillager 17 Section 5A #E1 vs. #E8
Ada-Borup 69 Rothsay 17  Section 6A #N-1 vs. #N-8
Pine River-Backus 90 Northland 38 Section 5A #E2 vs. E7
St. Croix Lutheran 72 Mpls. Henry 22 Section 4AA #4 vs. #13

There cannot possibly be a Player of the Day or a Coach of the Day from games like these, nor least of all any athletic leadership that has created a system where teams and players are asked to end their seasons and their careers in match-ups like these. People who say that athletics are the tail that is wagging the dog cannot possibly explain how games like these can happen. I mean, 127-5! Somebody do something so that games like this never occur again!

My high school, I am sorry to say, was a #8 seed and I ended my high school career vs. a #1 seed, in fact, a team that went on to win the state championship. This grotesque mis-match ended up 79-39, and my teammates and I were suitably embarrassed. Today, half the teams that are seeded #7, #8, #14, #15, #16 would think that 79-39 was a Herculean effort and it would be! Something has to be done to protect kids from humiliations like these. Life is hard enough without this kind of thing. Please!

The Big Game Feb. 27: Shakopee girls 62 Eden Prairie 40

Eden Prairie started the year 14-2 but then came the Lake Conference season plus a non-conference game at DeLaSalle. The result was a 1-9 finish...well, now, 1-10, after a shocking loss at home as the #3 seed in Section 2AAAA to #6 seed Shakopee. Shakopee started 8-7 and finished 1-3 but in between there were 6 straight wins. The bottom line: the Eagles' confidence was shot, while the Sabers were still ready to play their game. That meant hitting 8-of-11 3s in the 1st half en route to a 42-21 lead. In the 2nd half, Shakopee hit 3-of-6 3s for a total of 11-of-17. 33 of their 60 points came from beyond the arc. Haley Zerr scored 21 and Taylor Koenen 18 for the Sabers. It is Shakopee's 1st ever playoff win in Class AAAA and their 1st in any class since 2003.

Player of the Day: But the Player of the Day is the amazing Tia Elbert, who scored 49 points as #4 seed Tartan defeated #5 seed Cretin-DH in Section 4AAAA 69-65.

Coach of the Day: Juan Mitchell, Shakopee girls

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Big Game Feb. 26: Minnesota Gopher men 77 Indiana Hoosiers 73

For the 4th time in history, the Gopher men have beaten a #1-rated opponent at Williams Arena. The 1st was defending national champ Kentucky in 1951. The 2nd was Indiana the following year. Illinois was the 3rd in 1998. And now Indiana is the 1st to lose at the Barn twice as the #1 team in the nation.

The Gophers made just 7-of-14 FT inside of 2:30 and so failed to give themselves and their fans a little more breathing room. Instead the game was clinched finally only on an Andre Hollins FT at :03.

Minnesota led early 8-2 and 16-10, but Indiana ripped off a 13-2 run to lead 23-18 at 8:55 of the 1st. The Gophers tied it up at 27 at 7:03 on a Maverick Ahanmisi 3, but trailed 34-30 at the half. The Hoosiers had their largest lead, 44-36 at 15:42 of the 2nd.

That's when Minnesota prevented the loss, outscoring Indiana 15-2 to go ahead 51-48 at 8:51. Ahanmisi's 2nd huge 3 started the run. What then to think of Eliot Eliason's 3 straight buckets, 1 of them starting a 2 + 1, over the next 2 minutes. Then two Andre Ingram FTs tied it up, and an Andre Hollins 3 put the Gophers ahead.

4 minutes later Indiana re-took the lead at 59-58. Now Minnesota ran off a 10-2 streak on an Austin Hollins 2 + 1, an Andre 3, a lay-up by Rodney Williams and a fastbreak dunk by Joe Coleman. 68-61. 2:31 to go. Indiana stayed close the rest of the way but never caught up. In fact, it was never a 1 possession game with the Hoosiers in possession.

The numbers were pretty close except for 1. Minnesota made 5 more FG on 11 more attempts thanks to 23 offensive rebounds. The 2nd chance points were 23-8. Mbakwe and Austin had 10 of the 23 offensive boards. Mbakwe also led with 21 points.

Player of the Day: Trevor Mbakwe
Coach of the Day: Tubby Smith

5 Minnesota Teams in D3 Tournament

5 Minnesota teams--3 women's and 2 men's, and 3 MIAC and 2 UMAC--have been selected to play in the 2 (men's and women's) 64 team NCAA D3 championship tournaments. Those teams are:

The Men

• The St. Thomas men are 26-1 and rated #1 nationally, so they'll open at home against Aurora (22-6).

• Northwestern (Roseville) men, regular and post-season champs of the UMAC, 21-6 and unrated. They will open at Wisconsin-Stevens Point. The Pointer men are 21-5 and #14 nationally.

As long as the Tommies are victorious they should retain the home court (until the quarter-finals, anyway) while St. Scholastica seems destined to stay on the road as long as they keep winning.

The Women

• Concordia (Moorhead) women, regular season champions of the MIAC at 19-3, go into the NCAA tournament 21-6 overall. They are the only at-large selection among the 5. They too will open at Wisconsin-Stevens Point 23-5, #21, though on Friday versus the men's game on Saturday. The Pointers won their 6th straight WIAC playoff title by defeating regular season champion Wisconsin-Whitewater 78-71 in OT. The winner of Friday's game will play the winner of Simpson versus Westminster, MO, at Stevens Point on Saturday.

• The St. Scholastica women advance as the UMAC post-season champs, with just a 13-14 record overall. They open on Friday with Cornell (IA), 24-1 and #14, at Mount Vernon, IA, where Calvin is the host school.

• The St. Thomas women stumbled in January and therefore are 22-5 but rated just #36, and they open on the road Friday at Calvin, 23-3, #3. The 2 met in the season-opener for both schools with Calvin winning 78-72. The 2 also met for the D3 volleyball title last fall with St. Thomas winning that one, 3-2. The Calvin-St. Thomas winner will play the Cornell-St. Scholastica winner on Saturday.


Storylines include 1) the most peculiar post-season format ever seen. In honor of the 75th anniversary of the NCAA championships, D1, D2 and D3 finals will all be held April 7 and 8 in Atlanta. That means that the men's D3 tournament will sprawl out over a 6-week period. The 1st, 2nd and 3rd rounds are on successive Saturdays March 2, 9 and 16, all at the higher remaining seeds.

The Elite 8 and Final 4 will be played Friday and Saturday March 22 and 23 in Salem, VA. 2 winners will emerge from there, and will play for the championship TWO WEEKS LATER in Atlanta. What a stupid arrangement. 6 games in 6 weeks. The champion will be the team that can stay awake for the whole affair.

The 2nd storyline for us Minnesotans is St. Thomas, St. Thomas, St. Thomas. 1 for the men, 1 for the women and another for the obvious overkill. Can't anybody here beat these people? But now that they've advanced (and let's be honest, Concordia and St. Scholastica are not going to get the job done), let's see if they can (no, let's cheer for them to) repeat their success of 2 years ago (when the men won the national title) and a year ago (when the women made it to the Final Four).

The women, by the way, play a normal timeline. 2 games this weekend, 2 next weekend, and 2 the weekend after that, at least for the 2 finalists.

In summary, I expect the Tommies men to win a bunch of games, while the Tommies women? If they can get past Calvin, they could win a bunch, too, but NCAA did them no favors making them play the #3 team on the road in the 1st round. Still, they're playing well of late and a victory is hardly out of the question. Everybody else is probably one a done.

The Big Game Feb. 25--Maple River boys, Parkers Prairie girls win

The #5AA Maple River boys hammered #3AA Fairmont 83-72, while the #6A Parkers Prairie girls edged the #9A Upsala girls 59-56 as the high school regular season drew to a close.

Last week Maple River had won at #4AA St. Peter 62-61 in 2OT--a game in which St. Peter coach Kelly Raymond earned an ejection and a 2-game suspension. Now the Eagles under coach Chad Ostermann (star of their 1993 state champs) have closed out the regular season with 2 straight wins against higher rated opponents. Maple River and St. Peter are expected to be seeded #1 in the southern and northern halves of section 2AA but we shall see. Fairmont, meanwhile, is still expected to be seeded #1 in the southern half of section 3AA.

Mitch Pfingsten of Fairmont scored 31 points against Maple River but it wasn't enough.

Meanwhile both Parkers Prairie in 6A South and Upsala in 5A West have #1 seeds.

Player of the Day: Mitch Pfingsten, Fairmont boys

Coach of the Day: Chad Ostermann, Maple River boys

Sunday, February 24, 2013

NSIC Playoff Preview

The NSIC finished regular season play Saturday night with the Mankato State men and Concordia (St. Paul) women claiming Southern Division titles, and St. Cloud State on top in both men's and women's play. Before my friends from St. Cloud get too carried away, however, it should be pointed out if the Huskies were in the South that they'd be tied for 3rd (the men) and in 4th (the women). Still, they did what they had to do to get home ice for 2 rounds of playoffs.

This blog being called Minnesota Hoops, I must hasten to point out that all 4 division titles went to Minnesota teams but then, of course, so did all 4 of the last-place finishes which were claimed by the Minnesota-Crookston and Concordia men and the Crookston and Southwest State women.

Unlike the MIAC, everybody makes these playoffs, though for most if not all of your 7th and 8th seeds the thrill will give way to agony most swiftly. Here are the playoff match ups (those involving at least 1 Minnesota team). Playoffs commence Wednesday night (Feb. 27) at the higher seeds.


#8S Concordia (9-17) at #1N St. Cloud State (19-7)
#7N Mary (4-22) at #2S Winona State (23-6)
#6S Wayne State (17-11) at #3N Bemidji State (15-11)
#8N UM-Crookston (4-22) at #1S Mankato State (22-4)
#5S SW Minnesota State (16-13) at #4N Moorhead (MN) (18-10)
#6N UMD (8-18) at #3S Augustana (19-7)


#8S SW State (4-24) at #1N St. Cloud State (18-8)
#5N UMD (14-12) at #4S Winona State (19-10)
#7N Bemidji State (11-15) at #2S Mankato State (22-4)
#6S Sioux Falls (12-14) at Moorhead State (15-11)
#8N UM-Crookston (8-18) at #1S Concordia (21-5)

In theory, the home teams should all win. They're at home! And in theory, they're at home because they proved themselves to be better teams over the course of 22 conference games. But, not so. What's been proven is that the South is a lot tougher than the North, and probably always will be. The new Southern Division includes perennial powers Augustana, Mankato and Winona (both genders) and the Concordia women. The North includes only St. Cloud and UMD. And with UMD down this year, no amount of over-achieving at Moorhead or Bemidji can make up for that.

So, in fact, most of the #5 and #6 seeds from the South will probably win on the road.

But no matter what happens in the 1st round of the playoffs, the big surprises have already happened. Sure, if a #5 or below wins 2 road games to get to the semi-finals in Rochester, then we'll stop the presses. But for now, the big surprises have already happened.

Surprise! Surprise!

The biggest is just how poorly the coaches did in prognosticating their conference. Not a single one of the 4 teams they picked to win their division did so, and in fact the 4 of them finished on average about third-and-a-half. The 4 that did win were picked on average to finish just a hair above 3rd place. Let the record show that I at least got the St. Cloud men right, and picked the Concordia women for 3rd versus the coaches picking them all the way down in 5th. (Of course, I had the St. Cloud women 6th, so....)

The big surprises, team by team, were of course the 4 winners--the St. Cloud and Mankato men, and the St. Cloud and Concordia women. But seriously, is it really ever a surprise when these teams win? Not really. So even bigger surprises were:

• Bemidji men, picked 5th or 6th, finished 3rd
• Upper Iowa men, picked 7th, finished 4th
• Minot State women, picked 8th, finished 6th

The big disappointments are:

• Moorhead men, picked 1st or 2nd, finished 4th
• Southwest State men, picked 1st or 2nd, finished 5th
• Concordia men, picked 5th or 6th, finished 8th
• UMD women, picked 1st or 2nd, finished 4th (tie)
• UM-Crookston women, picked 4th and 6th, finished 8th
• Augustana women, picked 1st, finished 3rd

So there were lots of surprises. Second was the performance of the players picked as pre-season Players of the Year for their respective divisions--Alex Feeney, Katrina Newman, Alex Novak and Clayton Vette. Not to say they performed poorly, and that a couple of them might be post-season PoY as well. But overall they came up a bit short of expectations. Well, excepting Vette.

Feeney, for example, dropped from 16 ppg a year ago to 15 this year, and of course her team came in 3rd after being predicted to win the division title. More to the point, Ali Wilkinson of Mankato, the division champ, has the look of the South MVP. Katrina Newman of UMD increased her production from 14 ppg to 16, but her team slumped from a predicted 1st place finish to a 4th place tie. Newman might still be the top player but Jessica Benson of St. Cloud and Ali Collins of Mary deserve consideration as well. Novak increased his production from 12 to 13 ppg but his team, picked for 1st, also slumped to 4th place. I kind of like Shaun Jensen of St. Cloud as PoY.

Vette, on the other hand, increased his scoring from 17 ppg to 21 but his team, picked 1st, finished 2nd.  He's the MVP in the South.

All-Conference Men

C- Clayton Vette, Winona State, 6-9, senior, 21 pts, 8 reb
F- Alex Novak, Moorhead State, 60-8, senior, 13 pts, 9 reb, 2 blk
F- Colin Pryor, Northern, 6-5, senior, 16 pts, 8 reb
G- Shaun Jensen, St. Cloud State, 6-4, senior, 14 pts, 5 assists
G- Cameron McCaffrey, Augustana, 6-1, senior, 21 pts, 4 assists

Second Team

C- Assem Marei, Mankato State, 6-8, junior, 13 pts, 7 reb
F- Brett Ervin, Minnesota-Duluth, 6-7, senior, 16 pts
F- Theo Rothstein, St. Cloud State, 6-5, senior, 17 pts, 2 stl
G- Zack Monaghan, Mankato State, 6-2, sophomore, 12 pts, 6 asts, 3 stl
G- Anthony Tucker, Moorhead State, 6-5, senior, 20 pts, 4 asts

All-Conference Women

C- Carly Boag, Minot, 6-2, junior, 18 pts, 12 reb
PF- Ali Wilkinson, Mankato State, 6-0, junior, 17.5 pts, 8 reb
SF- Anika Whiting, Concordia, 6-2, sophomore, 18 pts
PG- Rachel Hansen, Concordia, 6-0, junior, 11 pts, 5 asts
SG-Whitney Kieffer, Upper Iowa, 5-9, sophomore, 19 pts, 7 reb, 3 asts

Second Team

C- Megan Strese, Moorhead State, 6-0, junior, 15 pts, 10 reb
PF- Alex Feeney, Augustana, 6-0, senior, 15 pts
SF- Katrina Newman, UMD, 5-11, junior, 16 pts, 8 reb, 3 asts
PG- Ali Collins, Mary, 5-9, senior, 15 pts, 5 asts
SG- Laura Johnson, Sioux Falls, 6-0, junior, 13 pts


There's probably not a national championship contender here this year like the Winona State men of 2006-2007-2008 and the Mankato State women of 2009, but there's a lot of great talent. I expect the Mankato men and the Concordia women to win the NSIC playoffs and to go a fer piece in the D2 playoffs, probably somewhere around the Final 8, probably not Final 4.

The Big Game Feb. 24--St. Thomas men 92 Augsburg 65

The Augsburg men made a game of it for a half and, based on the kind of season St. Thomas has had, that is about all one could expect. And so, leading 35-32 late in the 1st half, the Auggies watched the Tommies hit 3 3s down the stretch for a 41-35 halftime lead. And, then, St. Thomas dominated the 2nd half 51-30 for an easy 92-65 win.

Leading 44-38 early in the 2nd, St. Thomas put it away with a 16-5 spurt. Suddenly it was 60-43. Game over.

And make no mistake, Augsburg played pretty well--shot 44 percent, committed just 10 turnovers, scored 13 2nd chance points. But, seriously, St. Thomas is not 26-1, rated #1 in the nation for no reason. The Tommies out-did the Auggies every which way--shot 58 percent and 60 percent (12-of-20) on the 3s, committed just 8 turnovers, and scored 15 points off Augsburg turnovers.

Tommy Hannon scored 22 points with 6 boards for St. Thomas. Will DeBerg scored 20. John Nance scored 7 but added 9 boards and 2 blocks, Zach Reidemann scored just 6 but added 7 assists and 3 steals. Noah Kaiser scored just 4 but added 5 assists.

Augburg was led by Dan Kornbaum with 20 points and 10 boards, Andy Seidlitz with 13, 5 boards and 8 assists, and Parker Hines with 10, 4 assists and 3 steals.

Player of the Day: Hannon
Coach of the Day: John Tauer, St. Thomas

The Big Game(s) for February

Week 1 Feb. 1-7--Iowa at Minnesota week

Fri., Feb. 1--Delano boys at Litchfield
Sat., Feb. 2--St. Thomas men and women at Augsburg, doubleheader
Sun., Feb. 3--Iowa men at Minnesota
Mon., Feb. 4--St. Olaf men and women at Carleton, doubleheader
Tues., Feb. 5--Park Center boys at Osseo
Wed., Feb. 6--Gustavus women at St. Thomas
Thurs., Feb. 7--Iowa women at Minnesota

Week 2 Feb. 8-14--Gopher men's momentum week 

Fri., Feb. 8--Winona State men and women at St. Cloud State, doubleheader
Sat., Feb. 9--St. Ben's women at St. Thomas
Sun., Feb. 10--Illinois men at Minnesota
Mon., Feb. 11--Minnesota Timberwolves at Cleveland
Tues., Feb. 12--Hawley boys at Pelican Rapids
Wed., Feb. 13--St Ben's women at St. Mary's
Thurs., Feb. 14--Wisconsin men at Minnesota

Week 3 Feb. 15-21--MIAC regular season ends, playoffs begin

Fri., Feb. 15--Mountain Lake boys at Southwest MN Christian
Sat., Feb. 16--Gustavus men and women at Concordia (Moorhead), doubleheader
Sun., Feb. 17--Northwestern women at Minnesota
Mon., Feb. 18--Win-E-Mac girls at Crookston
Tues., Feb. 19--Lakeville North boys at Apple Valley
Wed., Feb. 20--Gopher men at Ohio State  Northwestern (Roseville) in a UMAC semi-final double-header: the women vs. Martin Luther at 5:30, the men vs. Minnesota-Morris at 7:30
Thurs., Feb. 21--MIAC women's playoff semi-finals: St. Mary's at St. Thomas, St. Ben's at Concordia

Week 4 Feb. 22-28--NSIC and Girls regular season ends, playoffs begin

Fri., Feb. 22--Eden Prairie boys at Edina, Edina girls at Eden Prairie, also Woodbury boys at Roseville
Sat., Feb. 23--Winona State men and women at Augustana, doubleheader MIAC women's final St. Thomas at Concordia
Sun., Feb. 24--MIAC men's final Augsburg at St. Thomas
Mon., Feb. 25--Parker's Prairie girls at Upsala
Tues., Feb. 26--Indiana men at Minnesota Girls sectionals, Section 6AAA looks best (Waconia-Holy Family?)
Wed., Feb. 27--Girls sectionals continue, Section 2AAAA looks best (Lakeville South-Chanhassan?)
Thurs., Feb. 28--Fairmont boys at St. Peter

EDIT Feb. 18: I have to find a different game for the 20th and the 26th, as it is highly unlikely that any Gopher men's game the rest of the way can reasonably be referred to as a Big Game.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Stillwater boys 51 Henry Sibley 41

It's shocking to me just how few match-ups there are between Classic Suburban and Suburban East teams, but of course I'm biased by my east metro/Washington County perspective. Out here everybody is in Section 4AAAA, or so it seems. East Ridge, Mahtomedi, Stillwater, Tartan, Woodbury plus nearby (Ramsey County) Mounds View, North St. Paul, Roseville and White Bear Lake, most in the Suburban East, some in the Classic Suburban, all occupying the same geography. You'd think they'd be natural choices for non-conference match-ups.

One (match-up) that you wouldn't immediately think of would be Henry Sibley (of the Classic Suburban and Section 3AAAA) versus Stillwater, but that was 1 of just 9 such match-ups this year, and it happened at Stillwater on Saturday night. The outcome was perhaps to be expected, based on the fact that the Suburban East had won 6 of 8 previous games, including an 80-59 Stillwater rout of a Mahtomedi team that had beaten Tartan who beat Hopkins. Meanwhile, Henry Sibley, to put the best possible face on things, had beaten Richfield who beat Tartan who beat Hopkins.

In the absence of sectional seeds, not yet announced, one might note that Stillwater (17-6 going into tonight's game) is rated #3 in section 4AAAA by QRF while Sibley (15-8) was just #6 in Section 3AAAA by QRF. How is it, then, that Sibley led Stillwater 37-36 as late as 10:45 and trailed by just 43-41 approaching the 2 minute mark. Bias in favor of the all-AAAA Suburban East at the expense of the mixed AAA-AAAA Classic Suburban? Surely.

But bias or no, the fact is that Stillwater redeemed the Suburban East by out-scoring Sibley 15-4 after 13:32 and 8-0 in the final 2:05 to gain a 51-41 win that was much closer than the final score suggests. It probably didn't hurt down the stretch that Stillwater enjoyed the home court advantage, as the Suburban East did in the vast majority of games with the Classic Suburban. Apparently the Suburban East has enough of a problem committing to play Classic Suburban opponents. But on the road? Fuggeddaboudit.

The fact is that Stillwater and Sibley played nip and tuck for 36 minutes. In fact, take away the Ponies' advantage on the offensive glass--not to say that 2nd chance points are not a legitimate difference-maker, but setting aside that particular skill at which Stillwater excelled by a margin of 16-7--and the game is a virtual dead heat. What's more, take away the Ponies' 10-3 advantage on points off turnovers and what remains is a 31-25 Sibley advantage "5-on-5," you might say as a figure of speech. Stillwater's win was totally the work, by virtue of this analogy at least, of a 23-10 edge on the part of its "special teams"--its offensive rebounding "team" and its turnover-capitalizing (or perhaps one could say, its "transition") team.

Granting again that this hockey metaphor is just a metaphor, but it helps explain why Sibley ended up on the short end of a 43-41 deficit at the 2 minute mark, after which Stillwater drained 6-of-8 FT to secure the victory. Offensive boards and turnovers. The possession game. Stillwater had more opportunities to score: In fact, Sibley got off 48 FG attempts to the Ponies' 46, but Stillwater shot 23 FT to the Warriors' 5, and made 17 to just 4, which would be another way of describing the Ponies' winning margin. Getting to the FT line. And, again, not to say that this is a phony skill. It is real, and it wins games.

Stillwater ran out to an early 9-2 lead, but Sibley fought back to tie it up at 14 on a Jake Golberg 2 + 1. But Stillwater sub Joel Malwitz scored 12 seconds later to retake the lead. Later Sibley tied it at 26 on a Zach Haas with under 10 seconds remaining in the half and, wouldn't you know, Stillwater scored on an Andrew Duxbury FT with under a second to play to lead 27-26 at the half.

In the 2nd half, Sibley took its 1st lead of the game 30-29 on another Golberg bucket and 32-31 on another Haas bucket and 33-32 on a 3 by Adam Heussner. Stillwater responded in less than 20 seconds each time, leaving the Warriors to wonder what the heck was the point of taking the lead if the Ponies would just take it back every time. Well, except that a Golberg 3 at 13:32 gave Sibley a lead it would hold for almost 3 minutes. But while Stillwater went 4 minutes without a bucket, Sibley would, too. And then trailing 43-41, Sibley would fail to scored for  the entire last 7 minutes of play.

Duxbury was held in check much of the way but finished with 15 points, 7 boards and 2 assists. Sophomore Matt Anderson was also solid with 11 points, 12 rebounds and 2 assists. Golberg led the Warriors with 15 points, adding 6 boards and 2 blocks. Stillwater stymied Sibley's 3-point shooters. The Warriors made 5-of-11 from behind the arc, but long-range bombers Haas and Huessner finished with just 12 points between them, not usually enough to make a winner of their team.

Looking ahead, Stillwater sorely lacks the athleticism to compete with Roseville, Tartan and Woodbury in section 4AAAA while best possible case Sibley would face Tyus Jones and Apple Valley in the 3AAAA final, in which a Sibley win cannot reasonably be foreseen. Still, having seen the Sibley boys struggle the past couple of years since the departure of coach Tom Dasovich, they have become vastly better organized and purposeful this year. I'm not much for moral victories but if I were I'd say pushing Stillwater down inside of 2 minutes on the Ponies' home court would be a good example, both for themselves and their under-appreciated conference.

The Big Game Feb. 23: St. Thomas women win MIAC playoff title

All's well that ends well.

The St. Thomas women opened the year as prohibitive favorites to win the MIAC title, and that's just what they did Saturday afternoon, beating Concordia (Moorhead) 58-50 in the playoff final. But the path to the title was anything but what was expected back in November.

The Tommies under coach Ruth Sinn somehow lost 3 out of 4 during 1 stretch in January, falling as far as 4th place in the MIAC. But they righted themselves in time to win 9 straight down the stretch to get the 2nd seed for the playoffs. A 1st round bye and the home court for the conference semi helped the Tommies to beat St. Mary's 69-60.

But the they found themselves trailed the Cobbers most of the way including 43-37 and 45-41 approaching the halfway mark of the 2nd half. Undaunted, the Tommies ripped off 12 straight points to lead by 8. Concordia fought back to within 53-50 but turned it over, missed a potential game-tying 3 and then turned it over again, and St. Thomas hit 5-of-6 throws inside of 22 seconds for the final.

Kellie Ring of St. Thomas and Emily Thesing of Concordia each scored 16 points while Tricia Sorenson of Concordia had 8 points and 9 boards.

Now comes the wait to see who, if anyone, from the MIAC joins the Tommies in the NCAA D3 tournament, and when and where they'll play.

Player of the Day: DeLaSalle boys hammered Mpls. Washburn 83-42 in a repeat of last year's Class AAA state final as PoD Reid Travis poured in 36 points.

Coach of the Day: Dave Thoreson, DeLaSalle boys, has the Islanders poised to repeat as champions of Class AAA.

Roseville boys outclass Woodbury 74-52

5 weeks ago Roseville was the hot team, 12-1 overall, rated #3. Woodbury, then 10-3, brought the Raiders down to earth 80-71 at Woodbury. Now it was Woodbury that was hot with 9 straight wins since the Roseville game, 13 straight wins in all, 20-3, rated #5. Roseville had lost 3 more since the Woodbury game, dropping to 17-5 and #10. The tables had turned, and now they've turned again, as Roseville put an old-fashioned whuppin' on the Royals 74-52.

Things started out inauspiciously enough for Woodbury as junior forward Charlie Olson went down less than 2 minutes into the game with what looked like a left knee injury. He was helped off the floor, directly to the dressing room, and he only returned at half-time on crutches to the bench.

It was just 2-0 at that point on a Jordan Burich bucket after a Burich offensive board and a Mack Johnson assist. Soon it was 7-0 as Johnson scored off the offensive glass and Kobe Critchley nailed a 3.  Woodbury matched the 7-0 run to tie it up at 7-all, but Roseville answered with another 7 and this time Woodbury never caught up. They got within 17-15 and 20-18, but the Raiders out-scored the Royals 9-1 inside of 2 minutes to lead 37-24 at the half.

Roseville shot a mediocre 14-of-38 (37 percent) in the half, but the Royals were a dreadful 7-of-28 (25 percent). Johnson had 10 points and 7 boards in the 1st half.

Woodbury got within 10 at 42-32 and 57-47 in the 2nd half but never put together a serious run. It would be hard to do that shooting 7-of-24 (29 percent) in the 2nd half, which is what the Royals did, including a horrifying 2-of-11 2s. For the night they were 14-of-52 FGs (27 percent). They got to the FT line 18 times but converted only 10. Forward Mario Franco scored 15 to lead the Royals but guards Renard Suggs and Diallo Powell, who ordinarily do a lot of the heavy lifting, combined for just 13 points on 3-of-22 shooting.

Roseville, meanwhile, had a plethora of weapons. As a team the Raiders shot 13-of-23 (57 percent) in the 2nd half and 44 percent for the night. The rebounds were 43-31 Roseville. Johnson was spectacular, scoring 25 points on 9-of-18 shooting, plus 11 boards, 3 assists and 2 steals. Sophomore guard Kobe Critchley added 17 points on 5-of-11 shooting.

The Big Game Feb. 22--MIAC Men's Finals Set

Finally there's an upset in the MIAC playoffs, as the Augsburg men win at Concortdia 76-67. They'll visit top seed St. Thomas Sunday at 2 p.m. for the post-season title. The Tommies defeated Carleton 70-57.

Both games took a dramatic turn late. Carleton and St. Thomas were 57-all at 4:32, but the Tommies closed it out on a 13-0 run. Scott Thiesen was a 1-man gang for the Knights with 31 points, 3 assists and 2 steals.

Augsburg led Concordia by 14 late, but the Cobbers put on a 14-2 run to get within 2 at 1:23. But Concordia missed a tying 3 pointer and that's where the rally ended. Dan Kornbaum had 18 points and 9 boards for Augsburg, while Dewon McKenzie of Concordia had 18 points, 8 assists and 3 steals.

Player of the Day: Thiesen

Coach of the Day: Ted Critchley of the Roseville boys who clobbered Woodbury 74-52 in a revenge game.

Friday, February 22, 2013

The Big Game Feb. 22--#1 and #2 Concordia and St. Thomas Women Advance to MIAC Finals

Concordia (Moorhead) pulled away from a 29-29 half-time tie to defeat St. Ben's 64-48, while St. Thomas never trailed St. Mary's in winning 69-60 in MIAC women's semi-final games Thursday night.

Concordia went on a 19-3 run midway in the 2nd half to ice it. Tricia Sorenson scored 19 points with 8 boards, while Alexandra Lippert also came up big with 17 points, 9 boards and 2 blocks. The Cobbers dominated the offensive glass 12-3 with 14 2nd chance points to just 6 for St. Ben's.

St. Thomas also used a big 2nd half run to stretch a 57-56 lead to 69-56 at 1:01. Jenna Dockter scored 19 for the Tommies, including a pair of buckets to launch that 12-0 run. Anna Smith had 14, 9 boards and 4 assists. Jamie Stefely scored 17 for St. Mary's.

Player of the Day: Rachel Banham hit the game winner at :02 as the Minnesota Gopher women completed their 1st ever season sweep of Ohio State 57-56. The Gophers had a 5 point lead and the ball with 24 seconds remaining, but turned it over twice at :24 and :17. The Buckeyes' Raven Ferguson hit a pair of 3s to give OSU its 1st lead since 6-4, but then Banham scored her 16th and 17th points of the night.

Coach of the Day: Chad Ostermann, picking up where Tim Anderson left off, led the #5 Maple River boys to a 62-61 win at #4 St. Peter.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Big Game Feb. 20--Northwestern (Roseville) Splits UMAC Playoffs

Northwestern (Roseville) hosted not 1 but 2 UMAC playoffs Wednesday night. The women hosted Martin Luther at 5:30 and the men Minnesota-Morris at 7:30. The result was, well, near disaster.

The women fell behind by 10 early in the 2nd, clawed back to within 51-49, then fell behind by 15 with just 2 minutes remaining. The game, or at least the 2nd half, was not as close as the 78-72 final.

The men followed by falling behind 41-27 then 47-38 at the half. It looked like a bad night for Northwestern. But the men roared back to take a 49-48 lead early in the 2nd half, and even pulled ahead by 10, 66-56, at the 10 minute mark. Now it was UMM that roared back to tie at 76. But Wade Chitwood and Tom Gisler scored the next 5 points and Northwestern never again trailed. Even so, Steve Birman of UMM launched a 3 with 8 seconds remaining that would have tied the game, but missed. Brendan Foss grabbed the rebound but UMM was unable to get off another shot.

Player of the Day: The top players both excelled in a losing cause. Mollie Sir of Northwestern scored 27 points with 9 assists and 2 steals, while Foss of UMM scored 19 with 10 rebounds, 3 assists and 5 steals.

Coaches of the Day: Here I'm gonna pick Aaron Greiss, Augsburg men, and  Guy Kalland, Carleton men, winners of tonight's MIAC playoffs. Augsburg led most of the way in beating St. John's 74-67. Carleton edged Bethel 48-43, after blowing a 25-13 (!) half-time lead and trailed 39-35 with 4:12 to go. Taylor Hall of Bethel ended his career as the top MIAC scorer on the night with 21 points to go along with 11 rebounds.

The Big Game Feb. 19--At least 7 rated high school teams lose

At least 7 rated high school teams lost last night.  There may well be more.


#6AAAA Minnetonka lost to Edina 78-54 despite 24 points by Tonka's Riley Dearring
#7AA Byron lost to Lake City 60-43
#9AAAA Lakeville North lost to #1AAAA Apple Valley 94-78 despite J.P. Macura's 39 points


#3AAAA Eastview lost to Lakeville South 58-53 as Maddie Wolkow scored 20 points for South
#5AAAA Edina lost to #6AAAA Minnetonka 49-42
#6AA Staples-Motley lost to #1AAA Fergus Falls 52-44

Player of the Day


Coaches of the Day

Mandy Pearson, St. Mary's (Winona), and Mike Durbin, St. Ben's, led their teams to wins in the 1st round of the MIAC women's playoffs.

Long-suffering St. Mary's roared back from a 45-36 half-time deficit to beat Gustavus Adolphus 76-69. That means that St. Mary's won the 2nd half 40-24, and at one point in the 2nd had outscored the Gusties 39-14. Abby Rothenbuhler, Gustavus, led all scorers with 18, while Jamie Stefely led St. Mary's with 16 and 7 boards.

St. Ben's also came back from a 1st half deficit to Hamline, but the Blazers had caught up by half-time at 34-31. The final was 88-77. Brianna Barrett scored 28 for St. Ben's with 6 rebounds and 3 steals. St. Ben's out-scored Hamline in the paint 48-26 and from the FT line 26-10.

The Big Game Feb. 18--Pine Island girls 45 Hayfield 35

It was a lite nite but don't tell that to the girls from Pine Island. They defeated Hayfield 45-35 to win the Hiawatha Valley Conference title, one of the tougher Class AA titles you can win in Minnesota. PI has now won 4 straight going into the post-season. Nicole Fokken had 15 points for PI, Alison Newton added 11.

Player of the Day: Chelsey Bonsante, Crosby-Ironton girls, scored 29 as C-I defeated Pequot Lakes 77-72.

Coach of the Day: Rick Canton, Pine Island girls

Sunday, February 17, 2013

MIAC Playoff Preview

It has been in many ways a remarkable MIAC season, especially for the women. Concordia won its 1st regular season title since 1990. St. Mary's, in 3rd at 18-4, has in both respects had its best season since 1986. Hamline at 14-8 also has won the most conference games since 1986.

Among the men, this is the 1st time Gustavus has ever missed the post-season playoffs (which were 1st held in 2001). It is also the 1st time Gustavus has finished outside of the top 6 in the regular season standings (6 teams make the MIAC post-season playoffs) since 1984.

Da Men

In fact, half of the men's playoff teams were not in the top 6 in the coach's pre-season poll. St. Olaf, picked to finish 2nd, dropped all the way down to 8th at 8-12, and Gustavus, picked 5th, and Hamline, picked 6th, also missed out. Bethel and St. John's, tied for 7th in the pre-season poll, and Concordia all fought their way into the playoffs. The Cobbers utterly baffled their opposing coaches--picked to finish 9th, they instead finished in 2nd place. Hamline's season was wrecked by a legal problem that led to the departure of coach Nelson Whitmore.

Modesty does not prevent me from pointing out that I had Gustavus and St. Olaf out of the playoffs in my pre-season forecast, but I also had Augsburg and St. John's out. Still, I had 4 of 6 right versus the coach's 3 of 6. And how the coaches could have had Concordia 9th...I had 'em 2nd and that's where they now sit, and that makes Rich Glas coach of the year. But enough gloating, here's how the playoffs match up.

1st Round Wednesday Feb. 20

#6 St. John's 12-13 at #3 Augsburg 19-6
#5 Bethel 15-10 at #4 Carleton 15-10

2nd Round Friday Feb. 22

Lowest remaining seed at #1 St. Thomas 24-1
Second lowest remaining seed at #2 Concordia (Moorhead) 18-7

Finals Sunday Feb. 24 at highest remaining seed

The obvious question is whether anybody can compete with St. Thomas, and the obvious answer probably is, No. The Tommies can score in bunches, but even if you slow 'em down, the problem is scoring some points yourself. In a close, half-court game, the Tommies' defense takes over. Center Tommy Hannon and guard John Nance are the ring-leaders there, while on offense 10 guys can score. And having home court throughout, the #1 nationally-rated Tommies look like as close to a sure thing as you'll see.

If anybody can compete it would have to be the misunderestimated Cobbers, who gave St. Thomas their only loss 54-52 in Moorhead on Jan. 21, and finished up on a 7-game winning streak. The Tommies outscored their MIAC opponents 82-60, leading the league on both ends of the court. The Cobbers are #2 on offense at 77 points per game, but give up 72. Center Jacob Huus and 3-point shooting specialist Andrew Martinson match up OK but everywhere else the Tommies defense is a deal-breaker most of the time.

But 1st Concordia will have to get by Augsburg, Carleton or Bethel. Bethel, with probable MIAC MVP Taylor Hall, could surprise. He was recently named the #3 player in all of D3 by Breitbart Sports, and #13 among all non-D1 players. He led the MIAC is points (22), boards (10) and was among the leaders in FG shooting (57 percent).

It says here that Bethel wins at Carleton, while Augsburg defeats St. John's. That means that Augsburg goes to Concordia, and that's a tough match-up for the Cobbers. Center Dan Kornbaum was right behind Hall with 18 ppg and 8 boards, and he shot 59 percent. And while almost nobody shoots 3s like Martinson, Augsburg's top 2 3-point shooters, Tyler Schmidt and Parker Hines, combined for 84 on 38 percent 3-point shooting, comparing favorably with Concordia's Martinson and Aaron Lindahl (86 on 43 percent shooting).

Still, while Augsburg beat Concordia by 5 at home, the Cobbers won by 20 in Moorhead.

So I look for Concordia and St. Thomas in the final, and the Tommies are not going to lose at home. The real question is how far St. Thomas can go nationally. Anything short of the Final Four would be a disappointment.


C- Dan Kornbaum, Augsburg, 6-9, junior, 18 pts, 8 reb, 59FG%, 1 blk
C- Tommy Hannon, St. Thomas, 6-8, senior, 11 pts, 6 reb, 59.5FG%
F- Taylor Hall, Bethel, 6-8, senior, 22 pts, 10 reb, 57FG%, 3 asts, 2 blks
W- Scott Theisen, Carleton, 6-6, senior, 17 pts, 7 reb, 6 asts, 2 stls
G- Ebo Nana-Kweson, Concordia, 6-4, senior, 14 pts, 3 asts, 1 blk

Da Women

The big surprise was St. Thomas finishing 2nd, 1 slot lower than predicted. I know 1 slot isn't much, but you've got to remember that the Tommies made it to the Final Four a year ago. Expectations were that high. But St. Thomas was without all-conference post Maggie Weiers all year, and all-conference forward Taylor Young started the year hurt and only came around slowly. So the Tommies lost 3 of 4 in 1 stretch in January. But they finished with 7 straight wins and Young was player of the week for the next-to-last week of the season. So despite the 2nd place finish, the Tommies look like the favorite in the post-season.

But Concordia has the home court as long as they keep winning, and they've got Trish Sorenson and Emily Thesing, both among the MIAC's top 10 scorers.

But the best story of the season is St. Mary's, returning to the playoffs for a 2nd straight year after winning just 31 games while losing 103 the previous 6 years. 6-1 bookends Courtney Eurele and Jamie Stefely lead the way, along with senior guard Jessica Thone. Coach Mandy Pearson is my choice for coach of the year.

Hamline is another good story. They are the only team not in the coach's pre-season top 6 to sneak into the playoffs (at St. Olaf's expense). Steph Pilgrim and Jordan Sammons finished #1 and #3 in conference scoring.

1st Round Tuesday Feb. 19

#6 Gustavus 15-10 at #3 St. Mary's 21-4
#5 Hamline 14-11 at #4 St. Ben's 19-6

2nd Round Thursday Feb. 21

Lowest remaining seed at #1 Concordia (Moorhead) 20-5
Second lowest remaining seed at #2 St. Thomas 20-5

Finals Saturday Feb. 23 at highest remaining seed

Gustavus will give St. Mary's a scare. An interesting sidebar there is the reunion of Gustavus guard Julia Dysthe, from White Bear Lake, and Thone, from Woodbury, who were Suburban East Conference rivals. St. Ben's should win easily. That leaves St. Ben's to go to Concordia and St. Mary's to St. Thomas. I'll take St. Ben's in a surprise, then St. Thomas over St. Ben's in the final.


C- Rachel Parupsky, Bethel, 6-2, freshman, 16 pts, 9 reb, 4.5 blks
C- Abby Rothenbuhler, Gustavus, 6-2, senior, 12 pts, 8 reb, 2 blks
F- Trish Sorenson, Concordia, 5-11, senior, 14 pts, 7 reb
G- Jordan Sammons, Hamline, 5-8, sophomore, 15 pts, 8 reb, 3 stls
G- Jessica Thone, St. Mary's, 5-8, senior, 12 pts, 4 asts, 2 stls

The Big Game Feb. 17--Iowa Hawkeyes Men 64 Minnesota Gophers 28

The 1920 Gophers were rebuilding after winning the Big 10 and the mythical national championship in 1919. They were a disappointing 2-7 going into a match-up with the 1st place Chicago Maroons, who became the 1st team ever to score 50 points against the Gophers. Only 1 team, Schenectady, NY, Company E in 1905, had ever scored as many as 40, so the 58-16 shellacking by the Maroons was by far the worst loss the Gophers had ever experienced.

It would be 20 years before any team would score 60 against the Gophers. Minnesota was just 3 years removed from a Big 10 title in 1937 and was a respectable 5-5 in the Big 10 heading to Champaign, IL, to meet a so-so Illini team (that finished 7-5 in the conference). The Gophers were clicking on zero cylinders that night, however, and lost 60-31.

It would take just 4 years for a team to score 70 versus Minnesota. That was the Great Lakes Naval Training Center who clobbered the (eventual) 2-10 Gophers 73-43. 2 years Northwestern was the 1st college team to score 70 and the (eventual) 8-4 Wildcats inexplicably defeated the (eventual) 7-5 Gophers 72-49. Must'a been playin' that 1-3-1....

Purdue was the 1st to cross the 80-point threshhold in 1951 but that game ended up close at Purdue 81 Minnesota 78. 2 years later the Gophers gave up 80 4 times, winning 1 of them and losing 2 others by 2 points each. SMU was the 1st to score 100 in a 100-80 win over Minnesota in 1963. (The Gophers had scored 100 for the 1st time way back in 1955 in a 102-88 win over Purdue.)

Through it all that 42-point loss to Chicago remained the worst ever. Houston came close in 1967, beating the Gophers 103-65, as did New Mexico at 102-68 in 1974. 1986 for the 1st time saw 2 30-point losses at Michigan and at Indiana. There were several more 30 point losses in Clem Haskins' 1st 3 years as coach, then finally a new record 46-point loss (96-50) at Indiana in 1992. And there were a couple more 30 point losses in 2000 and 2001.

All of this is by way of trying to find anything similar to the 64-28 hurt that the Iowa Hawkeyes put on the Minnesota Gophers today. This is of course unlike all the games mentioned above in that 64-28 is a partial score. The Gophers raced to a 23-8 lead, then collapsed, getting out-scored 64-28 in the final 32 minutes of the game. Not only did they go from 23-8 ahead to lose, they trailed at the half. But I don't have access to records for in-game runs, either pro or con, so I've got to compare it to full game embarrassments of the past.

And only twice have they ever been out-scored by more than a point a minute for a full game. But now Iowa has done it, albeit for just 32 minutes. Full game or 32 minutes, I don't care, this has got to be one of the worst performances in the 118 year history of Golden Gopher basketball. If anyone has any clue how such a thing could happen, let Tubby know.

The Big Game Sat. Feb. 16--MIAC Playoff MatchUps Set

Hard to believe that for half of MIAC teams the basketball season is now over. 6 men's and 6 women's teams advance to the post-season and we now know who they are and where they'll go.

The 2 biggest games of the day were wins by the Hamline women and the Bethel men. Hamline jumped from #6 to #5 as a result of their win, while Bethel leapfrogged Gustavus for the final spot in the men's field with their win (though they too ended up with the #5 seed due to a tie-breaker).

The Hamline women won at Carleton 66-60 in OT as Steph Pilgrim scored 22 points to win the MIAC individual scoring title. Jordan Sammons added 18 and finished 3rd. Pilgrim made 6-of-6 throws in OT, and added 9 boards. Sammons scored 4 points in OT.

The Bethel men edged Macalester 77-60 while Gustavus was losing at Concordia 65-49. The Gusties, Bethel and St. John's all finished 11-9 and Gustavus was odd man out on about the 7th tie-breaker. Taylor Hall had 17 points and 15 boards for Bethel.

As a result of Saturday's action, the playoffs are as follows:


1st Round Tuesday Feb. 19

#6 Gustavus 15-10 at #3 St. Mary's 21-4
#5 Hamline 14-11 at #4 St. Ben's 19-6

2nd Round Thursday Feb. 21

Lowest remaining seed at #1 Concordia (Moorhead) 20-5
Second lowest remaining seed at #2 St. Thomas 20-5

Finals Saturday Feb. 23 at highest remaining seed


1st Round Wednesday Feb. 20

#6 St. John's 12-13 at #3 Augsburg 19-6
#5 Bethel 15-10 at #4 Carleton 15-10

2nd Round Friday Feb. 22

Lowest remaining seed at #1 St. Thomas 24-1
Second lowest remaining seed at #2 Concordia (Moorhead) 18-7

Finals Sunday Feb. 24 at highest remaining seed

Players of the Day: Steph Pilgrim, Hamline women, and Taylor Hall, Bethel men

Coach of the Day: Kerri Stockwell, Hamline women

Saturday, February 16, 2013

The Big Game Feb. 15--Southwest Christian boys 84 Mountain Lake 69

Southwest Christian continues to give notice of its ability to contend for a state (Class A boys) championship, defeating last year's Section 3A champ, Mountain Lake, 84-69. The Worthington Globe credits the #3A Eagles win to constant ball pressure and great 3-point shooting, as the Eagles made 11 3s on the night. Carter Kirk of ML led all scorers with 27 points, but SWC had 3 players with 20 or more. Dominic Nibbelink had 26 points and 7 assists, Leighton Sampson 20 points and 13 boards, and Klint Knutson 20 points, 5 assists and 4 steals. SWC is now 20-1 and undefeated against Minnesota competition. ML is 18-4.

Player of the Day: Ian Theisen, Osseo boys, scored 29 points as the defending state champion Orioles overcame Maple Grove 74-69.

Coach of the Day: Jamie Pap, SWC boys.

Friday, February 15, 2013

NBA 2013 Mock Draft 1.0

It's that time of year again when the Timberwolves have nothing left to play for, and so Minnesota basketball fans' thoughts turn to the NBA draft and dreams that maybe the Wolves can find an answer to their torpor thereby.

Well, good luck with that. It's probably the weakest draft class in a decade, among both the U.S. and international pools. Of course 1st comes the lottery in which teams better than Charlotte, Washington and Orlando will swoop in and grab the top 3 picks. But that's a crapshoot. Can't forecast that unless you're willing to be tried as a witch and very likely burned at the stake. So, just pretending that the draft actually goes in reverse order of W-L, excepting of course for those picks stupidly traded away by lousy teams for lousy veterans....

1. Charlotte (currently .220). Well, the Bobcats held on to their pick and their reward is Shabazz Muhammad, 6-6, small forward, UCLA? That's right, I am not kidding. A smallish front-court guy with Tourette's Syndrome. Well, let me just say that the Tourette's didn't kill him. He's scoring 19 ppg as a true freshman at UCLA and he is said to remind people of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, meaning among other things great work ethic in practice and on game day. But equally, Charlotte actually has some players for such an awful team. Kemba Walker, for one. Ramon Sessions for 2. So what's needed is some help in the front court. I'll grant that Muhammad might not be the most likely suspect based on size alone. But he will play the forward spot and he will score. In a weak draft, that's enough, for the Bobcats, at least.

2. Washington (.286). Washington needs everything, even a point guard, despite having picked one with the overall #1 pick a couple years ago. Still, I had 'em going for Nerlens Noel, 6-11, power forward, Kentucky, until he tore his ACL and went out for the season. I'm thinking he stays in school another year, but either way he either drops down or out of the draft. So, another 6-11 power forward gets the call. Cody Zeller, 6-11, power forward, Indiana. A sophomore Zeller is just slightly more ready. He reminds people of LaMarcus Aldridge with his 17 points, 8 boards and a block line, and he also runs the floor.

3. Orlando (.294). Another outfit that needs everything but a shooting guard, and so Ben McLemore sits some more. Here, that means Alex Len, 7-1, center, Maryland, the 2nd sophomore to be picked in the top 3. He reminds people of Zydrunas Ilgauskus, and I mention that only to remind you of what I've now said twice (and, now, 3 times), this ain't much of a draft. Len's line so far this year is 13 points, 8 boards and 2 blocks.

4. Cleveland (.314). OK, we're now starting to get to teams that have something to build on. In Cleveland's case it's Kyrie Irving and Anderson Varejao, a couple of tent-poles, no less, though Varjao will be coming back from an injury. And they used their #1 pick last year on shooting guard Dion Waiters, but they still need scoring, so again McLemore waits while Anthony Bennett, 6-7 small forward, UNLV, who oddly enough reminds people of Larry Johnson, gets the call. He's scoring 19 points with 9 boards as a true freshman. In a perfect world, of course, Bennett would go to Golden State, where he would be known as Tony, and everyone would live happily ever after. Ain't gonna happen, Tony, er, Anthony. Hey, does anybody know any songs about Cleveland? I didn't think so.

5. Pheonix (.327). When the lottery is announced and we know who's really gonna pick 1st, 2nd and 3rd (and my guess is L.A., New York and Miami but, hey, what do I know), the picks above will change. As noted, this is a weak-ass draft. Ask 30 teams who's #1 and nobody gets more than 10 votes.  So teams will be picking to need. But the guy who would get the most votes (about 9, to be exact) would probably be Ben McLemore, 6-5, shooting guard, Kansas. It's just that the teams listed above are far worse off elsewhere than at shooting guard. So, Phoenix, in this particular scenario, gets lucky and gets probably the freshman with the least downside, the least likelihood of blowing up in your face. He's averaging 16 points and 6 boards as a true freshman, and reminds people of Ray Allen. (By the time Pheonix picks McLemore, in this particular universe, Charlotte will probably already be having buyer's remorse and will be calling to offer Muhammad straight up for McLemore, to which Pheonix will say, No thanks, then WTF, these people are crazy.

6. New Orleans (.333). The Pelican Briefs need a small forward and 6-8 sophomore Otto Porter, small forward, Georgetown, beckons. Porter reminds people of Stacy Augmon with a line of 13 points, 8 boards and 3 assists. But his claim to fame initially is as a lock-down defender. Who doesn't need some of that?

7. Sacramento (.365). The soon-to-be Seattle SuperSonics will pick a point guard. But which one? The candidates are Marcus Smart, 6-4, point guard, Oklahoma State, a freshman, and Michael Carter-Williams, 6-6, point guard, Syracuse, a sophomore. Smart is the smart pick, Carter-Williams the daring pick, and who can't be a little bit daring when you've got a 6-6 point guard out there. He's averaging 12 points, 5 boards and 10 assists, and reminds people of the young Shaun Livingston, before the knee. (This pick breaks the Timberwolves collective hearts, by the way.)

8. Oklahoma City from Toronto (.373). What could the Thunder possibly need? Well, aside from replacing James Harden? And I know just the man for the job. That would be Alex Poythress, 6-8, small forward, Kentucky. I mean, no, he's no James Harden. Nobody in this draft is James Harden. But Poythress, with his 14 points, 6 boards line as a true freshman, at least reminds people of Thaddeus Young, and that will have to do.

9. Minnesota (.375). So, finally, the Timberwolves. Detroit is on their heels (at .385, but it's gonna take a real winning streak to catch Dallas at .440, so hopefully the pick will be no worse than #10. But we'll say #9 for the moment. What do the Wolves need? Don't answer that. But obviously you build around Kevin Love, Nikola Pekovic and Ricky Rubio. And yet, and yet, not only is the best athlete remaining in the draft a point guard, the guy who fills the Wolves' needs the best is a point guard, Marcus Smart, 6-4, point guard, Oklahoma State. With all due respect to Luke Ridnour and J.J. Barea, the little fellows with the big hearts, well, enough with the little fellows already. Here's a guy who can back up Ricky Rubio and play, well, defense, anyway, like Ricky Rubio, and maintain some continuity in terms of your game plan when the Great One is on the bench. One of the other guys can still be Mr. Instant Offense in the 4th quarter but one of them becomes trade bait, Barea probably having more value than Ridnour. Maybe Barea and Derrick Williams, together, can bring in another shooter.

And after that--after the Timberwolves make their pick--who really cares, right? We'll finish the lottery and maybe the whole first round some day, probably after the high school state tournaments.

But for now we will just note that the Wolves have a 2nd 1st round pick that figures to come in somewhere between #18 and #26.

Then there's this. Most of the mock drafts that go the full 2 rounds have 4, count 'em, 4 Minnesotans listed:

• Nate Wolters, from St. Cloud Tech and South Dakota State, is generally the highest rated
• Rodney Williams, Cooper and Minnesota is next
• Then Trevor Mbakwe of Minnesota
• And finally Mike Muscala of Roseville and Bucknell. He is probably the 4th among this group by consensus, but he is the only 1 I've seen in the 1st round, though only 1 time.

The Big Game Feb. 14--Minnesota Gopher men 58 Wisconsin 53 OT

The Minnesota Gopher men scored the final 6 points of regulation to tie Wisconsin 49-49, then dominated in OT for a 58-53 win.

Trailing 49-43 at the 5 minute mark, the Gophers got a layup from Andre Hollins, a Rodney Williams dunk, and a Joe Coleman layup at just 17 seconds to tie. Meanwhile Ryan Evans, just a 40 percent FT shooter for Wisconsin, missed 5 straight throws. Then Andre Hollins hit a 3 and then 4 FT in OT, to give Minnesota sole possession of 6th place in the Big 10 at 6-6. Andre finished with 21 points, 3 assists and 3 steals to win Player of the Day honors.

Meanwhile, Thief River Falls girls defeated Crookston 66-56 to win Coach of the Day honors for Jeff Loe.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Big Game Feb. 13--St. Mary's women 70 St. Ben's 62

St. Mary's and St. Ben's both went into Wednesday night's game at 16-4 and tied for 2nd place in the MIAC. St. Mary's came away with a 70-63 win, still tied for 2nd and in contention for a 1st round bye in the playoffs. The host Cardinals took the lead for good on a 3 by reserve Shelby Auseth at 44-43 at 14:42, and led by as many as 12 down the stretch. Jessica Thone led all scorers with 20 and added 4 assists and 3 steals. Morgan Dale had 17 points and 8 boards for St. Ben's.

Player of the Day: Derrick Williams, Minnesota Timberwolves, 24 points and 16 rebounds in a 97-93 home loss to the Utah Jazz.

Coach of the Day: Mandy Pearson, St. Mary's women

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Big Game Feb. 12--4 rated high school teams go down


Edina 66 #4AAAA Hopkins 63
Mora 71 #7AA St. Cloud Cathedral 69


Park 52 #4AAAA Roseville 49
#2A Maranatha 67 #10A Upsala 63

Not sure that 3 of the 4 are upsets. i.e. Edina is now 14-7 and 3-1 in the Lake and got Hopkins at home.  Park is now 18-5 and 12-3 in the Suburban East and got Roseville at home. Maranatha got Upsala at home. Mora is 16-3 and 9-2 in the Granite Ridge and got Cathedral at home.

The top player among those 4 games was Graham Woodward, Edina guard, with 24 points. Coach of the day is Jamie Wright of Mora.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Under the Radar

I checked out the player ratings at gPrep and the Breakdown--their top 5, at least, which are free. Most of the players who are rated top 5 are the same among them and here as well, but with some interesting differences.

Players I consider to be Under the Radar are girls I have rated top 5 and which "they" do not.


Not surprisingly, there are no such players among this year's seniors, the Mighty 2013s. By the time girls are seniors, a consensus has pretty much emerged, usually. Here there's a difference of opinion as to who is #1 with 1 vote for Coffey, 1 for Dahlman and 1 for Tyseanna Johnson (that's me). Everybody's got Jade Martin in there somewhere, too, and Jessica January makes 2 of the 3 lists.

But wait. There is one big difference. gPrep has Joanna Hedstrom at #3, while the Breakdown and Mn Hoops do not have her top 5. gPrep tends to follow Gopher signings pretty closely. Shayne Mullaney took a big jump in gPrep's ratings when she verballed Minnesota a year or so ago. Same with Hedstrom. The difference is that I already had Mullaney rated that high, but not Hedstrom. I hope Joanna proves me wrong and has a stellar Gopher career!


Here the Breakdown is the only one of the 3 raters that has  Elle Thompson (Chaska, #5) in the top 5. gPrep is the only one that has Tonoia Wade (Kennedy, #4) in the top. I don't have anybody unique among Wagner, Bell, McMorris, Elbert and Brown.


There's a fair consensus here for such young kids, as all 3 of the raters have T.T. Starks, Maddie Guebert and Sam Trammell 1-2-3, though in different specific order. Starks gets 2 #1s, while I go for Guebert. Viria Livingston and Ali Greene also get 2 votes each.

gPrep has Monica Burich at #5. I've got Tara Dusharm, Foley at #5, so she's Under the Radar.


Everybody's got Nia Hollie, Courtney Frederickson and Taylor Koenen in there somewhere. After that there's a divergence of opinion and why not, these kids are in 9th grade, probably 14 years old or thereabouts.

gPrep has Sydney Tracy of St. Michael-Albertville at #5. The Breakdown has Abby Kain of Simley at #3. Me? I've got Abi Scheid, Elk River at #5. She's Under the Radar.


Finally, there's just 2 ratings of the 2017s, MN Hoops and the Breakdown. Both of us go for Chelsea Mason, Jasmyn Martin (ya think!?) and Lindsay Robson. The Breakdown goes for Cecile Keiger (at #1, ahead of Jasmyn Martin!) and Raeannah Johnson, and trust me, I've got nothin' against these 2 girls. But I have Temi Carda, Lakeville North at #3 and Aejah Locket, Simley at #5. They're Under the Radar.

Under the Radar team/Diaper Dandy division (sophomore or younger) 

C- Tara Dusharm, Foley, 6-5, sophomore
PF- Abi Scheid, Elk River, 6-2, freshman
PG- Temi Carda, Lakeville North, 5-7
G- Aejah Lockett, Simley, 5-6, both 8th grade

To round out my Under the Radar team, I'll tak:

Sarah Kaminski, freshman guard, Minnehaha

She's one of 3 girls I've got rated at #6 in their class and who are not rated in the other top 5s. The other 2 are Allina Starr, DeLaSalle and Taylor Thunstedt, New London-Spicer. But Kaminski is less well known than the other 2 so I'll stay with her.

Their Under the Radar/Diaper Dandy team looks like this:

C- Abby Kain, Simley, 6-4, sophomore
F- Monica Burich, Roseville, 6-1, sophomore
F- Sydney Tracy, St. Michael-Albertville, freshman
G- Raeannah Johnson, St. Michael-Albertville, 8th grade
G- Cecile Kieger, Woodbury, 8th grade

10 great girls!

Monday, February 11, 2013

The Big Game Feb. 11--Minnesota Timberwolves 100 Cleveland Cavaliers 92

I have to admit that I have mixed feelings about this one. This being The Big Game. Or, A Big Game. Part of me says that the Timberwolves aren't playing Big Games these days, and probably won't until next fall.

But on the other hand, hey, they broke an 8-game losing streak, and won on the road for the 1st time in 6--count 'em, 6--weeks, or since Kevin Love went out with a hand injury for the 2nd time this year.

And, if this turns out to be the 1st game of a massive winning streak, well, I would feel bad if I hadn't marked the occasion. I mean, the Wolves are 5 games out of the playoffs with 33 games to go. And Love is making noises about coming back from his injury again. And, and, and, hey, Ricky Rubio is starting to look like Ricky Rubio!

Ricky! scored 13 points on 5-of-9 shooting, with 10 assists and 5 steals and played Kyrie Irving (20 points, 7 assists, no steals) almost to a stand-still. The only problem with this claim is 7 Rubio turnovers to 3 for Irving, though each team ended up with 20 of 'em.

But the big star was Ricky's running mate Luke Ridnour with 21 points including a big 3 at 1:43 that stretched the Wolves lead from 92-89 to 95-89. Rubio assisted, then followed with a 2. Game over.

Earlier Ridnour had scored 8 points in a 16-7 Wolves run that broke a 76-all tie at 8:59 and gave Minnesota a 92-83 lead at 3:55. Cleveland scored 6 straight, but then the Wolves closed it out at 8-3 for the win.

Nikola Pekovic added 16 points and 10 boards.

Player of the Day: Ridnour
Coach of the Day: Rick Adelman, Timberwolves

Minnesota Gopher Women's Basketball Recruiting

Hopes for the hometown basketball heroes, meaning the Minnesota Gophers, whatever gender, usually begin with a nucleus of home state talent. You gotta protect your borders, you know! Well, surely, that's true. But just as surely, there's long been a chorus of "you can't win with Minnesota talent." So, two questions: How has the caliber of Minnesota talent affected the fortunes of the Minnesota Gophers women's program since its founding some 40 years ago now? And how has the Gophers' success in "protecting the borders" played into team success, or not? It's a complicated question ill suited to a quick answer. So bear with me.

Minnesota Ms. Basketball

First, let's use Minnesota Ms. Basketball winners as a stand-in for the larger cohorts of D1 prospects over the years. Who has been Minnesota Ms. Basketball? Where have they gone to college? Are there patterns and trends in whether they've come to the U of M or gone elsewhere? You bet. After Laura Gardner in 1978, no Minnesota Ms. Basketball played ball at the U of M until Carol Ann Shudlick in 1990!

1978--Laura Gardner, Bloomington Jefferson, Minnesota

Gardner started for the U as a freshman, averaging 15 points and 8 boards, and was named "all-American" for her play in the post-season AIAW tournament (this was before the NCAA gave a #$%^ about women's ball). But she blew out her knee the following summer and was never quite the same.

1979--Jean Tierney, St. Paul Central, ?

I cannot find any record of Jean playing college ball, but I do know that she went on to become Joe Mauer's mom.

1980--Janet Karvonen, New York Mills, Old Dominion, Louisiana Tech
1981--Kelly Skalicky, Albany, Louisiana State
1982--Annie Adamczak, Moose Lake, Nebraska volleyball

These were 3 of the greatest high school athletes of their day. Karvonen wanted to play for a big-time program, and started at Old Dominion, which had won the national title in 1979 and 1980. She then transferred to Louisiana Tech, which won the national title in 1981 and 1982. Each won a 3rd title before the decade of the '80s was out. They were the Connecticut and Tennessee of their day.

Skalicky, meanwhile, was never offered by the U and so we have no idea whether she would have stayed at home or not. Minnesota had a superb point guard in Debbie Hunter (Cloquet, 1979) and coach Ellen Mosher, right or wrong, saw Skalicky as someone who would not be happy playing off the bench.

Adamczak was a 3-sport star, but volleyball was her best sport so there was never any question of her playing hoops at Minnesota or anywhere else.

So the loss of these 3 superstars was not taken to be a black mark against the Gopher program which was, in any event, thriving, winning 24 games in 1978 and 28 games and the Big 10 title in 1981. In coach Mosher's 1st 6 years on the job, her Gophers won 125 games and lost 61, a winning percentage of ..672.

The Long Decline

As the 1980s wore on, it became clear that Minnesota girls basketball talent was not strong, and the Minnesota Gophers and coach Mosher paid the price. From 1983 through 1987, Mosher's Gophers won 47 games while losing 64, for a winning percentage of .425. After 6 years with an average record of 21-10, Minnesota suffered through 4 years at 12-16. Despite her early success, 4 down years were enough to doom coach Mosher, who was replaced by LaRue Fields in 1987.

1983--Angela Kuehn, Minnesota Deaf, ?
1985A--Kristi Kremer, Wheaton, North Dakota State
1985AA--Denise Holm, Duluth East, Minnesota-Duluth
1986A--Laurie Decker, Rochester Lourdes, Iowa State
1986AA--Amy Davidson, St. Louis Park, Kansas State
1987A--Laurie Decker, Rochester Lourdes
1987AA--Mya Whitmore, Hill-Murray, Northwestern
1988A--Mary Jo Miller, Tracy-Milroy, Kansas State
1988AA--Carolyn Frisk, Stillwater, Minnesota-Duluth
1989A--Yoli Murphy, Christ's Household of Faith
1989AA--Jessica Fiebelkorn, Osseo, Notre Dame volleyball

This is not to say that some Minnesotans didn't find D1 success. Mary Jo Miller at Kansas State, in particular, was for many years the Wildcats' career assists leader, while also scoring 10 ppg over 4 years. Mya Whitmore started at Northwestern. Amy Davidson lettered 4 times at Kansas State, scoring 4 ppg over 4 years. I have no idea if the Gophers offered any of these and/or why they didn't go to the U.

But during this period, several Minnesota Ms. Basketballs didn't even go D1, playing at places like North Dakota State (then D2) and UMD. In fact, going forward, from 1990 to 1999, NDSU under coach Amy Ruley and UND under Gene Roebuck won 8 of 9 NCAA D2 titles with rosters littered with Minnesota girls like Rhonda Birch and Ms. Basketball winners Kremer and Morlock at NDSU and Teresa LeCuyer and Kierah Kimbrough at UND, among many others. Morlock was in fact chosen to the NCAA D2 "all-time" (25 year) all-star team a few years ago.

Gopher stars of this era included Molly Tadich (Bloomington Jefferson) and Carol Peterka (St. Cloud Tech) as well as Wisconsin native Laura Coenen, but they could not keep the program from a steep decline with rosters made up mostly of Minnesota girls. From 1987 to 1990 the struggles became even worse than in Mosher's final years. Fields left after just 3 years and only 24 wins (24-60, .286 and 12-42, .222 in the Big 10).

The Shudlick Era: Just An Anomoly

1990--Carol Ann Shudlick, Apple Valley, Minnesota
1991--Shannon Loeblein, St. Paul Harding, Minnesota
1992--Stacy Fields, Mounds View, Minnesota

Thing started to turn around with the arrival of Linda Hill-McDonald and (perhaps more to the point) Carol Ann Shudlick in 1990. Minnesota high school ball generally was probably no better than before, but Shudlick (and also Shannon Loeblein from the following class) was a diamond in the rough. Fortunately, big time programs were not prowling the Minnesota prairies and so Shudlick and Loeblein were mostly ignored by other D1 programs. Minnesota won only 14 games in 1990-1991 and 1991-1992, but as Shudlick and Loeblein matured, the Gophers had their 1st winning season in 8 years at 14-12 in 1992-1993. Then came a magical year in 1993-1994 as Minnesota went 18-11 and shocked Notre Dame 81-76 at South Bend in the NCAA tournament. Shudlick was named national player of the year.

But new hopes for the program proved to be false ones as the Gophers slumped to 20-62 the next 3 years without Shudlick. And now they would be without coach Hill-McDonald, who was replaced in 1997.

1993--Casey Morlock, Stewartville, North Dakota State
1994--Kjersten Miller, Bloomington Jefferson, ?
1995--Linda Shudlick, Apple Valley, Minnesota volleyball
1996--Sue Fiero, Goodhue, Minnesota-Duluth

For the 1st half of the 1990s, Minnesota's best basketball talent was still not in demand by D1 colleges. Shudlick and Loeblein had been anomalies. So Minnesota hired Cheryl Littlejohn from Alabama, and it was hoped that she could recruit some southern talent. It didn't work out quite that way.

The Birth of the Modern Era

The MSHSL had long had one of America's strictest policies limiting play by high school boys and girls outside of their school seasons. But those rules were relaxed around 1988-1990 and the clubs--most notably among the girls was North Tartan--began to spring up. It would be some time before enough Minnesota girls would get enough court time at an early enough age to gain much notoriety on the national stage. But it happened, and it was indeed North Tartan and the class of 1997 that made it so.

In 1991 Tartan's under-13s finished 2nd at the national AAU tournament. Kinesha Davis (Blake, Western Illinois, UNLV), Jenny Hoffner (Brooklyn Center, North Dakota) and Megan Taylor (Roseau, Iowa State) earned all-America honors. The next year another group of 13-and-unders, led by Coco and Kelly Miller and Maren Walseth (Jefferson, Penn State), led Tartan to a national title. They followed that with a 3rd, a 9th, another title as 16s, a 4th (as 17-year-olds playing up in the 18-year bracket) and then a 3rd national title as 18s. Kelly Miller won all-America honors 5 times, Coco 4 times and Walseth several times as well.

It was a new day for Minnesota high school talent, but not yet for the Minnesota Gophers. During the 6-year run-up to 1997, as the high school girls gained national attention, the Gophers won 60 games while losing 104. There was little question that the Megan Taylors and Millers and Maren Walseths and Tamara Moores of the world would choose to play at the U, and in fact they did not.

1997--Coco and Kelly Miller, Rochester Mayo, Georgia
1998--Tamara Moore, Mpls. North, Wisconsin
1999--Mauri Horton, Mpls. North, Rutgers
2000--Susan King, Holy Angels, Stanford

During Littlejohn's ill-fated 4 years as Gopher coach (1997-2001), Minnesota won 33 games, and an embarrassing 7 Big 10 games, while losing 81 (and 55). Imagine that. 7-55 in the Big 10 over 4 years (.113)! Littlejohn was replaced by Brenda Oldfield in 2001. And yet Littlejohn left her mark on Minnesota Gopher basketball, to be sure, in the form of recruits Lindsay Whalen and then Janelle McCarville, plus a supporting cast of Khadidja Anderson, Kim Prince, Lindsay Leiser and others.

Luckily, Whalen had been overshadowed by Susan King in her own conference. Coaches nationwide knew that Minnesota now harbored some worthy basketball talent. But they had overlooked the guard from Hutchinson who had never played in the state tournament. And in Wisconsin a year later Misty Bass and Janelle McCarville were the #1 and #2 posts, but nobody doubted that Bass was the big catch, and so they forgot about the rotund post from Stevens Point. Littlejohn snuck the 2 of them onto the U of M campus largely because they hardly had another D1 offer. Whalen was said to have chosen Minnesota over Iowa State because she would be better able to follow her beloved Vikings from the U than from the hinterlands to the south.

And this brings us to the modern era of Minnesota high school basketball and of the Minnesota Gophers. But let's not miss the lessons of the past. Minnesota high school basketball has as often as not existed outside the mainstream of the national view, a backwater whose best talent was suited to D2 and D3, not the big time. In geological time, it's not that long that Minnesota has enjoyed the spotlight. And one still hears that the Gophers can't win with Minnesota talent.

Second, the Gophers themselves have enjoyed only sporadic success, ever. Karvonen bailed because Minnesota had been a weakling up to her time. Only during Karvonen's college career in the early '80s, thanks to coach Mosher, Debbie Hunter, Laura Gardner and Linda Roberts, among others; and later during the Shudlick era; and finally thanks to Whalen and McCarville; only during those 3 short periods  (6 years under Mosher, then just 2 years with Shudlick, then 4-5 years around Whalen's time here) have the Gophers been consistently above .500. Over a period of 30-some years, now, Minnesota has won barely 40 percent of its Big 10 games, or about 200 wins versus well over 300 losses.

The Whalen Era: Just Another Anomoly?

And so the period from 2001 through 2006 is a shining beacon for Gopher basketball fans--recent enough to seem attainable again. Some seem to see it as a birthright, that of course that is where the Gophers should be. It's just a matter of getting the right coach, somebody who can recruit like Littlejohn and game-coach like, I dunno, Brenda Oldfield? Well, maybe, but you cannot appeal to history to to come to the conclusion that the Gophers should be playing at that level all the time. Nor, I think, to the caliber of in-state talent.

2001--April Calhoun, Robbinsdale Armstrong, Iowa, Minnesota
2002--Shannon Bolden, Marshall, Minnesota
2003--Liz Podominick, Lakeville, Minnesota
2004--Leslie Knight, Hopkins, Minnesota
2005--Katie Ohm, Elgin-Milville, Minnesota

Still, long about 2005-2006 in fact one used to hear it said, a little gloatingly, that the Gophers had not 1, not 3, but 5 Minnesota Ms. Basketballs on its roster. In fact, April Calhoun had started her career in Iowa but when Gopher fortunes turned around, she beat it back up I-35 to Minneapolis to finish her career at the U, and to join Shannon Bolden, Liz Podominick, Leslie Knight and Katie Ohm on a Final Four/top-10 Gopher squad.

Of course, none of them was really a star. Whalen and McCarville (from  Wisconsin) were the stars. And after them, Emily Fox from Colorado, and then Kelly Roysland of Fosston, who had been passed over, reasonably enough, as Ms. Basketball in 2003 in favor of Podominick. Podominick led Lakeville to back-to-back state titles and along with Tayler Hill is the only other Minnesotan to play in the McDonald's all-America game.

Still, we thought, surely the Gophers can continue to contend for whatever honors with Minnesota girls! But, hey, the "best" Minnesota girls after Whalen were not stars. Even if you get the best Minnesota girls, you better get a Natasha Williams and an Emmy Fox, too, but, unfortunately, neither of those things would continue to happen.


2006--Jenna Smith, Bloomington Kennedy, Illinois
2007--Angel Robinson, St. Paul Central, Marquette
2008--Courtney Boylan, Chaska, Michigan
2009--Tayler Hill, Minneapolis South, Ohio State
2010--Cassie Rochel, Lakeville North, Wisconsin
2011--Rachel Banham, Lakeville North, Minnesota
2012--Marissa Janning, Watertown-Mayer, Creighton
2013--probably Rebekah Dahlman, Braham, Vanderbilt

At one time the Gophers had 5 Ms. Basketballs on their roster. More recently the number has been 0 or 1. What up wit' dat?

(And while out-of-state talent once looked like McCarville and Emmy Fox, more recently it looks like Kay Sylva, China Antoine and Leah Cotton, but that's another story.)

A person could certainly date the slide from 2006. You all know what happened in 2006, as 6 women, including Minnesotans Podominick and Jamie Broback, left the program. The recruiting slide dates to 2006, too, and to the loss of Ms. Basketball winner Jenna Smith. I've heard it said that the Gophers did not offer Smith but that, hey, they had Podominick and Natasha Williams and Lauren Lacy in the post. They didn't need Jenna Smith. But on the other hand, they recruited Ashley Ellis-Milan from St. Paul Central, also from the class of 2006, who ended up as the Gophers' starting post for 3 years. Being as nice as possible, Ellis-Milan was a shadow of the athlete that Jenna Smith was. So I don't much care about the circumstances. That was the biggest whiff since Coco and Kelly Miller.

Then came Angel Robinson, point guard extraordinare of the best team in Minnesota girls basketball history. I've been told that Robinson was lost because coach Pam Borton approached her late, then disappeared, then finally came back with an offer that was considered to be too little and too late. Robinson went to Marquette where she started and averaged in double figures for 4 years.

Courtney Boylan was not considered to be a big loss as Kiara Buford, Briana Mastey and Jackie Voigt were regarded as a top 20 national recruiting class. Their careers turned out to be a big disappointment, but that too is another story.

Tayler Hill was the big whiff of the past decade, the top scoring girl ever, the 2nd Minnesota girl ever to play in the McDonald's game, a game-changer. Borton recruited her to the bitter end, when it became apparent that Tayler Hill never had any intention of being a Gopher. And having put all her eggs in Tayler Hill's basket, coach ended up without a consolation prize in 2009. By the time Hill pulled the trigger it was too late to get the other great guards of 2009, Brittney Chambers or Theiarra Taylor.

Collectively, of course, the misses in 2007-2008 and 2009 meant that between Lindsay Whalen in 2000 and Rachel Banham in 2010 the Gophers had failed to recruit a single Minnesota guard who was a BCS caliber ball-handler. Not that they weren't out there. Along with Angel, you had Kamille Wahlin of Crookston and Alyssa Karel of Cretin, each of whom became a starting point guard in the Big 10. And while coach Borton was forced to bring Kay Sylva and China Antoine and Leah Cotton to provide a little depth at the guard spot, Wahlin was starting at Iowa before her freshman year was out and won all-Big 10 honors 3 times.

In 2010, Cassie Rochel followed Tayler Hill's example, wanting nothing to do with the Gophers. There were no huge lamentations at this, but the fact is she is starting at Wisconsin now in her junior year. In 2011 the Gophers got Rochel's teammate, Rachel Banham, thank goodness. The fragility of the Gopher program is easily illustrated just by asking the question of where they would be if Banham had followed Hill and Rochel and Theiarra Taylor out of town.

Nobody seems to know if Minnesota recruited Marissa Janning, 2012 Ms. Basketball. But while I'm a big admirer of Shayne Mullaney, it was pretty obvious when Creighton played the Gophers at the Barn early this year that Janning is a special player and way ahead of Mullaney in their respective freshman years.

Similarly the Gophers whiffed on the 2013 Ms. Basketball. I mean, we don't know who it will be, but it won't be Gopher recruit Joanna Hedstrom. The top choices would seem to be Rebekah Dahlman, Braham and Vanderbilt; Nia Coffey, Hopkins and Northwestern; Tyseanna Johnson, DeLaSalle and Iowa State; Jade Martin, Kennedy and Georgetown; and Jessica January, Richfield and DePaul. This is widely regarded as the best recruiting class ever in Minnesota, and the Gophers basically whiffed on the top 5-6-8 players.

But fortunately they've got the likely 2014 Ms. Basketball in Carlie Wagner of New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva--only the 2nd such recruit in the past 9 years!

What Up Wit' Dat?

Recruiting high school kids has to be one of the toughest, most frustrating pursuits known to mankind. I mean, kids don't know what they want until they see it, right? And for the Minnesota Gophers coaches there's a unique set of challenges. Why, in short, might a Minnesota kid want to play basketball somewhere else? Let me count the ways.

1. Kids who have the opportunity to do so are more likely than not going to want to play for the best program possible, like Janet Karvonen going to Old Dominion and then Louisiana Tech or, to borrow from the boys/men's side of the equation, like Cole Aldrich of Jefferson going to Kansas or Adam Boone going to North Carolina or Nick Horvath to Duke. This is a fairly rare thing, however, which tells you that maybe Minnesota ball isn't quite as tough as we think. I dunno.

2. Minnesota is the only Big 10 school located in the state's largest metropolitan area. There are no such schools in Chicago or Detroit or Cleveland or Pittsburgh. Here, more than half the state's population is within 25 or 30 miles of the U of M campus. The problem with this is that a lot of college kids, athletes or not, want to "go away" to school. They want to get away from mom and dad, or they want to go somewhere exotic and mysterious. For most Minnesota kids--and certainly for the half of them that grew up in the Twin Cities--that ain't the U. Maybe that's why Tayler Hill and Cassie Rochel and Angel Robinson and Rebekah Dahlman said no thanks. Maybe it's not. But it hurts Gopher recruiting at least some.

3. Then there's the fact that the U and the black communities of Minneapolis and St. Paul have a long history of estrangement. Again, this is not specifically about athletics. But if you're not aware of this fact, you don't understand the Gophers recruiting situation very well. When the U closed the General College a few years ago, it was seen as a particular affront to the black community. Now, is this why Tamara Moore and Tayler Hill and Angel Robinson and Theiarra Taylor didn't go to the U? Who knows. Maybe they wanted to "go away." But whatever the reason, it came against a backdrop of estrangement between the U and their local communities. Was anybody whispering in their ear that the U would be a great choice? Look at the Gophers recruits from Minnesota of the past several years and looking ahead:

2008--Kiara Buford, Briana Mastey, Jackie Voigt
2009--Katie Loberg
2010--Sari Noga
2011--Rachel Banham, Kayla Hirt
2012--Shayne Mullaney, Mikayla Bailey
2013--Joanna Hedstrom
2014--Carlie Wagner, Grace Coughlin

Since Kiara Buford, not a single African-American Minnesota girl.

Meanwhile the out-of-town recruits for the same period include the aforementioned Sylva, Antoine and Cotton; Brittany McCoy, Korinne Campbell, Micaela Riche and Kionna Kellogg; and going forward Stabresa McDaniel.

I mean, seriously, maybe someone can explain this to me...but I'm not gonna hold my breath. But WTF is going on, it surely complicates the recruiting landscape for the Gopher coach, whoever s/he is.

So, anyway, take the big whiffs of recent years. Tayler Hill seems to have wanted a more prestigious program than the U. If Connecticut or Tennessee had come calling, Ohio State might not have been the winner. The Gophers never had a chance.

Surely some other girls wanted to "go away" to college, though I don't know of a specific example.

But at least 2 athletes I know of (according to people who know them) rejected Minnesota because coach came calling long after other coaches had started banging on the door and not only that but then she disappeared for a period of time before finally coming back with an offer. By that time the kids had decided that Minnesota didn't really want them very badly and in fact that they had been disrespected. One told coach that "it would be really lame to play for the University of Minnesota." These are both kids who might have played at the U if they had been courted with some sense of commitment.

Jenna Smith and Kamille Wahlin, further, seem not to have been offered. Those misses too are on the Gophers.

The Future and the Summary Judgement

Next year Joanna Hedstrom from Minnetonka, and Stabresa McDaniel from Texas will be freshmen, as will Amanda Zahui from Sweden in terms of eligibility, having redshirted this year.

Then in 2014 you've got Carlie Wagner and Grace Coughlin plus Terra Stapleton and Josie Buckingham, a couple of big posts from Ohio.

It's been a long time since the Gophers had more recruits coming from outside of Minnesota than inside (4 of 7 the next 2 years).  Once upon a time I would have been unhappy about that. But right now it seems to be a necessity (as long as McDaniel, Stapleton and Buckingham don't turn out to be bigger versions of Sylva, Antoine and Cotton). The program will be better off because of it.

And the fact is that the talent in (and coming into) the Minnesota Gopher women's program is probably the best it's been since that fateful year of 2006.

Centers--Riche (class of 2014), Zahui (2017), Stapleton (2018), Buckingham (2018)
Forwards--Kellogg (2014), Noga (2014), Hirt (2016), McDaniel (2017)
Guards--Banham (2015), Mullaney (2016), Bailey (2016), Hedstrom (2017), Wagner (2018), Coughlin (2018)

No, not all of these kids will be in the program at the same time. Riche, Kellogg and Noga will never play with Carlie Wagner or the Ohio posts. And hopefully the mix isn't as unbalanced as it looks--i.e. one of the posts can play the 4 because the depth at the post seems totally redundant, while the quality at forward is a little bit suspect. And after Banham and Wagner, the quality at guard is a little suspect, too, though I really do think Mullaney is going to be a solid player.

But this roster says that coach Borton is doing a better job of recruiting of late. Maybe she's written off certain segments of players where the results just haven't been happening and focused her attention on "markets" where some of the negatives don't apply. If so, we can wish all we want that it wasn't so, but it's not going to change anything. It's just prudent on her part.

So other than the implosion of 2006, which is tangentially a recruiting problem, and the lack of guard depth around the time of Tayler Hill, frankly, coach Borton's recruiting record ain't that bad.

And yet, the results have been disappointing. Pretty much every year now from 2006 to the present, the Gophers have shown flashes of potential, only to fade down the stretch. The post-season recap for almost any of the past 8 years could just as well be "A once promising season ended in disappointment." If it's not the recruiting, what's going on?

The bigger concern is her ability to help players to improve during their 4 years at the U, and her ability to get the best performance possible out of the talent that she's got on game day. There's also pretty compelling evidence of real problems along those lines. But having given some thought to her record as a recruiter and to the whole milieu in which she has to work, I've probably been too hard on her for that. But the other thing, I don't know that I've been hard enough.

Last year, coach Borton said that if Kayla Hirt hadn't been, er, hurt, the Gophers might have been a Sweet 16 team. Well, now they've got Hirt. And next year, Zahui. If coach says this team has that kind of talent, I take her at her word. The recruiting has, again, been pretty good in recent years, even with the big whiff on the 2013s. But if Banham finishes her 4 years at the U without an NCAA tournament bid, for example (and we're now very likely half way to that outcome), will it not be time to admit that coach Borton is in over her head as an actual coach?

Sunday, February 10, 2013

The Not-So-Big Games Feb. 10--Gophers Scrambled

The Minnesota Gopher men and women both laid an egg today, and Illinois cheerfully scrambled 'em both. That makes a dozen extra large eggs laid by the 2 teams in the past month--6 apiece in their last 8 games--leaving a pair of once promising seasons in a scramble, er, shambles.

The women, once 13-4, are now 4-7 in the Big 10, 2-6 in their last 8 games, and 15-10 overall.

The men, once 15-1, are now 5-6 in the Big 10, 2-6 in their last 8 games, and 17-7 overall.

Look at their remaining schedules and the way they've been playing, you'd have to agree that an NCAA tournament bid seems unlikely, not only for the women but even for the once #8 rated men.

Who would have thought that Norwood Teague' 1st big coaching challenges would not include football?

I can't think of a player or coach of the day, can you?

Saturday, February 9, 2013

The Big Game Feb. 9--Melrose boys 89 Lakeview Christian 86

Not the rout that some predicted. Melrose led by 11 at the half, but Lakeview tied it up at 83. Melrose led 87-86 and won 89-86. Anders Broman scored 42 points, Bjorn Broman 28 and Scottie Stone of Melrose scored 28.

My original choice as game of the day proved not to be so competitive. St. Thomas women 65 St. Ben's 46.

Player of the Day: Anders Broman 42 points
Coach of the Day: Ruth Sinn, St. Thomas women, now 4 wins in a row after 3 straight losses

The Big Game Feb. 8--Mankato and Winona State men both lose

Mankato State and Winona State went into tonight's play tied with the best record in the MIAC at 14-2. Well, they're still #1A and #1B, but each now is just 14-3. Mankato lost to Bemidji (10-7) 82-74 at home, as Dermaine Crockrell scored 29 points with 8 rebounds, 5 assists and a pair of steals. Meanwhile, St. Cloud (13-4) edged Winona 79-79 in a wild one, despite Clayton Vette's 29 points and 9 boards.

Bemidji trailed Mankato by 5 at the half, but his 4 3-pointers in the 1st 5 minutes of the 2nd half to take a 47-43 lead which they never relinquished. St. Cloud led all the way from 14-2 to 43-35 to 68-58 with 4:32 to play. Winona got within 74-72 with 38 seconds remaining on a Cameron Taylor 3. St. Cloud made 5-of-6 FT to lead 79-75 when Grant Johnson hit a half court shot for the final margin.

Player of the Day: Crockrell
Coach of the Day: Kevin Schlagel, St. Cloud State men

Thursday, February 7, 2013

The Big Game Feb. 7--Minnesota Gopher women 72 Iowa 60

A win is a win is a win...except when it's against Iowa or Wisconsin. After losing 5 of 6 games, well, that's more than just a win, too. So, all in all, a big night at the Barn and a good good show by the Gopher women.

But, wait, there's more. The homecoming angle, for example. Now, don't get me wrong. I wish all of Minnesota's kids nothing but success no matter where they go to play college ball.... Except against the Gophers. So...Theairra Taylor and Bethany Doolittle started for the Hawkeyes and played 48 minutes between them. Kali Peschel and Kayla Timmerman came off the bench for 10 total minutes. The 4 of them scored 19 points in 58 minutes of play on 6-of-16 shooting (37.5 percent).

Our Minnesotans--and I say this in the most non-gloating way that I can muster--played about twice as many minutes (115) and scored more than 3 times as many points (62) on 21-of-42 shooting (50 percent). Ha ha ha ha ha!

Then there's the highly-recruited-guard angle. You've probably forgotten that Iowa sophomore Sam Logic was more highly rated than Minnesota sophomore guard Rachel Banham. Banham scored 34 points on 10-of-19 shooting. Logic scored 0 points on 0-for-3 shooting.

Put it all together and it was still a scary night. Minnesota led by as many as 14 points in the 1st half and by 11 at the half at 38-27. In the 2nd half the largest lead was 46-33 around the 14 minute mark. About 9 minutes later a Jamie Printy 3 got the Hawks within 3, and another 2 minutes later a Melissa Dixon 2 made it 62-59 with 3:05 to play. But 30 seconds later Banham hit a 3 on a feed from Sari Noga to make it 65-59, and a minute later Shayne Mullaney hit a 2 from Kionna Kellogg (our Iowan!) to make it 67-60. Iowa never scored again.

On the plus side, Minnesota shot 45 percent from the field, Iowa just 29 percent (18-for-63). On the minus side, Iowa scored 27 points off turnovers, the Gophers just 9, though the turnovers themselves were just 16 (for Minnesota) to 13 (for Iowa).

Banham had 9 boards to go with 34 points. Micaella Riche had 13 boards but just 6 points, all in the 1st half. Mullaney and Kayla Hirt picked up some of the slack in the 2nd half and finished with 11 and 10 points apiece.

Of course, the question presents itself--does this mean the Gophers can salvage their season? Now 4-6 in the Big 10 and 15-9 overall, the answer is probably no. 5 of their last 6 games are either on the road where they're 1-4 in the conference, or against rated teams (Penn State and Purdue). Recent experience suggests they'll win 1 or 2 of those games plus the home game vs. Northwestern. If that's the case the tally going into the Big 10 tournament will be 6-10 or 7-9 and 17-13 or 18-14. They would probably need to win the Big 10 tournament to get an NCAA tournament bid.

Which means that they and we just have to savor tonight all the more.

Player of the Day: Banham

Coach of the Day: Pam Borton

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The Big Game Feb. 6--St. Ben's 69 Concordia (Moorhead) 63

St. Ben's climbed into a tie for 1st place in the MIAC with a 69-64 home win over Concordia (Moorhead). Concordia led 33-29 at the half, but St. Ben's dominated the 2nd half to pull out the win. Overall, the Bennies shot 45 percent to the Cobbers 35 percent, and St. Ben's made 5-of-10 3s. Whitney Canton led the way with 17 points, 7 boards, 3 assists and 4 steals.

Player of the Day: Canton
Coach of the Day: Mike Durbin, St. Ben's

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The Big Game Feb. 5--Osseo boys 66 Park Center 56

Defending state AAAA champion Osseo avenged an earlier defeat to #1AAAA-rated Park Center 66-56. Osseo came into the game rated #4AAAA with a record of 15-2. Park Center was 17-1. Osseo's Bridge Tusler led all scorers with 22 points and added 8 assists. He also held Park Center star Quinton Hooker to 14 points, and just 5 in the 2nd half. Hooker scored 36 in the earlier game between the 2 teams. Ian Theisen added 21 points and 14 boards for Osseo.

Player of the Day: Jon Sobaski, Prior Lake. The junior guard scored 45 points as Prior Lake edged Bloomington Kennedy 80-76 in OT.

Coach of the Day: Tim Theisen, Osseo.

Monday, February 4, 2013

The Big Game Feb. 4--Augsburg men 106 St. John's 87

Augsburg had 6 players score in double figures in pulling away from St. John's to a high-scoring win 106-87. Dan Kornbaum led the way with 27 points, 5 boards, 6 assists and 2 blocked shots. As a result, Augsburg held on to 3rd place in the MIAC. A loss would have moved St. John's into 3rd place.

Player of the Day: Kornbaum
Coach of the Day: Aaron Greiss, Augsburg men
Team and Game of the Day: Augsburg and Augsburg 106-87 over the Johnnies

Sunday, February 3, 2013

The Big Game Feb. 3--Minnesota Gopher men 62 Iowa 59

The Gopher men were lucky to escape Iowa at the Barn. Trailing 59-55 at the 2 minute mark, Minnesota got a layup by Joe Coleman and then a big 3 from Austin Hollins to lead 60-59 with just 11.6 seconds remaining. He then stripped Mike Gesell, and Andre Hollins hit a pair of throws for a 3 point lead. Gesell's tying attempt came off the front rim at the final buzzer.

Minnesota outshot the Hawkeyes 45 percent to 36, but Iowa made 7 3s to 4 for the Gophers and also had more points in the paint 18-12. Neither team led by more than 4 in the 2nd half.

Austin finished with 17 points, Andre with 15, Coleman 12 and Rodney Williams 10.

Player of the Day: Austin Hollins. Team of the Day: Concordia (Moorhead) women won at St. Mary's 64-54 to stay in 1st place in the MIAC at 16-2. Coach of the Day: Jessica Rahman, Concordia (Moorhead) women.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

The Big Game Feb. 2--Alex Illikainen and Grand Rapids 74 Forest Lake 73

How do you beat the best big man in Minnesota? How about shooting 20-for-34 from behind the 3-point line? Would that do the trick? Ya think?

Well, it would have been good enough today. But, unfortunately, Forest Lake "only" made 19-of-34 3s and fell to Grand Rapids 74-73 on an Alex Illikainen FT with 0:08 remaining. It was his 31st point of the day on 14-of-20 shooting to go along with 7 rebounds, 3 steals, 3 blocks and an assist.

And, yet, Illikainen was pretty much overshadowed by the best 3-point shooting exhibition I think I've ever seen. Forest Lake hit 19-of-34 3s, 9-of-15 in the 1st half and 10-of-19 in the 2nd, according to my unofficial numbers. 6-6 senior forward Noah Davis was the chief bombardier at 7-of-11, while junior guard Matt Degendorfer was 5-of-10 and senior guard Brock Baumgartner was an unlikely 4-of-4. Sophomore guard Connor Knutson was 2-of-6 and senior guard Wyatt Lawson 1-for-3.

At one time in the 1st half the score was tied at 21-21, and the Rangers' 21 points had all come on 3s (7-of-8 at that point). Its 1st 2-pointer, by Knutson, came at 7:56 of the 1st half. Degendorfer followed with another 2 and then 2 more 3s to close out the 1st half. The Thunderhawks led 35-31 behind Illikainen's 16 points, while Forest Lake had 9 3s and a pair of 2s.

Forest Lake missed its 1st 6 shots of the 2nd half and fell behind 41-31, then trailed 48-36 at 10:58 before regaining the touch. Inside of 9 minutes, the Rangers hit 7-of-8 3s, 5 of them by Davis, but Grand Rapids scored on 12-of-15 possessions, so all those 3s just tied it up at 73. Actually it was a put-back by Anthony Tyler on a missed 3 by Davis at :13 that finally got Forest Lake back to square.

But the Thunderhawks got a long ball to Illikainen against full court pressure. Davis fouled him, and Illikainen made 1-of-2. A Davis 3 clanked off the front of the rim as the final buzzer sounded.

Player of the Day: Illikainen 31 points 7 boards, 3 steals, 3 blocks, 1 assist

Coach of the Day: John Tauer, St. Thomas, who beat 2nd place Augsburg 80-60 to go 15-1 in the MIAC

Honorable Mention: To the genius who put together the match-ups at the MN-WI Border Battle that resulted in (so far) 6 MN wins in 6 games by a average margin of 72-48. (The Apple Valley finale not yet complete.)