Earlier today, I wrote an article suggesting that the Minnesota Gophers could make a late season run for an NCAA berth if they went into Ann Arbor and beat the Wolverines.
I identified several things that the Gophers would need to do to beat Michigan. I posted a photo of Ralph Sampson III with my article.
I want to apologize to Coach Tubby Smith and any fans of Minnesota Gopher Basketball. I didn’t realize the consequences of my actions.
Minnesota went into Ann Arbor and got blown out by 28 points. This was one of the worst games the Gophers played under Coach Tubby Smith’s tenure.
I suggested in my article that the Gophers needed to stop DeShawn Sims. Sims torched the Gophers for 23 points and six rebounds. Four of Sims six rebounds were offensive rebounds.
I suggested in my article that one of the players that the Gophers needed to get a solid game from was Sampson. Sampson played uninspired basketball, scoring only seven points and grabbing five rebounds.
Sampson's play was so lacking in effort that he was benched. In fairness to Sampson, he was not the only player to be benched for lack of effort. Coach Smith pulled all of his starters out of the game in the second half in an effort to send a message.
In my article, I also suggested that the Gophers had an advantage, as they are a much better three-point shooting team than the Wolverines. Before the game, Minnesota was connecting on 40 percent of their three-point shots, in contrast to Michigan's 30 percent.
I even suggested that Michigan relied too much on the three-point shot, and that maybe the Wolverines would shoot themselves out of the game. I also noted that Michigan often failed to guard their opponent’s best three-point threat.
Michigan stayed true to form in shooting 19 three-pointers to Minnesota’s sixteen shots. As predicted, Michigan even allowed Blake Hoffarber, the Big 10’s best long-distance sharp shooter, to get five good looks from beyond the arc.
Unfortunately for Minnesota, the rest of the story did not follow my proposed script.
Minnesota shot only 19 percent from downtown, with Hoffarber going only one for five from beyond the arc. After throwing up several initial bricks, Michigan began knocking down threes and ended up shooting a blistering 42 percent from beyond the arc.
Minnesota’s tenacious defense was non-existent. The Gophers only forced four turnovers, and several of them occurred in one mad scramble that caused head scratching to occur on both benches.
Minnesota picked a very bad time to play a poor game. The Gophers needed this victory and a win over Iowa to give them a shot at a 10-8 record in the Big 10.
Minnesota’s 10-8 record and a little help from their friends, and the Gophers could have finished fifth in the Big 10. In the history of the NCAA tournament, 112 of the 116 teams that have finished with a winning record in the Big 10 have received an invitation to the NCAA tournament.
The trend will likely continue this year, as the top four teams in the Big 10 will end the regular season ranked among the top 25 teams. Minnesota could have been the beneficiary of being in the fifth spot with a winning record; the honor and bid to the NCAA tournament now appears to be solidly in the hands of Illinois.
There can be only one explanation for why Minnesota played so poorly in Ann Arbor with so much on the line.
I clearly jinxed Minnesota. I especially jinxed Sampson by putting his photo as the lead to my story. I therefore apologize to Coach Smith, Sampson, the team, and the fans.
In the best interests of the team, I’m therefore going to bench myself until after the Iowa game. Hopefully, the Gophers will bounce back with a victory on Seniors Day.
I’m keeping my fingers crossed.