Mitch’s Thoughts November 27th
Perhaps the best takeaway from Saturday’s 31-0 loss to Wisconsin is that it’s done and over with as is the season for the Gophers. There was an outside chance that Minnesota could make a bowl game at 5-7 but that is now off the table with the necessary amount of teams having won six games to become bowl eligible. It probably isn’t the worst thing in the world that Minnesota didn’t’ back into a bowl game based off the last couple of weeks. They were outscored 70-0 by Northwestern and Wisconsin combined. They crossed midfield three times on Saturday against the Badgers and never entered the red zone. The offensive play calling suggested the Gophers were a team just trying to end the game as quickly as possible as they kept going back to the well on a speed option that was unsuccessful. The game plan was similar in Evanston two weeks back when that game started to get out of hand. I still firmly believe in this thing and in PJ Fleck for the long run. This was an underwhelming first year that ended horribly but what if your expectations were for this team to compete and compete big right off the bat, it was a skewed perspective from the start. Let’s hope they finish up the 2018 recruiting class strong and come into next season with more legitimate optimism and better talent fits. Give it time, and yes I know that is often impossible to preach to a fan base.
What I saw Saturday evening I have never seen before at any level of basketball. For the final ten plus minutes Minnesota played Alabama in a game of five on three after a skirmish earlier in the half resulted in Alabama’s entire bench being ejected. After a foul out and an injury, Avery Johnson’s squad was down to three players. During that final stretch, the three Crimson Tide players outscored Minnesota 30-22 in somewhat of a remarkable run. However, let it not go unnoticed that Richard Pitino was in a near impossible spot. He could’ve had a player cherry pick. He could’ve put on a full court press to trap Alabama. The optics wouldn’t have been pretty and scrutiny for not showing class surely could’ve followed. So instead, Minnesota didn’t press and didn’t have a player of their own remain on the other side of half court for easy leak out layups. As a result, Alabama made things real interesting and real uncomfortable for Minnesota. The Gophers got any shot they wanted and literally could take a wide open three whenever they chose to. But they looked incredibly hesitant on what to do and when to do it while Alabama was playing with a nothing to lose mentality. The Gophers still scooped up the win and an impressive one at that, circumstance aside. Nobody will remember the Minnesota win though. If they are able to knock off #10 Miami on Wednesday night in The Barn, national pundits will be forced to pay attention to this Gophers squad and take them seriously if they haven’t already.