The Gophers take on the hated Badgers tonight at 8 on Big Ten Network. These games are always entertaining, no matter how much Bo's bunch tries to slow it down and make the game as insufferable as possible. Here's 5 reasons to watch tonight.
Elliott Eliason—EE is everything I have ever loved in a basketball player. He’s a big dopey white guy who doesn’t have an ounce of muscle on his body. I’m pretty sure Jay Bilas would piss his gym shorts if you asked him about Eliason’s explosivity or second-jumpability (side note: Bilas deserves a ton of credit for covering the draft with fucking made up words. Serioulsy both of those words are underlined in red). Eliason is basically only a competent Big Ten basketball player because he’s fucking tall and he tries hard and I absolutely love it. My favorite moment of last year was when Eliason came off the bench and scored on a fadeaway jump-hook against then-#1 Indiana at the Barn, and then raced down the court throwing his hands in the air to tell the crowd to go fucking nuts (as if they didn’t already know). How can you not love a guy who plays basketball like a 6’4’’ 8th grader playing against a bunch of kids who have barely hit puberty with an 8th grader’s enthusiasm? EE is (as the bro-iest hockey player would say) a beauty.
Bo Ryan—People who know me know one of my favorite things to do is to hate. I probably say hate more often than anyone I know. And I HATE Bo Ryan. The guy is just such a tremendous asshole out there. He’s always scowling, prancing up and down the sidelines like Jim Harbaugh. What makes it even worse is that goddamn announcers act like he’s Coach K or John Wooden too. Last year when the Gopher lost to UW in Madison, the announcer (I don’t remember who it was) was telling a story about how players checking in have to hand a towel to the player they’re going in for so that player will know to come off the court, and he was fucking praising him like goddamn Albert Einstein that he found such an innovative way to make sure he has only 5 guys on the court at once. Read that back a second time because it is absolutely preposterous. On top of that, he has built his team traditionally on mediocre offense and lockdown defense, which translates to a fucking lot of Badger wins 48-43 over Purdue or Northwestern and a lot of zzzzzzzzz’s for fans. God I hate him, I hope he falls off the raised court tonight.
Andre Hollins—Dre is having a great junior year so far and he usually comes to play in a big way in big games. He’s averaging 16 a game so far this year on 41% shooting (which admittedly isn’t very good, but the offense really relies on him to score). Last year against Memphis, he dropped 41. In the first round upset of 6-seeded UCLA, he hit 5 3’s and dropped in 28 points. In the NCAA Tourney against Florida, he scored 25 (including 6 3’s) in a loss. I remember that game—as soon as he got into foul trouble, the Gophers were dead and Tubby was essentially fired walking off the court. He was single-handedly keeping them afloat. He’s hopefully going to be around for another year after this, and then I could see him working his way into an NBA rotation after a few years as a guy you bring in for instant scoring because he can shoot a little bit and he's great at getting to the bucket and drawing fouls. Watch him tonight and as much as you can, because he is probably the best Gopher (along with Mbakwe) since Bobby Jackson and Voshon Leonard on the Clem Haskins Gopher teams that
went to the Final
Four were on the vacated Final Four teams. Bottom line, as Dre goes, so go the Gophers, and if the
Gophers have any chance tonight, he needs to go.
Richard Pitino—He’s only been the coach for 21 games, but it’s already pretty apparent that he is going to be a pretty good coach for a long time. Not to be a fatalist Minnesota fan, but in reality if it keeps going like this, he probably won’t be around for too much longer. We are 5th in the Big Ten (which is higher than Tubby ever finished) currently, and we’re doing so with a pretty mediocre roster. On one hand, we do have a few pretty good college players, albeit sometimes inconsistent, in the Hollins brothers, EE, Lil’ Dre, and Malik Smith. But on the other hand, fucking Oto Oseniks is a starter, Joey King gets significant minutes off the bench, and the only backup big that is even semi-competent is Mo Walker who made buckets in back to back trips against Ohio State last week and I reacted by almost keeling over because I couldn’t fucking believe what I saw. So yeah, it’s not exactly a great roster. The team makes mistakes for sure, but at least they can figure out how to get a shot up against a zone and they’re fun to watch instead of watching Tubby’s club last year doing 5 man hockey line changes and not knowing how to run a good inbound play. On top of all that, he has one of my favorite intricacies of any coach I have ever watched as when he gets pissed off at officials, he starting ripping his clothes off. It’s hilarious to see him chuck his sport coat into the row behind the bench. It definitely softens the blow when EE gets called for his 4th to see Dick rip his tie off and spike it on the raised court. I've gotten more enjoyment in talking about that than anything other than Musgrave’s tiny play card.
Malik Smith—Last but not least, Malik Smith is just fucking fun to watch. He’s one of those college veteran guys who isn't going to the pros (at least not in a first world country) but knows what he’s doing and has a ton of confidence in himself. He’s shooting 39% from the field overall, but he’s shooting 40% from deep, which is completely baffling considering that he is the ultimate irrational confidence guy and jacks up threes because there are no fours. If you’re a bubble team like the Gophers are, you want one of these guys. Malik goes down and hits a 30-footer from the wing two or three times in a row, and then just starts to say “fuck it” and throws up some fucking dandy heat-check shots. I saw him hit the side of the back board from about 3 inches in from the sideline above the break, and I wasn't even pissed because of how many of those ridiculous shots he has hit so far. He might shoot you out of one every once in a while, but he’ll sure as fuck shoot you into one at least once or twice this year, like he did against Syracuse over Thanksgiving break. Hopefully he shoots us into one tonight.
The pick: Wisconsin (-1.5) over Minnesota. Hope I’m wrong. Better dead than red.