After a tough loss to the Texas Longhorns yesterday, Minnesota's season is done. Sad, yes, very. But on the more positive and cliche end, we are continuing to improve and next year is looking very bright for a number of reasons.
First, as a young team we will be bringing back just about everybody and losing only those who are on the minimal production side. This young team got some tourney experience this year, and will be eager to return.
Second, Colton Iverson and Ralph Sampson III. Everyone talked about how we needed to get the ball inside to these guys to be successful. This was a valid point except as freshmen these guys still made too many mistakes. Having said that, with an entire year on their belts their raw talent will be further polished and I don't think anybody will want to drive into the lane with those two standing right there.
Third, Tubby Smith's recruiting. Although I do not know any specific names, I do know that the guys Tubby brought in this past year all made positive contributions to the team. And this upcoming year Tubby will have more of his guys coming in again to strengthen our talent level. Further, this year's NCAA Tournament Bid will help recruiting even more showing top prospects that Minnesota is a competitor.
And of course as fans of the game and knowledgable basketball minds, we also should highlight the ominous things about next year and things we need to improve if we want to compete for the Big Ten title and earn a higher seed in the tourney.
First, the senior slide. I define the senior slide as the time near the end of your last year in high school when you stop caring and your grades begin to slip. This is how I define the Gophers from this year and last. We start out hot, cruising through a weak, but respectable non-conference schedule and then we fade away come the home stretch of Big Ten season. This year we faltered mightily at the end of the season and backed ourselves into the tournament, not a good idea IMO. So I don't know how we are going to fix it, but we need to go like hell the entire season, win a few games on the road, and turn the barn into a place where teams are scared to come to. Dropping a few road games is a given, but that last game loss to Michigan at home and some of our other home losses just simply shouldn't be happening.
Second, the offense, as a big unit. Our offense struggled with consistency all year long. And when we weren't shooting threes well we suffered. My remedies include: better post production from Iverson and Sampson(which I think will come with experience), better decision making by Nolen AND Joseph, and get Hoffarber more shots. An inside-out type system involving a dump in to Ralph, who could kick it back out to Hoffarber would be very effective I think. I know Blake struggled this year shooting wise but I feel as if he needs more shots. The guy only takes 2-4 shots a game, so of course his percentage isn't going to be good. So I say spread the floor, get guys moving, and take better care of the basketball. Although, turnovers will always be a problem for any team, so, yeah.
So there's my overview of the past season and my excitement towards the upcoming season. And I leave you with this. Tubby's contract is up after this year, and, will more than likely be expecting a raise of some sort. I say, we NEED to keep Tubby here. The buzz on campus is awesome come basketball time now that we actually compete and he's helped improve the program so much that I feel like we'd just be taking 6 or 7 steps back if we let Tubby go. I don't know how much of a possibility this is, but Maturi better sign Tubby because Minnesotans are excited about basketball again.