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Posted on: January 15, 2009 7:22 pm
 

Your 2009 - 2010 Minnesota Golden Gophers

In all the excitement surrounding the current Gophers, the future looks even brighter. One interesting thing looking to the future is that the only graduating seniors are JAS and Jonathon Williams but we are bringing in four highly regarded players. JAS and Williams only contribute 21.4 total minutes per game. I doubt the 4 incoming will only be sharing those minutes. The lineup will look quite different. I think Tubby will go with playing ten players regularly, a starter and a back-up for every position. Here is what I see the 2009-2010 Gophers looking like:

Point Guard

Starter: Al Nolen (Jr.) - This is a no doubter. He currently leads the team in minutes with 28.9. If he makes a similar stride that he has made this year from his freshman year he will be a serious contender for 1st team All-Big Ten.

Backup: Devoe Joseph (Soph.) - He has been playing some quality minutes lately for the Gophers adding tempo and quickness on both ends of the court. He needs to work on his shot a little and creating off the dribble but he should be one of the best back up point guards in the Big Ten next year.

Shooting Guard

Starter: Lawrence Westbrook (Sr.) - He will likely come into next year as the leading scorer. I don't see that continuing on next year's squad. He lacks the size of a typical shooting guard but has a good shot and can create his own shot. He might end up more of a 6th man on next years squad but should still get over 10 ppg next year.

Backup: Blake Hoffarber (Jr.) - He has been struggling lately with his shot and confidence but when he gets it going him and Jon Diebler of Ohio State are the best pure shooters in the Big Ten. He draws the opposing teams respect as evidenced in the Penn State game and is capable of getting 20 points on any night. He still needs to work on his defense and other aspects of the offensive game but he should still be a big contributor with close to 10 ppg.

Small Forward

Starter: Damian Johnson (Sr.) - He should be defensive 1st team all-big ten this year and that will carry over next year. He should be the strong senior leader the team will need. He needs to further develop the offensive game but he will be counted on every night.

Backup: Devron Bostick (Sr.) - This is a hard one to call. It should between him and Paul Carter (Jr.). Bostick could also see some time as the shooting guard, but I believe the offensive game that Bostick can bring will lead to him getting more minutes. He seems to be finally coming into his own and gives the Gophers a much needed dimension.

Power Forward

Starter: Trevor Mbakwe (Jr.) - This is based off of the one game I saw of him when he was at Marquette. He was a freshman coming off a torn acl. He is only 6-8 but he was playing Georgetown and held his own guarding Roy Hibbert and grabbing 7 rebounds in 14 minutes. He is averaging 12.3 rebs and 3.4 blocks with 13 ppg in JC. I see him playing very similar to Raymar Morgan of MSU. He will provide toughness and could be a monster down low.

Backup: Royce White (Fr.) - He might be the most talented player on the team. He is currently the 19th ranked high school player according to Rivals.com. He might even end up as the starter at the 4 spot but I think it will start with Mbakwe because he is more physically developed and has Div. 1 experience. There shouldn't be much of an adjustment as he from reports already plays Tubby ball. He has a high basketball IQ, plays tough on both ends and does not always need the ball in his hands to put up his numbers.

Center

Starter: Colton Iverson (Soph.) - This obviously comes down to the Twin Towers. To date, he has played more physically down low, rebounds better, and seems to be better with his back to the basket. I think after one season in the Big Ten he could blossom into a 10 ppg and 8 reb player next year.

Backup: Ralph Sampson III (Soph.) - He has the higher ceiling of the two, but he has further to go to get their. He does seem to have a nice medium range game and looks like he might someday be able to stretch that to the three-point line. He will get significant minutes and I look to see him make a huge stride next year.

Who gets left out

Paul Carter (Jr.) - I think he will still see some minutes and will play if Tubby doesn't like what he sees or if their are injuries. He needs to work on his shot. He might see more time as a Senior as a DJ Swat replacement.

Rodney Williams Jr. (Fr.) - He is a highly regarded recruit, but he is seen as raw. He has great athleticism but might take a year to learn Tubby's system. I just don't see minutes for him as a freshman but he could be the starting shooting guard as a sophomore.

Travis Busch (Sr.) - He has played some good minutes but talent will win out and there is not a spot where I can see him getting any significant minutes to the rejoice of many Gopher fans.

Justin Cobbs (Fr.) - No room for a third point guard, least regarded of incoming recruits. Might be redshirted.

Kevin Payton (Sr.) - Does not play this year, definitely will not play next year.

You may disagree with me, but you can't look at this team and not think they can contend for the Big Ten title next year. They might even be the favorites depending on other programs. Thoughts?
Posted on: January 14, 2009 5:02 pm
 

Wisconsin Game Preview

#18 Minnesota Golden Gophers (15-1, 3-1) at Wisconsin Badgers (12-4, 3-1)

The Badgers are recognized to be a good team and a legitimate NCAA caliber team. The losses they have had are to elite teams like UCONN and Texas but they have yet to beat a guaranteed NCAA team. They still have done an excellent job of protecting the Kohl Center which is the hardest place to go on the road in the Big Ten. Here is Wisconsin's resume:

Wins to showcase:
  • At Michigan 73-61
  • At Virginia Tech 74-72
Losses to hide from:
  • At Purdue 52-65
  • At Marquette 58-61
Assets:
  • Ball Control: 10.6 turnovers per game best in conference
  • Defensive Rebounding: Rebound 73.8% of possible defensive rebounds, 2nd in conference
  • Marcus Landry: 12.8 ppg, 4.1 rebs, 1.6 ass
Deficiencies:
  • Defense: Opponents shoot 42.1% 3rd worst, force 10.7 turnovers per game worst in Big Ten
  • Assists: 12 per game second worst in Big Ten
  • Scoring Depth: Only five players (Landry, Hughes, Bohannon, Leuer, Krabbenhoft) average more than 5 points a game. The Gophers have 8 players.
As you can see the Badger losses are not to0 bad although they looked pretty bad in the Purdue game. Their defense is not at the level accustomed to Badger basketball. They are allowing 59.3 ppg compared to 54.4 last year and 57.9 two years ago. Opponents only shot 38.3 percent last year. This team is still a very good team but they are not as good as the Badger teams of the last two years with Alondo Tucker and Kammron Taylor.

Interesting things to watch:
  • Minnesota players: As usual the Wisconsin team has a handful of Minnesota players. I don't see this as a huge problem as the players don't usually match the Gophers style of play. This current squad has 4 Minnesota players on it. Soph. Jon Leuer (Orono) is the biggest contributor with 9.8 ppg and 4.2 reb. Other players are Sr. Kevin Gullikson (5.8 mpg), Fr. Jordan Taylor (10.6 mpg) and Fr. Jared Berggren who has yet to play.
  • The newcomers playing their first hostile environment. Road games at Colorado St. and Iowa are not exactly the same as what it will be like for the newcomers at the Kohl Center. With Wisconsin's size we are going to need Colton Iverson and RSIII to play strong down low. We also will need the continued growth of one Mr. Carter. This will be the real wake-up as to what a Big Ten road game really is.
Prediction

If this game was at Williams Arena or a neutral site this would be a different story. I think Wisconsin and Minnesota are fairly equal overall. The problem is that in Minnesota's two true road games (Louisville does not count) they struggled to beat a 5-11 Colorado State team that lost to a school named St. Martins and they shot 34% against a terrible Iowa team that had no offensive game outside shooting 3-pointers. To go and win in Kohl it takes a team of men or a superior athletic team. That is not the Gophers at this stage of the game. I hope I am wrong because I would enjoy nothing more than for the Gophers to win tomorrow, but I just don't see the toughness needed to beat Wisconsin at home.

Badgers 65, Gophers 57

For more check out the full blog at thefourthstrike.blogspot.com
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: January 11, 2009 12:25 am
 

Penn State Game Preview

#22 Minnesota Golden Gophers (14-1, 2-1) Vs. Penn State Nittany Lions (13-3, 2-1)

There are teams in the Big Ten like Michigan State we know are elite and their are teams like Iowa we know are subpar. Penn St. has yet to be placed in the pecking order of the Big Ten. They have perennially been in the basement of the conference not making the NCAA tournament since 2001. They have had some good wins including beating Purdue, however, Purdue was playing without Robbie Hummel and Kramer Berg. Here is Penn State's resume:

Wins to Showcase:
  • Vs. #14 Purdue 67 - 64
  • at Georgia Tech (9-6) 85 - 83
Losses to hide from:
  • Vs. Rhode Island (11-5) 72 - 77
  • Vs. Temple (7-6) 59 - 65
Assets
  • Rebounding: 40.5 rebounds per game second in the conference behind MSU
  • Ball Control: 10.9 turnovers per game second least in conference behind Wisconsin
  • Talor Battle: 18.9 ppg, 6.1 rebs, 5.3 ass
Issues
  • Defense: Allow 60.7 ppg and opponents shoot 41.2%
  • Depth: After top three scorers, the fourth scorer Danny Morrissey scores 6.1 ppg. By comparison our fourth scorer is Al Nolen with 8.3 ppg.
While Penn State has some talent in Battle, Stanley Pringle and Jamelle Cornley, they are not in my opinion a tournament-caliber team. If the game was at Penn State it would be one thing but they are a team we should beat at Williams. Losing to teams like Rhode Island and Temple at home shows they aren't ready to jump up to the top tier of the conference.

Interesting things to watch
  • Talor Battle Vs. Al Nolen: Two of the best point guards match-up. Nolen struggled to control Kalin Lucas but Battle doesn't have the speed that Lucas does. If Nolen is able to shut down Battle the game will be over quick. Battle last year at Williams was shut out shooting 0-8. If that is repeated this game will be over quick.
  • Blake Hoffarber: Last year Blake put up 29 points in his two games against Penn State. He has been struggling lately but a big game from him would do wonders for the Gophers.
Prediction

Penn State is a dangerous team. Overall they are average but if their stars get hot they can beat any team in the Big Ten. The key for the Gophers is to jump on them early, let the crowd get into it and Penn State should go away. If Penn State gets going early it will be a long game. The Penn State offense is very perimeter oriented, Minnesota has a lot of defensively talented players in Nolen, Joseph and Johnson. They also should be able to utilize Iverson's blocking abilty in help defense. I think Tubby has this team to focused and determined to get upset but this game will be close. Let's hope the Gophers shoot a lot better than they did Thursday night.

Gophers 65, Penn State 63

For more checkout thefourthstrike.blogspot.com
Posted on: January 6, 2009 6:04 pm
 

Major Changes Coming to Dinkytown

There are major changes coming to the Gophers football program in the upcoming month. Both Mike Dunbar, the offensive coordinator, and Ted Roof, the defensive coordinator, have left the program. The Dunbar move was not surprising. When Tim Davis was brought in from Alabama to install a power running game the writing was on the wall. He became the scapegoat for the offense lack of improvement and losing the last 5 games. The Roof move is surprising. He is leaving to be the defensive coordinator at Auburn. He was highly regarded for the drastic improvement in the defense after being fired as head coach at Duke. I didn't think he would be here long as I'm sure he wants another shot at head coach, but I definitely thought he would be here a few years.

This means Brewster will be on his third defensive coordinator in 3 years and second offensive coordinator. I do have some worries about this news. Will this affect the incoming recruits? Roof recruited a lot of players like recent commit Taikwon Paige, the offensive recruits came for a wide open spread offense like MarQueis Gray and Hayo Carpenter, if the new offense doesn't fit their ability they might leave. I would like to see the spread stay as that is the evolution of NCAA football. They do need to add a running game but once we get depth at the WR spot and Weber and Grey develop the offense should get going.

There are no indications of who Brewster will find to replace them. One thing I have liked about the Brewster is ability to find quality and exciting coordinators. I think it isn't out of the realm of possibilities that Davis will be promoted to coordinator. There will be a lot of changes and where the program heads from this month will have a huge impact on the future and legacy of one Tim Brewster.

Stats of the Day
  • 79th: Minnesota's rank in total defense up from 119th the previous year
  • 91st: Minnesota's rank in total offense down from 48th the previous year
  • 72: rushing yards for Texas in its win over Ohio State. I guess you don't need a running game if you have an All-American Quarterback and more than one quality receiver.
For more check out fourthstrike.blogspot.com
Category: NCAAF
Posted on: January 5, 2009 5:01 pm
Edited on: January 5, 2009 5:23 pm
 

Quick Strikes

If the Gophers play like they did against Ohio State they will make the tournament and have the potential to be a Sweet Sixteen team.
Devoe Joeseph won that game for us and seems to be taking great strides. There was concern if he could play point guard but he is putting those concerns to rest. Paul Carter and Devron Bostick also seem to be improving.

While I still think RSIII has the larger upside, Colton Iverson is a lot further along than him. He plays very physical and is improving on the rebounding. They both need to develop a post game.

I have always been rooting T-Jack I think the experiment has to end. This team has a limited time frame with the talent they have acquired they need a quarterback who is ready to get them to the promised land.

I have never been rooting for Brad Childress and he also needs to go. Him and T-Jack seemed to be in competition on who could cost the team the game more. He threw an interception for a touchdown, Childress doesn't accept a holding penalty that would move them out of field goal range. T-Jack can't complete a pass in the second half, Childress calls a pass play when trying to run out the half that gives Philly a chance to score.

There are rumors out there that have Defensive Coordinator Lezlie Frazier geting a head coaching job elsewhere. I think the Vikings should fire Childress and hire Frazier. We can't lose a second coordinator that would be a better coach. We lost out on Mike Tomlin, lets not repeat that.
I think Ohio State has a shot to win the Fiesta Bowl tonight. Texas doesn't possess the speed that USC and Florida had that gave them troubles. They did beat a McCoy lead Texas team last year and almost beat the Vince Young team. I think the extra practice will greatly further the development of Terrelle Pryor. I look for him to have a good game.

I don't know why I got so much enjoyment out of Louisville beating Kentucky. I should be happy that Kentucky made a mistake and gave us Tubby Smith but I love seeing Minnesota getting better recruiting classes and I pray that somehow we face Kentucky in the near future.

Stats of the Day

September 25, 2005: The last time the Vikings passed for 300 yards by Daunte Culpepper against the New Orleans Saints. What a Kick Ass offense Childress put in.

22: The Gophers new rank in the AP poll up from #23

328: Total yards by Darren Sproles in San Diego's win

8-20 78yds: TJack's stats in the the second half

For more check out http://thefourthstrike.blogspot.com
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Posted on: December 30, 2008 6:27 pm
 

Check out my new blog

Check out my new blog where I talk Minnesota sports, baseball and whatever I find interesting in the world of sports at thefourthstrike.blogspot.com
Category: MLB
Posted on: February 26, 2008 9:23 pm
 

AL East Preview

1. Boston Red Sox
   
Their lineup is aging and they can't count on the same output from Lowell and Youkilis this year, but Ortiz and Manny should still put up numbers.  Their offense success will actually come down to whether Pedroia and Ellsbury can bat around .300 and get on base for Ortiz and Manny.  They easily have the best rotation in the east even without Schilling.  Beckett is my pick for the CY Young and I expect more from Dice-K in his sophomore year as he figures out the majors.  They could use a couple more relievers but this team should compete for a title this year.
2. New York Yankees
 
They still have all-stars at every position but some of those are well removed from their best days and A-rod isn't in a contract year anymore.  This gives them the second best lineup in the league.  Their problem is pitching outside of Wang there is no one you can definitely count on.  Mussina and Pettite are done and Hughes and Kennedy have yet to go through an entire season.  They should keep Joba in the set-up role because I'm not convinced he can go through the lineup a couple times and still be successful and without him in the bullpen it is a terrible pen.  They won't beat Boston but they should be in the thick of it for the wild card.  It will come down to how the rookie pitchers fare.
3. Toronto Blue Jays
I wonder why Toronto still have fans because since Boston and New York have decided to see who can spend more all they can hope for is third place.  I don't like seeing them stack their lineup with aging stars.  Rolen, Thomas, and Overbay aren't the future.  I think they should start stockpiling prospects around Rios and the overrated Wells.  With Halladay and Burnett they have a great 1-2 punch but the problem is Burnett is never there.  They have the pitching to compete if he is healthy but they don't have the lineup to and will be lucky with a .500 finish.
4. Tampa Bay Rays
This could be the year where it finally looks like Tampa is building towards something.  With Pena, Upton, Crawford and Longoria they will definitley bash and put up numbers.  With the addition of Garza to Shields and Kazmir and the waiting game for Price their rotation should be better than it has ever been.  Their undoing will be the bullpen.  I don't want to be too optomistic but they are definitely better than the Orioles and if Kazmir is healthy which might be questionable and Garza and Longoria contribute this year they could even challenge Toronto.
5. Baltimore Orioles
They weren't good before the Bedard trade and now they could be one of the worst in the league.  I feel sorry for Markakis who will be surrounded by the old and untalented in the lineup.  Their rotation is terrible and I have given up on Cabrera ever becoming something.  I expect them to unload Roberts, Mora and others this year and start building around Markakis and Adam Jones but they are 5 years away from doing everything.  To get passed by the Rays and field this team in Camden Yard is embarrassing.
Category: MLB
Posted on: February 18, 2008 11:26 pm
 

AL Central Preview

1. Detroit Tigers
    The best lineup in the MLB and a Top-notch pitching staff.  When Jacque Jones and Marcus Thames platooning in LF is your weakest spot in the lineup and Verlander and Bonderman lead off the rotation you start the season as a World Series favorite.  They are not without their problems.  Without Zumaya their bullpen isn't very strong and some of their stars are aging.  Players like Pudge, Ordonez, and Sheffield should still have enough in the tank to produce.  Miguel Cabrera in this lineup should explode and put up .340 30hr and 140 rbi's and show why he is the best young hitter in the game.

2. Cleveland Indians
    The team had a wonderful year last year, but didn't upgrade over the off-season.  Normally, that wouldn't be a problem but the Tigers added so much that it becomes a problem.  They still have a solid lineup with Hafner, Sizemore, VMart and Peralhta but it does have holes with Dellucci and Gutierrez corner infielders.  They have a good top of the rotation with Sabathia and Carmona but it significantly drops off with Byrd and Laffey.  The bullpen is atrocious with Betacourt the only solid reliever and Borowski a mediocre closer at best.  Overall, they have a very talented team and should compete for the wild card but they have too many holes to compete with the Tigers.

3. Minnesota Twins
    While losing Torii Hunter, Johan Santana and Carlos Silva would seem like a move to start over and rebuild, but that isn't the case.  While they won't compete for the division it isn't out of the realm of possibilities that they will improve on last year.  Their lineup which was their weakness should be improved with Mauer, Morneau, Young, and Cuddyer forming a middle of the lineup that can compete with anyone.  The also seemed to upgrade the infield with Lamb and Brenden Harris.  Their main issue will be whether their legion of pitching prospects develop and settle into the rotation.  They still have one if not the best bullpen in the majors.  If Liriano stays healthy and return to form and Baker and Bonser turn into solid starters they will be above .500 and could possibly challenge Cleveland for 2nd.

4. Chicago White Sox
 This team is heading in the wrong direction.  They won the world series with small ball but they have reverted to form and their lineup consists of players that can hit 40 hrs but will struggle to bat above .250.  After Cabrera the next highest batting average is Jim Thome at .275 and he is 37.  They will hit a lot of solo home runs.  Their ptiching staff is getting old quick.  Buehle and Contreas have seen better days and besides Jenks their bullpen isn't very strong.  They also have Ozzie Guillen who seems to have lost the clubhouse.

5. Kansas City Royals
 They barely deserve a mention as finishing last is a annual activity.  They have some solid hitters in Gordon, Butler and Teahan.  The problem is they have way too many holes in the rest of the linueup and bullpen.  Meche and Greinke are solid pitchers.  The plus side is they shouldn't get 100 losses but they are still a ways from passing the White Sox.
Category: MLB
 
 
 
 
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