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The Good, The Bad and The Ugly: The Bahamas Edition

11/27/2012, 7:15am CST
By zipsofakron

Tubby has gone "all in" to raise money during Movember.

It was a weekend we’d all had circled on our calendars since the middle of summer. Not just because there would be heaps of stuffing, slices of jellied cranberry sauce and piles of dark turkey meat. No, this was the Battle 4 Atlantis. An international Disneyland-ripoff-turned-college-basketball-venue. A chance for the Gophers to test their mettle against at least one of the nation’s top teams and for fans to get an early season glance at how they actually stacked up against teams without directions in their names.

Holiday tournaments are a tricky bunch. On one hand it’s exciting to see big name teams squaring off against each other early in the season, and if you don’t have a horse in the race it’s at least a way to get educated on some big names prior to March. Bonus points if your team is playing against a top squad. On the other hand, they can only go so far as a barometer of how good teams actually are. For some teams, they might be playing only their fourth or fifth game of the year, and anything can happen when a team is shaking off the rust early in the season (see: UCLA). What’s my point? It’s hard to really know what to make of the tournament results. Obviously teams would rather go 3-0 than 0-3, but is Memphis’ season really sunk because they lost to two nationally relevant teams? No.

Conversely, the Gophers went 2-1, and beat some solid teams in the process. But the wins will almost be forgotten come March, so I’m much more interested this time of year in tactical execution, seeing where the Gophers need to make adjustments before conference season starts and avoiding bad losses. Trevor Mbakwe’s great game against Stanford, for instance, was more exciting than sneaking by the Cardinal. The win was great, sure, but seeing Mbakwe have a great game against legitimate competition was even better because it will mean more for the rest of the season.

All in all a successful week for the Gophers, who are building on budding optimism that they can actually compete and make good on the many positive predictions prior to the season.

THE GOOD

Excellent showing at the Battle 4 Atlantis – Whether it was the nearly-historical 41-point performance from Andre Hollins, the double-double from Trevor Mbakwe against Stanford or the continued consistency of Rodney Williams, Minnesota’s performance in the Bahamas showed that the team is capable of beating high-quality opponents and gave us a much better idea of where they are as a team.

After facing an ascending order of relatively non-descript teams the Gophers came to Atlantis knowing they would be tested three times in three days. With fairly sizeable expectations for this year’s team, the tournament was expected to be a great way to see how the Gophers stacked up against worthy competition. Yes, Minnesota got drubbed by Duke on a night when the Blue Devils seemed incapable of missing a jump shot. But the team rebounded to take the final two games against likely tournament teams, overcoming their own mistakes to secure two important victories.

The positive showing in the Bahamas is good for a bevy a reasons, but most importantly it reinforces the idea that this year’s Gophers are ready to play. Neither victory was a fluke and the Gophers certainly executed en route to their 2-1 tournament showing. Seeing them do it on back-to-back nights drove that point home even further.

They bend, but they don’t break – It was a recurring storyline that played out far too often last season: The Gophers would retain or secure a lead late in the game, only to go into panic mode, move away from what had gotten them into winning position, and subsequently blow the game. It happened so often, in fact, that it felt weird when it DIDN’T happen.

Such close, horrifying losses are tough to stomach and they have a way of making fans particularly skeptical. That’s why it was so refreshing and, frankly, hard to believe when the Gophers salted away two consecutive victories that required them to respond to late game pushes from their opponent.

With last season’s meltdowns in mind, I’ll admit that breakdowns against Memphis and Stanford crossed my mind at least once. Unlike last year, however, Minnesota didn’t throw in the towel once the opponent showed some spine late in the game. Instead, they dug in their heels, battled back and relied on their strengths to take back control. This was evident in both victories where both Memphis and Stanford looked to be retaking the game’s momentum. So far this season we’ve seen the Gophers retain the elements that made them successful at the end of last season during their NIT run. A crucial element that needed to change from last year, however, was finishing games strong and taking home close victories. If the Battle 4 Atlantis was any indication, this team is in much better shape to execute down the stretch, not beat themselves, and grab those closely-contested wins.

THE BAD

Joe Coleman: turnover machine – So far this year the entire team has had trouble taking care of the ball. And since the opening game against American where the Gophers turned the ball over only eight times, they’ve been particularly prone to throwing possessions away, racking up at least 15 TOs in each game since.

The overall lack of care when it comes to ball security is concerning in itself, but of particular note has been Joe Coleman’s inability to hang on to the thing. He leads the team with 25 turnovers (3.6 per game), which is eight more than Andre Hollins, and has turned the ball over at least twice in each game this season, including a whopping eight against Toledo. Coleman’s turnover problems were more evident in the Bahamas, where he committed 11 TOs in only three games, many of which were not necessarily a product of harassing defense. Turnovers can happen for any number of reasons, but at this point it appears that Coleman is just getting ahead of himself mentally on the court, which is causing a spike in poor decisions. Is this a trend or merely a mirage? Turnovers became a problem for Coleman at the end of the last year and have seemingly carried over to this season as well, which is concerning. He brings plenty of weapons to the table, but with so many other offensive threats on the team his biggest contribution going forward might just be taking better care of the ball.

THE UGLY

Accessing AXS.tv – Wow, what a fiasco. This is what happens when some crappy cable network decides to carry a college basketball tournament housed in a Bahamian ballroom that people actually want to watch. Nevermind the commercials for Dolph Lundgren’s upcoming action flick (which looks terrible), many people couldn’t even access the freaking channel to begin with. As one of the people who was without the channel for Thanksgiving, I was part of the I-team trying to figure out exactly where and how it would be broadcast. Unfortunately, hard facts were spotty. From what I understand the game was shown in Minneapolis, St. Paul and some surrounding suburbs and was available on Dish and DirecTV … maybe. For Comcast subscribers in Brooklyn Park or Woodbury, however, those residents were out of luck, but people in St. Louis Park were just fine. What a mess.

Why the Battle 4 Atlantis was actually broadcast on AXS.tv is anyone’s guess. Does Mark Cuban own Atlantis too? How they can afford to pay each team $2 million to come play is also something I’m curious about.  So many questions. My cousin put it best after two nights of me frantically calling her to see if she would have the Duke game available on Thanksgiving Day, though: “Why can’t they just show it on a real channel?” Amen to that.

Tubby Smith’s Movember stache – Tubby’s November lip sweater has gotten some publicity, but if you haven’t had a chance to check it out, you can see a nice close-up of it here. It definitely makes him look a little more, uh, distinguished. Or something.

In all seriousness, though, the Movember movement is aimed at raising awareness for men’s health issues, most notably prostate cancer. In 2011Tubby was diagnosed with prostate cancer after a routine physical exam, which caught the disease in its early stages – something Movember is really all about. Since the cancer was treated and removed, Smith has joined the mustache brigade in support of Movember issues and awareness.

Talk about college basketball and the Golden Gopher Basketball Team on the Tubby's Barn message board.

Tag(s): Gopher Basketball