Well that was a pretty thrilling Gopher win, huh? Not because they beat a Nate Wolters-less Jackrabbits team, but because sportsbooks didn't factor in the fact that the team was going to be Wolters-less.
See, the spread on the game opened with the Gophers as 14.5 point favorites. Mid-day there were some tweets going around that Wolters sprained his ankle, didn't participate in the team's shoot-around that day, and was questionable to play. The spread only moved to 15, so at that point I jumped on it figuring he'd be limited at best. Then, about a half-hour before game time, more tweets came out that he wasn't looking good or very confident about playing on it. The spread still only moved to 15.5, so I doubled up. Then, maybe 10 minutes or so before the game, it because official he wasn't playing. Spread stayed at 15.5, so I tripled up on my double up. Easy win. SDSU would have been a 25 point underdog at least if Wolters was known to not be playing, and the books clearly didn't pay much attention to this game, don't know who Wolters is, or simply didn't care. In any case it was a nice payday and an easy one, and those are the best kind. I feel pretty bad I didn't give Bogart or TRE the heads-up on this, but I was too wrapped up in it myself. Oh well.
As for the game, the Gophers continue to do what they've done all year - play great defense and efficient offense. I mean you can't get more efficient than Andre Hollins. 22 points on 8-9 shooting and 6-7 on threes? And his only miss was an absolute ridiculous heat check that nobody could ever make ever? You gotta be kidding me. Add that performance to his 41 points on 16 shots versus Memphis and that has to be two of most efficient 20 points games this year. I'm sure that info is out there somewhere (ranking these) but I don't know where to find it.
He was far from the only stud last night though, as Joe Coleman and Austin Hollins continue to develop into really, really good players. One big thing I noticed last night about Austin is how much more assertive and confident he is with his jump shot. Where the last two years he'd catch the ball on the wing and kind of size up if he was open enough to shoot and then maybe shoot, but this year he's already able to determine if he's going to be open enough to shoot before he gets the pass and just catches, rises, and fires. And I'm not just talking short shots, he's doing it on three-pointers. Take that with his always there but suddenly really emerging athleticism and he's a hell of a player. As for Coleman he does incredible things considering he has a forward's game in a guard's body. He's tough, strong, and determined and an amazing inside scorer for someone who is just 6-4. He's just fearless - basically the complete opposite player of his brother. I mean does anyone get more of his own misses in the paint than Joe? He's like, a genius at it. Dan and Joe must have switched bodies like Jason Bateman and Ryan Reynolds in that movie with that chick from 40-year-old Virgin who pukes in the car at some point because each's abilities are the exact opposite of what you'd want from someone in their bodies. Can you imagine Dan with Joe's game? Whoa.
Maybe the craziest part of this team is I've now droned on for 500+ words about them and still haven't mentioned either of their two best players from last season. Trevor Mbakwe, who nearly had a double double, who mainly seems to have settled into his sixth man/big-time rebounder. The only problem with that is he still has NBA aspirations, and I don't think he's going to get there averaging 7 pts and 8 rebounds per game. That would also be why he unveiled that absolutely god awful turnaround fade-away jumper last night that he should never, ever take again under any circumstances. I still think he's easing his way into being a force, so I'll reserve more judgement on him until later in the year. Then Rodney Williams, whose stats made it look like he was kind of invisible last night but he wasn't because he blocked two shots nearly back to half court, was trying to prove he can shoot from the perimeter (note: he still can't) and then later when he decided "this **** sucks when I don't score" he dunked all over some poor ginger bastard. Basically they didn't need him, and that was pretty awesome, actually.
Excellent, if easy, game, from a very good team. The first five are outstanding if you sub Mbakwe in for Eliason (who isn't terrible anymore). Welch, Osenieks, Ingram, Walker, and Ahanmisi are a good bench that isn't great but can fill in some gaps, and with a starting 6 this good they aren't needed in games that are going to be close for more than 3-8 minutes each, but they're also capable enough to fill in for 12-15 if that situation should arise at some point this year or at least that's what I keep telling myself. Simply put, I believe in this year's squad and I'm in love with them and I don't care who knows it. Also, how sweet would it be for Wolters to get back, the Jackrabbits to go on a huge run, and this ends up loooking like a super easy win over a top 100 team? Pretty cool, right? Right.
Back tomorrow with a preview of the USC game, the only losable game left. As long as they win that one they should cruise to home wins against NDSU and Lafayette and most likely will be ranked in the top 10 going into the big Dec. 31 game versus Michigan State. And that, my friends, is where we are going to learn an awfully, awfully thought about our favorite team. In the immortal words of that one guy, "NO WHAMMIES NO WHAMMIES NO WHAMMIES!"