Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Big Ten Year in Review - Minnesota/Penn State

(NOTE: This was originally posted back before the Big Ten coaching change festival began. Now that we have stopped, I am moving this column back up to the top. I'll be reviewing the remainder of the Big Ten through the week.)

So, now that the annual Billy Packer Douchebag Extravaganza is entering its second week - and my bracket is in flames (the chalkiest tournament in recent memory, this March Madness) - I'm going to begin reviewing the Big Ten season. I'll be referring to the preview I did in December, pointing out where I was right and, more often than not, where I was wrong.

MINNESOTA GOLDEN GOPHERS (9-22 overall; 3-13 conference)

I think that pretty well sums it up.

First, from the preview:
The rumors of Dan Monson's imminent demise have been greatly exaggerated over the past couple of seasons (to the point that the Star-Tribune made a "Dewey Defeats Truman" headline gaffe last March). He benefits from being the fifth-biggest game in town (Vikings, T-Wolves, Gopher football, and Gopher hockey are bigger, as are ice fishing and licking flagpoles). But this might be the season where he finally goes down. The Precious Metallic Rodents return zero seniors, and only four players with conference game experience. Vince Grier is gone, along with pretty much everyone else you ever saw in a Gopher uniform over the past season. And that team wasn't very good, either. They're replaced by a ragtag group of JUCO transfers and typically unathletic Minnesota big men. And the unathletic big men are their best asset this season. Yikes. Throw in Monson's traditional inability to win games (as in, one NCAA appearance in six years) and all indications are that this team will blow, a feeling that has been confirmed by early-season losses to Iowa State, Southern Illinois, Montana, and Marist. Ouch. This one's gonna hurt....You can't spell "Minnesota University Golden Gopher Basketball" without "STRUGGLING." 9-20, and Monson gone by February 1.
I Was Right:

Well, I was right about Monson. He was gone by the beginning of Big Ten play. And the unathletic big men were their best asset; the best Gopher all year was Spencer Tollackson (the aforementioned brother from My Name is Earl). Oh, and I hit the number of wins right on the money. Someone call Vegas.

I Was Wrong:

I was wrong to say there were no positives for this team. There were no seniors, so the experience of a Big Ten season alone should help, especially with the return of Coleman, Mackenzie, Tollackson, and Abu-Shamayla. All four of those guys showed a little promise this season. If they ever decide on a coach, they could be a little interesting next year. Also, I was apparently wrong on the number of games they would play. Not entirely certain why.

Prognosis:

Still pretty negative. The program has absolutely no continuity at the moment, and the athletic department really doesn't seem to care. They return everyone, but I don't know exactly how good that is. I would expect a little improvement next year, but 6 conference wins would be great unless Bob Knight is the next coach.

(UPDATE: Um, Tubby changes this quite a bit. I'm genuinely worried about Minny now.)

PENN STATE NITTANY LIONS (11-19 overall; 2-14 conference)

The closest PSU came to stomping an opponent all season.

From the preview:
JoePa, titanium knee and all, could probably outjump anyone on this team. That being said, they're young, they had a relatively good year last season (6 conference wins, NIT appearance), and their best player returns....Geary Claxton will make or break this team. He averaged 15 last season; getting into the 19-22 PPG range could take this team over the top. Combine that with some experienced guard play (2 senior starting guards, neither of which score a whole lot) and PSU might not be too bad....There's no size on this roster. They have a couple of stiffs over 6'9" but no low post threat. Actually, outside Claxton and Jamelle Cornley, who averaged over 11 PPG last season, there's not a whole lot of scoring here. Big problem when the team that scores the most points wins the game. Oh, and Claxton broke his hand and will be out until at least the second week of December....The Claxton-less Lions already lost to Stony Brook. And then they beat St. Joe's. So who the hell knows what's going to happen? I'll say they finish about 5-11 in the conference (they have a brutal two week stretch in February where they will face tOSU and Wisky twice each). They'll drop at least two more in non-conference play. That means something like 15-14 should be about right.
I Was Right:

They had no size or scoring. And JoePa could outjump everyone.

I Was Wrong:

I completely underestimated the effect State College apathy has on this team. I don't think Iowa fans can understand how little PSU fans care about basketball. Their spirit has been sucked dry by year after year of rebuilding projects, losses, firings, rebuilding projects, losses, firings, ad infinitum. England and Ireland haven't repeated history this often. Every coach walks into that program looking to turn it around, and every one fails to make an immediate impact, and the fans head for the exits. Ed DeChellis may soon be gone, for exactly the same reasons (Run Up The Score, if you want to chime in here on whether I'm accurate and why, I'd appreciate it).

I was right to say that Claxton was their best player, but even his Herculean performances couldn't hide the fact that this team sucked. Claxton finished with 16.9 PPG, but would have had to approach 30 to pull PSU out of its tailspin. In fact, some might argue that Claxton's return hindered the progress of this team in some way. I also failed to call the inevitable win at home over Iowa in late February, a pick so obvious a caveman could make it.

When I'm calling in a wager on Iowa-Penn State, I wonder, "Are
there demons inside this contraption controlling my thoughts?" I
don't know. My caveman mind cannot grasp these concepts.


Prognosis: I don't think Ed DeChellis is a particularly bad coach; he's just a mediocre coach in a no-win situation. He should get one more year, and I think he will. He returns a (hopefully) healthy Geary Claxton and the underrated, and very talented, Jamelle Cornley. They should be better. Then again, they can't be worse.

8 comments:

Peter Collada said...

You were wrong: College Station?!!!?!

Hawkeye State said...

Wow, that's criminal. Sorry.

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