Midway through the college season, Tubby Smith was a front runner for coach of the year. Now a few weeks later, Smith and Minnesota are in danger of missing out on the NCAA Tournament as they slip to eighth place in the Big Ten.
Tubby Smith and Minnesota have struggled of late.
Can the top-heavy conference get eight bids to the tournament? The Gophers resume includes wins over Memphis, Illinois, Wisconsin, Stanford and Michigan State. But is that enough?
What has happened to the Gophers?
UM has lost eight of its last 11 contests, including six straight on the road. At one time, this was a feared team with ferocity on the offensive glass but now they appear offensively challenged.
Examining the past five games (four defeats to one victory) the Gophers have not been close to averaging a point per possession. In fact, in their latest defeat in Columbus, the Gophers averaged .667 points per possession, near their season low. Futility beyond the arc to the tune of 19-for-80 in the past five games (2-for-15 in their last game) has amplified the problem. Austin Hollins and Andre Hollins are the big perimeter threats and they are slumping to the tune of 4-for-18 against Ohio State and 7-for-24 against Michigan State.
When Minnesota isn’t hitting the deep shots their opponents are able to pack it in on the Gophers without paying for it and that has neutralized the offensive rebounding onslaught.
Compounding this issue is holding onto the ball. These past five outings, taking care of the basketball has been a problem as well with 45 assists compared to 70 turnovers. Those are the kind of numbers that seem teams drop from tournament locks to being on the outside looking in.
The season is on the line Tuesday against the nation's top team, the Indiana Hoosiers. In the first meeting, a seven point Hoosier victory, both Rodney Williams and Joe Coleman fouled out and the Hollins duo shot a mere 12-for-30. The Hoosiers held the rebounding advantage and went to the charity stripe more often, exacerbating the problem. Taking care of the basketball this game against one of the nation's best defenders, Victor Oladipo is critical. Points off turnovers makes the Indiana attack explosive and they feed off breakaway points.
Some feel this is the most important game in Smith's tenure at Minnesota.
If he wants to win this game, he will need immense interior pressure put on Cody Zeller and a surgical attack compared to the volume shooting attack of the past five games.
Pop City- Indiana State
Latest defeat at the hands of Wichita State ensures the Valley as a two team tourney entry. The Sycamores only hope is running the conference tournament. Talk about long shot.
The Bears are 1-6 on the road in the Big 12 and that early season victory in Lexington is holding less weight with Kentucky’s continued woes. Losers of five of their past seven, Baylor now sits behind Iowa State. Schedule makers did Baylor no favors with Oklahoma, Kansas State and Kansas in their final five games. Home finale against Jayhawks may be the only chance for an at-large bid.
Bubblicious- The PAC 12
The entire PAC 12 may be the beneficiary of the ACC and SEC mediocrity. With Mountain West and Atlantic Ten cannibalizing from within, at large bids have to go somewhere and the glut of mediocre PAC 12 teams seems to be the place. The league may jump from two bids last year to five bids this year. Oregon, Arizona and UCLA appear locks with Cal, Colorado, Arizona State in serious pursuit.
Leigh Klein was formerly on staff at Texas and Rhode Island and now owns Five-Star Basketball Camps, the nation’s top basketball camp. He contributes to 247Sports.com’s coverage of college basketball. Klein can be followed at @LeighAlanKlein