It's Border Battle Week between Wisconsin and the fine folks of Eastern Dakota University. As such we reached out to one of their kind to get the skinny on the impending trip to Williams Arena for the Badgers basketball team. The Gophs are on the verge of meltdown as they went from a Top 15 team to out of the rankings in a matter of just two weeks. I guess that's what losing 6 of 8 will do to you, no matter how good your non-conference season was.
We sat down behind enemy lines with Tom from The Daily Gopher and he was kind enough to give us some of his insight into what's been happening around Eastern Dakota University's so-called Basketball team. So, give the site a follow on Twitter and enjoy!
MTB: Things started off so well for you guys this season, playing well in the Battle for Atlantis, winning over MSU to start B1G play… Now you've lost 6 of your last 8 games and are below .500 in league play. What happened and can it be turned around?
TDG: There are a vast number of theories, most of them stem from Tubby Smith. February swoons are an annual event for Gopher basketball under Tubby Smith. The last three seasons (2011, 2012 and 2013) Tubby's February record is 3-15. But the record is a symptom, in my opinion the problem is that we are playing to the style of other teams not playing a style that best fits our roster. In the non-conference this team would apply defensive pressure, usually of the full-court nature and that would lead to offensive opportunities. Against Big Ten opponents Tubby must believe there is a secret pact that you have to slow down and play a half-court game. This is not our strength and plays into the hands of certain teams (particular evil red ones to our immediate east).
In the half-court we are too reliant on offensive rebounds to maintain a decent point per possession number. But our turnovers and poor defensive rebounding give back too many possessions and we typically come up short against the upper half of the Big Ten.
MTB: Fire Tubby, Fire the AD - where do you come down on these subjects considering we haven't even finished the season at this point?
TDG: Nobody is saying fire the AD, he is brand new and most people think he is taking the athletic department in a good direction. On Tubby I'm not 100% certain of what I'd like to see. It is true that he isn't taking us to the next level, with no signs that it is coming soon. But on the other hand he is going to take us to the NCAA Tournament for the 3rd time in 6 seasons, so it isn't like he is pulling the program to the bottom tier of the conference either. Right now I think the best case scenario is that Tubby accepts a job elsewhere in the offseason and we move on. I don't think he has been so terrible that you pay him $2.5 million to walk away, but I won't be crying to see him leave of his own volition. I actually think that this is a likely scenario. Then the desperate hope among Gopher fans is that Shaka Smart will be convinced to come and work for his old boss again. I think that is an unlikely scenario.
MTB: On the court this team has seemingly had the life taken out of it's offense, who needs to step up or what needs to change for this team to get it's mojo back?
TDG: They need to play aggressive, particularly on the defensive end that will lead to aggressive offensive play. Tubby is so concerned about our turnover problem, which is a genuine problem, that I think he has the offense playing really tight. If turnovers happen from being aggressive, I think we should learn to live with that. Lazy passes that are stolen for lay-ups should result in some sort of Biblical punishment like getting your hands chopped off or being stoned. But pushing the ball and having it end up out of bounds is acceptable to me (for this team) if it means we are attacking the basket. Other than that we need continue to crash the offensive glass for extra offensive chances.
MTB: What matchup do you see as being key to getting a victory over Wisconsin?
TDG: I don't know that there is a particular match-up in this game that is any more important than any other. Whoever is guarding Brust and Dekker need to make sure they don't get open looks. In the paint Mbakwe, Williams, Eliason and Ingram need to defend Berggren. Andre Hollins needs to win his match-up at point. It is all over the floor, we just need to defend well. If I had to pick one thing I would say that the Gophers need to box out and get defensive rebounds limiting the Badger's offensive chances. That isn't a personnel match-up but it is absolutely critical for the Gophers to come out ahead.
MTB: A little off the subject at hand, but do you even know what the Axe looks like?
TDG: Didn't you used to have a hockey team?
MTB: It must be sad when all you have to brag about is your hockey team, yikes... Let's hope UW never gets to the point where we ever have to resort to the "well our hockey team is better than yours" as our main argument point, huh?
MTB: Prediction & why?
TDG: I'd really like to think that this is going to be a bounce-back game for the Gophers. But I think they are a beaten team that is not playing with any life or confidence. I'd love to see some effort to speed up the game and pull out a big home win. I just don't see it happening right now.