Last season, going to Gophers men’s basketball games wasn’t on my top 10 list of things to do.
In fact, it would have had a tough time getting onto the top 25. But this year things are different.
I’ve been to several of Minnesota’s games this season and there is something more about this team than the 6-1 record they are boasting. They’re fun to watch.
The fast-paced play of the Gophers has given Williams Arena a little bit of spark and folks are starting to notice as Minnesota is averaging close to 11,900 fans per game in just five matchups against non-conference opponents.
In a column earlier this year, I had said Tubby Smith and his team was kind of a last hope for Gophers fans as they watched football, volleyball and now men’s hockey suffer through rough, at best, seasons.
And so far, I think he’s doing it. If you start off 6-1, people are going to come back to see you and from the people I’ve talked to, they’re having fun watching the Gophers.
After sitting back and watching Minnesota myself during the first seven games this season, I’ve comprised a list of four reasons why Minnesota fans finally have a reason to go to an athletic event without dreading the outcome.
Seniors Spencer Tollackson, Dan Coleman and Lawrence McKenzie are having themselves a season this year.
Coleman, by far a student-section favorite, eclipsed the 1,000 point mark Saturday night as he marched his way to a season-high 22 points. Big man Tollackson has been solid all year and McKenzie is exciting as usual.
The three seniors have been responsible for 44 percent of the Gophers total scoring as they sit as the top three point-getters on the team.
The state of Minnesota’s 2007 Mr. Basketball and Gophers freshman guard Blake Hoffarber decided to throw down a three-point assault on Colorado State on Saturday night, and I think that might be a sign of things to come.
Hoffarber has become one of the hottest hands on the team, averaging 10.4 points per game and is hitting a little over .500 from behind the arc.
Freshman Al Nolen has also become a force to be reckoned with as his 28 assists is a team best. And not only can Nolen find open guys, but his nine turnovers in seven games is certainly a promising statistic for Smith and the Gophers.
The second wave
Five in and five out.
That’s how Smith has been running his team so far this year. His starting five spends some time on the floor and just like that, the second wave of five comes out and goes to work.
It kind of caught me off-guard at first, seeing a complete switch-a-roo like that, but it seems to be working as Minnesota’s “bench” if you want to call them that, is averaging 31.6 points per game.
The Gophers are just three wins away from tying last year’s total mark of nine. At this point last season, Minnesota was 2-5.
I think that speaks for itself.
-Paul Cordes welcomes comments at [email protected]