Matches made in Monson’s heaven

Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan said it well: Dan Monson has been waiting for this team.

by Aaron Blake

After his team fell 60-50 to Minnesota on Saturday at Williams Arena, Badgers coach Bo Ryan was asked what he thought was working so well for Dan Monson’s Gophers.

So he gave his take, and then, he made a plea to the media.

“Give him a break; don’t try to overanalyze a coach when his team plays well,” Ryan said.

Sorry, coach. It’s much too tempting to try and explain this one.

Minnesota sits 6-3 in the Big Ten, knotted with Wisconsin (which it now owns the tie-breaker over) for third place and a half-game behind second-place Michigan State.

I’m tired of people saying they predicted it or they could’ve seen it coming. Miss Cleo couldn’t have seen this at her most lucid.

Yet, here we are, left with some explaining to do. Namely, how a team with so many unproven and undertalented players is making this kind of noise.

As a concession to Ryan for not heeding his plea, I’ll agree with his evaluation and expand upon it.

Once again, my deepest apologies.

“Dan knows the game, and this is what he’s been looking for – to get this kind of mix,” Ryan said.

On the surface, a mix of three career bench players, two junior college transfers and three freshmen doesn’t look like something you would wish on any coach.

But the concoction is best characterized by two things it doesn’t have: a star and egotism.

Sure, Vincent Grier scored 32 of the Gophers’ 60 points and was given a hero’s treatment after the game Saturday, but he’s far from Kris Humphries, Rick Rickert or Joel Przybilla.

Those players were bona fide go-to options every game for four of Monson’s first five seasons. They were NBA Draft picks in the making, trying to increase their stock on an average team (with Humphries being the most cut-and-dry case of me-itis).

The second of the two less-is-more elements, ego, was perhaps best exemplified by Monson on Saturday.

Put plainly, the man looked absurd.

After asking Gophers fans to wear all gold at the game, Minnesota’s suddenly-quirky coach decided he needed to follow suit.

He ended up with a foul suit.

A nonfitting tan jacket borrowed from Century 21 – apparently close enough to gold for Monson – covered a white shirt and a maroon and (actual) gold tie. A pair of white tennis shoes, worn in support of Coaches vs. Cancer, sat below some green dress slacks.

The fashion statement wasn’t just an eyesore; it was a case-in-point about what’s right with Monson and his team.

“I like that he’ll wear that; I like that he’s not too proud to wear that,” senior Brent Lawson said.

The Gophers know they can’t be too proud, because it has got to be in the back of their minds that they won just three Big Ten games with the 14th pick in the NBA Draft on their team last season.

The key for them down the stretch has got to be staying real and not letting possible top-25 status cloud their concept of what they really are – a team that wins ugly without a star or an ego in the bunch.

“We just keep in mind that we’re the same team people were saying might not win a game at the beginning of the year,” Lawson said. “There’s no reason for us to have an ego or be overconfident.

“When we’re winning, we feel good about it. But we’re not going to feel too good about it.”

Now, if only the media could exercise that kind of restraint.