Fear the Gopher, Part II

As I noted here, Paul has occasionally written about University of Maryland sports, while I have had few occasions to brag about the Minnesota Gophers (hockey, of course, excluded). But today the renaissance of Gopher basketball continued apace, as the Gophs upset number nine-rated Louisville, 70-64.

Most people would never guess that Minnesota has sent more basketball players to the NBA than any Big Ten school except Indiana. But the glory days seemed hopelessly in the past when the Gophers went 8-22 two years ago. Following that catastrophic season the Gophers, astonishingly, hired Tubby Smith, who was on the outs at Kentucky because the Wildcats hadn’t made the Final Four in a couple of years.

Last year Tubby led the Gophs to a 20-13 season with the same players–he taught them to play defense!–then added a top-notch recruiting class. This year the Gophers got off to a 9-0 start, but garnered little respect because their non-conference schedule was admittedly soft, and only one of those wins came away from the friendly confines of Williams Arena. So Gopher fans awaited today’s matchup with Louisville, coached by Tubby’s former boss at Kentucky, Rick Pitino, on a neutral court in Phoenix, with some trepidation.

They needn’t have worried. Minnesota took control almost from the beginning–Louisville never led at any point in the game–and won by six. The Gophers are deep, weirdly so for a team that was awful just two years ago, and substituted freely. They played their trademark furious defense and point guard Al Nolen, from Minneapolis, starred. After the game Pitino asked whether he was interested in transferring.

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The Gophers, now 10-0, should crack the top 20 next week. Tubby may want to run for Governor when Tim Pawlenty finishes up his second term:

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We haven’t reported much from Minnesota lately other than the Coleman-Franken Senate recount. On a more cheerful note, we’re having one of the snowiest early winter seasons in a long time. Not on a par with 1991, when we got three feet of snow on Halloween, but reminiscent of the 1950s, when I was a kid, and the 1970s, a conspicuously cold and snowy decade. We got another six inches or so today, as did much of the northern part of the country. This was one of those days when a four wheel drive vehicle is a necessity, not a luxury. When I returned from the grocery store a little while ago the temperature was one degree, with the wind starting to howl. This is how my corner of the world looked this afternoon:

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Scientists say that we are moving into a colder era, which could be either good or bad, depending on how you feel about such scenes. But my neighborhood is warm in spirit if not in temperature:

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Tomorrow is our annual Christmas pageant at church. My youngest daughter is playing Mary. All of which makes me think it’s time to start my Christmas shopping!

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