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Tubby & Gopher Basketball: The Importance of the 2012-13 Season

05/13/2012, 10:00pm CDT
By J.B. Bauer

Minnesota has received early national recognition as a strong squad

It's important that the men's basketball program have not only a strong showing on the court, but also on the recruiting trail.


Minnesota will do battle in the Bahamas this November

The following article is a follow up to Monday's Made To Be Broken: Tubby Smith and Coaching Contracts and Wednesday's Column: Contract Extension or Not, U/Tubby Need Practice Facility. 

Importance of 2012-13 Season
There are different schools of thought as to the program’s performance over the past couple of years.
Some point to injuries, transfers and legal issues, then allocate additional wins that “would have happened” had bad luck and misfortune not hit the team.  By some accounts, the Gophers weren’t all that far away from a deep tournament run in 2010-11.

Others look at consecutive seasons with only 6 Big Ten victories and no dancing.  These folks never bought into the belief that the team was destined for a great season two years ago before losing Maurice Walker, Devoe Joseph and Al Nolen.

Regardless of whatever the most appropriate take on the past may be, for fans there seems to be a growing consensus that the Gophers need to perform in 2012-13, no excuses.  That includes not only on-the-court performance, but the recruitment of the 2013 and 2014 classes.

On the Court
Many people are quite high on the Gophers, but the top 5 in the Big Ten last season look to be the top 5 for 2012-13 as well.  From there, there are a number of schools that have a chance to reach the NCAA tournament including Minnesota, Purdue, Illinois, Iowa and Northwestern.  Even Penn State can’t be ruled out from a chance to dance with senior guard Tim Frazier, sophomore forward Ross Travis (Chaska HS) and sophomore transfer D.J. Newbill.

The Gophers have the potential to be a great team next year.  Based on who they are expected to return, they should be a tournament team and perhaps a top 20 team.  However, for Minnesota men’s basketball things continually have not worked out for the best and it’s possible they fall short again.  A game or two can be the difference between an NCAA tournament invite and another tenth place conference finish.

The recruiting successes of many other Big Ten schools are outpacing Minnesota.  Even new coaches like Iowa’s Fran McCaffery and Illinois’ John Groce are proving they are capable of attracting the interest of highly talented kids and Minnesota must consistently bring in difference-making talent if they have dreams of being more than an NCAA bubble team on a semi-regular basis.

The Gophers will likely have at least 4 open scholarships for the fall of 2013, but unlike so many other Big Ten teams, they have no verbal commitments at this point in time.

Less than a year from now, how will things look?
It could be great.  Minnesota does well in the Big Ten, makes some noise in the NCAA tournament and receives pledges from a number of talented preps.  Fans are eager for 2013-14, but especially excited for the fall 2014 arrival of Tyus Jones, not to mention 2015’s Henry Ellenson and 2016’s Amir Coffey.  After a good season that had the Barn rocking, the future is looking bright.

Or, it could be disappointing.  Minnesota again has little reason to watch the NCAA Selection Show.  Coach Smith and his staff fail to bring in any of their top recruiting targets.  Meanwhile many other Big Ten teams continue to bring in big time talent, including Coach Izzo who sits in a great position with Tyus Jones.
It’s fine if the University of Minnesota negotiates a new contract with Tubby Smith.  Despite a new deal that may include dates that extend out several years, the U can still be in position to address the basketball staff after a very important 2012-13 season---as long as they do not push themselves into a costly corner a year from now by entering into a poorly negotiated contract this summer.

J.B. Bauer
Twitter: @jbbauer612

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Tag(s): Gopher Basketball