Dear Gary ...
Posted on: June 3, 2008 11:00 am
Edited on: June 3, 2008 11:03 am
Here's Tuesday's Dear Gary ...
Dear Gary: Just wondering what you think of Minnesota's incoming class and its chances for an NCAA tournament berth? There's more optimism surrounding Tubby's second season than I can remember -- at least since Clem Haskins ripped our proverbial hearts out.
The class is great by Minnesota's recent standards, pretty good by Big Ten standards and OK by national-power standards. I think that's a fair assessment, though Gophers fans should be excited because it provides some immediate hope and there hasn‘t been much of that around the program lately.
Anyway, if you read me regularly you know my opinion of Tubby Smith. He's a great coach who has gone through spells of questionable recruiting, which is what led to his demise at Kentucky. That's the consensus, and it's the only reason his hiring could be questioned, because unless Smith consistently gets high-caliber prospects he will not consistently be better than Thad Matta at Ohio State, Tom Crean at Indiana, Matt Painter at Purdue, Tom Izzo at Michigan State and Bo Ryan at Wisconsin.
I just rattled off five programs that will be strong going forward.
The only way for Minnesota to keep up is to recruit at a high-level.
And that's why though this class is a good foundation -- there are three signees from Rivals.com's Top 150 -- it's reasonable to suggest this is not the type of class that'll win a Big Ten title. I mean, there isn't a single top 50 prospect. But the good news is that Minnesota has already committed Class of 2009 standout Royce White, a top 20 prospect from Minneapolis. And if Smith can sprinkle those types of guys in with his usual cast of solid characters he'll contend for the NCAA tournament every season because when the man has players he's among the best in the business.
As for this season, sure, an NCAA tournament berth is possible.
But my preseason predictions will probably have Purdue, Michigan State, Ohio State and Wisconsin finishing ahead of Minnesota in the Big Ten, meaning I don't believe the Gophers will start any better than fifth in the league, and I'm not sure the fifth-best team from the Big Ten will make the NCAA tournament, though I've been wrong before.
Once, I think.
It was about USC last March.
But that’s the only thing I can really remember.