Posted on: November 24, 2009 11:31 am
Edited on: November 24, 2009 11:31 am

Dear Gary (on the best games for this week)

Here's Tuesday's Dear Gary ...

Dear Gary: What game are you most looking forward to this week? I, for one, am digging my Minnesota Golden Gophers testing out a big-time program in Butler on Thursday night. Your thoughts?

-- Magee

I'll be in Anaheim for the 76 Classic, so I'll see Minnesota-Butler. It should be great, as will the entire event. Six of the eight participants made the NCAA tournament last season, four of the eight are currently ranked in the AP Top 25 (specifically No. 8 West Virginia, No. 12 Butler, No. 19 Clemson and No. 22 Minnesota). So regardless of how this unfolds, it's going to be tremendous. The championship game is slotted for Sunday night. Butler against either Clemson or West Virginia would probably be the most intriguing matchup.

Elsewhere, we could get UConn vs. Duke on Friday night in the finals of the NIT Season Tip-off.

That would be excellent.

Looking forward to Florida-Florida State tonight, too.
Posted on: November 2, 2009 2:17 pm

Credit Minnesota for being careful with Mbakwe

It's a big blow to Minnesota that Trevor Mbakwe won't be able to play until his legal matter is resolved.

The guy averaged 16.3 points and 13.2 rebounds last season in junior college.

He could help.

But credit Minnesota as an institution for taking a stand and not using the "innocent until proven guilty" card so many programs play in the spirit of winning at all costs. Right or wrong, Mbakwe has been accused of attacking a woman, and Minnesota isn't OK with trotting him under that cloud. So athletic director Joel Maturi said Monday that the junior college transfer will sit until the issue "has been resolved in a satisfactory matter," and if we never reach that point then Mbakwe will never step on the court.

Good for Minnesota.

Too often, we tend to only highlight when schools don't take stands.

So I just thought it was worth pointing out that Minnesota is handling this the right way.
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: June 17, 2009 10:47 am

Tubby takes a stand against Elite Camps

I wrote a column about Elite Camps last summer detailing the "creative" ways many schools go about getting high school prospects on campus for an unofficial visit. Among the things I explained is how schools hire summer coaches or other people connected to prospects and pay them large amounts of money to work Elite Camps with an understanding that that person will then turn around and use part of his payment to cover the travel expenses of a desired recruit because, honestly, how else could a normal kid and his family afford to fly all over the country each June unofficially visiting campuses?

This reality is something Tubby Smith addressed this week.

It's one of the reasons he isn't holding an Elite Camp at Minnesota this year.

"There [have] been some concerns as coaches with kids that are traveling that far for a day or two-day Elite Camp," Smith told the St. Paul Pioneer Press . "We don't want anything to suggest that there's any type of [wrongdoing]. ... An Elite Camp is legal; I think guys are doing the right things. But there are some things that can look like they're not, so you have to be real careful."

One thing about Elite Camps I didn't get into last summer is how they can be (and usually are) a huge financial loss for schools, which should prove that the real motive isn't to make money (as is the case with camps for younger players) as much as it's to simply get prospects on campus regardless of the cost.

For instance, the cost for an elementary age player to attend a camp at a high-major program might be $250, but the same program will charge intriguing high school prospects just $40 to attend its Elite Camp. Then that program might have 20 prospects attend, which would garner $800 in fees. But then that program might hire hire 10 people connected to the prospects to "work" the camp at $1,000 a piece, which would cost the program $10,000.

And then there's the cost of food.

And gear.

And a program could easily show a loss of more than $10,000 for a two-day camp.

But who cares?

If it helps get a recruit, it's money well spent.

But Tubby Smith apparently doesn't see it that way.

And though I'm not sure it's smart given the nature of this business, I can admit it is at least noble.
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: March 19, 2009 8:24 pm

Westbrook performing on big stage

GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Lawrence Westbrook has 15 points at the half, which is one of the only reasons Minnesota is hanging with Texas despite allowing the Longhorns to shoot 51.9 percent in the opening 20 minutes. Not bad for a guy who was turned away when he tried to publicly commit to Memphis years ago.

(More on that later)

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: March 18, 2009 7:05 pm

Tubby addresses coaching rumors

GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Tubby Smith was standing in a hallway Wednesday afternoon, waiting to be escorted to the media room for an interview session when he was approached by a reporter here covering Radford.

The man introduced himself.

Smith said hello.

And then the inevitable happened.

"They sure would like to have you at Virginia," the man said, and Smith just laughed.

"What?" Smith said with a smile. "Don't you start that stuff."

Of course, it had already started ... on message boards, radio stations and among industry sources. Such is life for Orlando 'Tubby' Smith, the Minnesota coach who has made 15 of the past 16 NCAA tournaments at four different schools.

If you're not up to date on your coaching rumors, what you should know is that Smith's name has been mentioned (in various places, some legitimate, others not so much) in connection with the current openings at Virginia, Arizona, Alabama and Georgia. By all accounts, he'll have options outside of Minnesota when this season is complete. So it wasn't surprising when Smith was asked about the difficulty of dealing with speculation about his future while trying to coach in the NCAA tournament.

"It certainly is flattering sometimes, but it can be a distraction," Smith said. "... It's good to be wanted, but it's more important to be needed. I feel like I'm not only wanted in Minnesota, but needed there as well."

Also worth noting: Smith was asked how he felt about Kentucky missing the NCAA tournament. For some coaches, this would've been an opportunity to take a jab at the fan base that was so harsh it moved him to leave UK after 10 consecutive NCAA tournament appearances. But Smith isn't one of those coaches, so he simply described himself as "disappointed" and explained how he wants Kentucky "to do well."

It was a classy move.

Way classier than most would've been.

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: February 3, 2009 6:56 pm

I'm headed to Big Ten Country

I'm not sure why, exactly, because I pretty much make my own schedule and go where I want. But for some reason I haven't made it to enough Big Ten games, which is why I'm looking forward to traveling Wednesday (provided there are no weather delays).

First up: No. 19 Minnesota at No. 13 Michigan State on Wednesday night.

Then: Penn State at Michigan on Thursday night.

That's not a bad double-dip.

And here are five questions I'm hoping to have answered by the time I return home Friday ...

1. Can Michigan State win without Raymar Morgan?

2. Can Michigan State win at home?

3. Is Minnesota really a threat to win the Big Ten?

4. Is Michigan capable of turning things around?

5. Is Penn State as close to making the NCAA tournament as I believe?

Posted on: July 30, 2008 10:25 am
Edited on: July 30, 2008 10:25 am

Dear Gary (on Kentucky and Elite Camps)

Here's Wednesday's Dear Gary ...

Dear Gary: Did Kentucky utilize the Elite Camp loophole during Tubby Smith's tenure? I thought Tubby wouldn't deal with the AAU coaches.

-- Thomas

Honestly, I'm not sure whether Kentucky was holding Elite Camps back then. But either way, I never understood Tubby's concept of not "dealing" with AAU coaches. That's like being in the movie-making business but claiming not to want to deal with fame. The fame goes with the territory of being an actor, just like dealing with AAU coaches is a part of being the basketball coach of an elite program.

There are really only two options:

1. Deal with AAU coaches and try to get their players.

Or ...

2. Move to Minnesota.

Posted on: June 3, 2008 11:00 am
Edited on: June 3, 2008 11:03 am

Dear Gary ...

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.

-- Magee

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.
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com