So, the Gophers just destroyed the Illinois Fighting Illini. The #12 ranked team in the nation. On the road. By 17 points. Which is on the heels of winning their first two conference games by 13 and then 18 points.
Honestly, I don’t even know what to say. I’m numb. This is what winning at a high level feels like?
My buddy said it best after the game when I said I didn’t know what to do: “This is such a foreign feeling having a Minnesota team held in such acclaim and actually be backing it up … with relative ease.”
It’s true. The entire game was exciting, but I feel like busted my excitement meter and could no longer go crazy. Even after the game ended I just sat there and thought, “well now what?” The ending wasn’t close, but the Gophers had just beaten one of the best teams on the road in one of the harder places to play in fairly simple fashion. I guess it’s like that time on South Park where Cartman meets the Thompsons (who have butts for faces) and blows his funny fuse.
Maybe I’m just having trouble coming to grips with the fact that this team is now thoroughly and undoubtedly considered one of the best teams in the country. How do you deal with that? Seriously, if you can go into Champaign and beat the Illini by 17 points then you can pretty much go into any arena in the country and hold your own. And that is really, really exciting.
But enough emotional crap. Let’s talk about validation. If the win at home versus Michigan State wasn’t enough to prove to most people that Minnesota is a force to be reckoned with, then this should be the stake that drives it home. It’s not often the Gophers go on the road against a ranked team and win. And it’s even rarer that they start the conference season at 3-0. In fact, you have to back to the Clem Haskins day to find the last time it happened. They now have two wins over ranked teams in the conference. Teams that have given them fits for many years.
Of course, I’d like to sit here and act all surprised that the Gophers are doing what they’re doing. But you know what? We’ve been predicting this type of performance since late last year. FROM THE BARN CALLED THIS SUCCESS. And we can prove it:
- Here: http://fromthebarn.org/2012/04/02/an-exhausting-season-but-save-room-for-optimism/
- Here: http://fromthebarn.org/2012/03/28/a-special-guest-post-by-dan-hanner-the-future-is-here/
- And here: http://fromthebarn.org/2012/03/13/next-year-is-now/
Sure, seeing them start the season by beating two teams ranked in the top 20 wasn’t necessarily on the list of accomplishments I thought the Gophers would achieve, but those that paid attention during the NIT run saw a really good collection of guys who could do some damage once they got some experience under their belts. And playing a tough non-conference schedule this year has only done great things for a team that has played a lot together. We’re currently seeing the fruits of that experience.
Notes and thoughts:
- Joe freakin’ Coleman. If it’s not somebody it’s another with this team, and that’s their beauty. Tonight it wasn’t Austin or Andre or Trevor or even Rodney. Tonight belonged to Coleman who scored a career high 29 points and killed the Illini in transition. Really, he connected on some pretty plays on the move, which is really his strength. He even knocked down a couple of three pointers! That never happens.
- The starters did 100% of the scoring tonight, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The starting five were just doing that well. Three guys (Mbakwe, Coleman and Hollins) scored in double figures and Mbakwe racked up a double double. Oh, and remember when CBS Sports reporter Jeff Goodman said Mbakwe was “sad to watch” and a “below the rim player” earlier this year? Well, tweet at him and tell him that his hack piece was wrong and that he’s a lazy moron for writing it.
- Illinois came into the game being feared for their three-point shooting ability. The Gophers have been known for their awesome defense. Guess who won out? Illinois attempted 24 threes and only hit 3 of them. That’s good for 12.5% for those keeping track at home. Another amazing performance by Tubby’s defense. And the Illini only turned the ball over seven times.
- Oh, and for those who were watching early in the game and saw the play where Brandon Paul got called for the charge but they still counted his dunk. What was that? That’s such a fundamental oversight that I almost thought I misunderstood the rule. Not sure what the ref was thinking there but it was infuriating.
A short recap, but I’m emotionally spent from this game. It was just too much fun. For real, these guys are dangerous this year. More so than I think even the cheerleaders at this blog could have thought. Their weapons are deep and diverse and if a sharpshooting team like Illinois can’t keep them honest then I’m not sure who can.
Everyone has permission to now get excited.