Normally in our game previews we break down the keys statistics, key match-ups, and the players most likely to decide the outcome of the game. None of that seems necessary when number one Indiana comes to The Barn on Tuesday night. Indiana is just better than the Gophers. The players are better. The coaching is better. The team is better. Indiana should win, and rather handily. The Hoosiers are only a six point favorite, which tells me that the folks in Las Vegas don’t have access to the Big Ten Network.
After back to back embarrassing losses, the real goal of the Golden Gophers will be to avoid embarrassment, and maybe even play well enough to gain a bit of confidence before the final three games of the season that could send the team to the NCAA tournament. You, the fan who might be in attendance, also play an important role in avoiding embarrassment.
As one of the last Tubby apologist hold-outs who has since come to the conclusion that a coaching change should be in order, I understand your frustration. A once promising season, the most promising season in well over a decade, is on the verge of disaster. Norwood Teague isn’t blind or deaf. He is well aware of what is going on. No amount of chanting or booing will end the season any sooner, or send Tubby Smith to the next chapter of his life any quicker. Your chants, boos, and expletives will make the last few weeks of the season worse.
Tubby Smith, for the time being, is still the coach of the Gophers, and by booing him you are booing the team, unless you have the ability to modulate your voice in such a way that only Tubby can hear you. The Gophers, each and every one of them, are a mentally fragile bunch at the moment. Your chants and your boos aren’t going to make the players believe in themselves, and won’t help them play any better. For all we know the players haven’t quit on their coach, and as bad as they’ve played lately, no one wants to see how badly they would play if and when they do quit on the coach. The situation gets even worse if Tubby does return next season. Angry fans calling for a coach’s head is not the way to keep players committed to the program or to attract the recruits who may one day rescue us from our misery, regardless of the coach.
The sky has been falling for weeks, but it hasn’t quite hit the ground. Beating Indiana would prop up the Gophers NCAA tournament chances, and should be enough to keep the team on the right side of the bubble if they can manage to beat Penn State this Saturday. Beating Indiana would also give Tubby Smith a chance for his first winning Big Ten season, and a likely six seed or better in the NCAA tournament. That would hopefully lead to an NCAA tournament win or two, and an off-season without the perils and pitfalls that too often accompany a coaching change. Such a scenario isn’t very likely, but it is preferable to the alternative, regardless of how necessary that alternative becomes.