The Minnesota Golden Gophers haven't had a very good month considering they've lost five of their six February games thus far, moving them out of the "Bracketology" talk as far as a berth in the NCAA Tournament is concerned. The Minnesota's March Madness hopes wasn't the only thing the Gophers lost, however, as the team also failed to find its composure following the blowout loss to the Indiana Hoosiers.
Tubby Smith ridiculed his top players, throwing both Ralph Sampson III and Rodney Williams under the bus, following the loss that likely ended any hopes of a run in next month's NCAA tourney. It's a surprising move, too, considering he was able to keep the team together so long following an early-season loss to top player Trevor Mbakwe.
Smith's comments to the Pioneer Press following the loss weren't exactly what most fans of the U wanted to see at this juncture in the season.
Junior Rodney Williams, who finished with just three points on 1 for 3 shooting, was so ineffective that Smith speculated that "something else is going on" with his leading scorer.
"We were running plays for him," Smith said. "In his mind he just wasn't there at all."
"When you're not engaged, then your teammates are not (going to be)," Smith said. "You've got to earn their respect by playing hard all of time. When you don't, your teammates are not going to respect you. Your opponents are not going to respect you."
It's unfortunate that things got to this point considering a win on Sunday would have allowed the Gophers a sweep of the Top 25 ranked Hoosiers and likely inclusion in SB Nation's Bracketology update. Instead, however, the Gophers just continued to fall.
ESPN's Myron Medcalf, a former beatwriter for the Gophers, summed up the Gophers' issues pretty well as he ranked Minnesota as the ninth-best basketball team in the Big Ten.
Minnesota: This was supposed to be the week that the Gophers solidified themselves as a team with a legit argument for the NCAA tournament. But they unraveled during a must-win home game against Michigan State. And they were crushed by Indiana on Sunday. This squad overcame the November loss of Trevor Mbakwe to a knee injury and it's been in a position to earn an at-large berth in recent weeks. But it continues to squander crucial opportunities. Time has run out for Tubby Smith's team.
It's too late to turn things around this season barring a miracle run in the Big Ten Tournament, but upsetting the Wisconsin Badgers on Tuesday night might show that all isn't lost for the Gophers' future considering Sampson III is the team's only senior.
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