The Minnesota Golden Gophers wrapped up the regular season with a win at the Barn on Saturday afternoon over the Nebraska Cornhuskers. Tubby Smith's squad will need to do incredibly well in the Big Ten Tournament, however, to have any chance at making madness happen in March.
The Gophers were without All-American forward Trevor Mbakwe for the majority of the season, but their six-game losing streak prior to Saturday's win was not what was expected when Minnesota hired Smith. That said, there are beginning to be rumblings about Smith's status.
In particular, of course, are those asking if Tubby should be fired. This season probably isn't all on Smith, but he's looked completely flabbergasted with the play of his team this season, all but giving up on the young squad a couple of times during the recent losing streak.
Charley Waters of the Pioneer Press brought up another interesting angle when debating whether or not the Gophers should eat the remaining portion of Smith's contract with Minnesota in his weekend column:
Smith, 60, is signed, for a total of about $4 million, for two more seasons after this one. Two Minnesota high school sophomore point guards - Tyus Jones of Apple Valley and Rashad Vaughn of Robbinsdale Cooper - are being nationally recruited. Either would significantly improve the Gophers' program.
The pair will be seniors when Smith's contract is up. Smith doesn't have a contract extension. High school players aren't going to commit without knowing for whom they're going to be playing.
The alternative, of course, would be to give Smith an extension -- for recruiting purposes -- but that will all be up to the new athletic director ... whenever he or she is hired. Once that happens, however, dominoes will likely start falling -- and where they fall could have a huge impact on Minnesota basketball.
It wouldn't be easy to fire Smith considering his history as a successful coach in the NCAA ranks, but two straight seasons without an NCAA Tournament berth and a 38-49 record in Big Ten play certainly wasn't in the plans when he was hired.
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