Tubby Smith

Are we seriously calling for Tubby Smith to be fired already?

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Rodney Williams missed Sunday night’s game against Illinois, and it may have cost the Gophers a win.

Illinois big man Tyler Griffey snapped out of a shooting slump on Thursday against Indiana, and continued his hot shooting by knocking down four threes and scoring 16 points as the Illini overcame a 10 minute stretch to begin the game without hitting a field goal.

Griffey’s success was largely a result of the inability of Minnesota’s big men — Trevor Mbakwe, Elliot Eliason, Andre Ingram — to chase him around on the perimeter, and it’s difficult not to imagine Rodney Williams being able to stay with Griffey better.

Williams missed the game after tweaking his shoulder in practice on Saturday. Here are the deets, from Amelia Rayno:

Rodney Williams didn’t play at all after tweaking his left shoulder in yesterday’s practice. Williams said he thought he could play, at least some, but that the coaching staff made the decision to keep him out to ensure he didn’t make the injury worse. Williams said he will “definitely” be playing on Thursday, when Wisconsin will be at Williams Arena.

The good news is that Williams appears to be right that he’ll be playing on Thursday:

The bad news is that it has already cost Minnesota a game. The Gophers have now lost six of their last eight and are sitting below .500 in the Big Ten. They’re a long way from being anywhere close to the bubble, but Minnesota fans are starting to get fed up. There’s already one columnist calling for Tubby Smith’s job.

Personally, I think that’s silly.

Minnesota has lost at Indiana by seven, to Michigan by eight, at Wisconsin by one, at Michigan State by 11 and to Illinois by four during this stretch. Those are all tournament teams, and three of them are going to be in contention for top two seeds in the NCAA tournament. The only surprising loss came at Northwestern.

If the Gophers can avoid anymore surprising losses in Big Ten play, they’ll end the season at 9-9 in league play. That will likely slot them sixth, with wins over Michigan State and at Illinois. And they still have a chance to pull off upsets against Indiana and Wisconsin at home and at home Ohio State.

Let’s go back to November. Pretend I told you then that the Gophers would finish sixth in the Big Ten, earn a six seed in the NCAA tournament and notch a win over Michigan State, every Gopher fan would have been happy with that, right?

The bottom-line is this: Minnesota was over-hyped because they rolled through a non-conference schedule that looks less impressive now than it did at the time and because they picked up a pair of quality league wins early in conference play. I’ll take some blame for that, as I was fooled as well.

But at the end of the day, this is a team that doesn’t have a true point guard, relies on the offensive glass for much of their scoring and whose bench play resides somewhere between inconsistent and non-existent.

They aren’t at the same level as the teams at the top of the Big Ten. Tubby shouldn’t be fired because he had them playing that way for a couple of months. And he certainly shouldn’t be fired with the expectation of getting Shaka Smart to replace him.

Take a breath, step away from the ledge, and recognize the fact that, as the sixth-best team in the Big Ten, you’re currently in sixth-place in the league.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

Five-star 2017 guard Lonnie Walker cuts list to five schools

Men's U18 trials head shots and team photo on 6.15.16
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Five-star shooting guard Lonnie Walker is coming off of a very good summer as he trimmed his list to five schools on Thursday night.

The 6-foot-4 native of Reading, Pennsylvania is still considering Arizona, Kentucky, Miami, Syracuse and Villanova, he announced on Twitter.

Regarded as the No. 26 overall prospect in the Class of 2017, Walker played with Team Final in the Nike EYBL this spring and summer as he averaged 16.6 points, 4.7 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game. Walker shot 45 percent from the field, 39 percent from three-point range and 72 percent from the free-throw line.

An efficient scorer who is learning to drive with both hands, Walker is very talented and the type of guard who might also be able to handle a bit as well.

VIDEO: Jim Boeheim makes TV appearance to talk Carmelo Anthony

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Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim has drawn attention for some recent comments about former Orange star Carmelo Anthony.

After Anthony captured his record third gold medal with USA Basketball, his former college coach told Mike Waters of the Syracuse Post-Standard that Anthony didn’t have a great chance at winning an NBA title.

“He’s unlikely to win an NBA title,” Boeheim said of Anthony. “He’s never been on a team that even had a remote chance of winning an NBA title.”

Boeheim maintains that he was speaking of Melo’s legacy being about more than an NBA title and that he’s one of the game’s greats thanks to other accomplishments like the Syracuse title and gold medals. On SportsCenter, Boeheim made sure to stress where those comments were coming from, while also making sure his kids would stop being mad at him.

It’s much easier to understand where Boeheim is coming from in this instance and it clears up something that will probably go away now.

Big Ten releases conference schedule

CHARLOTTE, NC - MARCH 22:  Head coach Tom Izzo of the Michigan State Spartans reacts against the Virginia Cavaliers during the third round of the 2015 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Time Warner Cable Arena on March 22, 2015 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
(Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
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The Big Ten released its 2016-17 conference schedule on Thursday as the conference season begins on Dec. 27 with a four-game set.

Conference play will conclude on March 5th before the 20th annual Big Ten Tournament is played at the Verizon Center in Washington D.C. from March 8-12.

Some notable games include Penn State hosting Michigan State at the Palestra on Jan. 7.

You can view the full Big Ten schedule here.

Arizona’s Talbott Denny injures knee, out for season

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TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) Arizona senior forward Talbott Denny will miss the season after tearing the ACL and medial meniscus in his left knee.

The school said Wednesday that the 6-foot-5 graduate transfer from Lipscomb will have surgery.

Denny, from Tucson’s Salpointe Catholic High School, missed all of last season at Lipscomb because of a shoulder injury.

Roy Williams: ‘There’s no question’ more ACC games equal no Kentucky in non-conference

SAN ANTONIO, TX - MARCH 23: Head coach Roy Williams of the North Carolina Tar Heels looks on during the third round of the 2014 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament against the Iowa State Cyclones at the AT&T Center on March 23, 2014 in San Antonio, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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Back in June, when the ACC officially announced that they would be expanding the league schedule to 20 games in 2019, I tried to warn you that it was going to put a dent into the non-conference schedule and the amount of quality, on-campus games that we’ll get prior to January.

Roy Williams essentially confirmed this as fact this week.

The North Carolina head coach hopped on a podcast with ESPN and more or less said that the bigger league schedule is going to lead to an end of some of UNC’s marquee home-and-home series.

“My feeling right now, and it could change by ’19, heck I could be fired by ’19, but my feeling right now is to play our conference schedule, play one exempt event where you have really good teams, and other than that play home games to help out your revenue and help out your budget,” Williams said. “We have the ACC/Big Ten and that’s not going to go away. So it’s 21 games already scheduled.”

When asked specifically if this would put an end to UNC’s series with Kentucky, Williams said, “Oh yeah, there’s no question. Why would I need to do that?”

There’s two reasons this makes sense. On the one hand, North Carolina needs to fill their home arena a certain number of times to help with the bottom line of the athletic department. They make enough off of ticket sales, merchandise sales, parking fees and food and beverage that they can afford to pay out more than $50,000 to bring a smaller opponent into their arena. More than that, playing a series of weaklings early in the year allows players to gain confidence, it allows Williams to figure out what his rotation will be and who can handle playing at this level, and it gives newcomers a chance to assimilate into his team against players that just aren’t that good.

And when a larger ACC schedule severely limits the number of non-conference games that UNC will be able to play, what’s going to get cut are the contracts that require the Tar Heels to play on the road when they don’t have to.

So buh-bye, Kentucky, it is.