Yet another slow fade for Tubby Smith’s Gophers

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Minnesota should be grateful football schools like Nebraska and Penn State are around. Otherwise the Gophers would be dragging the bottom of the Big Ten. They’ve lost five straight and seven of their last nine.

At 17-12 overall, they’re not on the bubble. Not even close. Not after yet another loss, this one a 19-point laugher against Indiana. Perhaps his two best players, senior Ralph Sampson III and junior Rodney Williams, combined for just seven points. Sounds as if they just quit.

“Ralph was struggling to score; Rodney, he’s not looking to score. So this is what you get,” coach Tubby Smith told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. “When you’re not engaged, then your teammates are not going to be. You’ve got to earn their respect by playing hard all the time. And when you don’t, the opponents are not going to respect you and your teammates are not going to respect you.”

Smith even stressed before the game about how crucial Williams and Sampson were to the Gophers’ chances. But the result? Nada.

Kinda like what Smith’s teams have done most every spring. Fade.

In three of his five seasons at Minnesota, the Gophers missed the NCAA tournament. He has yet to post a winning conference record (Minnesota has back-to-back .500 records in 2010 and 2011). Sure, expectations aren’t high for Gopher hoops, but Smith’s teams haven’t come close to meeting any reasonable expectations.

They’re still in the same spot, five years later. When do the Gophers actually start contending in the conference?

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