Reusse Reality Script: Episode 11 (Gophs & Tubby)
Get the 1500 ESPN SportsWire delivered to your inbox daily, and keep up with all the news in Twin Cities Sports
Tubby Smith and his sports information guy, Matt Sleiter, were walking in the corridor below Williams Arena 20 minutes after Thursday night's 58-53 overtime victory over Wisconsin.
I had a question for Matt, and stepped toward him. Tubby looked up from a stats sheet, smiled and said, "Hey, how are you doing?,'' and we shook hands.
At the time, I wasn't sure if this was a case of Tubby being delighted with a victory, or if it was ongoing gratitude to the chairman of the committee for naming him as the 2012 Turkey of the Year.
The video that has since appeared showing Tubby getting down with his team in the locker room now makes me fairly certain that Coach Smith's postgame cheer was based on the victory.
Wisconsin had won an amazing 50 straight games when leading with five minutes or less. And Andre Hollins' layup with exactly five minutes remaining cut the Badgers' lead to 49-45, so this was a dire situation for the home team.
The Gophers had started 3-0 in the Big Ten, and the first loss came with a fierce comeback at Indiana, a team now returned to the No. 1 raking in the country.
Some of us felt at that point that an exceptional starting five gave Smith a Big Ten contender. Most other Gopher fans were saying top four in the Big Ten and a 3 or 4 seed in the NCAA tournament.
Whatever the standing on the optimism scale, the collapse that followed the entertaining loss at Indiana (five more losses in seven games) led to ridicule of the team's effort and what was close to hostility toward the coach.
It reached a peak last Sunday when the Gophers stunk it out in Williams Arena and lost to an Illinois club that they handled with little difficulty on the road in January.
A loss on Thursday night and the "Tubby must go'' movement was going to equal the "Monson must go'' cries after his sixth season. Actually, the cries would've been louder, since expectations when Monson was hired and for Smith, now in his sixth season, always have been at far different levels.
There was one take away for me from Tubby's postgame remarks: His suggestion that players were "overachieving'' on this Gophers' club. A month ago, after the start and then the loss at Indiana, this would have sounded absurd.
That's still not a word _ "overachieving'' _ that I would use, but there's no about this: I'm as guilty as anyone in "overrating" the talent on this team.
I took Andre Hollins' 41 points vs. Memphis as a sign that he was going to be more than a threat. He was going to be star.
I took Joe Coleman's 29 points as a sign he was ready to join the party, namely: If teams forgot about the sophomore and focused on Trevor Mbakwe, Rodney Williams and Andre Hollins, Coleman was ready to start cutting up defenses by getting to the basket and even making a few jumpers.
And Williams, this really seems foolish now, but entering this season, I saw him as a player who could wind up on the all-Big Ten team if the Gophers finished near the top of the league. Sad to say, Rodney appears to be a dunker, an ESPN highlight guy a couple of times a month, and not much more.
Mbakwe brought it when the game was on the line on Thursday night. He still has those great, strong hands to rebound, but he's also undersized to be playing as much center as is required.
Austin Hollins, the other starter, is the closest to what I figured he was. He has the occasional game where he makes shots and we get a bit giddy, but mostly he's an excellent defender and non-stop worker.
As for Andre Hollins, we've discovered he would still be much better off playing off guard than being forced to the play the point. If he could spend his time hunting shots rather than trying to dribble, life would be much easier for him.
As for Coleman, he gave a hard effort on Thursday and made two free throws to force overtime, but you never know what that means for this weekend at Iowa City. He still can become the invisible fifth wheel at a moment's notice.
"Not nearly the talented crew that many of us thought?'' Definitely.