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Updated: February 26th, 2012 9:24pm
Wolfson: Embarrassing loss is evidence Tubby Smith has checked out

Wolfson: Embarrassing loss is evidence Tubby Smith has checked out

by Doogie
1500ESPN.com

Halfway through Sunday's worst Big Ten home loss since 2001, a Gophers fan in section 220 shouted, "Tubby, start coaching!"

The Tubby Smith I once knew didn't hesitate to pace the sideline, rip off his suit jacket if necessary, or chastise an official.

On Sunday, he did none of that. He barely stood up from his stool. Admittedly, he said he wasn't mentally engaged.

But why?

While a long-shot to make the NCAA Tournament, an 8-10 regular season Big Ten finish would have put them in the conversation.

Now, they will be lucky to make the N.I.T.

"Today's theme was to rise to the challenge," Smith said. "They obviously weren't inspired by what I said."

Added guard Chip Armelin: "We didn't come ready to play."

Guard Austin Hollins did, making four of his eight shots. The rest of the team shot 14-for-50 from the field.

Forward Rodney Williams had more turnovers (three) than field goal attempts in the first half (two).

"Rodney isn't looking to score," Smith said.

Shouldn't he though?

"We ran plays for him," Smith said. "I guess something was going on with his mind. He just wasn't there today. He just wasn't there."

That is a direct indictment of Smith, who has lost 21 of his last 27 Big Ten games.

Recruits Matt Thomas, a junior from Onalaska, Wisconsin, and Rashad Vaughn, a sophomore at Robbinsdale Cooper high school, were seated courtside.

They saw the Gophers score a season-low 50 points with an offense lacking movement, creativity, and thoughtfulness. Also one that was resigned after missing nine mostly uncontested close looks in the first half.

Assuming Smith survives a second consecutive disaster -- he has a $2 million buyout until May 1 -- a staff shakeup is necessary. Smith needs someone who doesn't follow the, "Yes sir, yes sir, three bags full sir," way. He needs an offensive guru who can also offer resistance.

Indiana's Tom Crean, like most coaches because that is just the way it is in the profession on-the-record, spewed compliment after compliment the Gophers' way: "We know how good Minnesota is."

Maybe so after what they did in Bloomington, but he should also know how bad they are right now.

It is now five consecutive losses with effort, hustle, and scrappiness lacking on Sunday. On a couple occasions, including once after a basket, the Gophers didn't get back on defense, conceding easy points.

Down 44-28 early in the second half, trying to find a way to get a much-needed win, two Gophers couldn't secure a loose ball on the floor, and the result was an Indiana layup by Victor Oladipo.

Sunday was so bad that the 11th home Big Ten loss in the last 13 games reminded me of the dark Dan Monson days.

That one fan at least cared enough to express his displeasure. The rest of the crowd was apathetic, or based on the large amount of empty seats, didn't care enough to show up. The Barnyard was more like a Graveyard.

I am still trying to figure out who was more defeated: Tubby or the fanbase?

Smith finally accepted blame, but it is too late.

Even after losing 10 of 11 games to end last season, the Gophers never played as poorly as they did on Sunday. Smith never seemed so mentally beat-up. Who knows what else he would have said if sports information director Matt Slieter didn't cut off the postgame questions far too early.

In the past, Smith has brought in a sports psychologist, or someone else to get his team going when in a funk.

Tony Robbins couldn't get this bunch to play the right way as long as Smith is checked out.

Darren "Doogie" Wolfson is the jack-of-all-trades sports guy for 5 Eyewitness News and a contributor to 1500ESPN.com.
Email Darren | @darrenwolfson
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