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  1. #1

    Default Randball: Whalen Knows How to Turn Things Around

    http://www.startribune.com/lindsay-w...und/504404462/

    Strib's Michael Rand:


    It's easy to forget now, but in Whalen's first year as a Gophers player, Minnesota went 8-20 overall, including 1-15 in the Big Ten. Three straight NCAA tournament appearances, culminating in that Final Four, followed.

    In her first season after being traded to the Lynx in 2010, Minnesota went 13-21 and missed the playoffs. The Lynx won a WNBA title the next season, their first of four, and never missed the playoffs in Whalen's final eight seasons here.

    ...

    Minnesota's nonconference schedule was squishy soft outside of a very good win over Syracuse (No. 4 in the RPI, per RealTime RPI) and a good win at Boston College (No. 80). The rest of their nine nonconference wins came over teams with an RPI of 165 or lower — part of the reason Minnesota itself is No. 97 in the RPI with a strength of schedule of 165 at the moment, neither of which will help at all when NCAA at-large bids are handed out.

    More than just hurting the Gophers' tournament résumé, though, that nonconference slate left Minnesota unprepared for a step up in competition in Big Ten play. The exposure has come in the form of four consecutive losses since a win over Wisconsin in the conference opener.

    Whalen has seemingly been outcoached at times, with the Gophers coughing up halftime leads in a bad home loss to Illinois and another home loss to a very good Iowa squad Monday. The Hawkeyes had success with a zone defense, and Minnesota had few answers for how to counter.


  2. #2

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    (Slight edit)

    As usual, Michael Rand is spot on. Given our lack of Big Ten success thus far, it may well be Whalen's second year before the Gophers make the NCAAs.

    Since he mentions current RPI ranking, I'll update RealTime Gamer end of season projections here rather than in the RPI thread. After the Iowa loss, Gamer projects we'll end up at an RPI rank of No. 87 with an SoS of 85. The latter 85 at least comes down a bit from the current stratospheric 165, thanks to playing stronger Big Ten teams from here on out. But the No. 87 RPI rank is still out of the NCAA tourney in spite of Syracuse and Boston College wins.

    Stollings left us with a preseason schedule that shot us in both feet. [And by the way, this did not just leave future-coach Whalen with a pre-existing deep RPI hole to try to claw out of; had Stollings stayed, she effectively would have shot her-own-self in both feet too, leaving herself an identical deep RPI hole to claw out of.] Not only did this set us up with such a bad SoS that it becomes nearly impossible to present the NCAA selection committee with any sort of reasonable-looking RPI rank (just based on SoS impact alone); but as RandBall points out, the squishy soft schedule left us ill prepared to take on real competition in the B1G - thus whacking down the other factor that weighs into end-of-season RPI (and the ranking based thereon), namely our B1G won/loss record (on top of our perfect non-B1G won/loss record).

    Gamer's projection is based on its thinking that we'll lose all our away games (including this week's Wisconsin game), and win all our home games (including the Maryland game) for the rest of the season.

    There is still a chance Whalen can inspire her players to turn it around this year. That requires making a Fool out of Gamer. Indeed, we might have to beat Maryland (a tough proposition). More importantly, we need to win almost all of our remaining home games, and (fooling Gamer) we need to win most of our remaining away games too.

    This leaves little margin for error, or allowing teams to make huge second half comebacks, or games replete with telegraphed passes, or games in which we are colder than a frozen Minnesota lake from three. [Can Whalen and Co. teach this team how not to turn the ball over in what remains of this season? We'll see.] So perhaps not likely, and WNIT looks more like a doable goal for this year.

    The Iowa game, in Whalen-analogous terms, was like the Gophers playing the Lynx and (predictably) losing. Gustafson is like the NCAA version of Sylvia Fowles. She's gonna score big if you guard her one on one. But pick your poison. If you double team her, the rest of the team is guarding 3 on 4.

    The Wisconsin game is a bellweather. We beat them at home. Can we beat them away? We need that win to stay in the hunt for the NCAA Big Dance.
    Last edited by CutDownTheNet; 01-16-2019 at 08:49 PM.

  3. #3
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    A short bench of eleven players plus the injured Godiva Hubbard doesn't help the cause much.

    Whalen is learning on the job. She'll get her nose bloodied a few times yet this season by more experienced coaches.

    IMHO, put a little more focus on the development of the players who are returning next season. Give them some/more playing time or more focused development & conditioning/practices. Finally, if they can red shirt Hubbard they will have an extra veteran player with an extra year of playing time. Play her this season only if means it is the difference between making the NCAA tournament or not should they go on a late season run.

    Staples hopefully will find her comfort zone, be better at defense, and be an outside threat.

    This season is what it is. It is not entirely a lost cause. I can envision the Gophers make incremental improvements each year, and then they will surprise.
    Last edited by hungan1; 01-16-2019 at 05:27 PM.
    Welcome to Badger Road Kill Country!

  4. #4

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    I think Hubbard should return this season, if able. Maybe the team can get it together by the Big Ten tournament. With all the parity, this might be a good year to make a run at the tournament championship, therefore getting an automatic bid into the NCAA tournament.

    Next year, Maryland is going to be be even more indomitable.

  5. #5
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    One extra player can change the complexion of the team with an additional body in the rotation.
    Welcome to Badger Road Kill Country!

  6. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by CutDownTheNet View Post

    Stollings left us with a preseason schedule that shot us in both feet. [And by the way, this did not just leave future-coach Whalen with a pre-existing deep RPI hole to try to claw out of; had Stollings stayed, she effectively would have shot her-own-self in both feet too, leaving herself an identical deep RPI hole to claw out of.] Not only did this set us up with such a bad SoS that it becomes nearly impossible to present the NCAA selection committee with any sort of reasonable-looking RPI rank (just based on SoS impact alone); but as RandBall points out, the squishy soft schedule left us ill prepared to take on real competition in the B1G - thus whacking down the other factor that weighs into end-of-season RPI (and the ranking based thereon), namely our B1G won/loss record (on top of our perfect non-B1G won/loss record).
    And yet, last season, Stollings' team went positive in the B1G. Our worst conference loss was to Nebraska and best conference wins were Iowa, Maryland and Michigan. This team, thus far, has gotten worse in the B1G. To me, it's a problem unrelated to the pre-season schedule.

  7. #7

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    Stollings also had Wagner and Hubbard. Look at how Stollings did the one game vs Indiana with a cold shooting (slightly bummed knee from Maryland game) Pitts and a out with illness Hubbard. Wagner scored 34 and they still lost. Stollings last year won on the back of Four players doing all or majority of the scoring. Our win vs Iowa in the big ten tournament was simply four BARELY outscored Gustafson who threw in 48. Also even with the scoring punch, they were at one point down 40 points at Ohio St last year. just some things to remember when comparing the conference season of this year and last.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ignatius L Hoops View Post
    And yet, last season, Stollings' team went positive in the B1G. Our worst conference loss was to Nebraska and best conference wins were Iowa, Maryland and Michigan. This team, thus far, has gotten worse in the B1G. To me, it's a problem unrelated to the pre-season schedule.

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