Justin Cobbs, in a walking dribble near the top of the three-point line, makes quick move to the left before crossing over his dribble and driving the lane at Williams Arena. As he gets past his defender, another comes up in help defense, leaving Royce White open on the backside, who has just started to bolt toward the hoop. Cobbs notices the defender coming and lobs a pass just out of his opponent’s reach about a foot to the left from the backboard square. White, uncumbered from any defender, rises, grabs the ball and thunderously dunks it down with two hands.
The Williams Arena crowd explodes, even though the cheers are coming for the visitors, wile Cobbs and White have just thwarted Gophers Rodney Williams and Julian Welch.
Is the fictional scenario above so far fetched?
Colton Iverson left Tubby Smith’s Golden Gopher basketball program this month, making a total of five players who have shuttled off since February 2010. A friend recently asked by e-mail, which team do I think would win, if they met in a real-life contest. (WhatifSports.com should put something together about this.)
Here are the teams:
Tentative Gophers 2011-12 Roster
PG - Julian Welch
SG - Andre Hollins/Joe Coleman
SF - Rodney Williams
PF - Trevor Mbakwe
C - Ralph Sampson III
Bizarro Gophers 2010-11 Transfers
PG - Justin Cobbs
SG - Devoe Joseph
SF - Royce White
PF - Paul Carter
C - Colton Iverson
Note: I realize that Paul Carter would have graduated in 2010-11, but for the sake of sports debate, we’re going to let that slide. He only played three years of Division I ball, so in our twisted universe, he’s eligible for this game.
Now, just to be clear, I don’t have a huge problem with the transfers in Tubby’s program. It’s a problem, yes, but not a huge one, if I can include that modifier. The gawd-awful tenure of Dan Monson has given Smith a long leash in my book.
The two largest transfer question marks, and unfortunately best players, have been White and Joseph. White couldn’t seem to avoid making the wrong kind of headlines, while Joseph decided to surprisingly up and leave campus last winter. But at the same time, if they are guys who are going to be head cases, you don’t want them in your program. Granted, it still would have been nice if Tubby could have gotten them on the right track. (I have a source close to some people from the high school that expelled. Apparently going to class and his effort while there was a constant issue; it’s disappointing that he still couldn’t get his life in order off of the court at Minnesota. Moving on.)
Carter left to be closer to his cancer-stricken sister. Cobbs left at a time when he was buried on the depth chart (of course he would have ended up to be a major factor late last season) and Iverson possibly left for similar concerns about dwindling playing time.
But on to debates about fictional games that can never be definitively settled. (It’s like ranking fantasy football teams in the preseason!)
As my esteemed colleague writes: the transfer team is arguably better at PG, SG and SF, and if Mbakwe goes to the NBA or gets arrested, the transfer team likely beats the current roster [with Maurice Walker filling in] by about 20 points.
I can’t disagree with those things at all.
The Bizarro Five could exploit White’s size and strength advantage at SF, while Joseph becomes the best offensive threat on the entire court. I have misgivings about his consistency, but Cobbs is a pass-first guard and the Coleman/Hollins mix consists of two unproven freshmen. The Bizarro All-Stars could also play around with their match-ups, in allowing White to play power forward and moving Carter to the three. Either player would provide exploitable post-up opportunities against the smaller Rodney Williams.
But on the otherside of The Barn, Mbakwe would absolutely shred Paul Carter or White in the post, even though Carter’s athleticism would help him beat Mbakwe down the floor in transition. (It might be best to move Iverson against Mbakwe, but I could see him fouling out in about three minutes of game action in that case.) Also, I wonder if the Bizarro Gophs would implode on the court - would they mesh well? Would Joseph bristle if White started taking a lot of shots? If Joseph is having an off night, who picks up the offensive slack in the backcourt? I think a simple, aggressive 2-3 zone would give the Bizarro Gophers fits.
My friend is a huge Joseph fan, while my own irrational optimism meter probably rises most with Rodney Williams. Can Williams make the leap from being a jump-out-of-the-gym athlete to a complete basketball player? I don’t know. My friend said the Gophers next year will likely be awful, unless Williams becomes an All-Conference-type player. He put a one-in-five chance of that happening and again, I really can’t disagree with that.
The most striking thing for me is how well both teams match-up with each other. Both have the same strengths, half-court basketball and the ability to play high-pressure athletic defense; but lack a clear No. 1 offensive threat who can create his own shot.
But who would be a better team? Without seeing enough of Hollins’s game, I have to rank the team according to Coleman instead. I think he will be a solid player and fits nicely in with the current squad. But the game would likely be closely contested. When two teams are that close, I think you look at the best player on the court and put your chips behind him. At this point in time, that’s Mbakwe and he has probably the best match-up of any of the 2011-12 Gophers against their transferred counterparts.
Still, the Bizarro Gophers wouldn’t be far off and that alone should give even the most loyal of Gopher basketball fans some concern about next year.