Sunday, December 21, 2008
On Saturday, the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers upset the #9 Louisville Cardinals 70-64 on a neutral court in Glendale, Arizona. At a perfect 10-0, Minnesota is off to its best start since the 1976-77 season.
Al Nolen led Minnesota Gophers with 18 points. Blake Hoffarber had 15 points off the bench for the Gophers.
The game reunited Minnesota Head Coach Tubby Smith with his former boss, Louisville Head Coach Rick Pitino. Smith served as an assistant to Pitino at Kentucky for two years before leaving to become the Head Coach at Tulsa. Smith later succeeded Pitino as Head Coach at Kentucky when Pitino left to become the Head Coach and General Manager of the NBA's Boston Celtics in 1997.
Hiring Tubby Smith in 2007 was nothing short of a coup for Minnesota. Sure, Smith was on the hot seat when he left Kentucky for Minnesota; his days in Lexington were likely numbered. But his arrival in Minnesota delivered instant credibility to the Gophers basketball program. In his first season as Minnesota's coach, Smith turned a program that had been either mediocre or bad for several seasons into a scrappy, 20 game winning team. Now Tubby Smith has the Gophers undefeated, and with a major upset under their belt with just one week to go before Big Ten conference play begins.
Drive and Dish was impressed with Minnesota's hire of Tubby Smith, and last year we predicted that Coach Smith would have the Golden Gophers competing for Big Ten championships in the near future. But that future may have come sooner than even we realized.
On a side note, Minnesota's upset of Louisville marks yet another impressive upset of an AP Top 10 rated team by an unheralded upstart from the Big Ten. When combined with Michigan's upsets over then-#4 UCLA and then-#4 Duke, Minnesota's upset over Louisville should serve notice to the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee, if not the talking heads at ESPN and in the national media, that the Big Ten might not be "down" again this year (sure, Michigan State's drubbing by North Carolina didn't do much to help the Big Ten's image, but their thrilling 67-63 upset of #5 Texas on Saturday surely did).