Jackrabbits set to face off with Tubby Smith and Golden Gophers

Travis Kriens

Travis Kriens

SDSU’s men’s basketball team will face their first opponent from a major conference this season as they travel to Minneapolis to face the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers (6-1) of the Big Ten on Dec.12.

If you ask any Gopher fans about why they are excited and have high expectations for this season, they will likely answer with two words; Tubby Smith.

Tubby Smith was named the 16th head coach in the University of Minnesota men’s basketball history on March 23 after spending the previous 10 years as head coach for Kentucky.

Gopher fans have reason to be excited and optimistic for this season. If Smith can have half the amount of success at Minnesota that he had in his first year at Kentucky, Gopher fans should be pleased. In his first year at Kentucky, Tubby led the Wildcats to a 35-4 record and a national championship.

Smith has been recognized as the National Coach of the Year three times (’98, ’03 and ’05), and is well on his way to becoming a future member of the Basketball Hall of Fame.

Part of the reason why Smith left Kentucky was because of the pressure that Wildcat fans put on him and the team to reach the Final Four each season and win national cham- pionships on a regular basis. Smith never reached the Final Four again after his first season at Kentucky and resigned at the end of last season to take over at Minnesota.

The Gophers have reached the NCAA tournament once (2005) since the 1990-91 season and have had the 1993-94 through 1998-99 seasons wiped out of the record books due to an academic fraud scandal led by then head coach Clem Haskins.

In October 2000, the Golden Gophers program was placed on four years probation by the NCAA and stripped of its wins in the 1994, 1995 and 1997 NCAA tournaments, as well as its NIT wins in 1996 and 1998. A few days later, the Big Ten Conference stripped Minnesota of the 1997 conference title and forced it to vacate every regular season game it played from 1993-94 to 1998-99.

Tubby’s impact has been felt immediately as the Gophers are off to their best start in seven years and could potentially be 11-1 when they start the Big Ten season.

This season, Minnesota is a balanced team with depth. They have four players; seniors Dan Coleman (12.1 points per game), Spencer Tollackson (11.3 ppg), Lawrence McKenzie (10.7 ppg) and freshman Blake Hoffarber (10.4 ppg) averaging double figures in points and eight players that play at least 16 minutes per game.

Last year, the Jackrabbits lost at Williams Arena 77-53. The Jacks held a 23-17 first-half lead, but the Gophers went on a 28-4 run to break away from SDSU. Coleman scored a career-high 28 points and shot 56 percent from the field.

This is not the first time that Tubby Smith has coached against the Jackrabbits. Kentucky kicked off the 2005-06 season at home against SDSU and won 71-54.

If SDSU were to defeat the Gophers it would be a major upset. The Jacks’ first game at Minnesota was in 1930. Their record since then is 0-10.

The Golden Gophers have never visted Brookings and the Gophers have not been very kind to their foes to the west. In 1964 Minnesota beat SDSU 101-55. U of M. are 48-1 against current Summit League teams. Their only defeat came at the hands of North Dakota State University in 1936.

Tip-off is scheduled for 8 p.m. C.S.T. After taking on the Gophers, the Jacks will play host to the University of Idaho on Dec.15 and Denver on Dec.18.