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Tubby vs. 'The Mayor' Saturday for basketball bragging rights of Minnesota's past


What can be said about Tubby Smith's time as University of Minnesota men's basketball coach?

Was it forgettable? Did he fail to live up to expectations? Did he think it was just a retirement job and mail in the six seasons he was surrounded by maroon and gold?

Many have said all of those things, but his three NCAA tournament appearances in those six years are two more than Dan Monson accomplished in his eight years with the program, and before Tubby took over, the Gophers had OFFICIALLY made the NCAAs just three times the previous 19 years.

What can be said about Fred Hoiberg's two years as a Minnesota Timberwolf?

Were they forgettable? Was he a blip on the radar screen who was overshadowed by Kevin Garnett, Latrell Sprewell, and Sam Cassell? Did his 6.2 points per game in his time in Minnesota not matter?

Many have made those claims as well, but remember, Hoiberg was a part of the team that went to the Western Conference finals, and every team that does that needs role players. Hoiberg's role was three-point shooting, and he was the best in the league at what he did, leading the NBA in three-point percentage at 48 percent the year after Minnesota went deep into the playoffs.

But those days are behind them, and for both, we could call where they've gone greener pastures.

Hoiberg, who earned the nickname "The Mayor" after receiving votes in the mayoral election in Ames, Iowa during his time as a college basketball star at Iowa State, is back to where he is beloved the most, now the head coach at ISU. Not only is he coaching, he's winning, leading the Cyclones to the No. 11 ranking in the country with three weeks left in the regular season.

Smith, who was fired the day after Minnesota was eliminated from the 2013 NCAA tournament, looked to be struggling a bit more at his new stomping grounds of Texas Tech.

But a recent three-game winning streak, one of those wins against Marcus Smart and at-the-time No. 19 Oklahoma State when this happened, has Smith and the Red Raiders at a respectable 5-6 in the ultra-tough Big 12. It also has Smith being lauded for his work with a program that won just three conference games last year.

Four of Texas Tech's final seven games are against ranked opponents, starting with a showdown in Ames with Hoiberg's Cyclones Saturday at 12:45.

Hoiberg and Iowa State, though they were shelled by West Virginia last time out, are a lock for a top-5 seed in the NCAA tournament, with six of their last seven against unranked teams.

Smith and the Red Raiders need the game a bit more, as their 13-11 overall record leaves much to be desired, and should they get the win, their hopes of a tournament bid could be very much alive.

Iowa State won the matchup 73-62 the first time around, their 13th straight win, which tied a school record. But Texas Tech is hot now, and the surging Red Raiders are ready to rumble for their tournament lives, and the bragging rights of one former Minnesota college coach over a former Minnesota pro player.

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