That's all next season. He's not sure what to make of the present. After suffering a 24-point loss Tuesday against Illinois, one of the worst teams in the Big Ten, he accused his team of faking their emotions before games.
During the pregame shootarounds, they're excited and always seem ready to roll, but they often come out flat. And unfortunately for Smith, his team won't get bigger, stronger, tougher or faster until next year's recruits arrive.
In the meantime, he's trying to figure out how to stop the Gophers, who have lost five of eight, from sliding even further. Well, he can be happy about one thing: On the same night that Minnesota lost by 24 to Illinois, Kentucky, Smith's former team, lost by 41 against Vanderbilt.
But at 15-8 and 5-6 in the Big Ten, Smith is in danger of ending a few streaks. He's taken 14 consecutive teams to the NCAA tourney, and he's won at least 20 games with each of those teams. Losing to Illinois probably crushed Minnesota's slim NCAA tournament hopes. And, to win 20 games, he still needs five wins on a schedule that still includes road games against Indiana, Wisconsin and Purdue in order.
Maybe, it's time to set the bar a little lower. NIT, anyone?
ILLINOIS 84, MINNESOTA 60: The Gophers came out of the locker room after halftime down by six, confident that a first-half push would get them back into the game and give them an expected win over Illinois. But the Fighting Illini had just lost a close game against Indiana in double overtime and had no intention of blowing another one.
Four minutes into the game, the Gophers were down by 13 after Fighting Illini guard Trent Meacham hit two big 3's. Just 10 minutes into the second half, the Gophers had managed to score just six points since halftime, and Illinois was up by 21.
Minnesota hit eight second-half shots and shot just 20.5 percent from the field in the second half. After the game, C Spencer Tollackson stood at the postgame podium with a bewildered look on his face. "We just couldn't shoot," he said.
IN FOCUS: An upset of Wisconsin in Madison Feb. 16 would not only give the Gophers a quality win that might catch the eye of the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee, but it would help restore some of the momentum lost Tuesday when they were routed by Illinois. But they'll only be able to do that if they can stop Trevon Hughes, who had 20 points and six steals the last time the two teams faced each other.
PLAYER ROTATION: Usual Starters — F Dan Coleman, F Jamal Abu-Shamala, C Spencer Tollackson, G Lawrence Westbrook, G Blake Hoffarber. Key Subs — G Lawrence McKenzie, F Damian Johnson.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Two games in a row doesn't make a season; obviously, it's a start." — Minnesota head coach Tubby Smith said after his team won its second game in a row against Iowa Feb. 9.
Minnesota 47, Wisconsin 63
Minnesota 92, Northwestern 72
Minnesota 63, Iowa 50
Illinois 84, Minnesota 60
at Wisconsin, Saturday, Feb. 16.
vs. Michigan, Thursday, Feb. 21.
vs. Penn State, Sunday, Feb. 24.