The Gopher Men’s Basketball program has officially entered Thanksgiving week undefeated. The now 4-0 team handled Western Carolina 92-64 yesterday at the Barn. Richard Pitino’s squad is currently ranked 14th in the AP Top 25. The week 3 rankings will releas today. After a big win in Providence earlier in the week to go with 2 wins at home against acronym schools, the Gophers have a chance to crack the top-ten nationally. But, don’t hold your breath. Before we dive further, here are the highlights from this week:
Up here, in the small world of Minnesota sports, we are used to being overlooked. If you are hoping to see one digit in front of our state, when the Gophers play Tuesday vs Alabaman A&M, let’s remember how the rest of the nation sees us. Gopher softball knows first-hand. You never know what will happen when humans are involved. People mess shit up.
— Star Tribune Sports (@StribSports) May 15, 2017
Don’t expect to see a big jump forward for the Gophers when the polls release:
- Our schedule has been relatively easy, outside of a pretty impressive win vs a good Providence team, on the road. As for the other three opponents, not so much. USC Upstate, Niagara, and Western Carolina aren’t exactly known for their basketball prowess.
- The 13 teams ranked ahead of MN have a combined total of two losses. It might as well be zero. #2 Michigan State lost to #1 Duke, while #7 Kentucky loss to #5 Kansas. Both Sparta and Coach Cal’s team played well in defeat. Both lost at the hands of a top five team. They won’t be dropping far.
Here’s the thing though. It doesn’t matter. This Gopher squad IS TOP TEN. You can see it when you watch. They’ve been putting the pedal to the metal in the second half of these early season games and when they turn it on….. well, I’ll let Little Ricky tell you what happens when they turn it on:
Everyone will see this unfold as the year plays out. That’s the nice thing about basketball. There are plenty of games to be played. But even on paper, things look GOOD.
- Lynch and Murphy dominate: One half of MN’s front court features the returning defensive player of the year. Despite yesterday’s game, Reggie Lynch has done a better job of staying out of foul trouble in this young season. The Big Man sent back nine shots vs. Niagara. One more = Triple double. The other half, Jordan Murphy, has played out of his mind so far. It’s best to let last weeks Big Ten Player of the Week’s numbers speak for themselves:
- Minnesota has experience: Whenever you can return four out of your five starters it’s a blessing. Most programs ranked ahead of us will be starting up to four freshman. Not in the Twin Cities. This CORE has now been there. They have now done that (in the regular season). They know what to expect from the grind of an entire season. Keep in mind, it’s still over 100 days until Tournament seeding is announced.
- The Golden Gopher’s have depth. I’m not referring to the bench. I don’t know if anyone has ever talked about the “depth” of a starting five, but stay with me here. We can beat teams in a variety of different ways. Including McBrayer, any one of the starting five can be the game’s MVP, not to mention Jellyfam coming off the bench, on any given night. If one or two players are off, one or two of the others has the ability to elevate their game. On the OPPOSITE side of this spectrum is Michigan State. They have most, if not all, their chips in on Preseason Player of the Year, Myles Bridges. Bridges recently injured his ankle. Tom Izzo, how does that make you feel?.
The importance between NCAA Basketball and NCAA Football rankings is night and day. When you’re dealing with a 64 (technically 68) team playoff vs. a 4 team playoff, that’s obvious. Gopher Nation knows our basketball team will be dancing come March. Even with that information in our back pocket, it’s still fun to trying to play Nostradamus and predict seeding
PSA to Gophers Nation: Don’t forget to mention your appreciation for these boys on Turkey Day. We haven’t seen a team like this in A LONG TIME….. How long you ask??? Dream big. (Fake dreams: 1997 doesn’t exist)
Coach Pitino is thankful too, I’d imagine:
— Star Tribune (@StarTribune) November 19, 2017
As long as he’s buying them in Minnesota, I’m happy. Buy em up, Richard. Put those roots down. No better place to raise the young ones than right here in the great state of Minnesota.