The Gophers face Illinois Thursday night at Williams Arena. The two programs are fifth and fourth, respectively, in our latest Gold in the Barn power poll.
Voter bios and links are listed here.
You can see each individual ballot here.
1. Ohio State – My 2 Cents: I don’t think the Buckeyes will fall at Wisconsin Saturday. They’re so powerful inside and just as tough on the perimeter. Plus, Jared Sullinger is approaching national player of the year “frontrunner” status. Christopher Cramer says “If the Buckeyes don't lose this weekend in Madison, they might not lose in the regular season. Games at Purdue and Penn State are the only road trips left on their schedule after the tilt in Badgerland. Interesting stat: Illinois in 2004-05 won their first 8 true road games (en route to being 29-0) and lost their 9th; Ohio State won their first 8 road games this season ... and they're playing their 9th true road game this weekend.”
2. Wisconsin – My 2 Cents: The Badgers finish games. They rarely turn the ball over. And they have go-to players in Jon Leuer and Jordan Taylor. This team might be around for awhile in the Big Dance. Mike Milinovich says, “The Badgers’ offense is so efficient at home that it's remarkable (1.24 points per possession).” Watch out Buckeyes.
3. Purdue – My 2 Cents: As weird as it sounds, Sullinger might finish with the top national award but lose the conference MVP spot to Purdue’s JaJuan Johnson, who is doing as much for his team as any player in the country. Joshua Powers says, “They've been the only team so far this year not to slip up against one of the bottom-feeders of the conference. It's the consistency of their star players that will carry the Boilers to a high seed in the NCAA Tourney.”
4. Illinois – My 2 Cents: If they get more from Demetri McCamey, they can finish the year on a high note. No guarantees of that. Mike Milinovich says, “Big drop-off from the top three to this one, but as the Illini are the healthiest of the remaining contenders, they get the nod at 4 [for me].”
5. Minnesota – My 2 Cents: The Gophers’ freshmen are growing up every night. Chip Armelin and Austin Hollins have upped their production at a crucial juncture. Blake Hoffarber is fighting through the added defensive pressure and a new role. But the team’s post players have slipped at the worst time. Let’s face it. There are no guarantees for this team in its next seven games. Eric Johnston says, “Since Minny hasn’t had their crack at Illinois, I have them slotted above simply due to big wins over WVU and UNC.”
6. Penn State – My 2 Cents: The Talor Battle show is rolling in State College, Pa. That senior is leaving everything on the floor this season. If Jeff Brooks gets healthy, they’re going to be a threat to repeat Minnesota’s feat in last season’s Big Ten tourney. Eric Johnston says, “I’m still not counting this team out as far as the tourney goes. Will be tough, but possible.”
7. Michigan – My 2 Cents: Next year. Just wait. Eric Johnston says, “Dangerous, yet not able to get over ‘the hump.’
7. Northwestern – My 2 Cents: Good win over the Illini this weekend. But can the Wildcats add to it?
9. Michigan State – My 2 Cents: When did the problems start? When they struggled in the nonconference season? When offcourt problems beset the program? Or did Tom Izzo begin to lose his guys when he toyed with the idea of leaving Lansing for LeBron last summer? Tom C says, “I know they are much higher in the standings but ‘right not’ they might be the worst team in the Big Ten.”
10. Iowa – My 2 Cents: Fran McCaffery’s Hawkeyes look like a dangerous team, at least in Iowa City, right now. The Gophers will have their hands full Sunday. Lindsay Guentzel says, “Beating Michigan State at home might be the only highlight for the struggling Hawkeyes. Sitting at 3-9 in conference play, they are no doubt just playing for the seniors on the squad who, after a wash of a season, need something to smile about when the year comes to an end. Taking down Tom Izzo and the Spartans is just that.”
11. Indiana – My 2 Cents: The Hoosiers aren’t healthy and they’re still competing. Wonder where this team would be right now with Maurice Creek, Christian Watford and Verdell Jones at 100 percent. They won’t get any pity from the Gophers, who’ve faced similar challenges.