The Gophers finished fourth in our fifth Big Ten Power Poll. Ohio State held on to the top spot.
Big Ten Power Poll Week 5
1. Ohio State – Christopher Cramer says, “Jared Sullinger is in position to make a serious run at Big Ten Player of the Year after his 40-point outing vs. IUPUI. Nathan Wickman says, “The only team where I can’t find any flaws so far. They’ve beaten some very good teams (Florida, Florida State), handled decent teams with ease (Morehead State by 19, IUPUI by 21, Miami-OH by 19) and blown out the bad teams (average margin of victory = 35 vs. sub-200 teams). Clearly the class of the league with great balance of scorers. They’re going to be awfully difficult to beat.” My 2 Cents: Sullinger just hit “Wait a minute, nobody can stop me” mode, perfect timing for a Buckeyes team that appears to be on a perch of its own with a few games to play before Big Ten play begins.
2. Illinois: Eric Johnston says, “Good win over Oakland. [Demetri] McCamey is really just THAT good.” My 2 Cents: One question … Can McCamey keep this up? And I’m not just talking about his performance on the court. Does he have the mental fortitude to remain a leader and take this team to its potential? Right now, the answer is yes. But in mid-February, it might be no.
3. Michigan State: Joshua Powers says, “Escaping against Oakland by one is not as it seems – Oakland is a quality midmajor this year. That said, there are some concerning quotes coming out of East Lansing. Tom Izzo is questioning the team’s toughness, hoping to light a fire by the time the conference season starts. My 2 Cents: Typical Izzo. This team will be ready come Big Ten season. But the Spartans don’t look like the dominate group that ended up in the Final Four last season. Yes, they’ve played a very tough schedule. But how many of those top-tier opponents have they defeated? The only thing they’ve proven so far is that they’re not a top-10 team right now.
4. Minnesota – Lindsay Guentzel says, “The Gophers struggled in the first half against Eastern Kentucky, but have become a team that can rally in the second half even without defensive leader Al Nolen. What’s great about the Gophers squad, though, is that each game has had a different leader. If Ralph Sampson, Devoe Joseph, and Trevor Mbakwe can figure out a way to be successful on the same night, Minnesota will quickly move up everyone’s list. Damian Johnson says, “My boy Trevor is a beast on the block. Now with Al almost back and Devoe playing again, this team has a chance to win the Big Ten.” My 2 Cents: The Gophers have always had depth under Tubby Smith, just not inside. Now they’re truly equipped to run Smith’s inside-outside attack with Walker, Mbakwe, Iverson and Sampson. Who can match that in this league? To me, it’s a confidence thing with this team. They’re talented enough to beat any squad in the conference, regardless of the venue. But do they know that?
5. Purdue – Joshua Powers says, “The Richmond loss isn’t that bad, and their 15-point win against Oakland is getting better by the minute. They won’t be 14-0 like last year, but the young guys seem to be improving.” Christopher Cramer says, “The loss of John Hart surely isn’t helpful. I don’t think the Boilers have the offensive firepower to finish .500 in the Big Ten this year. At this point, I believe Indiana, Michigan and Purdue are all very similar and could very well finish in a tie in the league standings at something like 7-11 or 8-10.” My 2 Cents: Every team in this league will struggle at Purdue. And with E’Twaun Moore and JaJuan Johnson around, they’ll have a shot in most games. The Boilermakers don’t have the depth they desire, but that didn’t stop them from reaching the Sweet 16 last season.
6. Wisconsin – Damian Johnson says, “Jon Leuer is a matchup problem for anybody.” Nadine Babu says, “Solid win against Marquette.” My 2 Cents: Jordan Taylor has arrived. Leuer is as good as advertised. And who really wants to play this team at the Kohl Center?
7. Northwestern – Eric Johnston says, “Undefeated but who have they played? Really?” Lindsay Guentzel says, “6-0 and the only opponent anyone would recognize in the basketball world is Georgia Tech. And that’s only because it’s an ACC team. Weak schedule, unimpressive victories.” My 2 Cents: We don’t know who they are yet. When we find out, however, they might be in the top half of the Big Ten standings. Still dangerous with John Shurna.
8. Michigan- Damian Johnson says, “They are definitely better than I expected.” My 2 Cents: A testament to the league’s depth. Young but Darius Morris and Tim Hardaway Jr. have evolved into a talented backcourt. Test against Oakland will tell us a lot about them.
9. Indiana – Nadine Babu says, “They played Kentucky very hard, makes me worry a little more as a Gophers fan. They looked great until Verdell Jones was out.” My 2 Cents: Worst-case scenario for the Gophers – they lose at Wisconsin and at Michigan State and look past a Hoosiers team that’s finally playing 40 minutes of basketball resulting in a loss at the Barn. Then, a trip to Columbus results in their fourth straight loss, Big Ten title hopes crushed. Not saying it will happen, but this is a dangerous team.
10. Penn State – Nathan Wickman says, “The loss to Virginia Tech assures Penn State will come into conference play without a good win on their ledger. Their win over Duquesne is decent and there are no bad losses so they aren’t out of it, but they’ll have to go on a nice run in the Big Ten if they want to get Talor Battle to the NCAA tournament.” Eric Johnston says, “Problems.” My 2 Cents: Not sure why this team has failed to find the pieces to support Battle’s talents after four years of searching.
11. Iowa – Eric Johnston says, “More problems.” My 2 Cents: More competitive than I thought they would be in The Mayor’s first year. (This is a joke, people).
More from Star Tribune
More From Gold in the Barn
Gophers players look back on the 1996-97 team's appearance against Kentucky in the Final Four, which was 20 years ago on March 29.
It's been 20 years since he made the Final Four with the Gophers and nearly as long since he resigned as head coach after the academic scandal, but he still follows his old program.
Gophers coach Richard Pitino and junior guard Nate Mason receive All-District 7 honors Wednesday by the National Association of Basketball Coaches
The honor puts the four-star recruit among a group of players that includes New York City point guard legends Kenny Anderson, Stephon Marbury and Sebastian Telfair.
The Gophers men's basketball team needs to find ways to get Nate Mason and Reggie Lynch going in Thursday's NCAA tournament game vs. Middle Tennessee in Milwaukee