Trevor Mbakwe has all over the headlines for the wrong reasons in the last couple weeks, it’s true.
We’re not going to dismiss any of that – it’s not something Mbakwe has taken lightly either. But we all know what the cure for negative press and distractions is: winning. And the fact of the matter is, Mbakwe is being heralded – around the league and around the country -- as the piece to help the Gophers do just that.
Monday, Mbakwe was named Big Ten Network’s No. 4 player in the conference, calling him the best “glass-cleaning in the Big Ten” and “darn near impossible to stop” in the paint.
But that’s not the only high praise Mbakwe has received lately, with the Gophers looking ahead to a promising season.
Some other recent hype for the big man:
- CBS Sports’ listed its preseason Top 100 players in college basketball and Mbakwe landed at No. 15 nationally. (Rodney Williams also made the list, at No. 93.)
- Their Jeff Goodman picked Minnesota at No. 22 in his preseason top 25, with the pick hinging largely on the return of a healthy Mbakwe.
- Sports Illustrated contributor Rob Dauster named Mbakwe as one of 18 players coming off injuries to watch.
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Minnesota will have to try to regain its confidence after the biggest spill of the season after Northwestern.
One day after Richard Pitino declared that he did a "horrible job" with the game plan for Northwestern in last month's game, the Gophers looked even less prepared in a 24-point loss.
An offense that often gets stagnant and relies far too heavily on three-pointers suddenly was on the attack, getting out in transition and taking the ball to the hoop forcefully and effectively.
A defensive lapse at the end of the loss to Indiana might have cost Minnesota the game, but coach Richard Pitino sees hints that leadership is growing among the youthful ranks.
The Jan. 9 rout was the first of two 25-point losses that preceded the recent improved play of the Gophers, who are still winless in the Big Ten. The rematch is Thursday.