Interesting tidbit from ESPN’s Jay Bilas yesterday, who listed the Gophers as one of his top 5 underrated teams right now.
Coach Tubby Smith, he said, has dealt with his fair share of health and off-court issues, but with the team healthy, we’re finally seeing their potential (and his, with a squad he build from the ground up).
Here’s an excerpt from the piece:
Tubby Smith had to listen to the naysayers question him all summer, when he has done a terrific job at Minnesota. Smith had to deal with injuries, a suspension or two and a lack of continuity late last season because of those two things. This season everyone is healthy, and the results are clear. The polls are even starting to catch up (No. 9 in the AP), but the Gophers' place on this list is a reflection of just how good they are and how (relatively) little recognition they're getting.
So here’s the question – are the Gophers UNDERRATED?
After all, they’re currently ranked No. 9 in the nation and for a squad that only has one truly impressive win (against Michigan State, which came after Minnesota was already put at No. 9), that’s not bad. The Gophers have had some solid wins over Memphis and Stanford, at USC and at Florida State, but none of those teams have really turned out like we’ve expected and therefore didn’t challenge the Gophers like we thought they would. Don’t get me wrong, the Gophers are playing really well. But underrated?
Underrated implies the attention a team is getting is beneath what it should be. But it seems to me the Gophers have gotten intriguing press ever since winning two of three in the Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas. They have steadily climbed the rankings, week-after-week. They’ve been lauded for their defense, their balance, their athleticism, their impressive offensive rebounding. Should the Gophers be higher than No. 9 as conference play is starting? Perhaps Bilas thinks Minnesota should be talked about as a contender for the league title. If that’s true, should the Gophers be a contender for the National Championship too? Indiana and Michigan are in that conversation – if the Gophers are underrated, should they be in that conversation too?
I think the Gophers have plenty more to prove before they can be introduced to that level of respect, but right now, they’re doing all the right things. There’s no need to talk about the Gophers being underrated right now. Perhaps they were at the beginning of the year, but now, they’re gaining more respect week after week. To elevate any higher – or even keep their spot – they’ll have to earn it on the Big Ten court.