This is Amelia Rayno's third season on the Gophers men's basketball beat. She learned college basketball in North Carolina (Go Tar Heels!), where fanhood is not an option. In 2010, she joined the Star Tribune after graduating from Boston's Emerson College, which sadly had no exciting D-I college hoops to latch onto. Amelia has also worked on the sports desk at the Boston Globe and interned at the Detroit News.

  Follow Rayno on Twitter @AmeliaRayno

A win at Nebraska could help vault the Gophers into the national top-25

Posted by: Amelia Rayno under College basketball, Gophers coaches, Gophers players Updated: January 24, 2014 - 12:46 PM

Now that the Gophers have beaten two ranked foes -- in No. 11 Ohio State and No. 9 Wisconsin, I'm getting one question fairly frequently.

Will Minnesota vault into the national rankings?

I think my immediate response was that no, the Gophers don't quite have enough strength to make it this week, but after looking at the bottom of the AP poll, I've hedged on that a little bit.

The current bottom six look like this:

20. Pittsburgh
21. Michigan
22. Kansas State
23. Memphis
24. Baylor
25. Oklahoma

Neither Michigan and Memphis are going anywhere, but the others could be passable, by the Gophers, I believe.

Minnesota has a better kenpom.com ranking (30) than Oklahoma (43), Baylor (41) and Kansas State (38), a better RPI (19) than Baylor (40) or Kansas State (34) and comparable wins with all of them.

Oklahoma
*Notable wins vs. Iowa State (16 in the AP poll), at Baylor (24) and at Texas. 
*Four top-100 (Kenpom) wins overall
*Four losses total, all of them ranked 38 or higher.

Baylor 
*Notable wins vs. Kentucky (14 in the AP poll) and Colorado.
*Three top-100 wins overall
*Conference play has been rough -- the Bears have gone 1-4 so far. 
*Five losses in total, all of them in the top 50 with the exception of a loss to Texas Tech (76) on the road.

Kansas State
*Notable wins vs. Gonzaga, Oklahoma (25 in the AP poll), Oklahoma State (11) and George Washington.
*Six top-100 wins overall
*Five losses in total, including some weird ones at the start of the season, including Northern Colorado (145) at home and Charlotte (141) on a neutral court.

The Gophers' notable wins come against Florida State, Ohio State (now 17 in the AP poll) and Wisconsin (9). They have five top-100 wins in total, and five losses, all within the Kenpom top-50.

They should get the nod over Baylor, I would imagine, based on the fact that Minnesota seems to be surging while the Bears are tumbling. The Gophers also don't have any losses to a team as bad as Texas Tech. 

Minnesota's recent wins -- in conference play -- have also been more impressive than Kansas State's, and they haven't had the truly "oops" moments of the Wildcats' early season (although games so long ago tend to matter very little at this point). 

Even looking at Pittsburgh's resume, there are obvious Gopher advantages -- the Panthers, who are ranked No. 3 on kenpom and No. 14 in RPI, don't have a single ranked win, for example.

What is still holding the Gophers back a little, however, is their failure to prove much on the road just yet. Pittsburgh has six top-100 wins, with one of those coming on the road and two more coming on a neutral court. Just one of the Gophers' five top-100 wins comes away from home (that's at Richmond, which is ranked No. 65 on kenpom).

Pittsburgh also has just two losses -- and they're both by very highly ranked teams (Syracuse, No. 2 and Cincinnati, No. 15).

But the biggest challenge might be beating out some of the other teams that are on the cusp. Creighton has eight top-100 wins and is coming off their extremely impressive 21-three-pointer-performance at No. 4 Villanova. I'd be shocked if the Bluejays didn't get the nod. Connecticut has wins over Memphis, Harvard, Florida and Indiana and only one semi-bad loss, to Houston (128) -- the Huskies might be due. There is also Colorado and UCLA to consider.

The Gophers will most likely pick up some more top-100 wins on the road, with every team but two (Penn State and Northwestern) falling into that category. That could start this Sunday, at Nebraska (82).

A victory there, especially a strong one, could give Minnesota the little boost it needs to enter the national top-25. Of course, a loss would make this conversation irrelevant.

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