Illinois was not supposed to be part of the Big Ten "elite" this year. Then again, neither were the Gophers. The Illini might very well fall back toward the pack after a hot start. Then again, they do already have wins over Gonzaga and Ohio State, teams ranked in the top 10 at the time of their victories. The Gophers are not going to shoot the ball every game like they did last night. Then again, a 17-point road win against a ranked opponent is nothing to quibble about. But don't just take our word for it; take the words of some of Illinois coach John Groce:

He thought Illinois' execution was "awful," but he also said: "I thought we were pretty tough tonight. We played our butts off."

He said this of Minnesota: "They do a lot of things really well. They expose you and they make you pay for execution errors."

And he also said this: "They made play after play after play. I’ve got to give them a lot of credit, they got us, they’re a good basketball team. Coleman and Hollins and Mbakwe, I thought they made a lot of plays.”

We still think the REAL test looms in the next two games: at Indiana and home against Michigan, two true preseason Big Ten elites. Win at least one of those games and look like you belong in both and the Gophers will have established themselves firmly in the conversation for a Big Ten title.

As for now? Well, like Groce said. The Gophers do a lot of things really well. This is clearly their best team since the Final Four season. How good? Time will tell, but the view right now looks pretty darn good.

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