richardpitinoThe Gophers men’s basketball team was just swept at home by the Division I programs in South Dakota, both USD and SDSU. The Gophers had been a combined 31-0 all-time against those schools, so those losses set a bar that says this: anything is possible.

With that in mind, I have a question: how many men’s basketball teams in the five-state area — Minnesota, South Dakota, North Dakota, Wisconsin and Iowa — would have a realistic shot at beating this year’s Gophers? I asked this on Twitter last night, and many of you chimed in.

I’m going to attempt my own question below:

SURE THINGS:

1) South Dakota: Already beat the Gophers. So there’s that.

2) South Dakota State: Already beat the Gophers, too.

3) Iowa State: Hard to call anything that hasn’t happened a sure thing, but the Cyclones are undefeated and ranked No. 4 in the country.

VERY LIKELY:

4) Wisconsin: Even in the midst of what appears to be a down year, the Badgers are 8-2 in their last 10 against Minnesota and should have the edge again this season even though their only meeting (March 2) is at Williams Arena.

5) Iowa: Valentine’s Day in Iowa City is not going to be a day of love for the Gophers.

A GOOD CHANCE:

6) Marquette: The Gophers don’t play the Milwaukee-based school this season, and that’s probably a good thing. Marquette had a blowout loss against Iowa, but the Golden Eagles had a nice win over Arizona State as well.

7) Northern Iowa: The Panthers have a couple of puzzling losses, but they also knocked of then-No. 1-ranked North Carolina this season.

TOSSUP GAMES:

8) Wisconsin-Milwaukee: In UW-Milwaukee’s only test against a major conference team this season, it lost by 8 at a ranked Notre Dame squad. We’ll find out for sure what happens when UW-Milwaukee plays the Gophers in two weeks.

9) North Dakota State: The Bison have had strong teams in recent seasons. They’re 5-3 this year, with a close loss to Illinois and a 20-point loss to Iowa State.

DECENT UPSET POTENTIAL:

10) Wisconsin-Green Bay: The Phoenix are just 4-4 this season, but one of those losses was in overtime at Stanford.

LONG SHOTS, BUT DON’T RULE IT OUT:

11) Drake: Bulldogs are 4-4 against average competition.

12) University of North Dakota: The Fighting Hawks lost by 46 to Northern Iowa and 14 to Wisconsin, but again anything is possible.

13) Augustana: The No. 3-ranked team in Division II defeated Iowa in an exhibition this season.

14) Minnesota State-Moorhead: The Dragons are ranked No. 6 in Division II and have just one loss this season.

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