When I got back from Detroit Saturday, following an interesting trip to the Detroit airport en route to State College, Pa. (I never got there thanks to snowgate), I turned on my DVR to watch the rest of Minnesota's 66-64 win over Penn State.

The Gophers did some good. They did some bad.

But I got stuck on Ralph Sampson III's amazing sequence early in the second half of that game. Played it back 10 times.

In a matter of seconds, Sampson ...

1. Grabbed a rebound

2. Saved a bad pass

3. Spun off his defender

4. Dribbled down the baseline

5. Dunked over a pair of Nittany Lions

A pro play.

What's so significant about it? 

Sampson (13 points, 10 rebounds, three blocks) utilized a variety of skills in a short span. I like Mike Tisdale, JaJuan Johnson and Draymond Green. But Sampson might have a higher ceiling than all of them. I don't know if he'll ever get there, but he showcased his ability in spurts at Penn State.

Now, he has to put it all together ... consistently. The Gophers need Sampson to get to the Big Dance.

I talked to an NBA scout a few weeks ago. I asked him about Sampson's NBA potential. What will it take for Sampson to get to the next level? "Be aggressive," he said. "Doesn't he understand that he can make millions?"

I think Sampson's beginning to realize his potential and the significance of his role going forward.

Sampson faces an undersized Michigan team Thursday at Williams Arena. This is another opportunity for him to shine.

The Gophers can't lose to the Wolverines, a team that had their number last season. And if Sampson gets touches and executes, they shouldn't. He's clearly an inside-outside player, but he's still learning how to balance his game.

Another good thing for the Gophers. Michigan, the worst three-point shooting team in Big Ten play, will take its chances from the perimeter against a good pressure defense. They don't have a real post threat, so they're either off or they're on ... and that's their problem.

Still, Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims give Minnesota fits. But I don't think they'll have enough to top the Gophers on their own.

Prediction: Minnesota 79, Michigan, 69