pitino2Most coaches will reply with the same general answer if you try to engage them in a discussion about rankings. The gist: rankings don’t matter.

That is, of course, true — particularly in the midst of a season. No championship was ever determined based on the subjective ordering of teams during the middle of a year.

What rankings can tell us, though, is how teams are at least perceived by the people who pay attention to them (namely the media, but others too). And in that regard, two rankings that came out Monday show that the two Minnesota teams dominating most of the winter sports headlines this year — the Wild and Gophers men’s basketball — have a lot of respect yet to earn.

The Gophers, in case you didn’t notice, weren’t ranked in the AP top 25 poll that came out Monday. So yes, a team that has won seven consecutive Big Ten games and convincingly defeated a team (Maryland) on the road that was in the top 25 last week is not ranked.

I mean, the RPI isn’t an end-all statistic, but the Gophers are tied for 15th in that key measure of power. Ranked teams like Iowa State (37 in the RPI) and Wichita State (41) can’t come close to comparing. Granted, both of those teams have impressive winning streaks of their own. It might just be the case of a week with not much movement at the bottom of the poll. And yes, the Gophers are just barely outside the top 25 with the most votes received of non-ranked teams.

Still, it’s surprising. That said, the Gophers were ranked earlier this year — and then proceeded to go on a five-game losing streak that led directly into this seven-game winning streak. Maybe Richard Pitino will enjoy a lower profile — at least until the Gophers win a few more and earn more respect.

As for the Wild: Minnesota is ranked No. 3 in ESPN’s latest NHL power rankings. That’s all fine and good, except that Chicago is No. 2. Power rankings tend to have a recency bias, and the Blackhawks defeated the Wild at Xcel Energy Center heading into Minnesota’s bye. But Chicago is still one point behind Minnesota and has played three more games than the Wild.

The power ranking is a reminder that as much as Minnesota is separating itself as a clear contender this year in the NHL, it won’t fully earn respect until it is able to make a deep playoff run — one that presumably would include finally toppling the Blackhawks, Until then, regardless of the standings, Chicago will be considered the bigger threat.

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