The Gophers won the weekend's Puerto Rico Tipoff and earned a top-15 national ranking without Devoe Joseph, arguably the best player on the roster.

During Tuesday's media availability, Tubby Smith said his second unit might be better than his first unit when Joseph is playing with it.

"Our second unit beats the first unit lots of times in practice, especially with Devoe on that team," Smith said. "In fact, they're probably better to put it succinctly. With him on that group, they're probably better than our first group. I like it that way." 

But when will he return? Smith said he hasn't made that decision.

"I don't know when we'll see him," Smith said. "I have to do some evaluation of what he did academically last week and going forward, so we'll see." 

But a source close to the program told me recently that Joseph will probably suit up for Monday's matchup against Virginia, part of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. "He'll play," the source said.

-Trevor Mbakwe earned Big Ten player of the week honors Monday. No surprise there. The junior forward is nearly averaging a double-double through five games (14.0 points, 9.4 rebounds per game).

-Blake Hoffarber turned an ankle toward the end of Tuesday's practice, Smith said. But he looked OK during a shootaround after practice.

-The Gophers earned their first official top-15 ranking in nearly 30 years, after polls were released Monday, a day after the squad won the Puerto Rico Tipoff by beating Western Kentucky, North Carolina (now ranked No. 25 in both polls). They're No. 15 in the Associated Press top-25 poll and No. 17 in the USA Today/ESPN coaches' poll.

During the 1981-82 season, the Gophers peaked at No. 5 in the country. That team won the Big Ten title. The 1996-97 squad was the second-ranked team in the nation at one point. But its results were vacated due to the academic scandal.

I vote in the AP poll. I ranked the Gophers No. 15 in the country. Looks like my colleagues agree.

Here's my ballot for Monday's poll: 

1. Duke
2. Michigan State
3. Kansas State
4. Ohio State
5. Pitt
7. Kansas
8. Kentucky
9. Washington
10. Purdue
11. Baylor
12. Missouri
13. BYU
14. Syracuse
15. Minnesota
16. Florida
17. Texas
18. Temple
19. Illinois
20. Memphis
21. San Diego State
22. Tennessee
24. Gonzaga
25. Virginia Tech

-Don't forget to check out the second Big Ten Power Poll Wednesday. I wonder if the Gophers will earn the top spot after what they achieved over the weekend.




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