Welcome to the Monday edition of The Cooler, where a little snow and cold can’t keep us down. Let’s get to it:
*The Big Ten men’s basketball season is a rugged affair, and it’s only become more so this season with the expansion to a 20-game conference season.
A single game probably won’t define a team’s fate, but some are more important than others. The Gophers’ 92-87 victory over Iowa on Sunday felt like one of those “more important than others” types of wins.
It boosted the Gophers to 5-4 in the conference, netted them a win over a ranked team and sent their RPI soaring from No. 40 to No. 30. With a home win over Illinois — a chance to avenge an ugly loss earlier this month — Minnesota would reach the midpoint of the Big Ten season at 6-4. From there, it might just take four more wins to get to the NCAA tournament.
Aspirations should be higher than just making it, but the only way to build gradual goals is to keep banking wins. Sunday was a big one, particularly with some tough second-half games looming.
*In a move hinted and and speculated about for a while now, Pelicans star Anthony Davis has indicated he won’t re-sign with New Orleans and wants a trade. This is pretty much textbook NBA, with the Celtics and Lakers likely to be bidding for his services via trade this offseason.
Of note for Wolves fans: Davis can be a free agent in the summer of 2020 because the five-year max extension he signed at the end of his rookie contract contained a player option for the fifth season. Karl-Anthony Towns’ five-year deal, signed this past offseason and taking effect next year, does NOT have a player option. So the Wolves have another year beyond what the Pelicans had to convince Towns he should stay here beyond that deal.
*Speaking of guys named Anthony, trades and eyebrows, it at least raised my eyebrows a little Sunday when the Wolves’ Anthony Tolliver was a DNP against Utah.
The Wolves’ three-point marksman started the season in the rotation, then fell out of it for quite a while only to resurface amid injuries in January. He had appeared in every game in January, averaging 17.3 minutes this month, including 16 minutes against Utah on Friday when he was a plus-14 and made two big three-pointers.
It was mentioned multiple times on the Wolves broadcast that Tolliver could have helped space the floor in Sunday’s rematch loss to the Jazz.
It might have been as simple as interim coach Ryan Saunders liking the minutes he got from forward Luol Deng, who had 15 points and made 3 of 4 three-point attempts in 26 minutes.
But with the trade deadline approaching Feb. 7 and Tolliver perhaps an enticing piece for a team looking for a low-commitment shooter off the bench, his playing time at least bears watching.