The Golden Gophers are ranked 21st in the nation according to the most recent AP Top 25 poll. This is the first time the Gophers have found themselves ranked in nearly two years (January 31, 2011). Despite being overpowered by #5 Duke 89-71 in the Bahamas on Thanksgiving day, Minnesota finds themselves among the nation’s elite teams with wins over #19 Memphis and Stanford. Memphis fell out of the rankings this week, while this is the second time Stanford and Minnesota have played in their last 7 games. The last time was a 75-51 shellacking offered by the Cardinal over the Gophers in the NIT Championship game to end the season last year.
Minnesota sits at 6-1 with a matchup at Florida State tonight in the Big Ten-ACC Challenge. While our Maroon and Gold look strong so far this season, it is clear they have a lot of ground to cover to be competitive at the top of the Big Ten. The loss to the Blue Devils, Minnesota’s only loss this season, clearly exposed weaknesses the Gophers need to address. Fortunately, they will have some time to do so before conference play starts. Other than tonight’s matchup at Florida State, the only other true test Minnesota has prior to opening conference play against #13 Michigan State on December 31st is a road game at USC in a week and a half. Other than that, the Gophers play four cupcakes, all at home.
Despite finding themselves entering the AP top 25, Minnesota remains on the outside looking in when it comes to the coaches’ poll. They received the most votes for a team not in the top 25 (48 votes), but have to further prove themselves to the coaches to show that they’re one of the best teams in the nation right now, which is probably for the best. It would behoove our Gophers to ignore the pointless early season ranking and focus on becoming a better basketball team. Especially when they realize they are only one of six Big Ten teams ranked in the AP top 25. Indiana (1), Michigan (3), Ohio State (4), Michigan State (13) and Illinois (22) all find themselves enjoying the same honor as the Gophers. That’s quite a slaughter of teams to face once conference play starts. For now, however, Gophers fans can enjoy an honor that we haven’t seen in nearly two years.
Along with the ranking, sophomore Andre Hollins can enjoy being the first Gopher to be named Big Ten Player of the Week since Trevor Mbakwe received the honor in November of 2010. Hollins scored a career-high 41 points in the win over Memphis and made three free throws with 0.4 seconds remaining to break the tie and beat Stanford. Hollins went 20 for 22 from the line during the early season tournament in the Bahamas. His 41 points was only the fourth time a Gopher player has scored over 40 points in the history of the program. The last time the feat happened was in 1971.
The Gophers play 6:15 p.m. today at Florida State. The game will be televised on ESPN2.