Minnesota v Illinois

No. 8 Minnesota rolls through No. 12 Illinois, 84-67


For the past week, ever since Minnesota kicked off Big Ten play with a win over Michigan State in The Barn, I’ve said that the team that wins big games on the road will win the Big Ten, and that until that road win comes, keep the hype in check.

Well, Gopher fans, it is time for you to start getting hyped.

Because No. 8 Minnesota didn’t just beat No. 12 Illinois on Wednesday. The Gophers went into Champaign and smacked the Illini around, winning 84-67 and never looking back after a 17-5 first half run gave them a 28-21 lead.

Joe Coleman played his best game as a Gopher, finishing with 29 points on 10-16 shooting, while Andre Hollins added 22 points, eight boards and six assists and Trevor Mbakwe chipped in with 19 points and 11 rebounds. The most important number, however, was the 3-24 that Illinois shot from beyond the arc. The Illini score 37.0% of their points from three, so it goes without saying that when they have an off-night, they are going to be in trouble.

Minnesota played some terrific defense on the Illini on the perimeter, using their size and length in the back court to cause problems. They cut down on the penetration the Illini were able to get, which in turn made it easier to contest spot-up threes.

Now, it should be noted that this wasn’t all Minnesota’s doing. Tracy Abrams, Illinois’ point guard and best creator, was in foul trouble for much of the game. And Brandon Paul, Illinois’ all-american two-guard, took a shot to the nose early in the game that looked to knock him out of any kind of rhythm.

But that shouldn’t take away from Minnesota’s performance on Wednesday.

They are, as of today, the third best team in the Big Ten, and that’s more or less inarguable.

But can they truly compete for the Big Ten title?

Well, they have the size and athleticism to match up with Indiana. They have the versatility to matchup with Michigan. They have a hoss on the block in Mbakwe and a dynamic combo-guard running the show in Hollins. Williams, Austin Hollins and Coleman are above-average role-players. If there is a weakness with Minnesota, it’s a lack of depth; they didn’t get a single point off their bench on Wednesday, and the four reserves managed all of four shots.

That question will answer itself in the next week. Minnesota heads to Bloomington to take on the Hoosiers on Saturday, and follow that up by hosting Michigan next Thursday.

Buckle up.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

Utah lands top-75 center Jayce Johnson

Larry Krystkowiak
AP Photo
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Utah picked up its center of the future on Monday as four-star center Jayce Johnson pledged to the Runnin’ Utes, a source confirmed to NBCSports.com. The 7-foot Johnson recently cut his list to Cal, Colorado and Utah with the possibility of reclassifying to the Class of 2015.

Regarded as the No. 67 overall prospect in the Class of 2016, Johnson will look to attend Utah in December as a walk-on who will redshirt. While Johnson likely won’t play this season, he does give head coach Larry Krystkowiak another big man to use in practice to go against sophomore center Jakob Poeltl. A solid long-term prospect, Johnson has a good frame to add weight and he’s also skilled finishing with both hands. Utah now has its replacement for Poeltl if he opts to leave for the NBA after the season and he gets an extra semester to work with the program.

Johnson is coming off of his official visit to Utah this weekend as he joins junior college guard Jojo Zamora in the Class of 2016.


PHOTO: South Carolina gets new uniforms

Frank Martin
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South Carolina debuted some new uniforms early this week as the school is going with a fresh look and three color ways.

They’re also going to with the “Carolina” branding this season, but I think these new uniforms look pretty cool.