Minnesota v Illinois

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

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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.

Rick Pitino: ‘We should be penalized … but not this team’

Rick Pitino
(AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)
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One of the biggest storylines of Saturday’s college basketball schedule had everything to do with a team that no longer matters in the championship picture.

Less than 24 hours after being informed that the school would be imposing a postseason ban that will leave the Cardinals out of the ACC and NCAA tournaments, No. 19 Louisville tipped off against Boston College, and they did so without leading scorer Damion Lee, who is battling a knee issue.

How would the team respond to the decision — the despicable, shameful decision — that the university’s president made?

Well, it seems.

The Cardinals jumped out to a 19-2 lead in the first eight minutes and cruised to a 79-47 win over an overmatched Boston College team in the Yum! Center.

And head coach Rick Pitino, after the quote, said exactly what everyone is thinking.

“We should be penalized, no question about it,” he said. “But not this team. But the NCAA didn’t make that decision. We made that decision.”

He’s totally right. The school sacrificed the season — and the only shot that a pair of fifth-year seniors would get to play in the NCAA tournament — to protect the school, the brand and the bottom-line moving forward. Like I said earlier, it’s despicable.

But credit the Cardinals for responding.

Because they still have something on the line. They’re just a game out of first place in the ACC, and while an ACC regular season title isn’t a shot to play in the ACC or NCAA tournament, it’s still a banner that would probably mean more to Damion Lee and Trey Lewis than any league title has meant to a Louisville player before.

Oklahoma State without Jawun Evans, questionable moving forward

Oklahoma State guard Jawun Evans (1) goes up for a shot between Kansas forward Jamari Traylor (31) and forward Perry Ellis (34) in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Stillwater, Okla., Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2016. Oklahoma State won 86-67. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
(AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
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Oklahoma State’s star point guard was not in the lineup on Saturday against No. 13 Iowa State.

Evans injured his shoulder in the Cowboys’ loss at Texas Tech on Wednesday and was ruled out of Saturday’s game.

According to the school, his official status moving forward is questionable. The Pokes are just 11-11 on the season and likely need to earn the Big 12’s at-large bid to get into the NCAA tournament. It makes sense to let him get healthy.

Evans was averaging 12.9 points, 4.9 assists and 4.4 boards this season, but he had been arguably the best point guard in the Big 12 during league play, averaging 15.6 points and 5.6 assists.