Jarrod Peterson: Minnesota beats Purdue, possible tourney team?

Published 8:58 am Thursday, January 5, 2017

Jarrod’s Corner by Jarrod Peterson

Just a few days after another disappointing loss in the gallows of Big Ten history for the Minnesota Golden Gophers men’s basketball team against the Michigan State Spartans, I was worried about the psyche of the team heading into Sunday’s matchup on the road against No. 15 Purdue.

Winning Big Ten games on the road is tough for any team, even the top teams in the conference, so the Gophers were going to have their hands full with the Boilermakers.

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However, when a team gets great play from its guards, the game is so much easier.

Que junior guard Nate Mason.

Mason finished the game with 31 points on 11-18 shooting and 11 assists in a 91-82 overtime victory, a performance that saw him take home Big Ten Player of the Week honors.

This is a huge victory for a team that has two seniors on its roster, with only one — Akeem Springs — seeing any minutes in Richard Pitino’s rotation.

The Gophers haven’t had an impressive win all season until Sunday, where a win on the road against a good team pretty much counts as two wins and is a resume-builder come Selection Sunday for the NCAA Tournament.

This team is athletic at every position, and freshman Amir Coffey has flown under the radar this season, but he is a sneaky good player.

I worry about this team’s frontcourt depth. Reggie Lynch had a been a shot-blocking machine, but his backup — Bakary Konate — is a foul-machine and gives little-to- no production on offense.

That could be the one thing holding back this Gophers team from making a good run to finish in the top half of the Big Ten.

In my opinion, for Minnesota to make the tournament, it needs to beat Northwestern, Penn State (twice), Ohio State (once), Illinois (once), Iowa, Rutgers, Nebraska and hope to upset either Wisconsin or Maryland to secure its tournament.

It could be a fun year in DinkyTown.

Minnesota is on the road against Northwestern tonight.

Other news and notes

• Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski will be out indefinitely once he undergoes back surgery. This news comes after the Blue Devils were throttled by Virginia Tech, 89-75, on Saturday. Duke is currently No. 8 in the country. In Krzyzewski’s absence, assistant coach Jeff Capel III will take over the head coaching duties. Capel III was previously a head coach at Virginia Commonwealth University and the University of Oklahoma. He owns a coaching record of 161-92. Capel III played for Krzyzewski at Duke from 1993-1997.

• Oregon is perhaps the hottest team in college basketball. Not only are the Ducks on an 11-game winning streak, but they unseated No. 1 UCLA and followed it up with a 23- point drubbing of a ranked USC team. Oregon beat Washington on Wednesday night.

• After a hot start to the season, the Indiana Hoosiers are stumbling. IU started the season with a 7-1 record, including wins over Kansas and North Carolina, but has lost four of its last six games, and three in a row. All four losses have come at home, and one was lowly to Nebraska in its Big Ten opener.

• Virginia Tech head coach Buzz Williams is starting to turn around the program in his third season. After spending six seasons at Marquette, a stop that included five NCAA tournament appearances and a coaching record of 139-69, Williams incurred struggles in his first two seasons at Virginia Tech. However, he has his Hokies off to a 12-1 start, a win over Duke and a No. 21 ranking in the country. Williams went 31-37 in his first two seasons. The Hokies had a slip up on the road against North Carolina State Wednesday night.

Jarrod Peterson is the sports editor at the Albert Lea Tribune. He can be reached at jarrod.peterson@albertleatribune.com.