College basketball is defined by March Madness (with a national champion crowned in April). There are no trademarks or brackets surrounding the games that happen in mid-November.
That said, the Gophers men’s basketball team was already gaining some strong national buzz before the season started. Minnesota started the year ranked No. 15 in the AP poll, their highest preseason ranking since 1993-94. They moved to No. 14 in the more recent poll and showed up in ESPN’s Jay Bilas’s list of 10 teams that could reach the Final Four.
All that happened before Monday’s convincing 86-74 win at Providence — a game in which Minnesota was a 3.5-point underdog and trailed at halftime before using relentless balance to pull away.
The performance was enough for college hoops writer Seth Davis of CBS Sports to declare that Minnesota is “Final Four good.”
Davis wasn’t alone in his praise. Here are a few more tweets from national folks gushing about the Gophers:
— Dick Vitale (@DickieV) November 14, 2017
Minnesota’s Jordan Murphy is an absolute problem. So tough, physical & aggressive. Effective as a scorer at the rim.
— Evan Daniels (@EvanDaniels) November 14, 2017
Speaking of player development, Richard Pitino and staff have done a great job with this group at Minnesota. Nice early season win if they hold on here.
— Eric Bossi (@ebosshoops) November 14, 2017
Minnesota gets nice road win at Providence. Jordan Murphy with a big game and Richard Pitino & Co. deliver as the hunted after sneaking up on people last season.
— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanESPN) November 14, 2017
We should all remember, of course, that the NCAA tournament doesn’t even start for another four months. But yes, there are a lot of reasons to like the Gophers right now.