Gophers men’s basketball team ranked No. 15 in AP poll

Josh Katzenstein

After winning three games en route to a Puerto Rico Tip-Off title, the undefeated Minnesota men’s basketball team (5-0) has the respect of the media.

The Associated Press released its updated college basketball rankings Monday afternoon with the Gophers at No. 15 after being unranked in the first two polls. They are also No. 17 in the ESPN/USA Today coaches poll.

Minnesota hasn’t been ranked since the Nov. 29 rankings last season, but the Gophers did receive votes in preseason and Week 1 polls.

While in San Juan, Minnesota beat three teams with NCAA Tournament hopes, including then-No. 8 North Carolina in Friday’s semifinals. After losing to Vanderbilt in Sunday’s third-place game, the Tar Heels fell all the way to No. 25 in both polls.

Key to the Gophers strong start has been junior forward Trevor Mbakwe, who was named the co-Big Ten player of the week with Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger. Mbakwe is averaging just shy of a double-double in his first season at Minnesota with 14 points per game and 9.4 rebounds per game. He was also named the Puerto Rico Tip-Off’s most outstanding player after averaging 15.3 points and 8.6 rebounds in three games.

The West Virginia team Minnesota beat in the finals Sunday received 99 votes in the AP poll, just two spots behind North Carolina’s 124.

The other Big Ten teams ranked in the AP poll are Michigan State (No. 2), Ohio State (No. 3), Purdue (No. 10) and Illinois (No. 18).

Although it’s of little-to-no importance, the Gophers are ranked No. 4 in the fans poll at Yahoo.com. This means Minnesota has slim chances of being a sleeper unless it falls off down the stretch.