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The Dagger: College Basketball Blog

Breakfast Buffet: Minnesota’s 3-0 Big Ten start sets up huge clash at Indiana on Saturday

Jeff Eisenberg
The Dagger

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Trevor Mbakwe and Andre Hollins (Getty Images)

1. If the consensus entering Big Ten play was that the title chase would be a battle among Indiana and Michigan, perhaps it's time to add another contender to that duo. Minnesota earned a road win that makes the Gophers impossible to ignore any longer, riding Joe Coleman's career-high 29 points to a 84-67 rout of host Illinois. Having already beaten Michigan State, Northwestern and now the Illini, Minnesota can set its sights on a game that suddenly looks like one of the more intriguing showdowns of the season thus far: Saturday's visit to Bloomington to face Indiana.

2. Whatever Virginia gained with its mild upset victory over North Carolina on Sunday, the Cavaliers gave right back and then some with a woeful follow-up effort three nights later. Virginia showed up in Winston Salem unfocused and paid a dear price, falling 55-52 to a Wake Forest team likely to finish in the bottom three in the ACC. How bad was it? The Demon Deacons did not make a single field goal the final 10:22 of the second half and still won thanks to 15 of 18 shooting from the foul line.

3. In a down year for the SEC rife with new coaches, programs in transition and humbling losses to opponents in lesser-known conferences, the only teams that have inspired any confidence are Florida, Missouri and Kentucky. Ole Miss is desperately trying to join that group. The Rebels (12-2) staked claim to the title of the SEC's fourth-best team Wednesday, cruising past Tennessee 92-74 for their first road victory over the Volunteers in 22 years. Junior college transfer Marshall Henderson scored a career-high 32 to lead Ole Miss.

4. When Butler first gained entry into the Atlantic 10, there were a few misguided stories questioning whether the Bulldogs could seamlessly handle that leap in competition. Needless to say, we can put that story to rest. Rotnei Clarke scored 28 points and Andrew Smith added 24 as Butler opened Atlantic 10 play with a come-from-behind 72-66 road victory over a St. Joseph's team that was the media's preseason pick to win the league. It was exactly the sort of gritty, hard-fought victory that teams need to win league titles.

5. One of the best rebuilding jobs in the nation is taking place at a school that won just a single game last season. Towson, which went 395 days without a win before defeating UNC Wilmington last year to snap a Division I record 41-game losing streak, sits atop the CAA standings right now with a 3-0 record. The Tigers rallied from a 13-point second-half deficit to beat William & Mary 99-86 in double overtime Wednesday behind 26 points from Jerelle Benimon

Instead of bailing out of the lane when he saw Illinois guard Brandon Paul coming at him with a full head of steam, Minnesota's Trevor Mbakwe did something few post defenders in his shoes would have. He stood his ground and drew a charge, nullifying Paul's vicious poster slam from Paul and helping the Gophers emerge with a blowout road win.

"We've been coming here for 34 years. That's a lot of history. Every one of these games is a little bit of sadness for me. I know where all the good restaurants are now, and now I've got to go down to Clemson, S.C. I'm sure there's a couple of Denny's down there. They’ll like me a lot now in Clemson. I like to make friends before I get down there." -- Jim Boeheim after Syracuse's last game in Providence before leaving for the ACC. (Fayetteville Observer)

• Michigan State at Iowa, 7 p.m. EST

• Miami at North Carolina, 7 p.m. EST

• Temple at Xavier, 7 p.m. EST

• Kentucky at Vanderbilt, 9 p.m. EST

• UMass at Saint Louis, 9 p.m. EST

• Arizona at Oregon, 9 p.m. EST

• Saint Mary's at Gonzaga, 11 p.m. EST

• Arizona State at Oregon State, 11:30 p.m. EST

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