Updated Dec 20, 2021 - Sports

The surprising Gophers men's basketball team

Jamison Battle clenches his fists in front of Michigan fans

Jamison Battle and the Gophers beat Michigan earlier this month. Photo: Nic Antaya/Getty Images

The Minnesota Gophers men's basketball team is an unexpected 9-1 and starting to turn heads in the college hoops world.

Why it matters: Few things are as fun as when Williams Arena is rocking.

The intrigue: New head coach Ben Johnson started from scratch this season after losing nearly every player from last year's team to a transfer.

  • Media writers had predicted the Gophers would finish dead last in the 14-team Big Ten conference.

Yes, but: Led by Jamison Battle and Payton Willis, the Gophers notched victories over Michigan and Mississippi State earlier this month and have gotten some votes in the Associated Press top 25 poll.

What they're saying: "Johnson's early success is a reminder of all that can be wonderful about basketball, that teamwork, hustle, situational play and clutch play can elevate a team beyond modest outside expectations," wrote Star Tribune columnist Jim Souhan.

Reality check: Some are waiting to see how the Gophers perform when the Big Ten schedule resumes in January.

What to watch: Minnesota returns from an eight-day break and hosts University of Wisconsin-Green Bay at 4pm Wednesday.

  • Keep an eye on Battle, who is a DeLaSalle alum and averages 18.5 points per game.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect that the time of the Gophers' game Wednesday has been changed from 7pm to 4pm.


Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Twin Cities.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More Twin Cities stories

No stories could be found

Twin Citiespostcard

Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Twin Cities.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more