Steve Hewitt’s college hoops Top 25: Minnesota, Northwestern break in

Editor’s note: Herald sports reporter Steve Hewitt is a voter in the Associated Press college basketball Top 25 poll. Every week through the end of the season, he’ll write a column providing some analysis and thoughts from his poll.
Filling out college basketball preseason ballots and polls is complete guesswork and based on nothing more than returning rosters, results from the previous season and perceived talent. Most of the time, they turn out very wrong.
And to this point, people have been very wrong about Minnesota and Northwestern.
When the Big Ten’s preseason poll was released, Minnesota was ranked 11th out of 14 teams. Northwestern was 14th out of 14. But as Christmas passed by, the Wildcats sat atop the conference with a 3-0 record, with the Golden Gophers doing just as well with an 8-1 overall record, their one blemish coming in conference play against Illinois, one of the best teams in the league.
Both programs are coming off woeful 2019-20 seasons, so it’s understandable how low they were ranked coming into the season, especially in a conference as loaded as the Big Ten. But both teams are proving how useless those preseason polls are. Minnesota’s victory over previously No. 3 Iowa supplanted them into my Top 25 for the first time this season at No. 15, while Northwestern, rolling with wins over Michigan State, Indiana and Ohio State, debuted at No. 17 in my poll this week.
It speaks to just how ridiculous competitive the Big Ten is. Nine teams from the league appeared in my poll this week, with Wisconsin leading the pack at No. 8 after an impressive road victory over Michigan State, and the conference owned all my spots from No. 13 to No. 19. When it’s all said and done, it’s not crazy to envision that 11 teams from the Big Ten could make the NCAA Tournament. It’s still so early, but this week’s poll certainly reflects that.
Steve Hewitt’s Top 25 ballot, Dec. 28, 2020
1. Gonzaga
2. Baylor
3. Kansas
4. Villanova
5. West Virginia
6. Houston
7. Tennessee
8. Wisconsin
9. Texas
10. Missouri
11. Creighton
12. Texas Tech
13. Illinois
14. Rutgers
15. Minnesota
16. Iowa
17. Northwestern
18. Michigan State
19. Ohio State
20. Duke
21. Michigan
22. Oregon
23. Xavier
24. Virginia Tech
25. Arkansas

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