COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Minnesota is threatening to break into the Top 25 next week and No. 16 Ohio State is in danger of dropping down or falling out depending on the results of Sunday evening's Big Ten opener for both teams.
The Gophers (6-1) are trending upward after a recent run of success that includes wins over Utah, Texas A&M and Washington before an 83-76 victory over Oklahoma State on Friday night in U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, where the 2019 Final Four will be played this spring.
Since the Big Ten expanded the number of conference games, two are now played in early December and this will be the first for each team. Ohio State travels to Illinois and Minnesota returns home to face Nebraska on Wednesday night before resuming non-conference play.
Minnesota may not be one of the teams that makes the Final Four, but coach Richard Pitino has set the Gophers up for a potential NCAA Tournament berth by scheduling a tough early non-conference schedule loaded with Power Five conference opponents.
"We've beaten a Big 12 team, two Pac-12 teams and an SEC team, and I don't believe it's December yet," Pitino said.
Jordan Murphy is the driving force for the Gophers. He led them to the latest victory with a season-high 24 points and 16 rebounds for the 51st double-double of his career. He's averaging a double-double for the season (15.7 points, 12.7 rebounds per game).
Murphy was one of five Minnesota players to score in double figures against Oklahoma State. Isaiah Washington contributed 15 points and Gabe Kalscheur added 14, including three 3-pointers in the second half, to help the Gophers rebound from their first loss of the season earlier in the week at Boston College in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
"I think it's huge with momentum being 6-1, obviously coming off a win going into Sunday and then again on Wednesday," Murphy said. "We definitely just got to pay attention to the scouting report and game plan coach has set out for us and just be ready."
The Buckeyes (6-1) were also rolling until they were tripped up Wednesday night at Value City Arena, beaten 72-62 by Syracuse in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge for their first loss of the season.
Ohio State sustained another significant loss in that game. Freshman guard Luther Muhammad collided with teammate Kyle Young late in the second half and Muhammad fell on his left shoulder. Tests after the game confirmed that the shoulder was dislocated and Muhammad will be out indefinitely.
"There's no timetable right now that I can give you on his return," Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann told reporters Friday. "It's really going to depend on how he responds to treatment. At this point, there's no timeline I can give you other than he's out indefinitely. I would assume that would mean he's doubtful for Sunday night."
Holtmann expects freshman Duane Washington Jr. and graduate transfer Keyshawn Woods to absorb some of Muhammad's minutes.
"He had had a terrific start for us and impacted the game on both ends," Holtmann said. "It is a significant impact, but we have confidence in the next guys in the rotation being able to step up in his absence. What that will look like specifically, we're still trying to figure that out, how we'll juggle our lineup."
Muhammad was averaging 8.9 points and 27.3 minutes per game while also playing aggressive defense. He has started all but one game for a team led by power forward Kaleb Wesson, who's averaging 14.4 points and 6.1 rebounds per game.
"I don't know exactly what (Muhammad's) absence is going to do to the spirit of our team," Holtmann said. "He brought a lot of spirit to our group. Our first concern in all of this is Luther's health. It's not by any stretch career-damaging, (but) it's a significant injury that will need time to heal. How it impacts our team will be interesting to see."