Wolves Power Rankings: Stars shine through hard schedule

As the new year continues, the Minnesota Timberwolves power rankings do too. Join us as we dig into every performer throughout an up and down seven days of Wolves ball.

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MINNEAPOLIS, MN - JANUARY 8: Jimmy Butler #23 of the Minnesota Timberwolves looks on during the game against the Cleveland Cavaliers on January 8, 2018 at Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Jordan Johnson/NBAE via Getty Images)

It has been a fruitful December and early January for the Minnesota Timberwolves, who pushed through the halfway mark of the season on pace for an impressive 50 wins.

This week, however, the schedule began to tighten for Minnesota, as they began a streak of tough games.

They handled themselves fairly respectably throughout the four games in this power rankings week, splitting the games and finishing 2-2 over the stretch, the Wolves now sit 10 games over 500. with 26 wins and 16 losses.

The highlight of the week is Tyus Jones teaching Lebron James some respect after the king accidentally referred to him as 'Tyler Jones' pre-game:

The week started with two back-to-back losses in quite different circumstances.

Opening the week with a 98-97 loss to Brooklyn wasn't ideal, as Nets rising star Spencer Dinwiddie hit a late game floating jumper to seal the Timberwolves fate. They stayed on the road with a team of surely-tired players, but fought hard against a Boston Celtics team that showed the full display of its defensive arsenal. Losing in the end in scrappy 91-84 showing.

It was the second half of the power rankings week that the fun was unleashed for Wolves fans, as the team exploded into two exciting blowout victories.

Starting on the second game of a back-to-back against New Orleans, as they held the Pelicans to just 42.2 percent shooting in a 116-96 victory. The week was truly capped off in a special way when the Timberwolves hammered the Cleveland Cavaliers 127-99 in front of a rampant Target Center crowd.

The Wolves held LeBron James to just 10 points while shooting 52 percent themselves with six players in the double-figure scoring column.

A crazy week in Wolves world, let's dig in to the best performers.

*All players must play 10 total minutes to qualify. Weekly and season stats courtesy of NBA stats*

10. Marcus Georges-Hunt (10)

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MINNEAPOLIS, MN - JANUARY 01: Marcus Georges-Hunt #13 of the Minnesota Timberwolves looks on during the game against the Los Angeles Lakers on January 1, 2018 at the Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

Season stats: 3.6 MPG - 1.0 PPG - 0.1 APG - 0.2 SPG - 52.6% FG - 28.6% 3PT - 25% FT
Weekly stats: 2.9 MPG - 1.5 PPG - 0.3 SPG - 50% FG

It was a fairly unexciting week on the court for Marcus Georges-Hunt, as his eligibility for the power rankings came mainly from his garbage time minutes in the New Orleans and Cleveland games.

The undrafted product who has earned himself meaningful minutes at times this season did feature in all four games over the last seven days. Mainly checking in for the final defensive play at the end of a quarter.

He featured for 50 and 18 seconds respectively over the Boston and Brooklyn losses, failing to post a single stat over the limited court time. MGH upped his output to 1 minute and 49 seconds in the win over the Pelicans, hitting one of his two shot attempts and grabbing a steal to cap off a short but good showing.

Prior to the last match-up of the power rankings week, Georges-Hunt's week - and bank account - got a nice boost.

The wing's partially guaranteed contract became fully guaranteed, meaning his roster spot is seemingly safe for the remainder of the season.

He relayed his happiness and gratitude to Pioneer Press member Jace Frederick after the news broke.

“It’s a great feeling. Shows that everything I’ve been doing since I’ve got here is paying off, and just have to continue to do it and get better and help this team in the best way I can.” he said.

Georges-Hunt backed up the Timberwolves faith in him by playing some solid late-game minutes in the absolute thrashing of the Cavs, hitting 4 points on 2 of 4 shooting in his 9 minutes to finish off a lowly Cleveland team.

Another unspectacular yet solid minutes for the hard working fan favorite.

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9. Aaron Brooks (11)

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MINNEAPOLIS, MN - JANUARY 6: Aaron Brooks #30 of the Minnesota Timberwolves handles the ball against the New Orleans Pelicans on January 6, 2018 at Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images)

Season stats: 7.7 MPG - 2.6 PPG - 0.8 APG - 0.3 SPG - 41.7% FG - 35% 3PT - 75% FT
Weekly stats: 13.0 MPG - 3.3 PPG - 1.5 APG - 0.5 SPG - 33.3% FG - 20% 3PT

As Jeff Teague continues to sit with a left ankle injury, Aaron Brooks carried on taking the backup minutes that are usually filled by Tyus Jones.

While Jones was hitting his straps with the starting line-up, Brooks struggled to build any momentum as the floor general of the reserve unit.

Despite moving up two places from the last power rankings stanza, the 6-foot point guard had a rough week. He garnered just 4 minutes in Brooklyn, as coach Tom Thibodeau tightened his leash after a sloppy stint on the court early.

Brooks was back in Thibs' good book in the hard-fought loss to the Celtics, as he earned himself 15 minutes for the game, dropping 4 points on 2 of 7 shooting and 2 assists on the game. Despite his poor shooting output, the diminutive guards' +2 Plus/Minus was tied with Andrew Wiggins and Taj Gibson for the best on the Wolves roster.

Brooks' shooting woes continued at home against the New Orleans Pelicans, shooting 2 of 6 for his 5 points including his only 3-point try in five attempts throughout the week.

Brooks - like majority of the Timberwolves bench - played his week-high in minutes during the Cavaliers win. He netted 17 minutes, putting up an inconspicuous 4 points, 3 rebounds and 2 assists and shooting a respectable 2 of 4 from the field throughout.

With Teague on the comeback trail and Aaron Brooks not doing much to impress the fans or coaches, the veteran may just fall out of the power rankings once again next week.

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8. Nemanja Bjelica (9)

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MINNEAPOLIS, MN - JANUARY 01: Larry Nance Jr. #7 of the Los Angeles Lakers defends against Nemanja Bjelica #8 of the Minnesota Timberwolves during the game on January 1, 2018 at the Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

Season stats: 14.2 MPG - 5.6 PPG - 2.5 RPG - 0.6 APG - 50.9% FG - 42.6% 3PT - 81.3% FT
Weekly stats: 13.1 MPG - 2.8 PPG - 1.3 RPG - 41.7% FG - 20% 3PT

A move up the power rankings ladder this week for Nemanja Bjelica comes mainly from the play of his teammates below, rather than stellar play from the Serbian big man.

The first trio of games was pretty gruesome for Bjelica, posting just 5 points and 2 rebounds on a ghastly 1 of 6 shooting in a combined 35 minutes. Bjelly was struggling to get off and hit his shot that had made him such a valuable commodity throughout the early stages of the season.

With his confidence and value decreasing by the game, the Timberwolves needed a better showing from the 6-foot-10 combo forward to end the week.

It wasn't a jaw-dropping showing, but Bjelica earned some credence in the extra minutes he received due to the blowout.

He also finished this crowd-wowing highlight from Jamal Crawford.

Bjelly dropped some jelly on the Cavs, dropping 7 points on 3-6 shooting and grabbing 2 rebounds to help the Timberwolves in one of the franchise's most convincing wins. Possibly the most encouraging thing about Bjelica's game was the fact he nailed a 3-pointer (his only of the week), a range that he has been completely void of since returning from his mid-foot sprain.

If the former Euroleague MVP can regain the shooting stroke that saw him lead the league in 3-point percentage prior to the injury, he will be a major key to the Wolves bench being competitive with the best.

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7. Gorgui Dieng (8)

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MINNEAPOLIS, MN - JANUARY 6: Gorgui Dieng #5 of the Minnesota Timberwolves reacts during game against the New Orleans Pelicans on January 6, 2018 at Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Jordan Johnson/NBAE via Getty Images)

Season stats: 18.2 MPG - 6.6 PPG - 4.9 RPG - 0.3 BPG - 49% FG- 30.6% 3PT - 76.9% FT
Weekly stats: 20.4 MPG - 8.5 PPG - 5.0 RPG - 0.5 BPG - 52% FG - 50% 3PT - 75% FT

The G-Train was loaded up with coal and rolling through all stations this week.

Gorgui Dieng has had an inconsistent season so far, but he certainly showed what he can potentially bring to the Timberwolves bench during this power rankings week, leading to a rise to the seventh position.

The Senegalese giant hit double-digit scoring figures in the last two games of the week, adding a dynamic wrinkle to the Timberwolves frontcourt when he is firing efficiently from the mid-range area and cleaning up misses for offensive putbacks.

Dieng scored just 9 points over the initial two losses of the week, with his single point, -16 Plus/Minus performance over a rampant Boston team being the lowlight of the 6-foot-11 center's week.

He bounced back with a great game against the Twin Towers of New Orleans, scoring 14 points - including 2-2 from behind the 3-point line - grabbing 3 rebounds and blocking a shot in the blowout win.

This kind of performance against the league's best big man combination isn't a new thing for Gorgui Dieng, he posted 19 and 12 points respectively in the Timberwolves previous two meetings with the Pels.

He spoke to Fox Sports North's Marney Gellner post-game about his mentality for these games.

"I know they're great basketball players ... I'll be ready or they're going to make you look terrible" he said.

Dieng has made damn sure they haven't made him look terrible.

The big man was great again in the Cavs crushing, scoring 11 points and pulling down 8 important rebounds amongst great board-grabbers like Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson. Dieng's 4 of 10 shooting in the game wasn't ideal, but his overall energy more than made up for it.

A very encouraging week for Gorgui Dieng and Minnesota Timberwolves fans, if he can keep up this kind of play he may start getting 20+ minutes per game like this power rankings week more often.

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6. Jamal Crawford (6)

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MINNEAPOLIS, MN - JANUARY 6: Jamal Crawford #11 of the Minnesota Timberwolves handles the ball against the New Orleans Pelicans on January 6, 2018 at Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Jordan Johnson/NBAE via Getty Images)

Season stats: 18.8 MPG - 9.7 PPG - 2.3 APG - 0.5 SPG - 41.9% FG - 34% 3PT - 91% FT
Weekly stats: 19.1 MPG - 9.3 PPG - 2.3 APG - 0.3 SPG - 43.8% FG - 54.5% 3PT - 60% FT

Jamal 'Sixth Man' Crawford kept his run of being the Timberwolves most productive bench player running this week, edging out a fantastic power rankings week by Gorgui Dieng to retain his spot.

Last week we spoke about how J-Crossover's 3-point shot had gone haywire, but I also mentioned that this means he was likely in for a stretch of fire from behind the arc. Crawford delivered exactly that this week, nailing 6 of his 11 long-range bombs (54.5 percent).

Forever 21 started off the power rankings week without a triple in Brooklyn, but still managed to hit 5-10 shots and chip in 10 points for a Wolves team that had trouble scoring the ball on the night.

The 3-point fireworks definitely came in the next game against the Celtics, however. Crawford nailed 4 of his 5 long bombs, connecting on 13 total points for the night. He backed that up with a stinker against the Pelicans, although it didn't seem to matter as the Timberwolves coasted home for an 18 point win.

J-Cross rounded out the week with another 10-point, 3-assist performance against Cleveland, capping off a fantastic week for the 37-year-old veteran.

We as fans can not expect Crawford to play as well as he has over this week every time around, but weeks like this can make us truly appreciate the presence of the 3x Sixth Man Of The Year award winner.

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5. Tyus Jones (5)

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BOSTON, MA - JANUARY 4: Tyus Jones #1 of the Minnesota Timberwolves in action during the second quarter against the Boston Celtics at TD Garden on January 5, 2018 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Season stats: 19.0 MPG - 4.7 PPG - 2.9 APG - 1.3 SPG - 45.5% FG - 33.3% 3PT - 87.2% FT
Weekly stats: 32.0 MPG - 8.5 PPG - 3.5 APG - 1.5 SPG - 42.4% FG - 9.1% 3PT - 100% FT

Whether it has been as a starter or as a reserve, Tyus Jones has been fantastic this season, and this week was no different for the ever-rising point guard as he continues to star in Jeff Teague's absence.

The 21-year-old is not one to ever stuff the stat sheet, but he has a way of lifting the team whenever he is on the floor. Jones pushes the pace and looks to score on the break, and constantly keeps his head on a swivel in half-court sets plus his vastly improved mid-range and inside scoring touch has put a nice little bow on to the present that is Tyus Jones' game.

The former Duke star started the power rankings week with his highest scoring output against the Nets, hitting 4 of his 9 shot attempts for his 11 points, although his single assist and 4 turnovers were very un-Jones like.

Hampered by foul trouble against Boston, Tyus Stones was unable to make as big an impact as usual. He finished with 7 points and 3 assists, this time without registering a turnover.

That's more like it.

Jones set the tempo well against the Pelicans, helping the Timberwolves move the ball and finishing with 10 points and 2 assists in the blowout win. Another one of those games where the stat sheet didn't reflect Jones overall contribution to the win, like his bordering-on-elite defense.

The reserve point man has been stellar all year on the gritty end of the floor, but this week has been on another level. According to NBA stats, Jones led the Wolves over the last four games in Defensive Rating, posting a ridiculous 90.5 mark.

And it was his shifty defense that led to maybe the greatest 'Tylight' of his young, blossoming career. Lebron James mistakenly called him 'Tyler Jones' in his pre-game interview, 'Tyler' made him remember his real name for the rest of his days.

It was shown earlier in our highlight of the week, but watching it for the 276th time won't do any harm.

Tyus (big) Stones would finish the game with 6 points and 8 assists in the win, but make no mistake there was only one play on the minds of Minnesota fans after that throwdown, just the second one of his career.

Despite the inability to bury his 3-point shot this week, there are no complaints about this power rankings expedition.

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4. Andrew Wiggins (4)

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BOSTON, MA - JANUARY 5: Andrew Wiggins #22 of the Minnesota Timberwolves and Kyrie Irving #11 of the Boston Celtics speak after the game on January 5, 2018 at the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images)

Season stats: 36.2 MPG - 17.7 PPG - 4.1 RPG - 1.7 APG - 42.9% FG - 32.8% 3PT - 63% FT
Weekly stats: 34.5 MPG - 18.0 PPG - 4.8 RPG - 1.3 APG - 41.4% FG - 29.4% 3PT - 69.2% FT

Andrew Wiggins is finally starting to come around, this power rankings week he was unlucky not to climb the rankings rungs after having another good week.

If you throw out the Celtics game where Wiggins struggled mightily (10 points, 3-12 shooting), his weekly numbers are just where the Timberwolves fans want them.

Maple Jordan averaged 20.6 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.3 steals on 43.1 percent over the Nets, Pelicans and Cavaliers games. The 22-year-old is starting to put the ball on the deck more and get to the rim where defenders have trouble slowing him down, and his rebounding and defensive numbers are starting to come around too.

Kevin Love found out just how hard Wiggins can take it to the hoop:

This week completed Andrew Wiggins' NBA bingo this week too.

"Coming into this year, there was two teams I've never beaten -- the Spurs and the Cavs. This year, I've beat both of them." he told Jace Frederick.

Wiggins two-way potential was on full display this week, and his 21.2 Net Rating is a testament to the work that the 6-foot-8 wing has put in. The rating trails only Jimmy Butler and Taj Gibson on the Timberwolves roster - the two best two-way players on the roster.

If Maple Jordan can keep up this kind of intensity on both ends, he will find himself rising in the power rankings sooner rather than later.

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3. Taj Gibson (3)

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BROOKLYN, NY - JANUARY 3: Taj Gibson #67 of the Minnesota Timberwolves jumps for the rebound against the Brooklyn Nets on January 3, 2018 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)

Season stats: 33.6 MPG - 11.9 PPG - 7.9 RPG - 0.7 BPG - 56.7% FG - 25% 3PT - 77.9% FT
Weekly stats: 33.3 MPG - 11.0 PPG - 7.3 RPG - 0.8 BPG - 48.6% FG - 71.4% FT

It wasn't Taj Gibson's best week over the last seven days, but his overall body of work and non-stat sheet production keeps his fourth place safe from a gaining Andrew Wiggins.

Gibson continued to provide the glue that has kept the fourth-place Timberwolves together, with his hustle, energy and defensive versatility. Take this play, for example, watch Gibson switch perfectly on defense then box out Celtics giant Aron Baynes with textbook technique.

These are the things Mr. Clean does night in-night out for his team.

Gibson was probably at his worst Timberwolves fans have seen him in the Brooklyn and Boston losses, tallying just 13 points and 10 rebounds on a well below par 4-13 shooting in the two games combined, according to NBA stats.

It's no coincidence that the Wolves lost the only two games that Gibson didn't show up all season.

The 32-year-old certainly did show up in the next two power rankings games, however. The 6-foot-9 forward racked up 15 points, 6 rebounds and 3 steals against the elite big men of New Orleans, before posting another 16 points, 13 rebounds a block in the Cavaliers decimation.

Gibson wasn't projected to be the third best player on this Minnesota Timberwolves team, but that is exactly what he is.

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2. Karl-Anthony Towns (2)

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MINNEAPOLIS, MN - JANUARY 6: Karl-Anthony Towns #32 of the Minnesota Timberwolves speaks to media after game against the New Orleans Pelicans on January 6, 2018 at Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images)

Season stats: 35.7 MPG - 20.2 PPG - 11.9 RPG - 1.5 BPG - 53.7% FG - 40.4% 3PT - 83.5% FT
Weekly stats: 36.9 MPG - 20.3 PPG - 15.3 RPG - 1.0 BPG - 59.3% FG - 38.5% 3PT - 92.3% FT

Another power rankings week, another string of dominant performances for Karl-Anthony Towns.

The 22-year-old looked his normal self on offense, but his improvement on defense continued to become a solid trend and his truly elite rebounding chops were on full display for NBA fans.

Towns' Defensive Rating was an excellent 94.9 over the last four games, taking that number to 102.2 over his last 20 outings. That mark is better than a variety of defensive stars including Kevin Durant, Kristaps Porzingis and Anthony Davis according to NBA stats.

He also does things like this...

Towns was splendid throughout the entirety of the power rankings week, but the highlight of the week for KAT actually came in one of the two losses the Timberwolves acquired.

The 7-footer who is looking for his first All-Star berth put up 25 points and a career-high 23 rebounds over his good friend Al Horford and his Boston Celtics, dominating inside and out and feasting on the glass the whole night.

KAT backed that domination up with 21 points and 16 rebounds against the Pelicans in a match-up where he has struggled at times against bigger and stronger big guys in Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins.

Towns is rolling at the moment, just like his team.

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1. Jimmy Butler (1)

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BROOKLYN, NY - JANUARY 3: Jimmy Butler #23 of the Minnesota Timberwolves handles the ball against the Brooklyn Nets on January 3, 2018 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)

Season stats: 36.9 MPG - 21.5 PPG - 5.4 RPG - 5.1 APG - 47% FG - 34.8% 3PT - 87.7% FT
Weekly stats: 33.3 MPG - 21.5 PPG - 5.0 RPG - 6.8 APG - 42.1% FG - 46.2% 3PT - 84.2% FT

After averaging 25.6 points per game over his last 20 outings, Jimmy Butler's scoring came back down to earth marginally this power rankings week, but his overall impact on the game remained at MVP type levels.

He continues to amaze the fans every time he steps on the floor, playing with a ferocity that the franchise hasn't seen since the days of Kevin Garnett.

Butler had a rare down game in the tough Celtics, scoring just 14 points on 7-17 shooting, but he was at his scintillating best in the other three outings of the week.

He also nearly blew the roof off Target Center with this buzzer-beating-turnaround-stepback-jumper against the Cavs.

Jimmy G. Buckets was crucial in both the Timberwolves wins to finish the week. The 28-year-old posted 21 points, 7 rebounds and 8 assists against the Pelicans, nailing both the 3-pointers he attempted which was a theme of the week for Butler.

The 3x All-Star forged on at home against Cleveland, putting up another 21 points and was on triple-double watch again collecting 8 rebounds and dishing out 9 helpers in what was one of the most emphatic Wolves wins of all time.

Arguably the best player on both ends of the court, Jimmy Butler has placed himself in a rock-solid position to hold his number one power rankings perch for the foreseeable future.

That future looks like it includes playoffs too, which Minnesota fans can thank Butler and his hearty crew for.

Tune in next week to see how the power rankings play out!