Broncos players visit victims in Aurora, Col.

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Broncos players visit victims in Aurora, Col.

From Comcast SportsNet
AURORA, Colo. (AP) -- A half dozen Denver Broncos visited with survivors of the Colorado theater shooting on Sunday to try to lift their spirits. The group visited with five patients at the Medical Center of Aurora and also met with the emergency room staff that provided the initial treatment Friday morning for many of the shooting victims of the massacre at a suburban Denver movie theater that left 12 dead, 58 injured and a nation in sorrow. "What we were trying to do was go in there, show support and try to put a smile on these peoples' faces. But the thing is, they put a smile on our faces," linebacker Joe Mays said. "They had such positive attitudes. They knew they were blessed to live and they knew they were going to have another chance to walk about with their families." Mays was joined by linemen Ryan Clady, Chris Kuper and Ben Garland, receiver Eric Decker, tight end Jacob Tamme and former teammate Brian Dawkins, who retired earlier this year. The players gave up their last Sunday before training camp to lend a measure of comfort to the community. "We felt this was the least we could do to help them get through this tragic event," Mays said. "We came out of there with just a different mindset on life as well. They were still able to smile and laugh and have people in their corner and by their side. Just to see that couldn't help but smile a smile on our faces and make us think about our lives and being with our families." Among the patients who received visits from the Broncos was Carey Rottman, 27, a native of Mequon, Wis., who used to play football at Winona State in Minnesota, where he was a running back and faced Kuper's North Dakota teams. Garland, a Colorado native who attended the Air Force Academy and whose family lost their home in the recent wildfires in the state, tweeted over the weekend that he had planned to attend the new Batman movie at the Century 16 theater where the shooting occurred "but changed my mind" shortly before the midnight premiere. Quarterback Peyton Manning on Sunday also called four patients who were taken to the Medical Center of Aurora after the shooter unleashed two canisters of gas and opened fire during the Friday midnight premiere of "Dark Knight Rises." The four-time MVP signed with the Broncos this year after missing the 2011 season with a nerve problem in his neck that weakened his throwing arm. The Broncos start training camp on Wednesday.

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After getting another signature win at Maryland, does any Big Ten team have two better conference wins than Minnesota?

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USA TODAY

After getting another signature win at Maryland, does any Big Ten team have two better conference wins than Minnesota?

Does any Big Ten team have two better conference wins than Minnesota?

The Golden Gophers went on the road and defeated a ranked group of Maryland Terrapins on Wednesday night, and they did so in impressive fashion, scoring an 89-75 victory in College Park.

Team this win with the win at Purdue back on New Year's Day, and there's no better pair of league victories to be found.

More importantly though, the Gophers, at 9-6, are now the No. 4 team in the Big Ten standings.

It's all a part of a quality NCAA tournament resume for the Gophers, who are closer to lock status after Wednesday's win than they are to being on any sort of bubble. With mediocrity running rampant through the Big Ten this season, Richard Pitino's 21-win squad should be well on its way to an appearance in next month's Madness, which would be the program's first since he took over as head coach.

The resume looks pretty strong at this point, especially after Wednesday. Minnesota can now claim wins over Purdue, Maryland and Northwestern — all three of those conference victories coming on the road. In the non-conference portion of the schedule, the Gophers beat Arkansas, the Razorbacks seemingly heading to the tournament themselves. The only loss from the non-conference portion came on the road at Florida State, one of the highest-ranked teams in the country.

So it's safe to say Minnesota will go dancing.

Wednesday's 14-point beatdown of the Terps saw the Gophers shoot 50 percent from the field on the night and 54.5 percent from the field in the second half. Five players scored in double figures: Dupree McBrayer with 18, Nate Mason with 17, Akeem Springs with 16, Jordan Murphy with 15 and Amir Coffey with 13. Minnesota didn't win the rebounding battle but scored 15 points off 10 Maryland turnovers and marched to the free-throw line, going 17-for-20 from the charity stripe while Maryland was just 8-for-13 there.

The second half was a rout, the Gophers outscoring the Terps 55-40 over the final 20 minutes and rattling off two separate 9-0 runs to burst away from the No. 24 team in the country.

The overtime win at Purdue on the first day of 2017 might go down as a bigger win considering the Boilermakers are closing in on the No. 1 seed in the Big Ten Tournament. That win, too, came by an impressive-enough margin, 91-82. But Minnesota dominated Maryland over the final nine minutes or so and turned in a double-digit victory on the road against a team that lost to that same Purdue team on that same court by just a point two and a half weeks ago.

The Gophers are now on a six-game winning streak and are piling up wins in a fashion that's making them look like one of the Big Ten's finest. A 3-1 start to conference play that extended its overall record to 15-2 was dampened by Minnesota's five-game losing streak that featured losses to higher-echelon teams like Michigan State, Wisconsin and Maryland, plus road losses at Penn State and Ohio State. But since have come six straight wins. While the caliber of opponent hadn't been terribly impressive until Wednesday, the Gophers can now boast nine conference wins. Only three teams have more.

It's now worth watching how high Minnesota can climb in the Big Ten standings before the conference tournament just two weeks from now. If the season ended today, the Gophers would already be in possession of one of those highly coveted two-day byes. But Minnesota is just a game back of Maryland and just two games back of Wisconsin, who the Gophers play in the regular-season finale.

Like Pitino told his team after Wednesday's win: "No more talk about (just making) the NCAA tournament. We're talking about seeds in the NCAA tournament."