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Gophers players left off college basketball award preseason watch lists

You won't find any Gophers on preseason all-conference teams or college basketball award watch lists this year.

Failing to recognize top returning players from an 8-23 Minnesota team might not be all that surprising -- until you take a closer look.  

It almost seems like a conspiracy that sophomore Jordan Murphy was overlooked as an early candidate for the Karl Malone Award, which goes to the nation's top power forward. I understand that this award, along with the Jerry West Award (top shooting guard), Julius Erving Award (top small forward) and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Award (top center) only existed since 2015.   

But Murphy's 11.6 points and 8.0 rebounds per game and nine double-doubles last season should've deserved enough to add him to the preseason watch list released Thursday. Not to mention the fact that he shared All-Big Ten freshman team honors with Purdue's Caleb Swanigan, Wisconsin's Ethan Happ and Indiana's Thomas Bryant. All three of them are considered among the top players at their position in the country.

Murphy averaged more points than eight players and more rebounds than nine players on the Karl Malone Award preseason watch list, which went so far as to include Kansas' Carlton Bragg Jr., who averaged 3.8 points and 2.5 rebounds last season. Really? And there were four freshmen and one Division I transfer on the list. That's interesting since none of them have played for their respective teams yet. Why not let them earn their way onto the list? 

Gophers junior guard Nate Mason doesn't have as strong of a case being left off the Bob Cousy Award preseason watch list released last week. Mason led the Gophers with 13.4 points and 4.5 assists per game, but he was suspended the last four games of the season. Minnesota’s lack of success was probably a major factor. Off-court issues can be a stumbling block for voters as well. Mason has some ground to cover, but he played like one of the top point guards in the nation during stretches last season. 

Murphy and Mason were not on the 10-member All-Big Ten preseason team released before Big Ten media day in Washington D.C. last Thursday. They also don't appear on any all-conference first, second or third teams in college basketball previews from Athlon Sports, Lindy's Sports and Sporting News.

That along with the seemingly consensus pick for the Gophers to finish 12th in the Big Ten or lower gives Murphy, Mason and their teammates more than enough motivation this season.

 “We talked about the word ‘respect’ a lot as a team this year,” Mason said at Big Ten media day. “But I also looked at it as an individual aspect. Coming into this year, (I’m) trying to gain my respect and just trying to have people respect me a little bit. I just go out there every day, play hard and hopefully get the respect I need. I’ve been looked over a lot, all my life. So it’s nothing new.”

If the Gophers show significant improvement this year, Mason will likely get noticed. So will Murphy. And others could grab attention as well: junior center Reggie Lynch and freshmen Amir Coffey and Eric Curry.

Gophers' basketball opponent Arkansas has SEC preseason player of the year

The SEC preseason player of the year will be coming to Williams Arena next month to play the Gophers.

Arkansas senior big man Moses Kingsley was picked as the top player in the conference by the media Wednesday. 

The 6-foot-10, 230-pound Kingsley averaged 15.9 points, 9.3 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game last season for the Razorbacks, who will play Minnesota on Nov. 22 at the Barn.

Arkansas is predicted to finish fifth in the conference, according to the SEC media day release. 

Minnesota suffered a 87-73 loss in its last meeting against Arkansas in the Maui Invitational in 2013-14. Kingsley had seven points, four rebounds, two steals and a block in 10 minutes as a freshman.

The Razorbacks were just 16-16 last season, but they were a 27-win team that went to the NCAA tournament in 2015.

Kingsley, who withdrew his name from the NBA Draft this summer, is the first preseason SEC player of the year in the program since Ronnie Brewer in 2005-06.

Arkansas coach Mike Anderson returns leading scorer Dusty Hannahs (16.5 ppg), who was named to the Jerry West Award watch list for the nation’s top shooting guard. But Kingsley gives the Hogs the type of dominant presence who can help them compete with SEC preseason favorite Kentucky.

The Gophers also face Vanderbilt on Dec. 3 at the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls, S.D.

The Commodores were picked Wednesday to finish sixth in the SEC by the media. Luke Kornet, a 7-1 senior center who led the conference in blocks (3.0) last season, made the preseason All-SEC second team.

Minnesota hasn’t played two SEC teams in the same season since losing to Alabama in nonconference and Kentucky in the Final Four in 1996-97.

-- Kingsley and Wisconsin's Nigel Hayes won't be the only preseason conference players of the year facing Minnesota this season. Add Texas-Arlington's Kevin Hervey to the list. The 6-9, 230-pound Hervey was named Sun Belt preseason player of the year Wednesday.

The Mavericks, who were picked to win the conference, also has guard Erick Neal on the preseason all-conference team. They play Nov. 14 at Minnesota.

UTA is one of four Sun Belt teams coming to the Barn this year. The Gophers also play Louisiana-Lafayette in the season opener Nov. 11, Georgia Southern on Dec. 9 and Arkansas State on Dec. 23. Georgia Southern was picked to finish fourth, Lafayette seventh and Arkansas State 11th in the conference Wednesday. Georgia Southern guard Tookie Brown and Arkansas State guard Devin Carter were on the preseason all-conference team.

TV Listings

Local Schedule

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  • Gophers women's hockey at Ohio State

    5 pm

  • Charlotte at Timberwolves (preseason)

    7 pm on FSN/NBATV, 830-AM

  • St. Cloud State at Gophers men's hockey

    8 pm on FSN PLUS, 1500-AM

  • Rutgers at Gophers football

    11 am on ESPNU, 100.3-FM

  • Gophers women's hockey at Ohio State

    2 pm

  • Wild at New Jersey

    6 pm on FSN, 100.3-FM

  • Minnesota United FC at Carolina

    6:30 pm on Ch. 29

  • Gophers men's hockey at St. Cloud State

    7 pm on FSN PLUS, 1500-AM

  • Vikings at Philadelphia

    12 pm on Ch. 9, 100.3/1130

  • Wild at N.Y. Islanders

    5 pm on FSN, 100.3-FM

  • Wild at Boston

    6 pm on FSN, 100.3-FM

  • Timberwolves at Memphis

    7 pm on FSN, 830-AM

  • Wild at Buffalo

    6 pm on FSN, 100.3-FM

  • St. Cloud State at Gophers women's hockey

    7:07 pm on BTN PLUS

  • Gophers men's hockey at Clarkson

    6 pm on 1500-AM

  • St. Cloud State at Gophers women's hockey

    7:07 pm on BTN PLUS

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