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Gophers picked third in Big Ten preseason men's hoops media poll

With Big Ten Media Day around the corner on Thursday in New York, it wouldn't be the same without the league’s beat writers coming together to make our predictions for the 2017-18 men's basketball conference season.

The Gophers ended up landing in the media poll where preseason annuals picked them to finish third in the Big Ten, right behind runner-up Purdue. Not surprisingly, Michigan State was the unanimous choice to win the Big Ten this season, as was sophomore Miles Bridges and freshman Jaren Jackson Jr. to take conference player of the year and newcomer of the year honors, respectively. 

The gap between second, third and fourth place was far less than the one between the fourth and fifth spots. Purdue and Minnesota are separated by 10 points. Minnesota and Northwestern were a little further apart at 25 points. But the Wildcats were 40 points away from Maryland and Michigan tied at fifth. 

Minnesota senior guard Nate Mason, one of the 20 point guards on the preseason watch list for the Bob Cousy Award, was selected by the Big Ten’s media to be on the unofficial preseason all-conference first team. Gophers sophomore guard Amir Coffey picked up two votes for all-conference and junior forward Jordan Murphy also received one.

Check out  Adam Jardy of the Columbus Dispatch and Brendan F. Quinn of The Athletic Detroit who compiled the picks from the 28 writers, including myself. Below are their results:

Media preseason poll

1. Michigan State
2. Purdue 
3. Minnesota 
4. Northwestern 
T-5. Maryland 
T-5. Michigan 
7. Wisconsin
8. Iowa 
9. Indiana 
10. Penn State 
11. Ohio State
12. Illinois 
13. Nebraska 
14. Rutgers 

Preseason All-Big Ten team 

G -Nate Mason senior Minnesota 

G- Bryant McIntosh senior Northwestern 

F - Miles Bridges sophomore Michigan State 

F - Ethan Happ junior Wisconsin 

F - Moritz Wagner junior Michigan 

Here were my picks for order of finish and all-preseason team:

1. Michigan State 
2. Purdue 
3. Minnesota 
4. Northwestern 
5. Maryland 
6. Michigan 
7. Iowa
8. Wisconsin
9. Penn State
10. Indiana
11. Illinois
12. Ohio State
13. Nebraska 
14. Rutgers 

All-Big Ten team 

G- Nate Mason 

G- Bryant McIntosh 

F- Miles Bridges 

F- Vincent Edwards 

F- Ethan Happ 

Gophers guard Mason selected to Bob Cousy Award watch list

A year ago, Nate Mason entered the Gophers season feeling disrespected with no preseason talk about him being one of the better point guards in the Big Ten.

Now the praise is palpable for the returning All-Big Ten performer. 

Mason, a 6-foot-2 senior captain, was named Monday to the preseason watch list for the Bob Cousy Award, given to the nation’s top point guard.

The last time a Gophers floor leader was a Cousy Award candidate was Andre Hollins going into his junior season in 2013-14.

Hollins was a top-20 finalist for the award during his sophomore year when he earned all-league honors and led the U to the NCAA tournament second round in 2013.

In 2016-17, Mason helped Minnesota to a school-record 16-game turnaround leading the team in scoring (15.2), assists (5.0), steals (1.4), free-throw percentage (80.8) and minutes played (34.5). He was the first player in team history to surpass 500 points and 100 assists in the same season. The Georgia native was also the program’s first All-Big Ten first-team selection since Vincent Grier in 2005.    

Also named to the Cousy Award watch list from the Big Ten are Northwestern senior Bryant McIntosh and Iowa sophomore Jordan Bohannon. Cousy full preseason watch list is here.

Mason suffered a minor ankle sprain this month, but he's expected to be fine. He's in the best shape of his career after recovering from a hip injury that sidelined him for several weeks after the NCAA tournament.  

In a Star Tribune Q&A in August, Mason talked about competing with freshman Isaiah Washington in practice and participating in the Chris Paul Elite Camp for point guards this summer.