To Gophers women’s basketball coach Lindsay Whalen, it’s just more motivation.
On Monday the Gophers were 17th in the in ESPNW’s preseason rankings. Wednesday the Associated Press released their preseason Top 25 and the Gophers were ranked 23rd.
It appears the voters in both polls have high expectations of the Gophers in Whalen’s second year as head coach. And that’s fine with her.
“Our expectations are always high,” she said in her weekly news conference. “That’s the way we want it.”
The Gophers finished 21-11 last year, 9-9 in the conference. They finished 7-2 down the stretch of Big Ten Conference play. Following a loss in the Big Ten tournament the Gophers made it to the second round of the Women’s NIT tournament.
Floor leader and leading scorer Kenisha Bell is gone from that team. And the Gophers have six new faces on the roster. But preseason all-Big Ten selection Destiny Pitts is back, as is Godiva Hubbard, who missed last season due to injury. Starters Jasmine Brunson and Taiye Bello are also back.
After making it to the NCAA Final Four last season — and with guard Sabrina Ionescu back — Oregon was made the preseason No. 1 by the AP for the first time in program history. The Ducks are followed by Baylor, Stanford, Big Ten member Maryland and Connecticut in the top five.
The Gophers are one of five Big Ten teams in the preseason poll — Maryland (4), Michigan State (17), Indiana (24) and Michigan (25) are the others.
“It’s a credit to how we finished last year,” Whalen said. “We’re in the Top 25. We’ll find out if that’s true or not. But hey, it is what it is. We can’t control it. All we can control is practice and getting better. Hopefully we’ll use that as a little extra motivation.”
The Gophers season kicks off Tuesday against Missouri State at Williams Arena.