The Gophers under Richard Pitino are used to being underdogs going into the college basketball season.
It won’t be long before the most recent projections become bulletin board material.
The Big Ten’s unofficial media poll released Tuesday picked Minnesota to finish 11th in the conference for the 2020-21 season. The poll consists of 28 beat writers (two from each program), who cover all 14 teams in the league.
The media poll is pretty close to other picks this year, including the majority of ESPN's college hoops writers ranking Minnesota 10th in the Big Ten in today's league preview.
Pitino welcomes back two starters in junior guards Marcus Carr and Gabe Kalscheur from a 15-16 team last season. The Gophers lost All-American center Daniel Oturu, who is expected to end their 16-year draft drought in Wednesday’s NBA draft.
Carr was named to the Big Ten’s official preseason all-league team last week, but he wasn’t among the five players on the All-Big Ten unofficial preseason team selected by the media on Tuesday.
“That’s nothing new,” Carr said previously about being underrated. “Everybody who is here kind of recognizes that as well. They are kind of eager to take that chip on their shoulder and do something with it. They kind of recognize that we’re not always selected as favorites or whatever it may be. But that’s definitely motivation for us to go harder and go and get the job done and prove everybody wrong.”
Part of why the Gophers aren’t earning much preseason respect is they’re coming off an 8-12 finish in the Big Ten. That came with one of the nation’s top players in Oturu. Now that he’s gone, Pitino will look to Carr, Kalscheur and Drake transfer Liam Robbins, who was named to the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Award preseason watch list for the top center in college hoops.
Robbins is one of the U’s six newcomers, including projected starters and transfers Both Gach (Utah) and Brandon Johnson (Western Michigan). Gach recently had his waiver approved by the NCAA to play this year. Carr, Kalscheur and senior big man Eric Curry were named co-captains on Monday.
Illinois led by Ayo Dosunmu and Kofi Cockburn was picked to win the Big Ten by the media, followed by Iowa and Wisconsin. Michigan State and Rutgers rounded out the top five. Hawkeyes big man Luka Garza was named preseason Big Ten player of the year.
Unofficial Big Ten media preseason poll (first-place votes in parenthesis):
1. Illinois 376 (16)
2. Iowa 350 (6)
3. Wisconsin 347 (6)
4. Michigan State 323
5. Rutgers 249
6. Michigan 241
7. Ohio State 229
8. Indiana 212
9. Purdue 179
10. Maryland 141
11. Minnesota 121
12. Penn State 72
13. Nebraska 54
14. Northwestern 47
Player of the year votes:
Luka Garza, Iowa (24)
Ayo Dosunmu, Illinois (4)
Freshman of the year votes:
Adam Miller, Illinois (12)
Khristian Lander, Indiana (10)
Hunter Dickinson, Michigan (4)
Zeb Jackson, Michigan (1)
Ethan Morton, Purdue (1)
First-team all-Big Ten (unanimous selections in caps):
LUKA GARZA, Iowa (28)
AYO DOSUNMU, Illinois (28)
Trayce Jackson-Davis, Indiana (24)
Kofi Cockburn, Illinois (11)
Nate Reuvers, Wisconsin (11)
Franz Wagner, Michigan (11)
Also receiving votes: Marcus Carr, Minnesota (7); Aaron Henry, Michigan State (7); Geo Baker, Rutgers (6); Joey Hauser, Michigan State (2); Joshua Langford, Michigan State (1); Micah Potter, Wisconsin (1); D'Mitrik Trice, Wisconsin (1); Rocket Watts, Michigan State (1); Joe Wieskamp, Iowa (1).