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Lindsay Whalen's Gophers ranked 17th in ESPN preseason poll

It's a loftier ranking than preseason polls released by media and coaches in the Big Ten.

The Gophers women's basketball team is getting some national respect in year two under head coach Lindsay Whalen. 

Fresh off a 21-11 debut season in which Whalen's Gophers lost in the second round of the Women's National Invitational Tournament (WNIT), the 2019-20 team is ranked 17th in the preseason poll released by espnW on Monday. 

The poll says this about the Gophers: 

"Lindsay Whalen's first season as head coach at her alma mater was a bit of a roller-coaster ride, but she was able to turn a 2-7 Big Ten start into a 9-9 finish and a trip to the second round of the WNIT. Despite the loss of top scorer Kenisha Bell, the Gophers should be better this season. Destiny Pitts (16.3 PPG, 4.1 RPG), Taiye Bello (9.7 PPG, 11.9 RPG) and Jasmine Brunson (8.4 PPG, 2.5 RPG) are back. The healthy return of guard Gadiva Hubbard, who averaged 13.6 PPG in 2017-18 but missed all of last season with a foot injury, might be the final piece to getting back to the NCAA tournament."

Maryland, No. 5, is the only Big Ten team ranked higher in the poll than Minnesota. Michigan (No. 23) and Indiana (No. 24) are the only other Big Ten teams ranked. 

The espnW ranking is loftier than expectations set by media and coaches in the conference. Minnesota is ranked fifth in the Big Ten preseason media poll, and wasn't even in the top five of the preseason Big Ten coaches poll. 

Big Ten preseason media poll:

  1. Maryland
  2. Michigan
  3. Michigan State
  4. Indiana
  5. Minnesota

Big Ten preseason coaches poll:

  1. Maryland
  2. Michigan State
  3. Indiana
  4. Michigan
  5. Purdue

Minnesota opens the season Tuesday, Nov. 5 at Williams Arena against Missouri State. 

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