Coming off a turnaround season in which they made the NCAA Tournament, the Gopher men's basketball team is being considered a sleeper for a Final Four run.
Rob Dauster of CBS Sports provided six teams that should be considered sleepers and the Gophers are one of them.
A Pitino-coached team has a talented, experienced perimeter attack with a bevy of big bodies on the front line, said Dauster. If Coffey can grow into an all-Big Ten talent, Minnesota will have the horses to give Michigan State a run for their money atop the league.
Why are they a sleeper?
Considering the team returns nearly every player from last season – only losing Akeem Springs – while gaining a potential freshman phenom in Isaiah Washington, the core of a 24-win team remains intact.
Obviously Amir Coffey – a former five-star recruit out of Hopkins – looks to be even better in his sophomore season. He averaged 12 points on 45 percent shooting last year.
Plus, Nate Mason and Reggie Lynch – who are now seniors – are coming off tremendous seasons.
Also, the team will have a healthy Davonte Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald has missed the last two seasons. The seven-footer had to sit out the 2015-16 season after transferring from Texas A&M and then he suffered a major knee injury last October, which forced him to miss all of last season.
Yes, they were upset in the first round, but the U of M was a five-seed in last year's tournament and it appears at least CBS Sports believes they'll be even better.
Who else is a sleeper?
Seton Hall, Alabama, UCLA, Xavier and Notre Dame were also mentioned by Dauster as sleepers for the upcoming season.
Although the Big Ten is one of the more rugged conferences in college basketball, it's probably good news that no other conference foes are on the list.