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Way-too-early 2015-16 Big Ten basketball rankings

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12. Minnesota Gophers

nate mason

Richard Pitino enters a crucial year in his tenure in Dinkytown. Year two was certainly a step backwards, as the Gophers went just 18-15 overall and 6-12 in the Big Ten. All of that after reaching the NIT championship game in year one.

Things will look a lot different in 2015-16 though, as Andre Hollins, DeAndre Mathieu, Maurice Walker and Elliott Eliason are all graduating. Gone with them are 37.2 points per game on a team that averaged 74 points a game this past season.

However, the cupboard isn’t totally bare in Minneapolis, as Carlos Morris, Nate Mason and Joey King all played significant minutes in 2014-15 and Mason showed up as a freshman in a big way. They’ll all need to step up, but have played enough minutes and seem to be trusted by their head coach.

Pitino has pulled in the No. 9-ranked overall class in the Big Ten, but it is led by intriguing four-star point guard Kevin Dorsey out of Fairfax (Paul VI Catholic), Va. The real issue that may keep this team from climbing up the ranks quickly is going to a real lack of size combined with experience up front.

If the incoming class can provide some immediate help up front or players like Bakary Konate and Josh Martin grow up quickly, this team could surprise a few people.

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Andy Coppens is the Founder and Publisher of Talking10. He's a member of the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) and has been covering college sports in some capacity since 2008. You can follow him on Twitter @AndyOnFootball

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