Picking a dark horse in the Big Ten was nearly impossible.
First off, Wisconsin is so far and away the favorite to win this conference that it's not even funny. And the biggest challengers to the Badgers (Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State) can't even remotely be considered dark horses with all the success they've had in recent years.
Nebraska could maybe qualify as a dark horse, but so many people are picking the Cornhuskers to finish in the top three this year that I'm not sure they'd surprise anyone by flirting with a Big Ten title.
Take out the really deep sleepers (Indiana, Illinois and Maryland), and we're left with the Golden Gophers as the best bet among the unlikely candidates.
Richard Pitino's squad really couldn't seem to decide whether it was good or bad last year. Minnesota won home games against Ohio State and Wisconsin and nearly scored victories over Michigan and Michigan State. Minnesota also lost at home to Northwestern and Illinois and was hardly immune to getting blown out on the road.
The Golden Gophers won the NIT, but that only means they were the best underachieving team in the country.
That roster loses some key pieces in Austin Hollins and Malik Smith, but it hangs onto a lot of important ones (Deandre Mathieu, Andre Hollins, Joey King, Elliott Eliason and Maurice Walker) while adding a good number of players (Josh Martin, Carlos Morris and Nate Mason) who should contribute immediately.
Unlike Michigan or Wisconsin, this is a team that might be great without a single viable candidate for Big Ten Player of the Year.
Minnesota is the quintessential "greater than the sum of its parts" team, made up almost entirely of 3-star players. Andre Hollins is the only player on the roster who earned more than three stars as a recruit, and the 4-star point guard was substantially closer to three stars than he was to five.
Expect him to lead the team in scoring once again this season as the Golden Gophers look to earn better than a No. 8 seed in the NCAA tournament for the first time in the 21st century.