As the college basketball season draws nigh, now seems as good of a time as any to look deeper into B1G Conference play. Today, we dive into the schedule of the Minnesota Golden Gophers, who look to build off of last year’s 23-8 campaign. It is worth noting that seven of Minnesota’s eight losses came during B1G play.
2017-’18 seems to have a similar feel as 2016-’17 as far as non-conference play goes for Minnesota. Their opponents seem relatively light outside of games against Miami (FL), Providence, Arkansas, and a tricky match-up against Harvard.
Rutgers (12/3/17 at Williams Arena)
The conference schedule for the Gophers opens a little differently this season. Minnesota will play two B1G games in the middle of their non-conference slate, as compared to the customary block of conference games. The Scarlet Knights will come to town to open conference play this season. Rutgers finished last in the B1G last year with a 3-15 record. In their only meeting in 2016-’17, the Gophers won 72-63 in Louis Brown Athletic Center.
Nebraska (12/5/17 in Lincoln and 2/6/18 at Williams Arena)
The second game of the quick conference stint for Minnesota will be in Lincoln versus Tim Miles and Co. The two teams only played once last season, with the Gophers winning by 15 in The Barn. The teams may see two versions of one another, an earlier season visage and a later season form at Williams Arena. After the December game, Minnesota will get back to non-conference play against a tough Arkansas team on December 9th.
Illinois (1/3/18 at Williams Arena)
Former mid-major darling Brad Underwood is at the helm for an Illini team that finished 8-10 in conference play last year. In their only meeting, the Gophers won 68-59 in Champaign, one of the five Gopher road conference wins in 2016-’17.
Indiana (1/6/18 at Williams Arena and 2/9/18 in Bloomington)
Another Big Ten newcomer in Archie Miller will make his Barn debut three days after Underwood makes his. The two teams will match up again a month later in early February. Indiana has the prospects of a B1G dark horse, so the game in Bloomington is sure to entertain. The Gophers won their only meeting last year in overtime.
Northwestern (1/10/18 in University Park and 1/23/18 at Williams Arena)
We learned last season that Northwestern was no slouch and that they have the talent to make waves in this conference. With that being said, the Gophers will have a hard time winning either of those games. The one thing Minnesota has going for them in this match-up is the proximity of both games. They are within a few weeks of one another, providing a fresh memory for adjustments in advance of the second battle. However, the Wildcats hold the same advantage in that regard.
Purdue (1/13/18 at Williams Arena and 2/25/18 at Mackey Arena)
People seem to have this notion that the Boilermakers will be down this season. After losing Caleb Swanigan, there seems to be a ‘gap’ in their roster. Truthfully, the defending conference champs hold one of the most-complete rosters in the conference, despite losing Swanigan. Purdue also possesses one of the most criminally underrated coaches in Matt Painter. After winning in overtime at Mackey Arena, the Gophers have to expect the Boilermakers to come out swinging this January.
Penn State (1/15/18 in Happy Valley)
The Nittany Lions stung the Gophers when they made it into the top-25 last season, beating them 52-50 in Happy Valley. The Gophers got their revenge later on in the season at home. The two teams only meet once this season and come this point in the season, the Gophers may be ranked again when they head into University Park.
Maryland (1/18/18 at Xfinity Center)
Minnesota split with Maryland last season. Both times they faced off, Maryland was ranked in the top-25. The Gophers pushed Maryland outside of those rankings late in the season at the Xfinity Center. The Terrapins may not be ranked when the two meet for their only bout, but Maryland has the tools to stifle any opponent in the conference.
Ohio State (1/20/18 at Williams Arena)
Another team the Gophers split against in 2016-’17. As was the norm with the Gophers, they took the game at Williams Arena and dropped the road game. Ultimately, four of Minnesota’s seven B1G losses came on the road. They will have the advantage in late January this season with this game being in the raucous Barn.
Iowa (1/30/18 in Iowa City and 2/21/18 at Williams Arena)
I am slightly down on Iowa this year, and I think it may take awhile for them to gather their identity. If the Gophers can take the game in Iowa City, that will build their momentum going into the game at The Barn. The only game the two played last season went to double overtime, ending in a 101-89 Gopher victory.
Michigan (2/3/18 at Crisler Center)
Minnesota was able to take the match-up between these two in the regular season last year. However, the Wolverines were able to win the more meaningful game in the semifinals of the Big Ten Tournament. Richard Pitino has yet to win in Crisler Center in his Gopher career, and breaking the streak will be extremely daunting yet again.
Michigan State (2/13/18 at Williams Arena)
Unlike their games versus Michigan, the Gophers lost the opening game of B1G play to the Spartans last year. However, this time it was the Gophers who got the true revenge, beating Sparty in the conference tournament quarterfinals. With an improved Miles Bridges (think about that, frightening) and solid core, Minnesota may struggle in their lone bout against Tom Izzo and Michigan State.
Wisconsin (2/19/18 at Kohl Center)
Going into his fifth year, Richard Pitino has yet to win at the Kohl Center. In fact, he has only one a single game against the Badgers in his tenure. That victory took place way back in 2014, in his first season. Wisconsin has so far been Minnesota’s ‘white whale’ in the Pitino-era. The Gophers will surely want to harpoon that whale late in the regular season.
As their season progresses Minnesota’s conference games get tougher and tougher. To me, their success relies on the groundwork they lay in non-conference games. The Golden Gophers have a stout starting core and have the talent to exceed their potential by a wide distance. The games will be battles but do not be surprised if the Gophers win most of them.