It was announced in early May that Minnesota would be spending its Thanksgiving in New York City as participants in the 2017 Barclays Center Classic, and now we know who the Golden Gophers will be facing in the two-day event.
Jon Rothstein of FanRag Sports reported on Tuesday that the Golden Gophers will face UMass on Nov. 24 and Alabama on Nov. 25. The event will be held at the Barclays Center, and is not held in a tournament-type setting. The other participating team in the showcase that the Golden Gophers will not play is Brigham Young University. According to the report, the game times have yet to be announced.
Since 1949, Minnesota has never played UMass, marking next year’s matchup as the first time these two teams will battle on the court. On the other hand, Minnesota is 0-4 all-time against Alabama with the most recent loss coming back in 2004. All of the previous matchups were decided by no more than six points.
Of the four teams participating in the 2017 Barclays Center Classic, only the Golden Gophers qualified for the NCAA Tournament this past year. But that doesn’t mean the showcase won’t feature good matchups. UMass struggled a year ago, finishing 15-18 overall, but does feature some history in its program so expect a decent matchup from the Minutemen.
The Minnesota-Alabama matchup will be the marquee game of the entire event in my opinion. The Crimson Tide finished last year 19-15 but will be bringing in a highly touted recruiting class that has landed them on many early top 25 lists. Minnesota, of course, returns basically its entire roster from a year ago, making this a possible top 25 matchup between these two programs.
The Barclays Center Classic will be the second known trip out east in the month of November for the Golden Gophers with Minnesota also traveling to Providence to face the Friars on Nov. 13 as part of the 2017 Gavitt Games. The tilt between the Golden Gophers and Friars is possibly the biggest and most attractive of the 2017 Gavitt Games.
The rest of the schedule will be coming out soon for the Golden Gophers but for now we at least know of three solid matchups. Minnesota should also draw a decent opponent in the Big Ten-ACC Challenge — my guess is Virginia, Louisville or Wake Forest — so we can expect a challenging non-conference schedule for the Golden Gophers in 2017-18.