Minnesota enters the 2019-20 season with as much momentum as any in recent program history. Picked towards the back-end of the conference last season, Minnesota finished seventh in the league and made some noise in postseason play.
The Golden Gophers beat Penn State and Purdue in the Big Ten Tournament and then Louisville in the First Round of NCAA Tournament play. Minnesota needs to replace Jordan Murphy and Amir Coffey, two of the cornerstones of last year’s revival.
The Gophers find themselves in a similar place entering this season. During Media Day on October 2nd, Minnesota projects to finish 12th in the league this season. The Gophers have some young talent, but to match last season’s run they will need to step up in some big ways. Let’s take a look at their 2019-20 schedule to see what’s on tap.
Holiday Season Tournament
The Golden Gophers don’t have any tournament-style holiday season games this season but will play a few quality non-conference opponents in neutral site games this season.
The first comes on November 9th in Sioux Falls, SD against Oklahoma at the Sanford Pentagon in a game presented by Coaches vs. Cancer. The Sooners finished 20-14 last season and reached the Second Round of the NCAA Tournament before running into eventual NCAA champion Virginia. T-Rank projects Oklahoma to finish 19-11 in the regular season and has a 72 percent chance of defeating Minnesota in this game.
A player Minnesota will need to deal with is 6-foot-7 senior forward Kristian Doolittle. Here he is muscling his way to the basket for a game-winner last season against Kansas State.
The other neutral site game will come on December 21st in the BOK Center Basketball Showdown in Tulsa, OK. The Golden Gophers face off against Oklahoma State. The Cowboys have three senior starters this season and enter the year ranked no. 54 according to T-Rank. The Cowboys have a 63 percent chance to win the game. The projected leading scorer from the Cowboys is senior forward Cameron McGriff. Take a look at some highlights from this athletic, 6-foot-7 player.
ACC/Big Ten Challenge Opponent
Minnesota welcomes Clemson to The Barn on December 2nd in the latest edition of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
Clemson projects to be one of the weakest teams in the ACC. T-Rank has them finishing 12-17 overall and 6-14 in ACC play. The Tigers could be paced by 6-foot-7 forward Aamir Simms, who led Clemson to the 2nd round of the NIT last season.
A nice chance for a Power 5 victory for the Gophers here.
The Gophers will participate in the 2019 version of the Gavitt Games by traveling to Indianapolis, IN to play the Butler Bulldogs. The Bulldogs were recently picked to finish 8th in the Big East this year in a preseason poll. According to T-Rank, Butler projects to have a 17-13 overall record and a 9-9 mark in Big East play.
This could be another nice opportunity for the Golden Gophers to earn a solid Power 6 win. However, their perimeter defense will be put to the test as the Bulldogs have one of the best guards in the Big East in 6-foot-1 senior Kamar Baldwin.
- February 26th vs. Maryland
- March 1st at Wisconsin
- March 4th at Indiana
This stretch in late February and early March will be a tough one for the Gophers. A home game against one of the best teams in the league, and then two away games in two of the toughest venues in the Big Ten.
A 1-2 stretch is probably the best case scenario here. Maryland and Indiana both have stronger frontcourts, one of Minnesota’s advantages this season, so that could negate a few things for the Gophers in these games.
Best Chance For An Upset
Even if Minnesota is down this season, The Barn will remain one of the tougher places to play in the Big Ten.
The best chance may come on February 5th in a home game against Wisconsin. The Badgers project to be a fringe top-25 team this season. The Big Ten media has the Badgers just outside the top-5. The Badgers will roll into Minneapolis with a light frontcourt this season, so a player like Daniel Oturu could have a good day in a potential takedown of Wisconsin.
I think the Gophers will get better as the year goes along, but the non-conference schedule is not full of a lot of guaranteed wins. I could see a 6-3 scenario with losses to Oklahoma, Butler, and Oklahoma State. The game at Utah will be tough too.
In conference play, I think the Gophers will pick some people off at home, but struggle mightily on the road. It’s a young team and this year could be about building for the future and gaining important experience.