Although the majority of teams released their upcoming schedules months ago, a few teams still haven’t released schedules for the upcoming season. One of those teams was Minnesota, but earlier this week, the Gophers finally dropped the program’s schedule. It figures to be an intriguing one for Richard Pitino and his team as they try to improve on last year’s underwhelming performance.
Here’s a full look at the schedule below:
— Minnesota MBB (@GopherMBB) August 26, 2016
It’s always enlightening to see the entire slate in one place. It provides perspective on tough sections, the marquee matchups, and the overall flow of a season.
Here are the top takeaways from Minnesota’s upcoming 2016-’17 schedule.
1. Minnesota’s Non-Conference Slate Is Light
With the majority of the schedule set by the Big Ten, the biggest wild card of every team’s schedule will almost always be its non-conference slate. Teams can choose whether to challenge themselves, ease into the season, or something in between.
For Minnesota, the program opted for a relatively easy slate.
During non-conference play, Minnesota will take a tough road trip to Florida State and will face respectable Arkansas and Vanderbilt teams, but otherwise, the schedule should be more than manageable. Based on last year’s KenPom ratings, Minnesota will face just three teams that finished among last year’s top 100 during its non-conference slate.
2. The Start To Big Ten Play Will Be Brutal
As Gopher fans remember all too well, last season’s Big Ten slate was a disaster. The team finished just 2-16 in league play, failed to show any consistency, and ended the season with blowout losses to lowly Rutgers and Illinois.
Unfortunately, things could be rough this year as well. That’s because Minnesota’s start to Big Ten play is beyond brutal. Not only does Minnesota face Michigan State twice in its first five league games, but it also faces Ohio State twice, Maryland, Purdue, and Wisconsin during its first nine Big Ten games.
Perhaps Minnesota can find a way to manage this stretch, but as things currently look, the Gophers could very well be underdogs in every one of their first 10 conference games before going on the road to Illinois.
That’s not exactly the start Pitino was hoping for.
3. Winning At Home Will Be Vital
There’s no debating that playing well at home is usually a good start toward success for any team. However, given Minnesota’s underwhelming non-conference schedule and its immensely difficult month of January, taking care of business at home will be crucial.
Just consider what could happen to Minnesota if it can’t perform adequately at home. A weak non-conference schedule, could lead to crushing upsets and a season spinning out of control. Avoiding a brutal slide during conference play seems nearly impossible if the Gophers can’t make Williams Arena their friend.
All told, Minnesota should be able to hold its own with this schedule, but if the team wants to make some noise in the Big Ten and beyond, taking care of business in The Barn figures to be the place to start.