The Gopher Men's Basketball Big Ten schedule was released yesterday and I've got to be honest, I love it. There are a ton of questions about the Gopher's roster and how good we will be, but the Big Ten schedule seems to be in our favor this year and IF our backcourt brings us some athleticism and scoring to go with what should be an intimidating frontcourt.
But this is about the schedule, not the roster (yet). The first thing that I look for is the four teams that we will only play one time. And in my humble opinion I believe that we got rather lucky in this regard. The one-timers for the Gophers this year is Ohio State, Purdue, Michigan and Penn State.
Ohio State should be the early favorite to win the league this year with the return of Jared "Party in the USA" Sullinger. And we get the Buckeyes at home. Basically Sullinger and Buford plus a top five recruiting class means OSU will not only be one of the best in the Big Ten but they'll be a dangerous tournament team as well.
Purdue loses a lot, maybe more than anybody else in the Big Ten. But they also have a very good recruiting class coming in and Matt Painter, in a short amount of time, has proven that he is as good a coach as there is in the Big Ten. They also return Robbie Hummel for his 11th year of eligibility and the addition of a couple top 100 guards. I am glad to be playing Purdue just once. And this one is at home too!
Michigan was poised to have a very good year next year as they expected to return everyone on their roster. And you may not remember this but the Wolverines finished 4th in the Big Ten. But Darius Morris decided to go pro, wasn't drafted, and now the Wolverines have to replace their leading scorer. But returning everyone plus a couple of good guards coming into the program means this is a dangerous team. Not likely to win the league but quite possibly a top 5 team.
Finally we miss Penn State one time. They will be terrible and I'd love to play them twice. But thee of the four one-timers are certainly in our favor so I'll take that.
All in all I am pleased to not have to travel to Ohio State or Purdue. I believe we can beat Michigan on the road. And if we cannot beat Penn State on the road then let's just enjoy the hockey season.
I break down the schedule below...
|15-Jan||@ Penn State||BTN|
|25-Jan||@ Michigan St||BTN|
The first seven games are really quite generous for the Gophers. We start with back-to-back road games at Illinois and Michigan. Both are winable games and I would expect a split here. Iowa at home is win. Purdue at home isn't a sure thing but I like our chances at home. Next we travel to Indiana which should be one of our more winable road games, IU is improving but this should be a win. Then we go to Penn State and host Northwestern. Both should be wins. These first seven games have three games that should be near certain wins and then I expect to go 2-2 in the other four. A 5-2 start to the Big Ten season, with four road games out of the way is encouraging.
With a trip to Michigan State, it seemed like a good place to break up the schedule. This is usually a loss and while Michigan State more than 40% of last year's minutes played and nearly 50% of last year's points scored, they will still be very difficult on the road. We tend to suck against the Spartans and I'll be shocked if this is a win. But then I see three straight wins with Illinois at home then trips to Iowa and Nebraska. Illinois might be tough and but it is ho me and I'm believing we can go 3-1 over this stretch.
The next set of games is the tough stretch but three of these four games are at home. We host Wisconsin, which is always a great game. We host Ohio State who is the class of the conference. We travel to Northwestern which is always a tricky place to play. Finally we host Michigan State, who always scares me. Unfortunately 1-3 is a realistic scenario here and I'll be happy with a 2-2 record in these four games.
And we finish hosting Indiana, traveling to Wisconsin and then hosting Nebraska. a 2-1 finish and by my count we have an 11 win Big Ten season.
Upsets happen (both ways) and it is 100% guesswork right now. But overall I really like our Big Ten schedule. Avoiding trips to Ohio State, Purdue and Michigan is a true blessing. Starting the season with some winable road games to build some confidence. And then finishing the season with five of the seven final games at home. There are some good things here. Now if only we had any idea what to expect from our backcourt.