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Gopher Basketball Announces Their 2012-13 Schedule

Head coach Tubby Smith of the Minnesota Golden Gophers.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Head coach Tubby Smith of the Minnesota Golden Gophers. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
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We interrupt your football anticipation to bring you some Gopher Basketball information. Today we finally get to see who the Gophers get to face in non-conference action, as well as exactly who they face in the Big Ten. I will eventually get to analyzing the Big Ten games but I want to start with the non-conference ones.

Overall I really like this schedule from the standpoint of scheduling a couple good mid-majors and we have at least 3 BCS opponents on the docket. You have to have a handful of gimme-games to get ready for the season but this one will also give us a few legitimate tests with two or three good mid-major teams who could be knocking on the NCAA Tournament door.

  • Nov-9 - American - Patriot League team who finished 10-4 in conference and earned 20 wins overall last year. But gone are their two leading scorers, who were both SEC transfers, along with three other seniors. They will get a boost from the return of Stephen Lumpkins who was one of the Patriot League's better forwards before taking off a year to play minor league baseball. As a junior (in 2010-11) Lumpkins averaged 13.5 points and 8.2 rebounds per game. But this should not be a game Gopher fans fear and I highly doubt this will do anything but weaken our strength of schedule.
  • Nov-12 - Toledo - The Rockets of the MAC visit The Barn. 19-17 (7-9) last year and they didn't have a senior on the roster. Rian Pearson was 2nd team All-MAC, Curtis Dennis was HM and Julius Brown made the All-Freshman team. This team should be in contention to win the West division. If we are a legit team this year, we should win this game and it potentially becomes a decent win on the resume if the Rockets can manage to win 20+ games.
  • Nov-15 - Tennessee State - 20 wins and an 11-5 record in the Ohio Valley conference is a pretty good season considering they finished 2nd to Murray State. And they return virtually everyone. This is going to be a very good non-conference test for the Gophers (I'm not kidding). The Tigers could very well be an at-large NCAA team and this is a game for them that could significantly build their resume. This one worries me. They were the team who ended Murray State's run for an undefeated season and then lost by just 2 in the OVC tournament to the Racers. A very good mid-major on the schedule, this I like (assuming we win).
  • Nov-18 - Richmond - Spiders in the Barn. The A-10 is one of (if not the) best mid-major conference out there and Richmond typically is at or near the top of it. Last year they finished in the middle and missed the NCAA Tournament after going in 2010 and 2011. This year they return 3 starters including their top 4 scorers. Typically a good program in what is typically a good conference. I'm going to assume a win, but like Tennessee State this one could go south without a ton of shock.
  • Nov-22 - Duke - Battle 4 Atlantis schedulers were rather unkind to the Golden Gophers. But let's dispatch the Dukies early and put ourselves on the map. One would think that a rematch of the NIT Final would have been interesting. Or putting Norwood Teague's new employer against his former could have been interesting. Duke is replacing Austin Rivers, but let's not kid ourselves into thinking this is a depleted team. Duke will be a preseason top 5 team and this will be a very difficult game. This is however a chance to get noticed with a monster win.
  • Nov-23-VCU/Memphis - We will face the team who had the same outcome we have. As mentioned above a pairing with VCU would be kind of interesting with having stole Norwood Teague from VCU and everything. But with two Memphis boys in the starting lineup it might be fun for them to take on the Tigers. Either way, this should be a good one. I think the Gophers are a good team this year, they might not be favored in this game but I think they beat either one of these teams.
  • Nov-24 - Stanford/Missouri/Louisville/Northern Iowa - the last game of the B4A Tourney will be against one of these quality teams. Assuming we lose to Duke, this is a win, if we are in the title game we might lose to Mizz or L'ville.
  • Nov-27 - @ Florida State - Our Big Ten/ACC Challenge opponent. Florida State was very strong last year finishing 3rd in the ACC with a 12-4 league record and earned themselves a 3-seed in the NCAA Tournament. But they lost 6 of their top 9 players to graduation. The Seminoles return their leading scorer, Michael Snaer, to go with a big recruiting class that includes two 4-star recruits. It is probably good to catch them before December and it is good to be at home.
  • Dec-1 - North Florida - The Ospreys are a deep and experienced team that returns their top four scorers and six players who started double-digit games (or more) on last season's 16-16 team in the Atlantic Sun Conference. This should be a good ASun team, but not likely an NCAA Tournament birth grabbing one and not likely a challenge for the Gophers.
  • Dec-4 - South Dakota State - This one isn't just another example of throwing a bone to the regional schools and getting a win for the program. The Jackrabbits were 27-8 last year and made the NCAA Tournament where I thought they might ready to upset Baylor. The only player gone from that team is Griffin Calahan (who was there for 8 years I think) and he was the team's 3rd leading scorer. This team is a dangerous one and one who we better take seriously because they would love to beat a BCS program, especially Minnesota.
  • Dec-8 - @ USC - We played the Trojans last year in the second game post-Mbakwe injury and won by 15. The Trojans are not very good last year but don't expect to see the same thing in 2012. They return basically everyone from last season, add a couple of solid recruits, add a couple newly eligible transfers and get back a prized recruit from injury. A lot of new pieces for the Trojans but also a lot of talent that is leading some to believe they could go from 1-17 in the Pac-12 to winning the league (bear in mind it is the Pac-12). Getting them early and getting this road win could be a huge RPI boost for the Gophers. I like this game on our schedule and it will be a huge road win.
  • Dec-11 - North Dakota State - The Bison come to town again and this is going to be a good team. Last year NDSU 17-14 overall, finished strong and return practically everybody. This team will have six kids who saw significant action last year who are coming into their JR season and this team might be a mid-major ready to make some noise. Should the Gophers win? Yes. Will it be one of the more challenging non-conference games? Certainly.
  • Dec-22 - Lafayette - The final game before we hit the Big Ten will be against the Leopards out of the Patriot League. I know that often smaller schools will travel to places like Minnesota if they have a Minnesota kid on their roster. And the Leopards have Seth Hinrichs who played his high school ball at MACCRAY. The Leopards 7-7 in the Patriot League last year and lost three of their top five scorers. Hinrichs was a freshman last season who started 19 games, hit 46.4% of his threes and averaged 8.5 ppg. This is not a resume boosting win, just get the W and head off for Christmas Break

This might easily be the most challenging non-conference schedule in the Tubby era. I count only 4 games that I'm extremely confident we will win (American, Toledo, N Florida and Lafayette). Conversely, Duke is about the only game I'm certain we will lose. But the rest are all going to be against teams absolutely capable of beating us. Tennessee State, Richmond, NDSU and SDSU might all be NCAA Tourney teams with a couple of them capable of earning an at-large bid. USC and Florida State should both be very talented and possible Tourney teams. Then who knows who we play in the Battle4Atlantis games after Duke. I think we'd be lucky to be 12-2 heading into the Big Ten season with three or four losses a very real possibility.

I'll get to the Big Ten schedule at another date (probably next week considering we have a football game tonight). But I like the challenge of this non-conference schedule. Names like Tennessee State and SDSU might not scare you on the surface but they are very (very) good teams. USC may have been terrible last year but they are going to be maybe the most improved team in the country this year. This is a legit schedule.