Gopher basketball non-conference schedule is finally out and ready for some analysis. This year, unlike the last couple, the Gophers enter the season with a lot of unknowns. Who will start? Who will get the minutes in the frontcourt? How will the team adjust to the new staff? More importantly how will they adjust to the new system? How will the new system work in the Big Ten? So many questions, which makes the non-conference schedule more important. The last year or two I have mostly cared about who we play and are we going to get some resume building wins over mid-major opponents. This year I want wins and I want minutes for the team to get used to playing the new system.
Here is the schedule followed by a list of which games are potentially resume building and which ones are games we better win or it will be a LONG season.
- Lehigh - Nov. 8 - The Mountain Hawks graduated C.J. McCollum to the NBA Lottery after a successful career at Lehigh. Also gone is their 2nd and 3rd leading scorers so this is likely going to be a transition year for Lehigh. Count this one as a big win for the Gophers.
- Montana - Nov 12 - After a great season for the Grizzlies where they finished 25-7 and earned a 14 seed in the NCAA Tournament, Montana returns their 2nd leading scorer and conference MVP Kareem Jamar. Coach Wayne Tinkle has won back to back Big Sky titles, which resulted in back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances and has produced a record of 99-33 over the last four seasons. This Wisconsin native is a good coach who has a great player on his roster. With all that said, they are still losing three starters. A home game and the opportunity to defend one very good player. Should be a win but not as much of a sure thing as game 1.
- @ Richmond - Nov 16 - The Gophers earned a 15 point win over Richmond at home last year. The Spiders went on to finish 8-8 in the challenging Atlantic 10 and were 19-15 overall. They lose 2 starters to graduation, one being Darien Brothers who was their leading scorer. This was a pretty good offensive team who didn't turn the ball over much and was 28th nationally in 3-point FG%. This team was pretty good at home last year beating Air Force by 23 and in A10 games they were 7-1 on their home floor including a win over #19 VCU. This game concerns me. Were it in the Barn, I'd feel better but this is a true road game against a team from a good mid-major conference. Add to that the fact that we are facing a team who returns 3 double-digit scorers from last season and they may have some reason to believe they can upset a Big Ten opponent at home.
- Coastal Carolina - Nov 19 - The Chanticleers finished 9-7 in the Big South Conference with a 14-15 overall record. This team loses last year's leading scorer and 1st team All-Big South guard, Anthony Raffa who averaged 19.1 ppg in 2012-13 as well as their second leading scorer, Kierre Greenwood (12.9). Those two accounted for nearly 45% of the team's scoring. They did have 6 freshmen on the roster last year who gained some valuable experience but none should strike fear in the hearts of Gopher fans. Last season the Chanticleers turned the ball over a lot and struggled to score efficiently. Considering the lost 2 experienced guards, I don't anticipate them reversing this trend while facing a Big Ten team with experienced guards. This is a young team that should be looking for scorers and there is no reason to think this won't be a win for the Gophers.
- Wofford - Nov 21 - They were just 7-11 (13-19 overall) last season but the Terriers return basically their entire roster from last season. This team will be lead by Spencer Collins who was a SoCon All-Freshman representative and Wofford's leading scorer. The local angle here is the return to Minnesota for C.J. Neumann who will be a sophomore for the Terriers after playing his high school ball at Cretin-Derham Hall. I would count this as a win, but look out for Wofford next year, this team only has 1 senior on the roster and might be poised to be a nice mid-major team in 2014-15.
- Syracuse - Nov 25 (4:30 CST) - The last and only meeting between these programs was in the Sweet 16 in 1990. You may recall that the Gophers won that game. C.J. Fair is the team's returning leading scorer but the Orange lost James Southerland to graduation and Michael Carter-Williams to the Draft. This will be a top-25 caliber team and the Gophers will certainly be underdogs.
- Arkansas/California - Nov 26 (6:00 CST or 1 PM if we lose) - Justin Cobbs anyone?
- Gonzaga/Baylor/Dayton/Chaminade - Nov 27 - I just hope we aren't facing Chaminade for this one.
- Florida State - Dec 3 (Big Ten/ACC Challenge) - This was a pretty good team last season that missed the NCAA Tournament due to their inconsistencies and inability to beat a good team. Gone is Michael Snaer who was the self-proclaimed best shooting guard in the country. But he is basically their only loss. The Gophers were able to get a win in Tallahassee last year, this year the Seminoles make the trip up North. My way too early guess is that Florida State will be a better team at this point in the season but this should be a pretty good match-up.
- New Orleans - Dec 7 - This team was 8-18 last year and lost their top 2 scorers. After the Gopher's trip to Hawaii and hosting Florida State, this should be a win over the Privateers. Max Banchy is a Stillwater native and the senior has averaged about 14 minutes per game the last couple seasons.
- South Dakota State - Dec 10 - The game before finals break. Finally no more Nate Wolters to worry about and thus, I do not fear the Jackrabbits.
- Nebraska-Omaha - Dec 20 - This is the 3rd season as a D1 program for the Mavericks. I used to watch these guys face Mankato State long ago when they old NCC was running strong. Anyway, they were terrible last year. They lose just one starter so I'm sure they are preparing to earn more than 11 wins this year. But one of those will not be over the Gophers. Marcus Tyus is a sophomore from Ramsey and averaged 6 points per game last year as a freshman. Simon Krych is also a native of St. Cloud, he played sparingly as a freshman last year.
- Texas A&M Corpus Christi - Dec 28 - One more game before the Big Ten season and this should be an other win. This team was 6-23 a year ago but they didn't have a senior on the roster.
So that is your full non-conference schedule. It is rather unimpressive this year and there are very few resume building opportunities outside of the Maui Invitational and the scheduled game against Florida State. Some years a weaker schedule is OK and this might be that year. As I see it I think we lose anywhere between 2 and 4 games this year in the non-conference. Syracuse and Florida State are the games I think we lose. Then the maybes are the unknown opponents in Maui and the game at Richmond scares me a little. I don't expect we'll lose that one but it is possible with a new system, new staff and big question marks in our frontcourt.
Resume Building Opponents
- Florida State
- Last Maui game (assuming it isn't Chaminade)
- Possibly Richmond and/or Montana if they go on to do really well in their conference and make the NCAA Tournament.
- Coastal Carolina
- New Orleans
- South Dakota State
- Texas A&M-CC
Maui bracket - http://www.mauiinvitational.com/bracket