Fall is wonderful. Brick by Brick is back. Hockey is around the corner. Most importantly for me, college basketball is about to start again. The Big Ten officially released the Men's basketball schedule for the upcoming season.
Since the Maroon and Gold have not played a game yet, it's possible to create inflated wild expectations about the upcoming seasons. This is potentially very healthy. Cari Romm at the Atlantic summarizes research from Rutledge, Scandali, Dayan, and Dolan that indicates that happiness is the "management of expectations." She writes that
[K]eeping expectations perpetually low doesn’t necessarily lead to a perpetual state of delight; gleeful anticipation can have its own benefits. "You’ll be happier if you have low expectations when you’re at the outcome," Rutledge explains, "but before you get to the outcome, you’ll be happier if you have higher expectations." If you want to extract the maximum amount of pleasure out of a beach vacation, for example, fantasize about sunny skies up until the day you leave, and then pack an umbrella and a few board games.
If that is not a description of a Gopher fan, I'm not sure what would be. To that end, I'm currently predicting that Minnesota goes undefeated in conference play, while bracing myself every game for something terrible to happen. Less facetiously, there is good reason to believe that Minnesota has a favourable schedule assuming solid improvement from the team as a whole. While the Gophers lost a key starter in Austin Hollins, and three of their top 8 players by minutes, almost the entire starting five returns a year older and if reports are to believed, much stronger.
Who does Minnesota play?
Everyone, at least once. That means that Minnesota is playing Maryland and Rutgers in conference play. This is the only time that I will note that this is ridiculous and that the Big Ten shouldn't have added more members and get off my lawn. The Gophers play at Maryland, while Rutgers comes to the Barn. I'm sure everyone reading this is flipping over to buy tickets for that marquee match-up.
More importantly, because of the additions to the conference, Minnesota's schedule is somewhat lopsided. In fact, the Gophers will only play the new kids once each. Minnesota begins conference play with road games at Purdue (which SBNation's spell checker hilariously does not recognize as a word) and the aforementioned Maryland before returning the Barn to play Ohio State.
What's Minnesota's Schedule like against Major Powers?
The Gophers only play Ohio State once, and at home. This is the only advantageous one game series against an expected top tier team. Minnesota must go on the road to play both Michigan and Michigan State. Thank Maryland and Rutgers for that state of affairs. Early January will be particularly difficult as the Gophers play Michigan, Ohio State, and Iowa in succession. That is a tough stretch of games, and will be a great early test for both the team and fans to see whether Minnesota can achieve a top 6 finish in the Big Ten.
Wisconsin and Iowa are both home and homes. While not likely to be a top contender for the Big Ten Championship this year, Indiana is always a difficult game when played in Bloomington. I'm refusing to include Nebraska in this conversation because I'm skeptical that they'll be able to repeat the same success as last year.
What's the Schedule like down the stretch?
Depending on what the Gophers do in late January, the stretch should set them up for a potentially top 6 seed in the NCAA Tournament or another trip to the NIT. The Gophers play four of their last seven games on the road, including going to Madison, East Lansing, and Iowa City. Wisconsin also comes to the Barn for the second to last game of the season.
The Gophers only play Illinois once, but they get to play them at the Barn. I have no idea how good Illinois is going to be this year, but as a general rule everyone should stay away from Champaign. Minnesota only plays Northwestern once, also a home game. While it is probably a fact of nature that there will always be more away team fans than Northwestern fans at a Northwestern home game, Minnesota should prefer to play the Wildcats at the Barn.
The Full schedule is below.