The college basketball gods have a dark sense of humor, don’t they? One year they’re smashing you over the head with the worst season on record and the next they’re baiting you with Top 25 appearances, impactful road victories and legitimate tournament talk.
One catch — they give your team one of the toughest schedules in the country. Just for kicks. Just to see where their breaking point is.
It’s been a hell of a season so far, and we’ve barely gotten into the thick of things. In fact, we’ve probably met and exceeded the total amount of excitement from last season ten-fold, and we’re only seven games in to the conference season. I’ll tell you one thing. I definitely wasn’t prepared this year to be wringing my hands after three straight losses that took the Gophers OUT of the Top 25 and readjust my expectations for a conference championship, no sir.
But it’s times like these, where three straight losses that came against two potential conference champs and a road foe, where I just gotta look up at the sky and say, “what do you WANT FROM US?”
For those keeping score at home, the Gophers opened with four of their first six games on the road, which is just brutal. But that’s not it. Their two home games came against none other than Tom Izzo and Thad Matta. Their first road games were at Purdue and Northwestern (a combined 10-4 in the B1G), they got to take on the Izzone and then a pesky Penn State team. Oh, and they also got to duke it out with their ultimate rival at home who happens to be a Final Four contender.
Oh, ya know, JUST THE FIRST SEVEN GAMES.
[cut to a clip of the Big Ten schedulers mocking up this year’s schedule]
Guy #1: [chuckling] Okay, I’ve got a great one for Minnesota. Let’s have them open up with Michigan State at home, I mean, that’s a loss, right? Then let’s send them on the road to Purdue and Northwestern, then back home against Ohio State, and then back to Michigan State. By the time they hit Bucky they’ll have folded.
Rest of committee: BRILLIANT!
Just for reference, Maryland has already faced Illinois twice, Nebraska, Iowa, Michigan and Indiana. Their next game? Rutgers.
Wisconsin? They’ve gotten to beat up on Rutgers and Indiana and slap around Michigan already. Their next FIVE games? Penn State, Rutgers, Illinois, Indiana and Nebraska.
Give. Me. A. Frickin’. Break.
Two points to this rant:
First, I’m mostly just irritated that the schedule is this brutal and it comes for a young team looking for some confidence. It’s amazing and fantastic that they pulled off the Purdue and Northwestern road victories for some breathing room. So, shove it, basketball gods. But, really, can we get a mini reprieve after such a death march to open the conference season? I mean, OF COURSE they head on the road to Columbus after a home game with Wisconsin while Bucky gets Rutgers. [yells at the sky]
Second -- yes, the Gophers have dropped three straight, but this is a strong 3-4 record they’ve got cooking. An OT loss at home to Wisconsin is nothing to be ashamed about, and neither is a Penn State road loss. Seriously.
The bright side? Minnesota has zero bad losses this season, and three top 50 wins, with the opportunity to add a couple more. And, for as brutal as the opening schedule was, things loosen up a bit the rest of the way. In fact, four of their final six games are at home.