Gophers men’s basketball coach Richard Pitino said this is his most talented team yet — and it will be facing a brutal Big Ten schedule, starting with the Dec. 27 opener against Michigan State at Williams Arena.
The Big Ten and the Gophers released their 2016-17 schedules Thursday.
The Gophers will see the Spartans twice in a span of 16 days; the teams meet again on Jan. 11 in East Lansing, Mich. The Gophers also play Ohio State twice in the first month of the Big Ten season. Five of their first eight Big Ten games are on the road.
The Big Ten home schedule is just as daunting. After opening the season vs. Michigan State, the Gophers play host to Ohio State on Jan. 8, Wisconsin on Jan. 21, Maryland on Jan. 28, Iowa on Feb. 8, Indiana on Feb. 15 and Michigan on Feb. 19.
The Gophers end their home schedule with arguably their two most winnable games: Penn State on Feb. 25 or 26, and Nebraska on March 2.
Pretty fitting that the regular season concludes with the Border Battle game at Wisconsin on March 5.
Pitino wanted to challenge his team before the Big Ten. And the Gophers appear to have their toughest nonconference schedule in recent years.
The regular-season opener is Nov. 11 against Louisiana Lafayette, followed by Texas-Arlington Nov. 14 and Mount St. Mary’s on Nov. 16. But the Gophers then face four major conference opponents before Big Ten play this year, starting with a home game against St. John’s in the Gavitt Tipoff Games on Nov. 18.
Arkansas comes to the Barn to play Minnesota on Nov. 22. The Gophers then play in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge at Florida State on Nov. 28 before traveling to Sioux Falls, S.D., on Dec. 3 to play Vanderbilt.