Getting a challenge in nonconference play for the Gophers men’s basketball team won’t be a problem for the 2019-20 season.
Added to the list of known opponents Thursday was Clemson playing Dec. 2 at Williams Arena on the opening night of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. This will be the eighth meeting between the programs. Minnesota won 89-83 at home in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge in 2015.
The Gophers will now face seven high-major opponents in November and early December, including two early Big Ten games next season. Clemson is one of five current high-major games during Minnesota’s nonconference slate, including at Butler in the Gavitt Tip Off games, at Utah, vs. Oklahoma in Sioux Falls, S.D. and vs. Oklahoma State in Tulsa.
Richard Pitino is also working on adding a sixth high major foe to play at home. It’s the type of nonconference schedule that could set up the Gophers with a resume to get back to the NCAA tournament after a 22-win season and first round win last season.
Clemson finished 20-14 (9-9 in the ACC) after losing in the NIT second round in 2018-19. Tigers coach Brad Brownell will enter his 10th season losing four starters with guards Shelton Mitchell and Marcquise Reed and big men Eli Thomas and David Skara. Reed was an All-ACC third team selection after averaging a team-best 19.4 points, 5.5 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 2.1 steals (led ACC).
Last month, Brownell was dealt a blow with UNC Asheville transfer Jonathan Baehre suffering a torn ACL in practice. The 6-10 junior is out indefinitely after already sitting out last season after transferring.
Clemson landed three transfers in Fordham guard Nick Honor, Tulsa guard Curran Scott and Texas Tech forward Khavon Moore, but only Scott is currently eligible to play next season as a graduate transfer. The 6-foot-8 Moore is a former top-50 recruit in high school reportedly hoping to receive a waiver to play immediately.
Murphy vs. Clemson
Four years ago, Minnesota and Clemson had their last meeting with the Gophers coming out on top. The 2015-16 season ended up with a disastrous 8-23 record, but that Big Ten/ACC Challenge win vs. the Tigers was the coming out party for Jordan Murphy, who had 24 points and 10 rebounds. It was his career-high in points at the time and the first of his school record 67 double-doubles. Murphy finished his career with 1,802 points (2nd all-time in Big Ten history) and school-record 1,307 boards. Also on that squad was Dupree McBrayer, who finished his career last season as a 1,000-point scorer and co-senior captain with Murphy. Those two seniors will be hard to replace in the rematch with Clemson this season, especially one of the all-time great Gophers in Murphy.