Lindsay Whalen last stepped onto the Williams Arena floor with the Gophers 14½ years ago. On Nov. 9, she'll return in maroon and gold as the head coach. The point guard-turned-coach now knows her full season schedule, released Tuesday.
Her first regular season opens at home against New Hampshire, and concludes with Michigan State paying a visit March 3. In between: plenty of big tests.
Whalen, who announced her retirement last week from the Lynx following the season, and the Gophers open Big Ten play Dec. 28 against Wisconsin and will be looking for their 12th consecutive victory over the Badgers. This six-game stretch in mid-January will test Whalen's squad: at Michigan State (Jan. 9), vs. Iowa (Jan. 14), at Wisconsin (Jan. 17), at Nebraska (Jan. 20), vs. Purdue (Jan. 24) and Big Ten favorite Ohio State at Williams Arena (Jan. 28).
However, the Gophers face the Buckeyes and Maryland, the other Big Ten favorite, only once each. The Big Ten expanded the women's side to 18 conference games for the first time since the 2015-16 season. Each team will play five opponents twice and eight opponents once.
The early season schedule should be much easier. After a road game at Xavier (Nov. 14), Minnesota kicks off a stretch of six consecutive home games, beginning with visits from San Diego (Nov. 17), Ark.-Pine Bluff (Nov. 20) and Cornell (Nov. 23).
The Gophers then take part in the annual ACC/Big Ten Challenge by playing host to Syracuse (Nov. 29) in the first-ever meeting between the schools.
Minnesota is coming off a 24-9 season and a trip to the second round of the NCAA tournament. The team returns four of its top five leading scorers.