This is Amelia Rayno's third season on the Gophers men's basketball beat. She learned college basketball in North Carolina (Go Tar Heels!), where fanhood is not an option. In 2010, she joined the Star Tribune after graduating from Boston's Emerson College, which sadly had no exciting D-I college hoops to latch onto. Amelia has also worked on the sports desk at the Boston Globe and interned at the Detroit News.

  Follow Rayno on Twitter @AmeliaRayno

A closer look at Minnesota's 2014-15 schedule

Posted by: Amelia Rayno Updated: August 22, 2014 - 2:31 PM

Striking a balance on an NCAA schedule isn’t an easy task.

Ideally, a program lines up strong enough competition to keep fans intrigued and bolster a solid resume come postseason, but not so strong that it risks embarrassing losses and fatigue before the conference schedule begins (particularly a concern when a team plays in the Big Ten, consistently one of the toughest leagues in the country).

A year ago, Minnesota played the No. 9 overall strength of schedule (SOS) in the nation, but the high mark wasn't enough to push the Gophers on the right side of the bubble.

This season, the Gophers may hope they don't need the boost. The non-conference slate, released yesterday as the conference schedule was being announced, likely won't do Minnesota any favors if it needs another selling point in the eyes of the NCAA tournament selection committee in March.

The Preseason NIT Tip-Off is not yet finalized, but even the presence of nameless slots in the three-game span represents possibility when it comes to this lackluster non-conference schedule. Outside of Big Ten play, the Gophers have just one top-100 matchup currently scheduled, Louisville. Two opponents -- UMBC and Furman -- ranked below 325th nationally a year ago according to kenpom.com, and save from Louisville and Wake Forest, the Gophers don't have any opponents within the top 200 on the docket. The Gophers hope that will change, of course, when the NIT field is revealed. St. John's, Gonzaga and Georgia were all originally committed to the tournament -- and would provide a seemingly necessary boost to the current lineup -- but none of those schools have posted their schedules just yet, so it can't be taken as a guarantee.

As for Big Ten schedule, it could be worse. The Gophers face Ohio State (home), Michigan, Indiana and Michigan State (all on the road) just once each, and should benefit from a lighter stretch in the heart of January that includes games vs. Rutgers, Illinois and Penn State around a road trip to Nebraska. The tough spans include the start to the season -- two road games and then Ohio State (home), Michigan (road) and Iowa (home) -- and the end, when the Gophers get Wisconsin twice in the span of three games. Once again, Minnesota will have plenty of opportunities to pull signature wins on the road, and the Gophers will need to perform better away from the Barn if they hope to improve on last year's NIT title.

My prediction: The Gophers go 10-2 (assuming they find some good competition in New York) in the non-conference schedule, and then start out the Big Ten slate slow but gain steam. Minnesota still struggles at times but the road, but behind a veteran-laden lineup, finishes 11-7, ties for fifth in the conference and slides into the NCAA tournament.

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NY Yankees 1
Detroit 5 FINAL
Baltimore 4
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Cincinnati 2 FINAL
Cleveland 4
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Seattle 4
Chicago WSox 6 FINAL
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Texas 2
Oakland 9 FINAL
San Francisco 2
Wisc-Milwaukee 0 FINAL
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Minnesota 1
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Ohio State 50 2nd Half 10:48
Penn State 42
Maine 16 1st Half 3:49
Albany 36
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Fordham 32
George Washington 23 1st Half 3:47
George Mason 24
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LSU 26
Notre Dame 34 1st Half 3:51
Louisville 27
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Morehead State 34
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Robert Morris 39
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St Francis-NY 27
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Seton Hall 34
UCF 15 1st Half 5:23
South Florida 37
Binghamton 23 1st Half 2:07
Stony Brook 22
UMBC 14 1st Half 1:26
Vermont 30
Sacred Heart 36 1st Half 3:07
Bryant 26
Richmond 6:30 PM
Massachusetts
Wake Forest 7:00 PM
Duke
Purdue 7:00 PM
Michigan State
Miami-Florida 7:00 PM
Pittsburgh
St Bonaventure 7:00 PM
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TX-Pan American
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Boston College 53
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SIU-Edwardsville 72
Virginia Tech 57 FINAL
NC State 56
Massachusetts 55 FINAL
St Bonaventure 49
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Florida 49
Penn State 48 2nd Half 4:39
Indiana 55
Clemson 30 2nd Half 17:57
Georgia Tech 45
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La Salle 27
Loyola-Maryland 15 1st Half 2:49
Lafayette 22
Boston U 22 1st Half 3:30
Colgate 19
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James Madison 42
Delaware 29 1st Half 5:25
Elon 21
Drexel 24 1st Half 3:12
Northeastern 14
Hofstra 27 1st Half 6:44
UNC-Wilmington 28
Towson 21 1st Half 3:50
William & Mary 31
Miami-Ohio 19 1st Half 3:24
Akron 22
Ball State 30 1st Half 4:31
Central Michigan 22
Buffalo 15 1st Half 5:00
Bowling Green 15
Western Mich 22 1st Half 3:43
Eastern Michigan 24
Ohio U 28 1st Half 2:12
Kent State 22
Youngstown St 35 1st Half 1:57
Cleveland State 29
Illinois-Chicago 13 1st Half 2:48
Wright State 37
Alabama 5 1st Half 18:00
Vanderbilt 2
Detroit 7:00 PM
Milwaukee
Purdue 7:25 PM
Wisconsin

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