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

Was the Gophers strength of schedule a help or a hindrance?

Posted by: Amelia Rayno under College basketball, Gophers coaches, Gophers players Updated: March 18, 2014 - 11:17 AM

There were plenty of reasons Minnesota didn't get into the NCAA tournament. 

In the end, the Gophers probably just simply didn't deserve it in comparison with the rest of the field.

But there was really one argument that kept them in the conversation:

Strength of schedule.

Now, coach Richard Pitino is wondering whether it was actually a hindrance.

When it was all said and done, the Gophers played the ninth-ranked schedule in the nation in terms of toughness. They finished the year with a 20-13 record. 

That, Pitino thought, should have been enough.

"We played a top-[10] schedule ... you get to 20 wins, normally that's a recipe to get in," he said.

It wasn't.

"What happened was our quality wins stopped being quality wins," Pitino said. "Florida State, all of the sudden slid below 50 [in the RPI]. Iowa slid below 50. Iowa got credit for beating us, a top-50 win, we didn't get credit for them as a top-50 win. Richmond, their best player got hurt."

Those tumbles were problematic, sure, but it wasn't as if Minnesota didn't have other chances. In fact, you could argue they had the ninth-most chances in the country.

The NCAA tournament selection committee decided, ultimately, that the Gophers didn't do enough with them. Minnesota had just two wins against top-50 teams, a statistic that's almost hard to fathom given their scheduling girth. In some cases, the committee gave nods instead to teams with far inferior schedules, but who actually showed something in the tough games they did have.

"I just think moving forward, we've got to understand teams that had schedules in the 30s and 40s and had 22, 23 wins, they got rewarded," Pitino said. "Our goal is to make it to the NCAA tournament."

So did the Gophers' schedule really hurt them? Had they played a lighter schedule would they have notched two or three more victories and gone Dancing?

That's tricky. 

Of course, playing in the Big Ten automatically boosts a schedule. That's the part Minnesota really doesn't get to decide. Of the the six league teams that made the NCAA tournament, four of them -- Wisconsin (2), Michigan (5), Michigan State (13) and Ohio State (16) -- had top-20 schedules. Those slates weren't short on any names in the non-conference schedule, either. Michigan played Duke, Iowa State and Arizona along with FSU and Stanford. Wisconsin played Florida, Virginia and St. Louis. Michigan State had Texas, Kentucky, Oklahoma, UNC and Georgetown. Ohio State had North Dakota State, Marquette and Maryland.

And those that didn't have top-20 schedules, Iowa (37) and Nebraska (29) weren't short on powerhouses either. Iowa had Xavier, Villanova and Iowa State in the non-conference. Nebraska had Massachusetts, Creighton, Cincinnati and Georgia. 

By comparison, Minnesota's schedule actually looks a little wimpy at first glance. The only really notable team is Syracuse, although the Gophers also played at Richmond and against Florida State.

Their schedule, instead, was beefed up -- mostly by the previous coaching staff -- with decent teams from smaller conferences who were expected to win their leagues. Do that right, and your SOS will shoot through the roof without your squad ever being very threatened. Joe Esposito, on former coach Tubby Smith's staff, was always a wizard at that. 

That, too, was where the Gophers shined. They finished the non-conference slate with just two losses. Eleven more came in the conference slate. 

Pitino said yesterday that he wouldn't have given up the Maui Invitational -- where Minnesota played Syracuse -- and he has already scheduled a matchup against his dad, Rick Pitino and Louisville for next season. Yet obviously the Gophers wouldn't be able to pick up another win or two unless they had skipped that Hawaii trip.

So was it the Woffords and the South Dakota States that slowly wore the Gophers down, causing them to perform worse in January and February? If that was the case, the idea might be to land a couple of bigtime programs and fill in the gaps with teams all ranked 250th or lower. 

But I don't buy it. I think strength of schedule is still a huge asset in the eyes of the committee. At the same time, it's also not a free pass. 

A team needs to win some of the really impressive games to make the best of it, but such a stacked slate provides opportunity after opportunity to do so.

The biggest problem this season is that the Gophers didn't take enough advantage of that. 


Philadelphia 3:30 PM
San Diego 7:25 PM
San Francisco
Minnesota 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Baltimore 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Detroit 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Cleveland 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Atlanta 12/21/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Green Bay 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Kansas City 12/21/14 12:00 PM
New England 12/21/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
NY Giants 12/21/14 3:05 PM
St. Louis
Buffalo 12/21/14 3:25 PM
Indianapolis 12/21/14 3:25 PM
Seattle 12/21/14 7:30 PM
Denver 12/22/14 7:30 PM
Utah 101 FINAL
Orlando 94
Charlotte 109 FINAL
Philadelphia 91
Brooklyn 91 FINAL
Cleveland 95
Washington 105 FINAL
Miami 103
Minnesota 98 FINAL
Boston 114
Toronto 110 FINAL
Detroit 100
Chicago 103 FINAL
Memphis 97
Portland 129 FINAL
San Antonio 119
LA Clippers 106 FINAL
Denver 109
Oklahoma City 104 FINAL
LA Lakers 103
Tampa Bay 2 FINAL(SO)
New Jersey 3
Anaheim 2 FINAL
Ottawa 6
NY Islanders 2 FINAL
Detroit 1
Boston 1 FINAL
Winnipeg 2
Dallas 2 FINAL
Calgary 1
Wilberforce 71 FINAL
Youngstown St 92
Jackson State 49 FINAL
Tulane 56
Siena 66 FINAL
Radford 76
Stillman 49 FINAL
Alabama 69
Case Western Reserve 65 FINAL
Bucknell 88
Niagara 62 FINAL
Buffalo 88
SD Christian 46 FINAL
UC Santa Barbara 69
Concordia (MI) 60 FINAL
Central Mich 97
Northern Ill 55 FINAL
Dartmouth 58
North Florida 83 FINAL
Florida A&M 65
Hiwassee 71 FINAL
Gardner-Webb 91
Tennessee St 54 FINAL
Hampton 66
Kent State 71
Central Penn College 65 FINAL
Liberty 94
Eastern Ky 72 FINAL
Miami-Florida 44
Northern Ky 83 FINAL
Morehead State 60
Northern Ariz 62 FINAL
Norfolk State 81
MD-Eastern Shore 43 FINAL
Old Dominion 60
St Marys-CA 47 FINAL
St Johns 53
Clemson 45 FINAL
South Carolina 68
Tenn Tech 58 FINAL
Tennessee 61
Washington-MD 46 FINAL
William & Mary 86
Bethune-Cookman 46 FINAL
Mercer 67
Furman 78 FINAL
Fla Gulf Coast 83
South Dakota St 53 FINAL
CS-Bakersfield 49
Milligan 53 FINAL
Lamar 80
LSU-Alexandria 71 FINAL
ULM 76
Southern Utah 57 FINAL
Loyola-Chicago 73
Chattanooga 58 FINAL
Middle Tennessee 68
Seattle 57 FINAL
Minnesota 92
Lipscomb 55 FINAL
Princeton 77
Winthrop 71 FINAL
SE Louisiana 81
Dickinson State 48 FINAL
North Dakota 78
New Orleans 56 FINAL
Southern Ill 52
TX-Pan American 60 FINAL
Creighton 75
Colorado State 85 FINAL
Denver 84
Alabama A&M 49 FINAL
Marquette 83
Ark-Pine Bluff 51 FINAL
Texas Tech 72
Eastern Wash 67 FINAL
California 78
Idaho State 56 FINAL
Utah State 69
Arizona 60 FINAL
Texas-El Paso 55
Hawaii 94 FINAL
Chaminade 63
Nevada 10:00 AM
Utah State 1:20 PM
Texas-El Paso
(23) Utah 2:30 PM
Colorado State
Western Mich 4:45 PM
Air Force
South Alabama 8:15 PM
Bowling Green
BYU 12/22/14 1:00 PM
Marshall 12/23/14 5:00 PM
Northern Ill
Navy 12/23/14 8:30 PM
San Diego St
Central Mich 12/24/14 11:00 AM
Western Ky
Fresno State 12/24/14 7:00 PM
Illinois 12/26/14 12:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
Rutgers 12/26/14 3:30 PM
North Carolina
NC State 12/26/14 7:00 PM
Ohio Valley 33 FINAL
Youngstown St 84
East Tenn St 48 FINAL
UNC-Wilmington 61
Cal-Irvine 44 FINAL
Purdue 69
Campbell 63 FINAL
Stetson 76
Jacksonville St 70 FINAL
Charleston Southern 43
Louisiana 64 FINAL
Alcorn State 57
Denver 63 FINAL
Wright State 72
Blue Mountain 30 FINAL
Central Arkansas 71
Texas State 51 FINAL
Bethune-Cookman 40
Albany 62 FINAL
Pepperdine 36
TX-San Antonio 53 FINAL
Houston 56
Yale 66 FINAL
Bucknell 73
Northern Colorado 56 FINAL
Fla Gulf Coast 69
Belmont 86 FINAL
Mercer 83
Massachusetts 66 FINAL
Georgia State 71
George Mason 69 FINAL
Winthrop 57
Portland State 33 FINAL
Princeton 104
Samford 52
Mobile 30 FINAL
Alabama State 66
Nicholls 49 FINAL
Texas Tech 76
Toledo 65 FINAL
Nevada 56
UMass Lowell 48 FINAL
(13) Duke 95
St Marys-CA 49 FINAL
Virginia 62
McNeese State 55 FINAL
Rice 57
McMurry 49 FINAL
Houston Baptist 69
Seton Hall 74
(6) North Carolina 65 FINAL
Maine 36
Lafayette 58 FINAL
Stony Brook 60
Siena 62 FINAL
Binghamton 53
Longwood 56 FINAL
Clemson 72
Savannah State 51 FINAL
Florida State 97
(19) Syracuse 72 FINAL
(9) Baylor 74
Buffalo 68 FINAL
Manhattan 58
Canisius 43 FINAL
Michigan 79
Davidson 66 FINAL
NC State 82
Northern Ky 63 FINAL
Delaware 58
Saint Louis 81 FINAL
Austin Peay 86
(25) DePaul 64 FINAL
(2) Connecticut 98
Ohio U 74 FINAL
La Salle 63
Florida Atlantic 60 FINAL
Long Beach St 85
Miami-Florida 65 FINAL
Tulane 70
Miss Valley St 39 FINAL
Memphis 62
Ark-Pine Bluff 56 FINAL
UAB 65
Bowling Green 58 FINAL
Illinois State 54
Arkansas State 78 FINAL
Missouri State 62
Wichita State 57
(16) Oregon State 71 FINAL
Southern Ill 55
Pacific 67 FINAL
New Mexico St 62
No Dakota State 79 FINAL
Cal State Fullerton 86
Utah State 92 FINAL
Sacramento St 102
Bethesda (CA) 61 FINAL
Fresno State 83
Utah Valley U 44 FINAL
Montana 68
UC Santa Barbara 45
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Gophers Football Time W L Score
2014 season     
Aug 28 - vs. E. Illinois 6 pmX42-20
Sep 6 - vs. M. Tennessee St. 2:30 pmX35-24
Sep 13 - at TCU 3 pmX30-7
Sep 20 - vs. San Jose St. 3 p.m.X24-7
Sep 27 - at Michigan 2:30 pmX30-14
Oct 11 - vs. Northwestern 11 amX24-17
Oct 18 - vs. Purdue 11 amX39-38
Oct 25 - at Illinois 11 amX28-24
Nov 8 - vs. Iowa 11 amX51-14
Nov 15 - vs. Ohio State 11 amX31-24
Nov 22 - at Nebraska 11 amX28-24
Nov 29 - at Wisconsin 2:30 pmX34-24
Jan 1 - vs. Missouri noon




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