More than half of the players on the Gophers men's basketball team have never played in the Big Ten, but those newcomers will face two tough early tests in league play this season.

The Big Ten released its 2019-20 schedule Friday and it has the Gophers opening conference play at Iowa on Dec. 9 and facing Ohio State at Williams Arena on Dec. 15.

This is the third straight year the Big Ten has played games in early December, which hasn't gone well for Richard Pitino's team on the road. Minnesota is 0-3 away from the Barn and 3-0 at home in those games.

The month starts with four consecutive games vs. major conference opponents. The Gophers play in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge hosting Clemson on Dec. 2. Following the conference games, the Gophers will have a neutral site matchup vs. Oklahoma State in Tulsa on Dec. 21.

That grueling stretch could end up being an early indicator of whether the Gophers are in contention to make the NCAA tournament for the second straight year.

Marcus Fuller

U women open at PSU

The 38th season of Big Ten competition for the Minnesota women's basketball team will start on the road at Penn State on Dec. 28 and wrap up at home against Maryland on March 1, the Big Ten Conference announced. In all, the Gophers will play 18 league games, nine at Williams Arena.

The team's nonconference schedule, as well as tipoff times and TV/online coverage, will be announced at later dates.

Last season the Gophers, under first-year coach Lindsay Whalen, went 9-9 in conference play to finish at .500 or better in the Big Ten for the fifth time in the past six seasons.

Three turf stakes set

Three $50,000 turf stakes, the Minnesota HBPA Distaff, the Brooks Fields Stakes, and the Mystic Lake Turf Sprint, will be cofeatures on Saturday's thoroughbred race card that will begin at 5 p.m. at Canterbury Park. The stakes will be run as races three through five on the nine-race program.