Monday, August 9, 2010

A Quick and Early look at the Gopher Basketball Non-Conference Schedule

Alright, so before when I said I wasn't going to do a post about the Gophers non-conference schedule I was obviously lying, because here is a post about the Gophers non-conference basketball schedule.  I have tried to keep this information as accurate as possible, but there are always things that slip through and not even a genius such as myself can keep up with which players may or may not have been kicked off/left the team for every school in the country.  At least I can guarantee their records are accurate.  Probably.

Nov 2 vs. Northeastern State, Nov 8 vs. Winona State - Whatever.  Pass.

Nov 12 vs. Wofford College
Record:  26-9 (15-3 SoCon), lost in first round of NCAAs to Wisconsin
Good Wins:  @ Georgia, South Carolina
Last Year RPI:  70
Starters Lost:  1 (
NOTES:  A nice homecoming game for seniors Noah "The more successful" Dahlman and Cameron Rundles, the Terriers should be favorites to repeat in the SoCon and will probably be the Gophers biggest test outside of Puerto Rico.  Even so, this is a slow team without the athletes needed to keep up, and should be the first in a long line of easy wins to open the season.

Nov 15 vs. Siena
Record:  27-7 (17-1 MAAC), lost in first round of NCAAs to Purdue
Good Wins:  None
Last Year RPI:  33
Starters Lost:  3
NOTES:   One of the hottest mid-major type teams the last few years, the Saints should take a step back this year with a lot to replace including Ronald Moore, the national assist leader, and Edwin Ubiles and Alex Franklin, their two leading scorers and all-around threats from the wing.  Still, they do have some firepower back (Clarence Jackson is going to explode this year) and will probably be the second best team the Gophers will face - which still means they should be an easy win.

Nov 18 vs. Western Kentucky (in Puerto Rico)
Record:  21-13 (10-6 Sun Belt)
Good Wins:  Vanderbilt, Murray State
Last Year RPI:  138
Starters Lost:  2
NOTES:  Top player A.J. Slaughter is gone, but the Hilltoppers have a bit of a mini-mid-major dynasty going and reload their roster with a very good recruiting class this season.  They are bringing in five new players, including SG Brandon Peters who ranks as Rivals #129 freshman and a couple other three star recruits, along with a couple of transfers from Big 12 schools (Oklahoma and OSU).  It's probably good the Gophers get them early, because I have a feeling they are going to be a lot tougher by the end of the year.

Nov 19 vs. North Carolina (in Puerto Rico, assuming they beat WKU)
Record:  20-17 (5-11 ACC), lost in NIT Championship game to Dayton
Good Wins:  Ohio State, Michigan State, Wake, Miss State
Last Year RPI: 64
Starters Lost:  2 (I think)
NOTES:  It's hard to say how many starters the Tar Heels lost because they used so many lineups last season and never really were able to figure the team out until the NIT, but don't let the record fool you they have a ton of talent.  Harrison Barnes is amazing, John Henson started to look like he figured it out late in the season, Reggie Bulluck should be awesome, and really it just goes on and on.  Of course, I would have said basically the same thing last year, but I find it hard to believe UNC is going to be at that level back-to-back seasons.

Nov 21 vs.  Vanderbilt or West Virginai (or Nebraska or Davidson)
NOTES:  Most likely this will be either WVU or Vandy, and a win over either would be a challenge and a nice resume builder.  I think if they manage to beat UNC I'd hope for a championship matchup with he Mountaineers in order to get the biggest scalp possible, but if they lose to the Heels I'd hope they go up against Vandy, which would still be a nice win but an easier win as well.

Nov 24 vs. North Dakota State
Record:  11-18 (8-10 Summit)
Good Wins:  None
Last Year RPI:  267
Starters Lost:  3
NOTES:  This is not the same scrappy, rough-and-tumble, senior white boy led squad from a couple of years ago.  This is just a bad team.  Look at that RPI.  Now realize it's going to be about the same this year.  Worthless game here, rather than giving a few third and fourth tier former Minnesota high school players a chance to play in the Barn.  I guess I can see some value in that, and if this was the only game against an opponent like this, I wouldn't complain.

Nov 29 vs. Virginia (Big 10/ACC Challenge)
Record: 15-15 (5-11 ACC)
Good Wins:  UAB, Georgia Tech
Last Year RPI:  123
Starters Lost:  2
NOTES:  We get Virginia again the Challenge, which is a yawner, especially since their best and most exciting player, Sylvan Landesberg, got essentially booted off the team last year and is currently trying to hook on with an NBA squad.  Still, Tony Bennett is already starting to pay dividends on the recruiting trail, bringing in a very good class including #30 in the country K.T. Harrell, #108 James Johnson, #119 Joe Harris, and #148 Will Regan.  Wait.  Holy crap that's a really good class.  Virginia is on their way back to relevance (like, Harold Deane/Curtis Staples territory), and I'm now amending my previous statement and saying that THIS will be the toughest non-Puerto Rico game.

Dec 4 vs. Cornell
Record:  27-4 (13-1 Ivy), lost in the Sweet 16 of the NCAAs to Kentucky
Good Wins:  Temple, Wisconsin, Alabama, Harvard x 2
Last Year RPI:  37
Starters Lost:  4
NOTES:  Stop.  Just stop.  This is not a good opponent.  Last year was lightning in a bottle because they had 1.  A high quality coach, 2.  A legitimate scoring threat who could take over the game, 3.  A skilled 7-footer who was a weapon on offense and defense, and 4.  A point guard who could control the game.  All those things are gone.  The Gophers will win by 40, and at the end of the season their RPI will be north of 200.

Dec 8 @ St. Joseph's
Record:  11-20 (5-11 A-10)
Good Wins:  Dayton, Boston College
Last Year RPI:  180
Starters Lost:  2
NOTES:  The only true road game on the non-conference slate, always a good sign of a challenging schedule, and it's against a team with an RPI of 180 last year who will probably be even worse.  This is a truly horrible game, because nobody gives a crap if you win on the road against a team like this, but they are just good enough (and the Gophers are historically shaky enough on the road) to pull of an upset, which really hurts NCAA bid chances.  I am interested in seeing C.J. Aiken, a freshman who Rivals ranks as the #8 incoming center in the country who is playing for the Hawks for some reason that I assume involves a lost bet or alcohol.   

Dec 11 vs. Eastern Kentucky
Record:  20-13 (11-7 OVC)
Good Wins:  Morgan State
Last Year RPI:  164
Starters Lost:  2
NOTES:  They play Western, so might as well play Eastern, right?  I don't know.  A middling Ohio Valley team?  They're more likely to be a 200+ in RPI than a sub-100, so I don't really like this.  Should be an easy win though, so I guess they got that going for them.  Since there aren't enough of those already.

Dec 15 vs. Akron
Record:  24-11 (12-4 MAC), lost in first round of CBI to Green Bay
Good Wins:  Niagara
Last Year RPI:  95
Starters Lost:  3
NOTES:  My first reaction was "Akron?  Cool.  They've been a bubble team recently."  And then I realized that the days of Dru Joyce and Romeo Travis were actually five years or so ago, so they really aren't a dangerous team anymore (especially with losing their two best players to graduation).  I mean, Akron always seems to be a nice team, and I don't hate them being on the schedule at all since they'll probably just be a low 100 RPI, but meh.  Although maybe Lebron will show up.  Did I tell you I'm a huge Miami Heat fan now?

So really, there's no reason the Gophers shouldn't be, at a minimum, 9-2 heading into Big Ten play.  8-3 would be bad but not a disaster, but if they go in any worse than that the season is basically already done.  I don't think anybody realistically thinks they'll be more than a couple few games over .500 in Big Ten play, so a 7-4 non-conf record with that many cupcakes would make an NCAA bid a very tough road.

And it's really not that there are a ton of low-end games.  At most they'll probably end up with two teams with sub-200 RPIs, but it's the lack of high-end games that is so disappointing.  If everything breaks perfectly in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off they will end up having all of two marquee non-conference games - neither at home.  Didn't you think we'd be seeing better in Tubby:  Year IV?  I did.  Yeah, he's better than Monson (and thank god they didn't hire Molinari) and yes, we're seeing a better product and yes, they have indeed made the NCAA tournament two years in a row, so maybe it's my fault for wanting more.

Is it my fault?  Am I alone here?

No comments: