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The Road to Selection Sunday: Gophers' Non-B1G Slate Nothing to Sneeze At

09/17/2012, 7:56am CDT
By Selection Sunday
A MONTH AWAY, U.S.A. -- We're officially four weeks from Midnight Madness, so to kick off the new season I'd like to wrap up the work I've been doing on the B1G's nonconference schedules. The last of the B1G nonconference schedules, Michigan, became official a couple days ago when the NIT Season Tip-Off released its bracket.
But let's get right to the Gophers. In light of the seat selection process, the Maroon & Gold did not schedule the home BCS opponent (or some facsimile of) a lot of season-ticket holders were looking for; Richmond is the biggest "name" on the schedule. But really, other than that we should have minimal complaints about the Gophers' non-B1G slate.
(1) The Gophers are playing in what easily should be the most competitive in-season tournament, the Battle 4 Atlantis. Their quarterfinal opponent is Duke. And that's just the beginning. A matchup with Memphis or VCU follows (both expected to be NCAA-caliber squads), and then there's the possibility of getting Louisville or Mizzou in their B4A finale. A walk in the park, right?
(2) Playing South Dakota State doesn't move the needle name-wise, but the Jackrabbits (#43 in the RPI last season and a NCAA qualifier) figure to be a formidable home opponent for the Gophers, perhaps their stiffest Williams Arena test. The Jacks return most of their key players, including All-American guard candidate Nate Wolters. Am looking forward to seeing Wolters go head to head against Andre Hollins. And don't sell Richmond short, either. The Spiders were in the Sweet 16 two years ago, and they figure to be better than last season when they finished 7-9 in a competitive (and getting better with the the additions of Butler and VCU) Atlantic 10.
(3) Director of Basketball Operations Joe Esposito scheduled "up" to the Gophers' expectatons, unlike a couple other schools in the B1G (I'm specifically looking at you, Tom "The Pacing Maniac" Crean). The Gophers will be tested plenty in November and December with at least 5-6 vs. opponents that in all likelihood will end up in the top 100 of the RPI, but it's not just that. With the Gophers' remaining non-league games, Esposito clearly paid attention to last season's RPI (as I'm sure all big-time programs do), as well as scheduling home games against opponents figuring to be improved, and who also are expected to compete well within their conference (i.e. American, Richmond, North Florida). Make no mistake, these are teams the Gophers should beat, especially at home. But they're not cupcake city, and when March rolls around they likely won't drag down the Gophers' nonconference strength of schedule, a key element in the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee's evaluation process.
What does it all mean? It means if somehow the Gophers end up on the bubble (if they do, call me majorly disappointed), their nonconference schedule isn't going to give the Selection Committee a reason to keep them out of the tournament. Just the opposite. And better yet, if the Gophers beat a few of Duke, Memphis, VCU, Louisville, Mizzou, Stanford, Florida State, Richmond, South Dakota State (yes, SDSU) and USC (on the road), their NCAA seed will be helped immensely.
So now let's take a look at the final B1G nonconference schedule rankings. Please note, these are based solely on the average RPI of known nonconference opponents. Potential tournament opponents are not included.
B1G Nonconference Schedule Average RPI Rankings
1. Wisconsin (130.636)
2. GOPHERS (136.909)
3. Ohio State (154.09)
4. Purdue (156.583)
5. Michigan State (162.333)
6. Penn State (183.3)
7. Illinois (185.416)
8. Nebraska (188.09)
9. Northwestern (190.75)
10. Michigan (196.333)
11. Indiana (211.25)
12. Iowa (234.333)
Games vs. NCAA Qualifiers
Ohio State (5): Duke, Kansas, Marquette, Long Beach State, NC-Asheville
Wisconsin (5): Marquette, Creighton, Florida, Cal, Virginia
GOPHERS (4): Duke, Memphis/VCU, Florida State, South Dakota State
Purdue (4): Notre Dame, Xavier, West Virginia, Lamar
Illinois (3): Missouri, Gonzaga, Norfolk State
Michigan State (3): Kansas, UConn, Texas
Iowa (2): Iowa State, Western Kentucky
Michigan (2): NC State, West Virginia
Northwestern (2): Baylor, Mississippi Valley State
Indiana (1): North Carolina
Nebraska (1): Creighton
Penn State (1): NC State 
Games vs. RPI 1-50
Ohio State (4): Duke (5), Kansas (6), Marquette (9), Long Beach State (34)
GOPHERS (4): Duke (5), Memphis (16)/VCU (38), Florida State (11), South Dakota State (43)
Wisconsin (4): Marquette (9), Creighton (24), Florida (30), Cal (37)
Michigan State (3): Kansas (6), UConn (32), Texas (50)
Illinois (2): Missouri (10), Gonzaga (25)
Purdue (2): Notre Dame (39), Xavier (41)
Indiana (1): North Carolina (4)
Northwestern (1): Baylor (8)
Nebraska (1): Creighton (24)
Iowa (1): Iowa State (33)
Michigan (1): NC State (49)
Penn State (1): NC State (49)
Games vs. RPI 51-100
Penn State (3): LaSalle (86), Bucknell (89), Penn (98)
Purdue (2): West Virginia (57), Bucknell (89)
Nebraska (2): Oregon (63), Valparaiso (95)
Wisconsin (1): Virginia (53)
Michigan (1): West Virginia (57)
Michigan State (1): Miami-Florida (60)
Ohio State (1): Seton Hall (68)/Washington (71)
Iowa (1): Northern Iowa (73)
Northwestern (1): Stanford (97)
Illinois (0)
Indiana (0)
Minimum Number of Games vs. BCS Opponents
Purdue (5): Villanova, Alabama/Oregon State, Clemson, Notre Dame, West Virginia
Wisconsin (5): Florida, Arizona State/Arkansas, Virginia, Cal, Marquette
Illinois (4): USC, Georgia Tech, Missouri, Auburn
Michigan State (4): UConn, Kansas, Miami-Florida, Texas
Ohio State (4): Marquette, Seton Hall/Washington, Duke, Kansas
Indiana (3): Georgia, Georgetown/UCLA, North Carolina
Michigan (3): NC State, Arkansas, West Virginia
GOPHERS (3): Duke, Florida State, USC
Nebraska (3): Wake Forest, USC, Oregon
Northwestern (3): Maryland, Baylor, Stanford
Iowa (2): Virginia Tech, Iowa State
Penn State (2): NC State, Boston College
Home Games vs. BCS or "Notable" Non-BCS Opponents
Northwestern (3): Maryland, Butler, Stanford
Michigan (2): NC State, Arkansas
Nebraska (2): USC, Creighton
Purdue (2): Xavier, West Virginia
Wisconsin (2): Virginia, Cal
Illinois (1): Georgia Tech
Indiana (1): North Carolina
Iowa (1): Iowa State
Michigan State (1): Texas
Ohio State (1): Kansas
Penn State (1): Boston College
If the Brackets Fall Right, Tournament Matchups We Might See
Illinois vs. North Carolina (Maui Invitational)
Indiana vs. UCLA (Legends Classic)
Iowa vs. DePaul (Cancun Challenge)
Michigan vs. Kansas State (NIT Season Tip-Off)
Gophers vs. Louisville (Battle 4 Atlantis)
Nebraska @ UTEP (Sun Bowl Invitational)
Northwestern vs, Illinois State (South Padre Island Invitational)
Ohio State vs. Washington (Hall of Fame Tip-Off)
Penn State vs. Tennessee (Puerto Rico Tip-Off)
Purdue vs. Alabama (2K Sports Classic)
Wisconsin vs. Arkansas (Las Vegas Invitational)
Discussion is encouraged. 
Who among the 12 B1G schools do you think has (or will end up having) the most difficult nonconference schedule?
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Tag(s): Gopher Basketball