The full schedule for the upcoming 2018-19 Golden Gophers men's basketball schedule is out and it's loaded with an abnormally high number of tough non-conference games.
After a Nov. 1 exhibition game against Minnesota-Duluth, the Gophers will host Nebraska-Omaha at the newly remodeled Williams Arena on Nov. 6 and then face their first early challenge against the Utah Utes, who lost to Penn State in the NIT championship game last season, although they don't bring back any of their top four scorers from last year's team.
After that, it could be a bit of a grind in the Vancouver Showcase, where they play Nov. 18 against Texas A&M and then Nov. 20 against Washington or Santa Clara.
Texas A&M beat two-seed North Carolina in the second round of the NCAA Tournament last season before bowing out to Michigan in the Sweet 16. They're not among the favorites to return to glory in the SEC again, but they're battle tested and have plenty of experience.
Washington returns all four of its leading scorers from last year's team that went 21-13 and just missed a trip to the NCAA Tournament.
Minnesota will leave Vancouver, eat some turkey on Thanksgiving and then gear up for a Monday, Nov. 26 showdown with Boston College in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts. Boston College was a bit down last season and isn't expected to be among the top dogs in the ultra-difficult ACC.
Up next is the highly anticipated U.S. Bank Stadium game against Oklahoma State on Nov. 30. It's part of the showcase at the home of the Vikings that will essentially serve as a practice run for organizers of the 2019 Final Four, which Minneapolis will host.
"We set up our schedule this season to provide a challenging test for our team as they get ready for Big Ten play," Minnesota head coach Richard Pitino said in a release. "We're excited to have five Power Five opponents in our non-conference, including the Utah game at home. With a 20-game Big Ten schedule this year, I think our team will have a chance to get better early in the season."
Last season, the Gophers' toughest non-conference opponents were Alabama, 10th-ranked Miami and Arkansas. They lost two of three. The year before they won three of four of their hardest non-conference contests, defeating St. John's, Arkansas and Vanderbilt, and losing to Florida State.