Compared to the non-conference schedule the Gophers men's basketball team played last season, this year's slate is far more difficult.
Minnesota plays three games this month that will test their mettle, and likely determine how legit they are compared to some of the top schools in other Power Five conferences.
Nov. 13 at Providence
The Friars are projected to finish fifth in the Big East and are getting lots of early respect because they have four seniors who play big minutes and a true freshman point guard, Makai Ashton-Langford, who was the No. 39 basketball recruit in the country, per Sports Illustrated.
Nov. 25 vs. Alabama (Barclays Center Classic)
According to SEC Country, Alabama will be good this season thanks to the arrival 5-star point guard, Collin Sexton, and top-40 recruit John Petty. Sexton is already being projected as a top-10 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft.
The sticking point for Alabama right now is whether Sexton will be eligible when they play Minnesota. He's currently ineligible stemming from the FBI's investigation into illegal recruiting tactics.
Former San Antonio Spurs guard Avery Johnson is the head coach at Alabama.
Nov. 29 vs. Miami (Big Ten/ACC Challenge)
While Minnesota is ranked No. 15 in both major preseason polls, Miami is ahead of them in both. They're No. 13 in the AP Top 25 and No. 12 in the USA Today Coaches Poll.
While that trio of games is difficult, Minnesota should roll over the other 10 non-conference opponents (USC Upstate, Niagara, Western Carolina, Alabama A&M, Massachusetts, Drake, Arkansas, Oral Roberts, Florida Atlantic, Harvard).
If Minnesota wins all of their non-conference games, and the two early conference games against Rutgers (Dec. 3) and Nebraska (Dec. 5), it's not all that crazy to think they could be 15-0 entering play in January, where they'll be heavy favorites at home against Illinois (Jan. 3) and Indiana (Jan. 5) before playing huge games against expected Big Ten powers Northwestern (Jan. 10) and Purdue (Jan. 13).
Albeit unlikely, 17-0 isn't impossible for this year's Gophers.