We Will Know More About Gophers MBB This Time Next Week

NCAA Basketball: Maryland at Minnesota
Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

Unexpectedly, the Minnesota Golden Gophers men’s basketball team has kicked off its season with an impressive 12-3 start. Their 3-1 conference record even has the Gophers occupying the 2nd spot in the Big Ten standings.

Yet, Minnesota still hasn’t cracked the top-75 (not a typo) in either the NET (85) or KenPom (78) rankings. We’ve already discussed why they rank as low as they do and how, in theory, they can climb. But looking at the schedule, it’s nearly time to make theory into reality.

Related: Despite All the Winning, Gophers MBB Struggling in Rankings

The Gophers play their first of a four-game Big Ten stretch on Friday night vs the Indiana Hoosiers. By the time it ends on January 23, we (and the rankings systems) will have a much better idea of how good Ben Johnson’s 2023-24 squad really is.

Friday, Jan. 12: Gophers @ Indiana Hoosiers (11-5)

The Minnesota Gophers are set to visit Bloomington, Indiana, marking only their third road game of the season. Much like the Gophers, the Hoosiers have had a solid start to their season but remain mostly unproven. They have an 11-5 overall record (3-2 in the Big Ten).

Indiana currently ranks No. 100 in the NET Rankings, 15 spots behind Minnesota. A victory on the road in Bloomington alone wouldn’t significantly impact the Gophers’ standing in the NET, but there are ways for them to help themselves.

First, it’s a true Big Ten road game, which the NET likes. But beyond that, the Gophers can play efficient basketball on both ends of the floor, which is also NET friendly. If they do that, there’s a good possibility they secure victory by 10 points or more, a margin the NET also holds as valuable.

Related: Gophers MBB Grabs Another Early Season Big Ten Win vs Maryland

But most importantly, they’d stack another win, which would give them a 4-1 record and their best start to conference play since 2008-’09, under Tubby Smith.

Monday, Jan. 15: Minnesota vs Iowa Hawkeyes (9-6)

NCAA Basketball: Maryland at Minnesota
Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

Staying in the spotlight and securing strong NET and KenPom rankings involves winning the games you’re expected to, particularly when playing at home. The Gophers will face a very middling Iowa Hawkeyes squad at The Barn on Monday.

This is a should-win game for the Gophers, if they want to maintain their momentum early in conference play and, especially, if they want to climb the NET rankings Tuesday morning. The 9-6 (1-3) Hawkeyes currently rank 67th in the NET, giving the Gophers yet another opportunity to stack conference wins before the schedule really starts to test Ben’s inexperienced team.

Thursday, Jan. 18: Minnesota vs Michigan State Spartans (9-7)

The Michigan State Spartans may not have had the ideal start they hoped for, but there’s a reason why, at 9-6, they rank in the top-25 of the NET. They’ve had one of the toughest schedules in this year’s college basketball season, a slate that has included losses to Duke (#13 NET), Arizona (#2), Wisconsin (#12) and Illinois (#11). Even James Madison (#59), who beat the Spartans in their season opener, is now 15-1.

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Michigan State has one victory against top-tier competition, beating Baylor (#14) back on December 16. Under the leadership of Tom Izzo, the Spartans currently hold a 1-3 record in the Big Ten and an overall record of 9-6. A win next week in East Lansing would see Minnesota start to skyrocket up the NET rankings.

Keep winning and March Madness will come calling

If the Gophers can sweep these next three games or at least win two of three, they will set themselves up for a massive border rivalry game on Jan 23 vs the #12 Wisconsin Badgers. Ben Johnson and the Gophers have a huge opportunity at the Barn on Jan 23.

They have some tremendous opportunities coming up and have chance to give themselves some more national attention. Winning conference is the key to boosting there ranking and March Madness resume.

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