The Gophers women’s basketball team will start its season at home against Eastern Illinois at 11 a.m. Dec. 2 at Williams Arena.
But the season will look quite different, because of the coronavirus pandemic.
First, there will be only two nonconference games before the Gophers, in their third season under coach Lindsay Whalen, jump into a 20-game Big Ten Conference schedule on Dec. 9 vs. Michigan State at Williams Arena.
Second, fans will not be allowed to attend games this season.
The season could have started as early as Wednesday, but it was nudged back a week — another nod to the impact of the pandemic.
After opening against Eastern Illinois — which went 19-12 last season — the Gophers on Dec. 6 will host a Drake team that went 22-8 last season.
And then a difficult run through the Big Ten begins. Rated the second-best conference in the country in RPI last season, the Big Ten had five teams mentioned in the preseason Association Press Top 25 in Maryland (12), Indiana (16), Northwestern (17), Ohio State (20) and Michigan (25).
The Gophers’ 20-game conference slate includes two games against two of those ranked teams; the Gophers play both Maryland and Michigan twice. The Gophers will also get two games against Penn State, Iowa, Wisconsin, Nebraska and Illinois. The Gophers play Indiana, Northwestern, Michigan State, Purdue, Ohio State and Rutgers once each.
The Gophers are 37-16 overall and 14-22 in the Big Ten in two seasons under Whalen; her team was 16-15 and 5-13 last season.
Game times and a TV schedule will announced at a later date. The Gophers end the regular season at Illinois on either March 4 or 5 and the Big Ten tournament is scheduled for March 9-13 in Indianapolis.