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I'm fresh off a trip to the East Coast and my old stomping grounds, summer is in full swing and basketball season seems like a distant promise. Still, there's plenty to yak about. Recruiting will soon be picking up again with evaluation periods coming in July, bringing new Minnesota prospects to Dinkytown for visits, and six incoming players for the upcoming season creates new rotation options. So let's discuss. 

On to your questions:

@bportnoe: @AmeliaRayno Does [Allonzo] Trier going to Findlay help, hurt or neither #Gophers?

Well, I suppose there's a chance it goes either way. 

Findlay Prep is going to put a high-profile recruit like Trier in an even greater spotlight. If he excels under those bright lights, the nation's elite schools will likely pursue him all the more. Considering the four-star 2015 shooting guard is currently ranked No. 38 in the nation and being wooed by programs like Kansas, Louisville, North Carolina and UCLA, that's a scary prospect for a team like Minnesota. Right now, Trier is saying all the right things and giving every indication that he's at least listening to what Minnesota coach Richard Pitino has to say. But realistically, the Gophers are already in a difficult position. If he improves, that spot gets tougher. If he struggles some against the country's best high school competition, well, maybe it becomes just a little bit easier.

Make no mistake, Trier would be an incredibly big get for the Gophers. They probably need several dominoes to fall.

@sgarvey03: @AmeliaRayno what are your thoughts on Jarvis Johnson falling out of ESPN top 100?  Still top target?

Often those rankings can be based on one particular outing -- the one in which the ESPN representative saw the player. Anyone who has watched Johnson's game consistently shouldn't be worried. The Gophers will continue to go hard after the four-star point guard -- who is still ranked No. 85 nationally according to Rivals.

@CreaAlex: @AmeliaRayno Who will be the biggest surprise on next year's team? #aMAILiabag

I'm going to say freshman Nate Mason. Minnesota will need contribution from a lot of the new guys, including Carlos 'Squirrel' Morris, who will likely start in the vacancy left by Austin Hollins. But Mason has the potential to be the sixth man and provide a spark a la the early-season version of Malik Smith last year. Mason is a talented and quick guard that can score the ball on the drive or from the perimeter. He can help to back up DeAndre Mathieu at point or step in at shooting guard. There isn't room for him in the starting five right now, but he will be used plenty off the bench.

@zmotalk: @AmeliaRayno What do you think playing time for [Charles] Buggs will look like this upcoming season?  #Gophers #aMAILiaBAG

I think it will grow, certainly, but modestly. Buggs still needs to show he can pack on some muscle (Minnesota's staff wants him to add at least 15-20 pounds this summer) and understand where to be on defense. He showed a little bit of scoring ability in the Gophers home game against Iowa in January, when he put up 13 points in 19 minutes. But in the very next game, at Michigan, when he got another big opportunity, Buggs looked a little lost. As Pitino has said all along, the forward has plenty of potential, but the journey is long and right now, the sample size is small.

@troothtooth: @AmeliaRayno The #Gophers also seem to be offering a lot of point guards for 2015? Depth or nervous Jarvis Johnson goes elsewhere?  #aMAILiabag

That's just smart recruiting. I think Minnesota believes they have a solid chance with Johnson right now and at one point, the Gophers were probably the favorite. As the floor general's recruitment has exploded, that grip has probably gotten a little more tenuous. Either way, putting all your eggs in one fickle, 17-year-old's basket (that's not a statement about Johnson, who seems to have a good head on his shoulders, but rather young recruits in general) is not wise. No one knows what he'll ultimately decide. I am sure they are making him very aware, however, that he is still the No. 1 target.

@okondj08: @AmeliaRayno #aMAILiaBAG compared to last year, how much do you think Pitino has gained ground on top talent 4-5 star recruits?

He's taken another step. Last year was his first year in the Big Ten and his first year on TV as a head coach. That extra exposure helps, as does an NIT championship. 

Still, at this point, four and five-star recruits that aren't from Minnesota can't be called anything other than a long shot. It takes time and winning.

@eauclairered: @AmeliaRayno Have you heard anything or seen anything (in your view) about Pitino's longterm stay at Minnesota? Will he leave us? #aMAILiaBAG

This perpetual question baffles me. 

Here is what I believe:

I believe Pitino is happy in the Twin Cities. I believe Pitino will remain focused on the Gophers and their success as long as he is in Minnesota. I believe Pitino has a chance to take the Gophers to the next level, competitive-wise, and if he does, I believe he will have suitors. If those suitors come from very prestigious universities with programs soaked in tradition and success, I believe he will listen. And if some day, some suitor comes along and the job is clearly much better than his current job and the time feels right for him, I believe he will take it and I do not believe he will feel badly for doing so because, after all, it's his career and his family he has to think about. I believe most reasonable human beings would do the same thing if they were put in those shoes. I believe if someone offered me a 50 percent raise at a national publication that would instantly propel my career, I would go. I believe I would be dumb not to. I believe the concept of loyalty, when it comes to college coaches staying in one place, is generally a selfish assignment of blame concocted by fans who would be no more loyal to those persons, if, say, they put up a handful of losing seasons. I believe this is the way of the world. That is what I believe.

@chrisweids: @AmeliaRayno top 5 patio spots in the twin cities. #aMAILiaBAG

Great question, one I got about four times:

1. Butcher and the Boar: There is a beer garden and there are house-made sausages and there is a fine whiskey selection. I need not say anymore.

2. Solara rooftop: The glassware is plastic, but it almost looks like the real thing. And it comes with the best rooftop view of the city and the option to order bacon-wrapped dates.

3. The Joint: Completely underrated patio in the West Bank with the potential for some of the weirdest/ best conversations of the summer, guaranteed.

4. Coup de tat: I'm liking this new spot in Uptown* and first time around, my Negroni was on point.

5. Loring Park Kitchen & Bar: The food is fine, but the park view and the bottomless mimosas at brunch are really something special.

Honorable mentions:

Union: Beautiful rooftop but they put cognac in their Manhattans (just don't do it) and have an incredibly loud DJ up there at totally inappropriate times (like, uh, Sunday brunch).

Tin Fish: The seating on the lake is fantastic. If only it didn't take 45 minutes to get a tiny drink.

Bar Lurcat 
Louie's Wine Dive 
Muddy Waters
Bryant Lake Bowl
Bachelor Farmer 

**This list is only for Minneapolis because I'm a Minneapolis girl and it's my list.
*** I have not yet been to Hola Arepa but I anticipate it making the next list.

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