Hello from charming Richmond, Va., where my weather is better than yours. Thanks for all your questions ahead of today’s game at the Robins Center (tipoff at 6:30 CT). To submit for future aMAILiaBAGs, email me at amelia.rayno@startribune.com or reply to me on Twitter @AmeliaRayno. Here we go.

Your questions below in bold; my answers in regular type.

Most recent recruiting class graded an F. What grade would the 3 '14 signees get? #aMAILiaBAG


That’s a good question. You’re referring, I think, to the Sporting News’ grades of the incoming 2013 classes well before the season started. Again, it’s tough to judge players before you really see how they make the next jump, but as it currently stands, I would give the 2014 class (currently Josh Martin, Nate Mason and Carlos Morris) a C+. There are no game-changing recruits, but the Gophers got three underrated types that should fit well into coach Richard Pitino’s system. It’s all about the fit, not the stars (all three are 3-star recruits), as we are getting a glimpse of with JUCO point guard DeAndre Mathieu right now. Currently, I wouldn’t rank the Gophers’ 2014 higher because again, it’s not really addressing their most pressing needs, which are big men. Josh Martin should help Minnesota fill that need, but he is more of a Joey King signee and less of a sizeable, punishing big.

But remember, the Gophers’ 2014 class is not necessarily complete. Minnesota still has one scholarship remaining, and they could sign someone in the late period.

Mailbag question. Complete this sentence. For Wally to get playing minutes in Big 10 he must ???


I think the most general answer to that is that Wally Ellenson must prove himself to Pitino in practice. We don’t get to see practices (they’re closed to the media), but it’s pretty clear that the Gophers’ coach is still waiting to see something from Ellenson. The wing barely played last season, so it’s possible that Pitino still thinks he’s too raw. The problem for Ellenson is that there is a lot of depth in front of him. However, he could be an interesting experiment in the four-guard lineup the Gophers have been toying with, given his size and athleticism. So if Ellenson comes in off the bench and gets all over the boards – if he can get four rebounds or so off the bench – that’s only going to help his chances.

Why are the gophers getting little credit? Other than losing Mbakwe, we're better than last year. #MOinit2winit


Why? Because they’re essentially a new team and haven’t proven anything yet. I think Andre Hollins and Austin Hollins get a lot of respect around the league, but who else can you pout about not getting their due? Elliott Eliason has played modest minutes over the last two years, but he’s never been relied on in such a major role, and he’s been largely up and down since arriving. Mo Walker has barely played since he stepped foot on campus. Joey King was a marginal player at Drake. And the bulk of the bench is largely unknowns as well. There is Ellenson, who had spare minutes a year ago, Charles Buggs, who didn’t play at all and three other new players that no one knew much about (one of those, Mathieu, is of course in the starting five). Oto Osenieks struggled mightily with shooting, and Maverick Ahanmisi has been turnover prone.

You would expect differently?

In general, I’m not sure why fans get so huffed and puffed about preseason rankings or how much “credit” a team gets before they’ve played any games. If anything, that’s an opportunity. It takes the pressure off and creates a situation in which a modest finish – even if it doesn’t satisfy you personally – ye with lofty sights – could be viewed as a success. The team will have every chance to surprise folks on the court, and those are the best stories after all. Plus you’ll get to tell all your buddies ‘I told you so’ (and me, for that matter) if they do better than others are predicting.

That doesn’t sound so bad, does it?

Not much Buggs action so far. Was he Tubby specific recruit with no fit in Pitino regime or just work in progress? #aMAILiaBag


People are obsessed with Charles Buggs. You know why? Because he’s the backup quarterback. He’s the guy who doesn’t get time, so fans don’t have a chance to see him struggle. Which in their minds, means he must be great.

I don’t think Buggs was a specific Tubby recruit – Tubby elected to redshirt him, after all – and I think that Pitino sees a lot of potential in the forward. But he’s just not ready yet. Maybe you’ve heard this before: he’s still awfully raw.

#aMAILiaBAG Percantage chance Andre makes 1st team B1G? Is this his last year here?


Hollins has been picked by a few people to wind up a first team All-Big Ten, I’ve noticed. Personally, I picked him third team (which is where the media as a whole picked him as well), partly because I think he still needs to add some things to his game still and partly because I think there are a lot of other really, really good players in the Big Ten.

Landing on the first team would be quite an accomplishment for Hollins, and though there are outliers predicting it, would be safe to call a surprise. The potential, though, is there I think. So ... 20 percent chance?

And I think Hollins will be a four-year player -- and I believe the degree is meaningful to him.

Offer for delshon strikland soon?


Possibly, but likely not until next year, closer to the spring signing period. The Gophers have recruited the Minnetonka guard, but still seem not quite sure about him.

Do you know of any good Gopher basketball blog/twitters to follow? #aMAILiaBAG


Ahh, very cute, sir. Everyone go check out From the Barn’s DELIGHTFUL content.

Is issue between Pitino and Ellenson related to high jump? Is Ellenson still doing track and field after season?


I don’t envision Ellenson changing his mind about track and field or basketball – he’s extremely passionate about both. And no, the disagreement has nothing to do with his duel-sport status. Pitino is totally on board with that.

Hi, 2 questions from Nor Cal.

1. How many games in do you think it will be before we can judge how good this team is?

2. Buggs must be sick of being described as "raw." What does that really mean? What's needed... time? practice? physical conditioning? studying the game?

Great work...


1 – I think by the end of the Maui Invite, we will have a pretty good idea. The Gophers will have gone on the road against Richmond and competed against Syracuse and two other potentially tough challengers on a neutral court. How close can they keep it against Jim Boeheim and Co., ranked No. 8 in the nation? That might give us an idea of how well they’ll manage against the Big Ten’s brass.

2 – You caught me! I laughed when I read this because that’s the No. 1 word I use to describe Buggs (see above) every time people ask me. He probably is tired of it. But really, I think it’s all of those things you mentioned. Buggs has a great frame and has packed on some muscle already, but he could use to gain some more. Studying the game is a big one, because I think one of the concerns with him is that he needs to better see the big picture in game situations. Of course, more practice will only help. Like I said above, Pitino and the staff sees a lot of potential for him, but he’s not there yet.

When Joey King is actually inside the three point line on offense, do the Gophers get any extra points added on to their team score for every completed ball fake that he does...even if he doesn't score?


Not technically, but if has been pretty valuable!

You've sort of established your brand, but are there any young girl or guys out there covering the Gophers of note that we should pay attention to?


Why is everyone out there trying to leave me??!

(Also, currently bristling at the indication that I, ahem, am not young.)


Bigfoot is alleged to really like bacon…. Are you concerned that it might be a hipster? #aMAILiaBAG


Hmmm, let’s see. Bigfoot likes bacon, wears massive shaggy coat that’s almost too ridiculous to be real, is so underground that only a select few have even seen him  [ and he’s managed to stay out of the mainstream animal kingdom for centuries], is surrounded by what he must only think can be considered [sigh] posers (bears, blobsquatches, idiots running around in recycled Halloween costumes) … Good God, Bigfoot is a hipster.

If we find out it also likes sriracha and The National "before they got big," we'll have our answer. #hipsterbigfoot


Unjustified jump, Stu. Everybody likes sriracha.

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