This is Amelia Rayno's third season on the Gophers men's basketball beat. She learned college basketball in North Carolina (Go Tar Heels!), where fanhood is not an option. In 2010, she joined the Star Tribune after graduating from Boston's Emerson College, which sadly had no exciting D-I college hoops to latch onto. Amelia has also worked on the sports desk at the Boston Globe and interned at the Detroit News.

  Follow Rayno on Twitter @AmeliaRayno

Gaston Diedhiou denied by admissions

Posted by: Amelia Rayno Updated: August 27, 2014 - 10:41 AM

In one season at the University of Minnesota, Richard Pitino brought in a cache of underrated talent, claimed an NIT title and began stacking the first building blocks of a badly needed foundation.
 
At Minnesota -- a program without top-notch facilities to boast or a recent history of success -- it will take time. Dedication. Patience.
 
Pitino and the program need more of the latter with the news that top recruit Gaston Diedhiou did not get into the university.
 
Here’s my story from last night.
 
Diedhiou did not fail his standard academic tests. The NCAA Clearinghouse deemed him fully prepared, but he posted an English proficiency score that didn’t meet Minnesota’s standards and will need to take a course this fall in hopes of gaining U of M entry this spring.

Minnesota gets second 2015 commitment in Dupree McBrayer

Posted by: Amelia Rayno Updated: August 22, 2014 - 10:03 PM

Minnesota basketball coach Richard Pitino has secured his second 2015 recruit before the start of the fall classes.

Dupree McBrayer, a versatile guard out of New Jersey, verbally committed to the Gophers on Friday evening per a source. Evan Daniels of Scout.com was the first to report the news. The Elizabeth (N.J.) St. Patrick's School senior considered a number of other schools, including Creighton, Seton Hall, Providence and Pittsburgh.

McBrayer joins four-star Virginia point guard Kevin Dorsey, who committed last month, to create a formidable future backcourt duo. The 6-4 McBrayer, a three-star athlete according to Rivals.com, is expected to play multiple positions with the Gophers as an excellent creator who is also a very effective shooter and attacker.

The four open scholarships in 2015 -- there are now two remaining -- should represent the signature recruiting class of Pitino's young coaching career. He inherited just a few scholarship players when he took his first head job at Florida International in 2012. One year later, he accepted the position at Minnesota, scrambling to add four players in a matter of two months. The early signing period for 2014 recruits came just seven months into his new tenure, a relatively brief window of opportunity considering many elite recruits are targeted for years before committing.

The Gophers are still hard after a few other guards, including DeLaSalle senior Jarvis Johnson, but netted two very talented backcourt options early certainly gives the staff some options.

A closer look at Minnesota's 2014-15 schedule

Posted by: Amelia Rayno Updated: August 22, 2014 - 2:31 PM

Striking a balance on an NCAA schedule isn’t an easy task.

Ideally, a program lines up strong enough competition to keep fans intrigued and bolster a solid resume come postseason, but not so strong that it risks embarrassing losses and fatigue before the conference schedule begins (particularly a concern when a team plays in the Big Ten, consistently one of the toughest leagues in the country).

A year ago, Minnesota played the No. 9 overall strength of schedule (SOS) in the nation, but the high mark wasn't enough to push the Gophers on the right side of the bubble.

This season, the Gophers may hope they don't need the boost. The non-conference slate, released yesterday as the conference schedule was being announced, likely won't do Minnesota any favors if it needs another selling point in the eyes of the NCAA tournament selection committee in March.

The Preseason NIT Tip-Off is not yet finalized, but even the presence of nameless slots in the three-game span represents possibility when it comes to this lackluster non-conference schedule. Outside of Big Ten play, the Gophers have just one top-100 matchup currently scheduled, Louisville. Two opponents -- UMBC and Furman -- ranked below 325th nationally a year ago according to kenpom.com, and save from Louisville and Wake Forest, the Gophers don't have any opponents within the top 200 on the docket. The Gophers hope that will change, of course, when the NIT field is revealed. St. John's, Gonzaga and Georgia were all originally committed to the tournament -- and would provide a seemingly necessary boost to the current lineup -- but none of those schools have posted their schedules just yet, so it can't be taken as a guarantee.

As for Big Ten schedule, it could be worse. The Gophers face Ohio State (home), Michigan, Indiana and Michigan State (all on the road) just once each, and should benefit from a lighter stretch in the heart of January that includes games vs. Rutgers, Illinois and Penn State around a road trip to Nebraska. The tough spans include the start to the season -- two road games and then Ohio State (home), Michigan (road) and Iowa (home) -- and the end, when the Gophers get Wisconsin twice in the span of three games. Once again, Minnesota will have plenty of opportunities to pull signature wins on the road, and the Gophers will need to perform better away from the Barn if they hope to improve on last year's NIT title.

My prediction: The Gophers go 10-2 (assuming they find some good competition in New York) in the non-conference schedule, and then start out the Big Ten slate slow but gain steam. Minnesota still struggles at times but the road, but behind a veteran-laden lineup, finishes 11-7, ties for fifth in the conference and slides into the NCAA tournament.

Report: 2015 recruit Chris Clarke narrows list, keeps Minnesota on it

Posted by: Amelia Rayno Updated: August 21, 2014 - 8:43 PM

University of Minnesota target Chris Clarke has narrowed his list to seven teams, including the Gophers, according HoopsIntel analyst Corey Evans.

Per Evans, the 6-6 four-star (according to Rivals) wing is now considering Iowa State, Virginia Tech, Creighton, Florida, UConn and Tennessee, along with Minnesota.

The Gophers have four scholarships available for Clarke's 2015 class and have already gotten one commitment from four-star point guard Kevin Dorsey. 

Clarke, a super athletic and somewhat unorthodox forward from Virginia, has demonstrated a knack for rebounding and finishing at the rim. He's one of a handful of recruits the Gophers have keyed in as the fall rolls around.

Minnesota releases its basketball schedule in full

Posted by: Amelia Rayno Updated: August 21, 2014 - 7:00 PM

We now have the University of Minnesota's schedule almost in entirety.

The Gophers released their non-conference schedule on Thursday evening as the Big Ten announced the league slate live on Big Ten Network. 

The big news in the non-conference schedule is that the team will in fact be heading back to Madison Square Garden and participating in the NIT Season Tip-Off, which was reportedly in flux after the November tournament managed to get only half of the expected 16 teams. Minnesota will play two games at the Garden, where they secured their NIT title this spring, as well as host a first-round game at Williams Arena. The tournament still has not been finalized, so no opponents are listed as of yet. 

More on the schedule to come, but for now, here it is in full:

11/6 Minnesota-Duluth (exhibition)
11/14 vs. Louisville in the Armed Forces Classic in Puerto Rico (6 p.m.; ESPN)
11/17 or 11/18 NIT Season Tip-Off First Round vs. TBD
11/22 Maryland - Baltimore County
11/26 NIT Season Tip-Off Semifinals at Madison Square Garden, NY
11/28 NIT Season Tip-Off Finals at Madison Square Garden, NY
12/2 at Wake Forest (ACC/Big Ten Challenge at 6 p.m. on ESPNU)
12/5 Western Carolina
12/8 North Dakota 
12/10 Southern
12/19 Seattle University
12/22 Furman
12/27 UNC Wilmington
12/31 at Purdue
1/3 at Maryland
1/6 Ohio State (8 p.m. ESPN)
1/10 at Michigan
1/13 Iowa
1/17 Rutgers
1/20 at Nebraska
1/24 Illinois
1/28 at Penn State
1/31 Nebraska
2/7 Purdue
2/12 at Iowa
2/15 at Indiana
2/18 Northwestern
2/21 at Wisconsin
2/26 at Michigan State
3/5 Wisconsin
3/8 Penn State
3/11-3/15 Big Ten Tournament at United Center in Chicago, Ill.

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