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
A lot of things have changed around the Gophers basketball program. There is a blog written by the head coach, the average age on the bench has dropped more dramatically that an Austin Hollins alley oop, and Rick Pitino comes to town just to hang out in maroon and gold.
Now, add to that mix a fun web series on the team, the first episode of which was released today.
Take a peek for yourself:
Pretty good, if you can get past the SUPER up-close testimonials and the slow-mo coaching shots.
The Gophers Digital Production videos, which are dubbed "Raise the Barn" (the new Minnesota catchphrase, apparently) will follow around coach Richard Pitino and the players all year. Here's the schedule:
In other news, in case you missed it, Austin Hollins was named Big Ten Player of the Week on Monday. Hollins eclipsed 1,000 career points a week ago against South Dakota State in a game in which he went off for 20 points and a career-high 14 rebounds. It was the first time he'd been named to the weekly honor in his career. I'd say this year has gotten off to a pretty good start for the senior, who is now averaging 13.8 points and 7.8 rebounds a game.
Everyone loves to complain about the rising costs of attending a good old fashioned ballgame.
But it seems Gophers fans are more than willing to pay the price.
A report from Vivid Seats, an online ticket marketplace shows that Minnesota owns the 11th most expensive re-sold NCAA basketball ticket in the nation for their site, with a median price of $84 per ticket.
(Data was compiled in late November.)
Kansas takes the cake at a median of $265 per ticket and Kentucky, Duke, Gonzaga, Indiana, UCLA, VCU, Georgetown, UNC and Wake Forest all fall ahead of the Gophers in terms of more expensive tickets.
Obviously, the Gophers have a monopoly in this state for college basketball, with no other Division I schools around – that should help Minnesota do very well, attendance-wise. But what’s interesting about the Gophers’ placement on this list is that Williams Arena doesn’t consistently sell out.
Since the market is set by sellers, prices for the tickets can be driven up by demand. What that means is that while the venue doesn’t always have a rear in every seat, Gophers fans are very willing to pay for better seats. There aren’t as many who are eager to sit in the nosebleeds though -- Williams’ cache of obstructed view seats might have something to do with that as well.
By contrast Michigan State, according to this report, has a medium ticket price of $55. The Gophers aren’t involved in any of the top-25 most expensive games this season. The priciest? UNC vs. Duke on March 8th, with a median entry cost of $1459. Yikes.
To submit questions for future aMAILiaBAGs, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or send them via Twitter, @AmeliaRayno.
Here we go:
Where will Andre Hollins end up on all time Gophers scoring list?
Actually, I think the personable guard has an opportunity to challenge for the top spot, currently claimed by Mychal Thompson with 1,992 career points.
Even if, for the next two seasons, Hollins produced exactly the number of points he did a year ago, he would land at No. 2 with 1,814, over Willie Burton (1,800). But I expect him to get better, maybe significantly better. In the last couple of games, Hollins has been in a bit of a shooting slump, but in spite of that he’s still averaging 15.8 points a game. If he maintained that average through the year and the Gophers played, say, 34 games, and he averaged the same next year, he’d be 98 points short of Thompson’s mark. Again, I think he can do better. It will be a fun chase to watch, starting with Friday’s game against Nebraska – Omaha, in which he’ll likely notch 1,000 career points.
The key, of course, is to stay healthy, and get to the postseason, any kind of postseason, and do well there. Thompson played just 96 games throughout his four-year career. Hollins has already played 82.
So what happens to a run and gun offense when it gets into its half-court game? How do you think this team will operate in its half-court offense? What happens if run and gun becomes one and done?
Well, Nolen, obviously they’ll get there, and they’ll get there plenty in the Big Ten. Yes, ideally the Gophers would like to score in transition and avoid the full strength of interior defenses as much as possible, but coach Richard Pitino also knows that, to some extent, it’s inevitable. To this point, I think the offense has operated pretty well. I like DeAndre Mathieu leading the way and daftly dishing out to teammates for clean scores or just barreling into the paint himself – a strategy that is being rewarded often this season with the new fouling rules, even if he can’t convert.
And whether you look at this as a good thing (perhaps indicating better success down the road and less culture shock) or a bad thing (we were promised!), the Gophers haven’t actually played all that fast so far. Minnesota’s tempo of play ranks 259th in the nation, according to Kenpom.com, and Pitino asserted the other day so far, teh team might actually look better playing at a slower pace. Some of the half-court offense will be ugly – the Gophers just don’t have the frontcourt personnel to battle in the way they’ll at times need to. But that’s just kind of what it is this year.
Thoughts on where this team is shaping up in the #B1G ?
I think they’ve played well in stretches so far, but as of now, I’m not changing my predictions of them landing at No. 9 in the conference.
Question for the next #aMAILiaBAG: when a player gets injured like Mav or Joey did, does the program pay the medical expenses?
Of course. Every program has trainers and doctors on staff for a lot of the tweaks, sprains, and other smaller injuries that occur regularly, and the school certainly handles the expenses of the larger injuries as well, as long as they are basketball-related. If the schools didn’t do that, something like an ACL sprain – with the surgeries and rehabilitation and equipment – could be financially devastating for a player.
While Oto and Joey seem like good role players at a small fwd, they're undersized and lack athleticism. What can coach do?
Grit his teeth and spend all of his free time recruiting bigger dudes?
Obviously Pitino doesn’t WANT to be in this spot, but he only had a handful of months to try to lure the big men that former coach Tubby Smith didn’t recruit into the thin ranks. He tried, with the Rakeem Buckles transfer, but alas, the NCAA didn’t grant the transfer. Now he’s just got to make the best of his situation – emphasizing the guards and leaning heavily on shooting and scoring in transition … and then hope he can find some more size for 2014.
Is it just me, or does it seem like every time Ellenson gets on the court, he tries to force plays and mainly looks for his own shot? Realize he might not have many minutes to impress, but not letting the game "come to him" and playing well with his teammates is only going to get him further down the bench rotation. Everyone raves about his athleticism and that's all I've seen in his limited time so far.
P.S. Live in your old stomping grounds of Cary, NC and it's 70 degrees today as you suffer through a snowstorm. Just sayin'
Thought about not answering your question simply because you’re just taunting all of us here in Antarctica. But fine.
I think that’s a product of not having a ton of time to prove his worth on the court. Sometimes he looks for it a little too much, but it’s a tough situation because I know he doesn’t want to be on the bench. Actually, it’s in his best interest to relax his offensive pursuits a little and just focus on D and rebounding. That’s what’s most likely to earn him more minutes.
Looking ahead, what are the chances of starting out the B1G 3-0?
I’ve thought about this a little, with Michigan struggling some early. But then you see the Wolverines go toe-to-toe with Arizona on Saturday, even in spite of a negative assist-to-turnover ratio and only 24 rebounds. Michigan is still plenty good, and very capable on offense. After that, the Gophers have Purdue at home and Penn State on the road. Is it possible? Yes, it’s possible. And it would provide a nice boost for what is sure to be a tough conference slate. It will also be a very tough challenge.
Have you heard if Pitino gave our extra scholarship to Shell as a one year deal since it's not being used?
He did not.
I'm confused about Minnesota's plans for the center position going forward. Eliason and Walker are both juniors. The Gophers didn't sign any centers in the next recruiting class. So next year they'll have two senior centers with no one in the lower three classes. Are they counting on signing a recruit who can start at center as a freshman in 2015-2016?
I think everyone is confused about it, including the Gophers staff. There is no doubt Minnesota needs more big men. There are still a few options for 2014, including the 6-9 Abdoulaye Gueye and 7-footer Fred Iduwe, plus more options could be available in the spring.
Austin Hollins' huge surge this season, what's going on with Andre Hollins and my biggest surprises so far this season ... watch it here.
With a long, games-less stretch ahead, the Gophers are healthy again and have just two non-conference games remaining before the Big Ten season gets under way. How have they looked so far? What can we expect ahead? Let's talk about it. Join me at noon and bring your questions!
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