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

Pregame: On day after surgery anniversary, will Mbakwe pull a Peterson?

Posted by: Amelia Rayno under College basketball, Gophers players Updated: January 1, 2013 - 1:21 PM


As we all know, Sunday was the one-year ACL surgery anniversary for two Minnesota sports icons: Adrian Peterson and Trevor Mbakwe.

For his part, Peterson was nothing short of dazzling, running for 199 yards – and falling just nine yards short of the all-time rushing record for a single season -- in the Vikings’ victory over the Packers that earned them a spot in the playoffs.

Heading into today’s matchup with No. 19 Michigan State, Mbakwe hasn’t had nearly the jaw-gaping season that Peterson has, but the situations have been quite different. As Mbakwe has pointed out, his team simply hasn’t needed him as much as the Vikings have needed Peterson. That’s not to say that Mbakwe isn’t important – of course he is. Even so, while Peterson was the Vikings’ lifeblood, Mbakwe has so far been just another contributor on a highly improved and balanced team.

The forward’s role, however, continues to grow. Without the necessity of another scorer in the lineup (because the Gophers were cruising along pretty good, status quo), coach Tubby Smith had the luxury of easing Mbakwe back slowly.

“It went by fast -- I forgot it was a year,” Mbakwe said. “A lot has changed. It made me appreciate my situation that much more. Basketball can be taken away from you at any day. I’m glad to be here, with my six year, playing with these guys against a top 20 opponent. It’s pretty exciting.”

Now, with the Big Ten season kicking off, it looks like Smith will start Mbakwe again (for the second time this year), despite a lackluster performance from the starters as a group in Minnesota’s last game against Lafayette.

With imposing big men Adreian Payne and Derrick Nix in Michigan State’s starting five, Mbakwe will have a good test of where he is.

“The level of intensity is going to pick up, and we’re excited for the challenge,” Mbakwe said.

Other notes on today’s matchup:

  • Mbakwe has gone through several practices without his chunky knee brace that he’s been wearing all season, he said. The forward is hopeful that he will be able to play without it either today or Sunday vs. Northwestern (a game, by the way, that has been set for 6 p.m. It had been a TBA time starting time until being announced on Monday It will be shown on the Big Ten Network).
  • Austin Hollins is still dealing with a mild groin strain, which he sustained on Dec. 8 against USC and Mo Walker, who was hit on the shoulder in a practice has received some treatment for his injury. Both are expected to play.
  • In the Gophers last game, vs. Lafayette, Smith played his regular starters, with Mbakwe replacing Elliott Eliason, who had started every game until that point. Smith could opt to go with the same lineup again, or potentially decide to go bigger, with Eliason at center, Mbakwe at power forward and Williams scooted over to the 3-spot. My guess is he’ll stick with his previous lineup, however, given that Branden Dawson – Michigan State’s version of Williams (a wing playing at the 4-spot) – has been playing at power forward.
  • Eliason didn’t play at all against Lafayette, but that move is probably not lasting. I expect to see the center today, either starting or off the bench.
  • Freshman Wally Ellenson played 15 minutes against Lafayette and did some good things, finishing with five points and four rebounds. Still, Smith is hesitant to guarantee his spot in the rotation. “He’s way behind. He hasn’t played, hasn’t practiced. You miss 11 games, and all the sudden it’s the Big Ten. He has a long way to go,” he said. “Wally has done as well as anybody in his situation, with the broken hand. He’s competitive, he’s a hard worker and he’s willing to stay after. He’ll see time. I don’t know how much.
  • For all the talk of Michigan State not being as strong as a year ago, the Spartans are doing a lot of things well. MSU is leading the league in scoring defense (allowing an average of 56.1 points a game) and field goal perentage defense (they are holding opponents to 35.3 percent of their shots). They are shooting third best in the Big Ten both from the field (47.8) and from the line (72.5).

Extra points: 

*Watch today's game on ESPN2

*Listen to today's game live on 1500-a.m.

*In today's Star Tribune: Rodney Williams' confidence has made his season successful.

*From Sunday's paper: The Big Ten schedule will tell the story of the Gophers season.

*From the blog yesterday: Are the Gophers ready for the Big Ten? 



NY Yankees - LP: M. Pineda 0 FINAL
Toronto - WP: D. Hutchison 2
Detroit - LP: M. Scherzer 3 FINAL
Chicago WSox - WP: C. Sale 6
Chicago Cubs - WP: F. Doubront 5 FINAL
St. Louis - LP: J. Masterson 1
Cincinnati - LP: A. Simon 2 FINAL
Pittsburgh - WP: V. Worley 3
Minnesota - K. Gibson 6:05 PM
Baltimore - C. Tillman
Philadelphia - J. Williams 6:10 PM
NY Mets - B. Colon
Miami - J. Cosart 6:10 PM
Atlanta - A. Harang
Boston - A. Webster 6:10 PM
Tampa Bay - J. Odorizzi
Cleveland - T. Bauer 6:10 PM
Kansas City - J. Shields
Detroit - K. Ryan 6:10 PM
Chicago WSox - C. Bassitt
Texas - R. Ross Jr. 6:10 PM
Houston - S. Feldman
Colorado - T. Matzek 7:10 PM
Arizona - V. Nuno
Chicago Cubs - T. Wada 7:15 PM
St. Louis - M. Gonzales
Los Angeles - Z. Greinke 7:40 PM
San Diego - I. Kennedy
Milwaukee - M. Fiers 8:05 PM
San Francisco - J. Peavy
Oakland - J. Samardzija 8:05 PM
LA Angels - C. Rasmus
Washington - S. Strasburg 8:10 PM
Seattle - R. Elias
Green Bay 9/4/14 7:30 PM
Connecticut 10
(6) Jacksonville St 7 FINAL
(8) Michigan State 45
Bowling Green 31 FINAL
Western Ky 59
TX-San Antonio 27 FINAL
Houston 7
Colorado State 31 FINAL
Colorado 17
Arizona 58
Penn State 26 FINAL
UCF 24
Troy 10 FINAL
UAB 48
Virginia 20
Western Mich 34 FINAL
Purdue 43
(5) Ohio State 34 FINAL
Navy 17
Appalachian St 14 FINAL
Michigan 52
Ga Southern 23 FINAL
NC State 24
Boston College 30 FINAL
Massachusetts 7
West Virginia 23 4th Qtr 10:00
(2) Alabama 30
Rice 17 4th Qtr 3:32
(17) Notre Dame 48
(10) South Dakota St 18 4th Qtr 1:13
(24) Missouri 38
Fla Atlantic 7 4th Qtr 10:11
(22) Nebraska 55
California 31 4th Qtr 5:18
Northwestern 24
Marshall 35 4th Qtr 8:37
Miami-Ohio 20
UC Davis 0 4th Qtr 11:00
(11) Stanford 38
Arkansas 21 4th Qtr 13:55
(6) Auburn 35
(16) Clemson 14 2nd Qtr 11:51
(12) Georgia 14
Liberty 7 1st Qtr 3:15
(23) North Carolina 14
Ohio U 7 2nd Qtr
Kent State 7
Louisiana Tech 6:00 PM
(4) Oklahoma
Idaho 6:00 PM
Stephen F Austin 6:10 PM
(20) Kansas State
Fresno State 6:30 PM
(15) USC
Southern Miss 6:30 PM
Miss State
Texas-El Paso 7:00 PM
New Mexico
North Texas 7:00 PM
(1) Florida State 7:00 PM
Oklahoma State
(14) Wisconsin 8:00 PM
(13) LSU
South Dakota 9:30 PM
(3) Oregon
(25) Washington 9:30 PM
Utah State 8/31/14 6:00 PM
SMU 8/31/14 6:30 PM
(10) Baylor
Miami-Florida 9/1/14 7:00 PM
Arizona 9/4/14 7:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Pittsburgh 9/5/14 6:00 PM
Boston College
Washington St 9/5/14 9:30 PM
SMU 9/6/14 11:00 AM
North Texas
Fla Atlantic 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(2) Alabama
Buffalo 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(24) Missouri 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Arkansas State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(8) McNeese State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(22) Nebraska
Central Mich 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Akron 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Penn State
Western Ill 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(14) Wisconsin
(20) Kansas State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Iowa State
(4) Oklahoma 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Western Ky 9/6/14 11:00 AM
SC State 9/6/14 11:30 AM
(16) Clemson
Navy 9/6/14 12:00 PM
UAB 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Miss State
South Alabama 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Kent State
New Mexico St 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Colorado 9/6/14 2:00 PM
Fresno State 9/6/14 2:00 PM
(1) Eastern Wash 9/6/14 2:00 PM
(25) Washington
(15) USC 9/6/14 2:30 PM
(11) Stanford
Ohio U 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Middle Tennessee 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Northern Ill 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Missouri State 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Oklahoma State
Ball State 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Maryland 9/6/14 2:30 PM
So Florida
Eastern Mich 9/6/14 3:00 PM
Georgia Tech 9/6/14 3:00 PM
(18) Ole Miss 9/6/14 3:30 PM
Old Dominion 9/6/14 5:00 PM
NC State
(8) Michigan State 9/6/14 5:30 PM
(3) Oregon
(19) Arizona State 9/6/14 6:00 PM
New Mexico
Louisiana Tech 9/6/14 6:00 PM
San Jose St 9/6/14 6:00 PM
(6) Auburn
East Carolina 9/6/14 6:00 PM
(9) So Carolina
Duke 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Idaho 9/6/14 6:00 PM
(17) Sam Houston St 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(13) LSU
Michigan 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(17) Notre Dame
Lamar 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(21) Texas A&M
Northwestern St 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(10) Baylor
BYU 9/6/14 6:30 PM
Citadel 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(1) Florida State
San Diego St 9/6/14 7:00 PM
(23) North Carolina
Virginia Tech 9/6/14 7:00 PM
(5) Ohio State
Memphis 9/6/14 9:00 PM
(7) UCLA
Colorado State 9/6/14 9:15 PM
Boise State
Air Force 9/6/14 9:15 PM
Oregon State 9/6/14 9:30 PM
Texas Tech 9/6/14 10:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
Colorado 0 FINAL
Seattle 1
New England 3 2nd Half 15:00
Toronto FC 0
Columbus 6:30 PM
FC Dallas 7:30 PM
Real Salt Lake 9:30 PM
San Jose
Portland 9:30 PM
Vancouver FC
Ottawa 10 FINAL
Montreal 20
Winnipeg 8/31/14 3:00 PM
Toronto 9/1/14 12:00 PM
Edmonton 9/1/14 3:30 PM
Brt Columbia 9/5/14 6:30 PM
Calgary 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Hamilton 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Saskatchewan 9/7/14 3:00 PM
Chicago 6:00 PM





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