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

Is next year a rebuilding year for the Gophers?

Posted by: Amelia Rayno under College basketball, Gophers coaches, Gophers players Updated: May 21, 2013 - 11:10 AM

There’s been quite a bit of buzz in Minneapolis this spring.

First Tubby Smith was fired, a move that was criticized by some, but largely supported across a fan base that had very loudly become dissatisfied with the former coach’s six years of mediocrity in the Big Ten (and had stuffed my inbox with thoughts of that nature). Then, after an anxiety-inducing coaching search, along came Richard Pitino, who has made himself quickly popular with the masses with his smooth talk and promises of bringing an exciting style to the often slow-paced Gophers. Three recruits have already signed. By all accounts, it’s been more of an exciting spring than usual for Gophers basketball, which is usually pret-tay slow this time of year.

So it’s not surprising, then, that it seems as though optimism abounds. With a new coach, a new system and a handful of new players (and untapped players from a year ago), why couldn’t Minnesota make a big leap right away?

Well, just hold onto your “Big Ten champion” screen prints and blank T-shirts. Despite all the positive developments, there are other major hints that next year might not be all glory and Ws. Though the Big Ten as a whole is losing a lot of stars, for the most part, the top still looks incredibly strong, as I wrote recently. Other teams -- such as Illinois, which has the 17th ranked freshman class in the nation and Purdue, whose freshman class lands at No. 23, nationwide – will improve around the Gophers. Meanwhile, Minnesota itself is dealing with a very thin frontcourt and a sudden scoring deficit after the losses of Trevor Mbakwe and Rodney Williams.

I don’t want to be the Negative Nancy here (I also heard Rayno-on-my-parade and Rayno Ruiner last season, if you’d like to give either of those a spin), but it’s important not to forget that though the Gophers might have a better foundation to build on for the future, the now could still be a little shaky. Pitino can be a good coach and still have a losing record in the Big Ten next year.

So is it a rebuilding year? That seems to be the popular thought. The Gophers are not on the cusp of any of the super early Top 25 rankings coming out, and ESPN’s Joe Lunardi didn’t even put them in with the seven Big Ten teams that made his ridiculously early preseason NCAA tournament bracket. Big Ten Network’s Brent Yarina actually put the Gophers DEAD LAST in his power rankings for next year, if you can believe it (Yes, even Rayno Ruiner thinks that’s a little harsh). Both national experts I recently spoke with – CBS Sports’ Jeff Borzello and NBC Sports’ Rob Dauster – concur that the Gophers will land safely in the bottom half of the league.

Alls I’m saying is that too high of expectations lead to a much more dramatic “thump” than do realistic ones.

Could the Gophers surprise? Certainly. They still have a solid backcourt, rooted by the promising Andre Hollins and Austin Hollins. And who knows what Pitino will be able to get out of other current players with a new approach. Minnesota still has the chance to sign a big man or two, and improve the depth of the forward corps.

I do think that the firing/search/hiring/signings put the Gophers in a better position for eventual growth. But things – in the Big Ten, certainly – don’t happen overnight. If the Gophers do turn some heads, one should sufficiently understand (and appreciate) that reality for the surprise that it would be.

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Milwaukee 41 3rd Qtr
Portland 43
Houston 25 2nd Qtr
Denver 29
Indiana 29 2nd Qtr 10:40
LA Clippers 32
Ottawa 2 FINAL
New Jersey 0
Boston 3 FINAL(OT)
Minnesota 2
Dallas 0 2nd Prd 17:46
Vancouver 0
Langston 65 FINAL
North Texas 78
Delaware State 72 FINAL
St Francis-NY 64
James Madison 72 FINAL
Ball State 52
SIU Edwardsville 65 FINAL
Campbell 70
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Florida State 93
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George Mason 99
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High Point 106
Hampton 55 FINAL
Illinois 73
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Jacksonville 68
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Miami-Ohio 71
Arkansas State 69 FINAL
Miss State 55
Tennessee 72 FINAL
NC State 83
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Ohio State 97
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Pittsburgh 65
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Toledo 83
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NC Central 108
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Houston 56
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Green Bay 66
Northern Colorado 82 FINAL
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Northern Ky 66
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USC Upstate 75
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Kent State 44
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Manhattan 52
UNC Greensboro 60 FINAL
St Bonaventure 78
Arkansas-Monticello 56 FINAL
Northwestern St 61
Prairie View 70 FINAL
Sam Houston St 51
McNeese State 59 FINAL
(3) Texas 76
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Wagner 65
Oakland 61 FINAL
TX A&M-CC 54
Eastern Kentucky 62 FINAL
Alabama A&M 56
SIU-Edwardsville 47 FINAL
Northern Ill 69
McMurry 25 FINAL
TX-Arlington 82
Portland 65 FINAL
Eastern Washington 72
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San Francisco 30

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