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

Gophers pregame: Minnesota needs to win to actively avoid (another) ninth place finish

Posted by: Amelia Rayno under College basketball, Gophers players Updated: March 9, 2013 - 11:03 AM

Read my advance in today's Star Tribune here.

In December, it would have seemed next to impossible that the Gophers would end up at this point.

This was supposed to be the season that the Gophers escaped the bitter routine, the year that they elevated to the top half of the Big Ten.

Heck, in December, there was talk both locally and nationally about the Gophers contending for the league title.

And yet, here they are: with the last game of the regular season before them, the Gophers have to notch a win in order to potentially avoid ninth place – the same place they’ve ended up for the previous two seasons.

(In the standings, it might look likey they are tied for seventh or eighth. But if Iowa wins vs. Nebraska today, and the Gophers lose, it doesn’t matter what Illinois does, the Gophers will end up as the No. 9 seed in the Big Ten tournament).

Which Gophers team will show up? The one that played with energy and intention against Indiana? Or the one that flopped at Nebraska?

Honestly, it’s been difficult to predict with this team.

Today is another senior day and should be another packed house and good atmosphere in Mackey Arena – allowing the crowd to get loud and happy early really hurt the Gophers on Wednesday, Andre Hollins acknowledged.

“We didn’t match their intensity I don’t think and we let their crowd get into it, that was a big key,” he said.

Other notes on today’s matchup:

  • Smith said he will “probably” start his original five today at Purdue after the disaster at Nebraska on Wednesday.
  • Julian Welch was sick on Friday and missed practice, but the senior is expected to play today.
  • Today at the Boilermakers’ senior day, they will be honoring senior duo Dru Anthrop and D.J Byrd.
  • Expect a battle in the paint today – Purdue has scored 962 of their 1944 points this season there.
  • Leading scorer Tyrone Johnson has notched double digits in points in six of his last seven games, including a career-high 32-point performance in Purdue’s last game against No. 7 Michigan.
  • Purdue nearly won that game, leading the Wolverines by 12 with 12:04 to go, before the Boilermakers’ defense collapsed down the stretch and they eventually lost, 80-75.

Extra points:

*Watch today’s game, which tips at 11 a.m. CT, on Big Ten Network.
*Listen to today’s game live on 1500 a.m.
*In today’s Star Tribune: This final stretch is huge for the Gophers.
*More on the matchup here.
*On the blog: notes from yesterday’s player access.
*On the blog: Wait, what happened to Rodney Williams?Austin Hollins?Joe Coleman?
*This week’s national column, my last one of the season: good things could arise from the turmoil in the Big East.

 

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