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

aMAILiaBAG: Remaining challenges in non-conference? Gophers' No. 3 scorer? 52 fouls! Do we have to do this all year?

Posted by: Amelia Rayno under College basketball, Gophers coaches, Gophers players Updated: December 5, 2013 - 12:33 PM

Thanks for all your questions. To submit a question for a future aMAILiaBAG, tweet me @AmeliaRayno or email me at amelia.rayno@startribune.com.

Here we go (your questions in bold):

Was issue between Pitino and Ellenson related to high jump? Is Ellenson still doing track? (resubmitted since no answer before)

@nickHpaulson

I feel like I’ve answered this a bunch but … no, it wasn’t, and yes, I don’t anticipate Wally Ellenson quitting track throughout his collegiate career.

Who do the Gophers have left in non-conference that will provide the best tests before #Big10 play? #aMAILiaBAG

@mattprivratsky

Well New Orleans (Saturday) certainly shouldn’t be that for Minnesota – the Privateers are ranked 350th out of 351 teams according to kenpom.com. South Dakota State (Tuesday) is well-coached and comes in with plenty of motivation every year. The Jackrabbits haven’t had many challenges so far this season, but have shown they’re capable of shooting threes again, and can get hot at any point. Nebraska-Omaha (12/20) has actually been a little intriguing this season. The Mavericks played Iowa and UNLV pretty closely and have displayed some solid defense.

Who should and who likely will step to be the team's consistent #3 scorer?

@mikelinnemann

I think DeAndre Mathieu has a chance to be. Early, he’s been a bit inconsistent, but the guard has found a way to significantly affect several games right at the end. When he’s motivated, his quickness and aggressiveness is hard to stop (even, occasionally for Florida State’s massive frontcourt). Coach Richard Pitino has found success in pushing his buttons at times – if he can find a way to do that all the time, Mathieu could really shine. I feel like he’s only going to get better and better throughout the year. He’s fearless.

What do we think of Pitino's screaming fits in the huddle?...

@ZanattaMike

He’s being a coach. Personally, after watching Tubby Smith slump over his stool, head in hands, I don’t mind a little sideline fire. It’s entertaining. It keeps the players playing with intensity. And what he is yelling about matters. Pitino isn’t raging on a guy for missing a shot or not converting a play – he’s yelling about effort and defense and rebounding the little things. It’s hard to criticize him with the way his players have responded to his coaching style.

Done with our "Mo Walker is big" love fest? Guy plays as big as a small forward. On his best days.

@jiltfast

Give him a second, Jiltfast. Walker has his limits, but you’ve only seen him play in two non-DII games since he transformed his entire body. I think he can be a very productive member of the Gophers this year -- he’s learning to be more aggressive, and I like his touch around the basket.

Look, the frontcourt situation isn’t ideal – we all know that – but it’s hard to condemn Walker too much just yet.

#aMAILiaBAG Why so much zone D in Maui? Due to 3 games in 3 days or will it be a staple against bigger teams?

@MNfan4ever

Yeah I think the zone will be one of the Gophers’ main defenses this season. Pitino has used it a lot already, and pretty effectively at times. I think as a whole, Minnesota has executed the 2-3 pretty well. It’s obviously something that Pitino kind of came up with.

How soon could we hear about new Practice facility?

@Mn_sports8

Don’t know, but I wouldn’t expect anything all too immediately. It’s been less than a year since the plan was even unveiled. Fundraising for something of that nature takes time.

How can you possibly cover ACC-BIG 10 Challenge fairly when you are an ACC fan? Hello, Strib editors? Reader Rep? Ombudsman?

@OleOlafLefse

I think you're right. I should have tried to argue that and stay in Maui for a few more days.

Will Malik Smith's 'hope & a prayer' approach to 3's destroy what little hairline Pitino has left? #aMAILiaBAG

@los_jim

Pitino knew what he was getting with Smith – after all, he had him for all of last season – and still brought him over to the Gophers. There’s a certain understanding there. Smith brings a special ability to play spark plug. His confidence is unquestioned. All of that comes along with a bit of a longer leash. Smith will throw up some ugly shots sometimes, for sure. And yes – it definitely frustrates Pitino – but he also has shown he’ll make some really big ones as well.

Do you expect Gophers to use short bench during B1G? #aMAILiaBAG

@GagTjGag1

I don’t think Pitino wants to play a short bench, and Syracuse (with a rotation of seven) was probably an anomaly. His system requires a ton of running, so he likes fresh legs. I think what we saw on Tuesday vs. Florida State (six guys off the bench) is probably pretty close to what we can expect all year.

How good will McNeil be?

@MN_Sports8

Really hard to say – we’ve barely seen him play. He needs some more practice.

Are you as bothered by the PF rebounding as I am?

@therealSMiDT

Of course. It’s not ideal, but this is the personnel the Gophers have right now. Minnesota has done a decent job of rebounding by committee so far, which is what they’ll have to continue doing.

Buggs looked surprisingly good last night in a short stint. If he starts to get more PT, who will get less?

@mtw2550

I don’t think you’re suddenly going to see a lot more from Charles Buggs – he only played four minutes in the game, so don’t draw too much from it. And though he made that long 2-pointer after he came in, it was pretty obvious that Pitino wasn’t a big fan of the attempt.

Hi. What is your take on apparent program turn around at Iowa and the length of time to accomplish? Thanks for all you do.

@rademp1

Iowa has been playing really well, and I think this could be the year where the Hawkeyes surprise a little bit in the Big Ten. Last year, I remember thinking that they were really a year away from being really good. Their defense has been phenomenal, and now they’ve got some talent. Fran McCaffery has done a really good job there.

52 Fouls, Is this garbage officiating what we are going to have to put up with all year?

@Davepagels

We hadn’t seen it as bad as we saw it against Florida State … I think it’s probably going to depend on the officials crew, game-to-game. Tuesday night’s game was called extremely tightly and it was frustrating at times (and just drew out the game to a mind-numbing extent). But the calls went both ways and ultimately it helped the Gophers as they were better from the line down the stretch. But yeah, some of this is just what we can expect from the new fouling rules.

#aMAILiaBAG Does Pitino let the press watch any practices? I recall that Tubby did not.

@GopherBBallFan

Pitino doesn’t either. I tried but he shot that idea down. Womp, womp.

Are the gophers looking at anyone else for 2014 besides Vaughn?

@dogs_inthehouse

Nope, just Vaughn. Just kidding! Of course they are … Abdoulaye Gueye is a guy (big man in Birmingham) they have their sights on in a serious way, and there are others,  but the recruiting game will shuffle a bit come spring time.

BONUS BIGFOOT QUESTION:

Who wins in a fight between a killer Hawaiian shark and Bigfoot? Assume sharks can fight on land, Bigfoot can swim. #aMAILiaBAG

@donnelly612

I’m going to go with Bigfoot because of it’s versatility. Sharks have teeth only. Bigfoots have hands, arms, legs, feet … oh, and teeth.

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