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.

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Since their last meeting, Minnesota and Florida State looking like very different teams

Posted by: Amelia Rayno under College basketball, Gophers coaches, Gophers players Updated: April 1, 2014 - 7:37 PM

It was less than four months ago that these teams last met, with Florida State traveling to Minnesota and Williams Arena at the start of December.

In some ways, it feels like two very different teams squaring off tonight.

Since their last encounter, the Gophers have morphed. They've mostly discarded their zone defense that effectively shut down the Seminoles in Round One. And the offensive pieces have changed as well. DeAndre Mathieu, who scored just seven points in that contest, has become a major cog in Minnesota's attack. Mo Walker, who was in just his fourth game back (finishing with four points and five rebounds), has also become a critical force inside and a big factor in the Gophers' success. 

"He's a different player," Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton said. "He's playing with a lot more energy. He's playing with a lot more confidence, he's much sure of himself. You watch him on film and he catches the ball and he understands what he's doing. He's not hesitant. And it seems like the players have a lot of confidence in him because they seem to be going to him quite frequently."

This time, however, Minnesota is also likely without Elliott Eliason, who battled foul trouble in the first bout, but had a pair of big blocks.

On the other side, Florida State has picked up its offensive game. The Seminoles have shot threes at a high clip all year, but have become more versatile with getting the ball into the paint. Meanwhile, sophomore guard Aaron Thomas -- Austin Hollins will likely get the cover -- has broken out as of late. Last time around, he finished with five points, three assists and three rebounds. In the last three games, he's averaging 23 points. 

"He's playing really well," Mathieu said. "I think he's averaging like 20 over his last five games. He wasn't doing that last time we played them, so he's really stepped his game up and turned into a scorer for them."

Hamilton also noted that his squad, which includes seven second-year players, has simply matured a lot over the course of these four months as well.

Which team has improved the most? Well, that depends on who you ask. 

"This experience, the conference play, NIT has helped us grow as a team, and we're playing at a high level right now," Austin Hollins said. "At the same time, Florida State is playing at a high level too. So both teams are different than the last time we played."

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