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
Check out my national insider here -- where I pick my All-Big Ten first team plus other honors, plus notes around college basketball and this week's nutty power poll (perhaps as nutty as any this year).
Five tidbits while I remain giddy about my new apartment addition.
1. Recruiting update: Gophers 2014 recruit, JUCO Carlos Morris (Chipola College) was named first team all conference in the Panhandle conference. Fellow commit Josh Martin (Bothell High School) was named first team all-state.
2. More fodder for your bracketology fever: Gophers among about eight teams fighting for about three spots in the Big Dance. From The Daily Gopher. The Big Lead says seven teams for those three spots. Plus Big Ten tournament projections from BT Powerhouse -- gives the Gophers a 55 percent chance of winning their first-round game.
3. Gophers are not in Busting the Bracket's new field of 68. But the Big Ten Geeks over at BTN.com say the Gophers can still get there with two more wins.
4. Interesting stuff from Minnesota basketball: a Q&A with the Gophers' three assistant coaches.
"Terran Petteway averaged just 3.1 points per game at Texas Tech. Now leads the Big Ten in scoring. #TeamMiles." -- @BTpowerhouse
"An artist's only concern is to shoot for some kind of perfection, and on his own terms, not anyone else's J.D. SALINGER" -- @AdviceToWriters
"If Austin Hollins got to play Iowa every game of his career, he's be an NBA lottery pick. True story. #Gophers" -- @FromTheBarn
Random ranking: Mpls coffee shops
1. Anodyne (a little far out to be convenient for me but such a warm, inviting place)
2. Spyhouse, Uptown (by far the best atmosphere in downtown/uptown area and very good coffee)
3. Urban Bean, Lyndale (exceptionally good coffee/ cool t-shirts)
4. Moose & Sadies (sunny spot with tasty breakfast)
5. Dogwood coffee bar (maybe they're a little snobby here but the coffee holds up)
Much has been made of Elliott Eliason's drop off in offensive production from the start of the year.
And for the most part, that's fair.
The big man went from averaging 9.8 points and 8.8 rebounds through the first 18 games to just 4.1 points and 4.7 rebounds in the 11 games since then.
But regardless of the decrease in numbers, no one should overlook just how much good Eliason has done this season.
*Even in spite of the recent lull, Eliason lands at fourth in the conference in rebounding (7.1 per game on the season) behind Indiana's Noah Vonleh, Michigan State's Adreian Payne and Purdue's A.J. Hammons
*He is third in the league in blocked shots (2.1 per game) behind Hammons and Illinois' Nnanna Egwu, and 27th in block percentage in the nation, according to kenpom.com.
*He is 43rd in the nation in defensive rebounding percentage.
*He is tied (three-way) for second most double-doubles in the Big Ten with six. Vonleh has the most with 10 and Hammons and Payne each also have six.
Considering the Gophers didn't think they had a "frontcourt" to speak of before the season began, that kind output is extremely impressive, and speaks volumes about the improvement Eliason has experienced since first donning Maroon and Gold.
Of course all of this barely touches on his defensive prowess, which has been the biggest gain for Minnesota, in a year where otherwise their defense has struggled mightily.
Without him, the Gophers would likely be so far off the bubble, we would probably be talking about the NIT right now.
Five tidbits while I try to understand what happened here.
1. Recruiting update: Gophers 2015 PF target Elijah Thomas is taking an unofficial at Memphis this weekend.
2. It's no secret Elliott Eliason isn't giving the same production as he was at the beginning of the year, and the struggles, combined with some recent success from backup Mo Walker have corresponded with minute drops for the big man as well. In the first 18 games, Eliason averaged 26.5 minutes a game. In the last 11 he's averaging just 19 (although Pitino did play him for 30 minutes at Michigan). "We're not moving away from playing him," Pitino said. "I think he's actually been playing pretty well, he's been doing some things defensively and offensively. So no, I don't think there's anything to that."
3. Want to look at how other bubble teams stack up against the Gophers? Use CBS sports' tool to compare the resumes of any two teams. Plus, a new bracket from Jerry Palm. And no, Minnesota's positioning did not change.
4. Don't look now, but Sunday opponent Penn State just beat a team on the road that the Gophers couldn't at home, holding Northwestern to just 32 points and a laughable .57 points per possession last night while the Nittany Lions made 6 of 15 three-pointers. In their last three games, Penn State has held opponents to just 25.9 percent from behind the arc.
"The only color that looks good with gold,, is maroon." -- @JoshMartin
"Minnesota fans, time to turn your attention to the next face of MN HS BBall, Hopkins super-sophomore Amir Coffey (@showtimelefty). #PULLEY" -- @D1Circuit
"Random fact: #Gophers Oto Osenieks is six months older than #MNWolves Ricky Rubio." -- @Gopherhole
"I don't think people understand how hard it is to cut schools during the recruiting process." -- @EliCTMDThomas
Random ranking: Minneapolis bars
1. Butcher & the Boar (most delicious sazerac in the Twin Cities comes from behind that bar).
2. Marvel Bar (most innovative spot in Minnesota).
3. Eli's (arguably the best pastrami sandwich in the midwest plus good, chill atmosphere and TVs at the bar).
4. Rye (drink When Figs Fly and eat a reuben).
5. Parlour (good cocktails with bartenders that love to experiment).
|Sports (2)||Basketball (9)|
|College basketball (953)||Gophers coaches (251)|
|Gophers players (848)||Tubby Smith (37)|
|Williams Arena (10)||Gophers game day (43)|
|Gophers postgame (6)||NCAA (3)|
|The Big Dance (8)||Gophers awards and honors (1)|
|Gophers post season (4)||Gophers roster moves (5)|
|Minnesota colleges (1)|