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
Five things while I look ahead to tonight's game after a long, game-less week.
2. More good Senior Day stuff from From the Barn, including lots of video.
3. From Daily in the Barn: "We're not lying ... we don't check it" -- Maverick Ahanmisi of the Gophers' spot on the Bubble.
4. A window into Penn State's John Johnson, microwave, from the Centre Daily Times.
"As it slowly begins to wind down I need to show my appreciate to the seniors @leeksmith30 @cali_luvsme n @aholli_20 ... We've been through a lot together over the years and even in this short year alone ... we've shared a lot of jokes and good times and y'all will be my brothers 4 life" -- @bigggmo
"[Gophers target] Djuan Piper (@Youngyoson3) hit an 8-foot jumper with 3.8 seconds left to give #Beach it's third straight state title." -- @D1Circuit
"Doug McDermott just got his career high with 45 points. On Senior Night. Talk about storybook." -- @GoodmanESPN
Random ranking: In light of Senior Night tonight, Austin Hollins dunks (all from this season).
1. Vs. Wisconsin: I think we're all in agreement about this one, right? Posterizing Nigel Hayes; getting the Barn roaring perhaps the most it did all year, and in arguably the team's biggest win. I love the reaction from the bench, just laughing, because what else can you do?
2. New Orleans: Off the steal, Hollins flips it to DeAndre Mathieu then gets it back in a lob. This is the one where he seems to actually cock it back before he slams it, one-handed. Just insane.
3. Omaha: When Malik Smith's jumper falls off the mark, Hollins comes out of nowhere to tip-jam in the rebound in lots of traffic, landing on his back. But whoa.
4 . Vs. Purdue: Another one of his signature one-handed flushes, this one in transition with ridiculous elevation.
5. Vs. Illinois: The Gophers didn't end up winning, but the Hollins highlight from Mathieu was one of the bright spots.
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.
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