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
Oto Osenieks has played his last game at the University of Minnesota.
In an unexpected twist on what seemed like a manageable injury, the Gophers sent out a press release on Wednesday announcing that the forward wouldn't be back on the court -- either this year or next.
Osenieks, who last played at Ohio State on Feb. 22, has had cartilage issues in his left knee, spawning from old surgeries. The Gophers have downplayed the injury, not ruling Osenieks out of playing at Michigan until the day of the game.
"Unfortunately, this injury will limit his ability to continue playing beyond this season," coach Richard Pitino said in a release.
Osenieks, in his fourth year at the school, is on track to receive his bachelor's degree in May, but the forward had one year of basketball eligibility remaining after redshirting his freshman year.
Pitino also said Osenieks, who is interested in pursuing a career in coaching, will remain with the team next season "assisting and supporting our team in day-to-day operations."
Osenieks will be honored at Senior Day on Sunday, when the Gophers play Penn State at Williams Arena.
His departure gives the Gophers yet another scholarship option for 2014. The Gophers had one leftover from a three-recruit fall signing class. Then Wally Ellenson made the decision earlier this month to focus on track and field. Now Osenieks has been taken off the roster as well -- giving Minnesota three more spots to potentially fill for next season.
To submit questions for a future mailbag, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet me @AmeliaRayno.
Thanks for your questions. I'll just jump right in.
@MNfan4ever: @AmeliaRayno What has happened to Dre's scoring since he's come back from injury? Seems to have lost his aggressiveness on offense.
I wondered if we would see a long, slow recovery from him. Remember when Hollins tweaked his other ankle back in his freshman year? It took him forever to "get right" again, and then it was like a switch flipped.
This time around, I was a little surprised the Gophers' staff rushed him back as quickly as they did -- even with the consecutive losses at Nebraska and against Northwestern. At this point, I think it's mostly a mental issue -- Hollins not trusting his ankle as much as he probably should -- but it does seem to be affecting his aggressiveness somewhat. Perhaps the rest this week will help him, psychologically and physically.
@billfehlberg: @AmeliaRayno Beat Penn St. then Gophs need 2 tournament games, or help from other bubble teams. Right?
Two tournament games I'd say to feel very safe. But I think one will sneak them in with their RPI, strength of schedule and good wins.
@cfesler33: @AmeliaRayno What will it take for a team to beat Michigan in the B1G tourney?
After watching the Wolverines dismantle Illinois in ruthless fashion last night, I'm tempted to back off this a little, but really, I don't think any team is invincible in the tournament. With so many back-to-back games, and so many teams playing for their tournament lives, we could see some crazy things. Michigan's biggest challenge will be not to sit back on its heels after wrapping up the regular-season title and a strong seed in the Big Dance. From what Michigan writers are reporting, however, I don't see that happening. The Wolverines have big goals.
@rudek14: @AmeliaRayno thoughts on banana runts.
You know, I don't think I'd write a sonnet about them, but if one was in front of me right now, I would eat it.
@MNfan4ever: @AmeliaRayno Referencing your tweet from [yesterday], how many Strib writers does it take to change a light bulb?
Hey -- it's a really tricky bulb situation.
@LP_Minn: @AmeliaRayno Opinion on UVA winning ACC never playing top 1/2 of teams twice? parity or scheduling fluke? good record, but SOS not in top 25.
It was an interesting year in the ACC this year -- Duke and UNC both got off to a slow start and Syracuse, which was one of the last remaining undefeated teams, has just been in free fall during the last couple of weeks. But you can't hate Virginia for their good fortune with scheduling -- sometimes that happens, and the Cavaliers certainly made the best of it. They've been really good on both ends of the ball through a long season and have played incredibly consistently since the start of January -- not an easy thing to do even if you aren't hitting the top dogs as much as usual. It was the first outright regular-season championship in 33 years, too -- since Ralph Sampson was on the roster. That's a special thing.
@philosofootball: @AmeliaRayno How do you feel about facial hair? #aMAILiaBAG
I dig it. Especially when on a sasquatch.
@BPletscher: @AmeliaRayno not counting your currant job, what is your dream job?
Probably being a travel/food/whiskey writer or a political foreign correspondent. Or a spy. It would be really, really cool to be a spy. Or to be in a band.
So basically, I'm still a 10-year-old kid.
@JosephRDelgado: @AmeliaRayno #aMAILiaBAG Can you explain Joey King? He's had moments, but in general looks out of control and seems like a liability.
Have you glanced at the roster lately? The power forward spot is what it is this season -- a rotating parade of undersized and unideal candidates. Yes, King has had his moments -- the fact that he can hit a clutch three, and simply in terms of his tenacity and willingness to sacrifice his body for loose balls or whatever -- and I think in general we've seen him improve this season, but he's not a great ball handler, he doesn't have great size and he's not a natural rebounder. You have to be realistic about your expectations there.
@Mondragon_John: @AmeliaRayno I know it's early, but what's your guess at probability everyone on Gopher staff is here next year? #aMAILiaBAG
Everyone will be back. It's a young staff and I think they've got another year. Dan McHale will get some calls though.
@jrachiever71: @AmeliaRayno do you enjoy Absinthe?
I do, but I don't drink it often with the notable exception of an absinthe wash in my sazerac.
@ZMoore80: @AmeliaRayno #aMAILiaBAG Do we have a chance to play in Milwaukee and should I book my hotel now?
Maybe, if they go on a run in the Big Ten tournament and somehow get ahold of a 10-seed, but I don't really see that happening.
@donnelly612: @AmeliaRayno Kodaline? What do I need to know about them? I see they're Irish. That's a good start.
They're like if Head and the Heart and Coldplay had a baby and that band was headlined by a love child of Mark Foster, Kaleb Followill, Adam Levine (crazy night, I know) with maybe a country dude and someone-I-can't-come-up-with-right-now-even-though-I've-tried-for-13-minutes jumping in as well.
And Steve Garrigan has some pipes. And they're going to be huge (I give it 6 months) because they have a very relatable sound and their songs are extremely "sticky" and they are ridiculously good live and they have a cool T-shirt.
Good show, even if LP had to back out because of scheduling conflicts. (Second time backing out of a Minneapolis show? Weird.)
@mlconnors: @AmeliaRayno #aMAILiaBAG Is Intelligentsia the best coffee you've had? Or are their other spots nationwide that have really stood out?
The best coffee I ever had was at a little cart in downtown Seattle called Monorail espresso, and it was owned by a little, silver-haired french man who knew my name and what I wanted after Day 2, and made me wish I lived there. I have no idea what kind of beans he used, but they were ridiculous. Absolutely zero acidity.
But yeah, Intelligentsia is pretty great as well.
@MKattman: @AmeliaRayno do u own a copy of "In Me Own Words: Autobiography of Bigfoot"?
I do not, but I have browsed it at a bookstore.
@talkgophbuckets: @AmeliaRayno for next year, are you struggling to decide if you should exclusively refer to Carlos Morris as: Carlos or Squirrel?
Oh there is no struggle. He's going to be Squirrel.
Five midweek tibits in a very long week without games:
In today's Star Tribune: Five bubble teams to watch whose fate could affect the Gophers.
1. Recruiting update No. 1: Gophers 2014 target Kobie Eubanks is currently on an official visit at Baylor -- he was in attendance for the Bears' win over Iowa State last night, according to Adam Zagoria. The 6-5 shooting guard from New York (Our Savior New American) visited Pittsburgh on Sunday and Monday and tweeted "I had a Good time on my Visit at Pitt. I met some Good people. The Pete and. Da Zoo were Jumping.... # ACC #Panther Nation!!!" Other than the Gophers, Missouri and Wichita State are involved.
2. Recruiting update No. 2: According to Rivals' Ryan James, the Gophers have staff watching the national prep school championships in Connecticut, which were yesterday and today.
3. Recruiting update No. 3: Gophers 2015 target, Elijah Thomas (6-9 power forward from Texas) will attend the Louisville- SMU game tonight according to multiple reports. Both schools are on the long list of programs that have offered.
4. Recruiting update No. 4: De La Salle guard Sacar Anim (2015) finished with 11 points in a win over Spring Lake Park; guard Jarvis Johnson finished with 10 points in that game. Via D1 Circuit.
"#Michigan won its first outright #B1G title since 1986. That year, Glenn Robinson III's dad was just 13 years old." -- @BTNStatsGuys
"Rick Pitino on Richard Pitino: "I'm so damn proud of that young man." -- @jeffgreer_cj
"#B1GMBBall road teams have posted a 41-56 record during conference play, a winning % of 42.3 & 5 teams boast at least 4 road wins." -- @BIGMBBall
Happens every year.
The slate of games looks so long in November, March so far away.
Well, here we are. As suddenly as always.
This week marks the last week of regular-season play in the Big Ten, leading right up to the conference tournament.
As of now, the league boasts five certain NCAA tournament teams: Michigan, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Iowa and Ohio State.
Beyond that, everything is in flux.
Minnesota is one of four teams that are hovering on or around the bubble, and at the moment, the Gophers are also probably the safest.
But with the right results, that could change.
A look at the other league teams that could be creeping up:
Upcoming games: vs. Nebraska; at Michigan
What the Hoosiers need to do: A few weeks ago I wouldn't have believed we'd be having this conversation, but after consecutive wins over Iowa and Ohio State, Indiana has whipped itself into relevancy. Things are still kind of in long-shot status for the Hoosiers -- they'd likely have to win both of their final two games and then make a substantial run in the Big Ten tournament to collect some wins and boost their RPI. But hey, crazier things have happened. That Indiana has managed to get wins against four ranked teams is just kind of crazy to think about.
Threat level: Nothing-Another-Scotch-Can't-Handle [low]
Upcoming games: vs. Michigan; at Iowa
What the Illini need to do: Again, a situation where a team is trying to play itself in at the very end, but with Illinois as well, there isn't a lot of room for error. The Illini do not have a good RPI (74) and they have an entire collection of bad losses (remember that stretch where they won just one game in 11?) However, with three consecutive victories -- including Michigan State on the road, the Illini are rolling and are presented with the huge opportunity of facing two more ranked teams for their final pair. Win both, and they are likely dancing. What a weird year.
Threat level: Early-Deadline-In-A-Tied-Game [medium]
Upcoming games: at Indiana; vs. Wisconsin
What the Huskers need to do: Of the three, Nebraska has certainly been the most consistent, at least as of late after going through their losing streak (six of seven games) in December and January. The Huskers didn't get much worthwhile done in the non-conference schedule, so they've got to continue to make up for that now. But since the start of February, that hasn't been a problem -- the Huskers are playing better than ever. Finishing out the year with a pair of wins (whether these last two in the regular season or a split followed by a first-round win in the Big Ten tournament) probably puts them in. Gophers fans should root for Indiana on Wednesday.
Threat level: Bigfoot-With-Krav-Maga-Skills [high]
The Opening Tip is a new feature to Gold in the Barn, with the goal being to share five
nuggets -- mostly Gophers or Big Ten related but occasionally not -- every morning between 8 and 10. Dig it? Hate it? Want to see something specific in it? Send me feedback at email@example.com or tweet me @AmeliaRayno.
Random Rankings is an even newer feature, which will be included regularly, if not daily. There is nothing too random. Something specific you want ranked? Tweet me.
Five tidbits while I count down the hours until this happens.
1. Recruiting update No. 1: Big man Anas Osama Mahmoud, a 2014 7-2 center who the Gophers had expressed interest in, committed to the elder Pitino, at Louisville yesterday. But a source said that wasn't the Gophers biggest priority at that position -- that honor falls to Kansas 7-footer Bakary Konate -- and they were OK with the loss.
2. Recruiting update No. 2: Gophers asst. Dan McHale was in Brownsburg, Indiana yesterday to watch 2015 6-3 guard K.J. Walton. Minnesota has not yet officially offered.
3. Does Austin Hollins' killer dunk vs. Wisconsin deserve Play of the Year status? Vote here.
4. The Gophers hang at No. 8 in BTN's Stephen Bardo's latest power poll, but drop to No. 9 in Inside the Hall's version.
"How deep is #B1G? Should #Illini win final two, they may be dancing; should they lose, they may finish in last." -- @BTNBrentYarina
"@ESPNLunardi - joe it's one ting to be outside. It's another to mis-spell Nebraska. From now on just please refer to us as #Nebrasketball" -- @CoachMiles
"My Mom said I have to cut the Afro for senior night ... Her wish is my command .......I guess" -- @leeksmith30
In light of my trip to First Ave tonight, the top ten shows I've seen in Minneapolis:
Lonely Forest (they were incredible live, actually)
Hooray for Earth (Boston shoutout; also, so good)
Avett Brothers (some of my favorite voices out there)
Black Keys (because they're the Black Keys)
Telekinesis (very strong live)
Los Campesinos (extremely fun live show)
White Rabbits (drummer = wow)
The Thermals (because you get to scream-curse the whole time)
Middle Brother (Dawes, Deertick, Delta Spirit collaboration)
The Love Language (Raleigh shoutout)
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