Joe Christensen covered Major League Baseball for 15 years, including three seasons at the Baltimore Sun and eight at the Star Tribune, before switching to the college football beat. He’s a Faribault, Minn., native who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 1996. He covered Jim Wacker’s Gophers for the Minnesota Daily and also wrote about USC, UCLA and the Rose Bowl for the Riverside Press-Enterprise before getting this chance to cover football again.

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Posts about NCAA

Bozek, Kessel and Raty named first-team All-America; Frost named coach of the year

Posted by: Joe Christensen Updated: March 22, 2013 - 11:55 AM

Gophers women's hockey coach Brad Frost received national coach of the year honors Thursday night, and the team's three Patty Kazmaier Award finalists -- Megan Bozek, Amanda Kessel and Noora Raty -- were named first-team All-Americans.

It was Frost's first Division I Women's Coach of the Year award and the fourth for Minnesota's program. Former Gophers coach Laura Halldorson won national coach of the year honors in 1998, 2002 and 2004.

And it was just the second time in program history that the Gophers have had three players named first-team All-Americans. The other was 2005 (Natalie Darwitz, Lyndsay Wall and Krissy Wendell.)

The Patty Kazmaier Award will be presented on Saturday morning. But first the Gophers (39-0) will face Boston College in the NCAA semifinals, with the face-off at 5 p.m.

Programming note: I'll be tweeting women's hockey updates from Ridder Arena this weekend @JoeCStrib. And the football team opens spring practice next Tuesday, so I'll have plenty of related content coming, starting Monday, after Jerry Kill's press conference.

Gophers women's hockey team draws NCAA quarterfinal rematch with North Dakota

Posted by: Joe Christensen Updated: March 10, 2013 - 6:41 PM

The Gophers women’s hockey team is 5-0 this season against North Dakota. To reach the Frozen Four, Minnesota will have to make it 6-0.

One day after defeating North Dakota for the WCHA playoff championship, the Gophers learned they were getting another rematch.

Minnesota (38-0) drew the No. 1 seed for the NCAA tournament and will play host to No. 8 North Dakota (26-11-1) at 4 p.m., Saturday, at Ridder Arena.

The winner advances to the Frozen Four the following weekend, also at Ridder Arena.

“They’ve got some world-class players and they’re well-coached, and they’re a hungry team that wants to get to the Frozen Four just as badly as we do,” Gophers coach Brad Frost said. “It’s going to come down to who executes and who’s going to play better on Saturday.”

Frost said his staff has been anticipating an NCAA quarterfinal against either North Dakota or Wisconsin for about two months. Wisconsin didn’t make the eight-team field after losing to North Dakota in the WCHA semifinals.

North Dakota handed Minnesota its last loss, on Feb. 17, 2012, and since then, the Gophers have reeled off a 46-game winning streak. In the five games this year, the Gophers have outscored North Dakota 23-9, including 2-0 in Saturday’s conference championship.

“They have two of the best forwards in the country, but we know how to beat them,” Gophers captain Megan Bozek said. “If we continue to play like we’ve been playing, I’m not too worried.”

All three finalists for Patty Kazmaier Award are Gophers -- Bozek, Kessel and Raty

Posted by: Joe Christensen Updated: March 7, 2013 - 11:13 AM

Why is the Gophers women’s hockey team 36-0? Well, it doesn’t hurt when you have the three best players in the country.

USA Hockey named the three finalists for this year’s Patty Kazmaier Award were named Thursday, and all three are Gophers -- senior defenseman Megan Bozek, junior forward Amanda Kessel and senior goaltender Noora Raty.

The award has been presented since 1998 to the national women's hockey player of the year. It's the first time all three finalists have come from the same school. The Gophers are ensured of having their second winner and first since Krissy Wendell in 2005.

Kessel leads the nation with 94 points (43 goals, 51 assists). Bozek ranks second among the nation’s top-scoring defenders with 52 points (18 goals, 34 assists), and Raty leads the nation with a .953 save percentage.

The winner will be announced on March 23 in a brunch ceremony at the University of Minnesota’s McNamara Alumni Center. That event had been planned as part of that weekend’s Frozen Four festivities at nearby Ridder Arena, but now it will have a definite Minnesota feel.

Big Ten expansion? A closer look at North Carolina, Virginia and Georgia Tech

Posted by: Joe Christensen Updated: February 20, 2013 - 3:14 PM

Once again, it’s time to talk Big Ten expansion. This is the tweet everyone’s talking about, from @insidemdsports -- a source that was out in front of the news when Maryland and Rutgers joined:

Big 10 talk buzzing again. #UVA being mentioned often as likely to join. Georgia Tech still in the mix. #UNC, the big domino, has an offer.

With an eye toward what this would mean for the Gophers football team, here’s a closer look at those three ACC institutions:

NORTH CAROLINA
2012 record: 8-4
3-year trend: 23-15
Coach: Larry Fedora (1 year)
Joined ACC: 1953
History vs. Gophers: The football teams haven’t played. North Carolina was on Minnesota’s schedule in 2013 and 2014, but Minnesota got out of those games by paying North Carolina $800,000.
Notable: North Carolina was ineligible for a bowl game last year and is on three year’s probation for improper player benefits under former coach Butch Davis.
Big Ten appeal: Stealing North Carolina from the ACC would be a coup, with the Tar Heels’ athletic tradition and the school’s academic reputation. It would expand the Big Ten’s footprint south and should boost the BTN's ratings in an expansive TV market.

VIRGINIA
2012 record: 4-8
3-year trend: 16-21
Coach: Mike London (3 years)
Joined ACC: 1954
History vs. Gophers: The football teams have met once, with Virginia defeating Minnesota 34-31 in the 2005 Music City Bowl.
Big Ten appeal: The football and basketball programs aren’t as strong at Virginia, but the academics sure are. With Maryland coming into the fold, the Big Ten already has a foothold in the D.C. market, and this would strengthen that.

GEORGIA TECH
2012 record: 7-7
3-year trend: 21-19
Coach: Paul Johnson (5 years)
Joined ACC: 1983
History vs. Gophers: The football teams haven’t met.
Big Ten appeal: The Yellow Jackets have played in a bowl game every year since 1997 and reached the Orange Bowl in 2009 after winning the ACC. So the football program is legit, and so is the school. But let’s face it, this is all about Atlanta, getting the Big Ten Network onto all those televisions. Not only would that be a boon for the conference financially, but it should help other schools recruit throughout the South.

Monday update: Recapping last week's NCAA convention

Posted by: Joe Christensen Updated: January 21, 2013 - 12:04 PM

Catching up on news from last week's NCAA convention, there was nothing too earth shattering, at least as far as the general public is concerned.

The potential rule change I wrote about last week -- allowing athletes to compete immediately after transferring if they have a 2.6 GPA or above -- is still in the discussion change.

NCAA president Mark Emmert wants to streamline the rule book, and the Division I Board of Directors took the first step, approving 25 new measures.

One eliminates the number of phone calls and other private communication -- text messages, social media messages, etc. -- that coaches can have with recruits. That takes effect Aug. 1, allowing for unlimited texts, etc.

“There was virtually no debate on it," Emmert is quoted as saying here to the Associated Press. "Everyone agreed that those rules need to be changed. That was probably the least controversial issue in this whole process."

The 25 new measures were Phase I of the NCAA's streamlining efforts, and now it's onto Phase II.

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