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

Pregame: Mbakwe should be coming off the bench for Gophers, but he's OK with that

Posted by: Amelia Rayno under College basketball, Gophers players Updated: November 22, 2012 - 2:08 PM

Unless coach Tubby Smith has a big surprise up his sleeve for today’s game against Duke in the opening round of the Battle 4 Atlantis, Trevor Mbakwe will be coming off the bench once more, despite playing a season-high 27 minutes in the Gophers’ most recent game against Richmond.

“The lineup is going to stay the way it is,” Smith said on Monday. “It’s just going to stay the way it is until I decide differently. Elliott [Eliason] has been giving us everything he has, just like everybody else has. So I’ve been impressed with Elliott and the way he’s been playing. I like Trevor coming off the bench.”

And if Smith’s comments from the past couple of weeks are any indication, it might be that way for a while – well into the season anyway.

But Mbakwe said he’s fine with this role if that’s what the team needs. Minutes and contributions matter more. It’s a new perspective that his odd situation this season has helped him embrace.

“In high school, everyone’s like, 'Oh, I start,’ and obviously it’s always good when you’re a starter,” he said. “But at the end of the day, I think most of us, we’d rather be one of those guys who are making plays down the stretch (rather than) on the bench cheering your teammates on. I feel more of a role when I’m actually out there, diving on the floor, getting a key rebound or making the key shot. That’s more important to me than starting the game at this point.”

To his credit, Eliason has been giving his usual gutty, intense performance for the Gophers, and while the center isn’t super productive on the stat sheet all the time, he does the little things – the effort things – really well. Mbakwe, off the bench, has made the best of the minutes he does get. The sixth- year senior is averaging six points and six rebounds in 16.3 minutes a game (a number that shot up after Sunday).

Other notes on today’s game:

  • Mbakwe said he feels like his knee is 90 percent, with the only hang up being the clunky brace he still wears during games. “It’s just a reminder, every time I have to play around with it,” he said. Mbakwe said after games his knee can get stiff, but there hasn’t been any swelling.
  • Quinn Cook is expected to start at point for the Blue Devils for the second time today. Cook started against Florida Gulf Coast and scored eight points and added four rebounds and nine assists.
  • Seth Curry should be set to play today, as Coach K said yesterday. Curry has been dealing with pain in his right shin, and his status is undetermined for the rest of the tournament.
  • Tubby said earlier this week that he planned to “tweak” the offense a bit in this game against Duke to try to minimize turnovers, which have been a big problem for the Gophers. Essentially, Smith wants to limit the ball-handling of the big men at the top of the post in the high-low, which has contributed to more than a few blunders.

Where to watch the Gophers tonight:

· If you have Direct TV: channel 340
· If you have Dish Network: channel 362
· If you have Comcast: channel 420 and 875 (Mpls); 268 and 875 (St. Paul)
· Listen to the game on 1500-a.m.

Check out:

  • My notebook from yesterday’s media access: contains everything from VCU coach Shaka Smart’s relationship with his “mentor,” Gophers assistant Ron Jirsa to why Memphis coach Josh Pastner’s wife is banned from road trips (she’s not here).
  • The Gophers have plenty of thoughts of their own on the Blue Devils. Here they are. 


Houston 1 FINAL
Miami 1
Philadelphia 1 FINAL
Minnesota 7
St. Louis 3 FINAL
Detroit 4
Baltimore - WP: T. Wilson 10 FINAL
NY Yankees - LP: S. Baker 2
Boston 9 FINAL
Tampa Bay 6
Toronto 3 FINAL
Pittsburgh 8
Atlanta 5 FINAL
Toronto 3
Washington 2 FINAL
NY Mets 10
Chicago Cubs 5 FINAL
Cincinnati 9
San Diego 3 FINAL
Texas 2
San Francisco 9 FINAL
Seattle 8
Colorado 4 FINAL
Chicago Cubs 18
Cleveland 3 FINAL
Milwaukee 2
Oakland 10 FINAL
Chicago WSox 4
Los Angeles 5 FINAL
LA Angels 4
Kansas City 10 FINAL
Arizona 5
Atlanta 100 FINAL
Charlotte 115
New York 80 FINAL
Chicago 111
Golden State 108 FINAL
Milwaukee 95
Oklahoma City 89 FINAL
Utah 94
Denver 114 FINAL
Portland 120
Nashville 4 FINAL
Washington 3
Arizona 2 FINAL
Pittsburgh 3
San Jose 3 FINAL(SO)
Philadelphia 2
Anaheim 3 FINAL
NY Islanders 2
NY Rangers 2 FINAL
Boston 4
Tampa Bay 0 FINAL
Detroit 4
New Jersey 1 FINAL
Carolina 3
Florida 2 FINAL(OT)
Montreal 3
Ottawa 3 FINAL(OT)
Toronto 4
Los Angeles 1 FINAL
Minnesota 4
Columbus 4 FINAL
St. Louis 2
Buffalo 3 FINAL
Colorado 5
Dallas 4 FINAL(OT)
Vancouver 3
Arizona 78 FINAL
Wisconsin 85
Canisius 73 FINAL
Notre Dame 66 FINAL
Kentucky 68
San Jose 1 FINAL
New England 2
Orlando City 2 FINAL
Montreal 2
Los Angeles 0 FINAL
D.C. 1
Sporting Kansas City 1 FINAL
New York City 0
Red Bull New York 2 FINAL
Columbus 1
Portland 1 FINAL
Vancouver FC 2
Colorado 0 FINAL
Houston 0
Seattle 0 FINAL
FC Dallas 0
Texas 54 FINAL
(1) Connecticut 105
Dayton 82 FINAL
(8) Louisville 66
(16) Duke 55 FINAL
(4) Maryland 65
Gonzaga 69 FINAL
(6) Tennessee 73
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