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

Are the Gophers ready for the Big Ten?

Posted by: Amelia Rayno under College basketball, Gophers players Updated: December 30, 2012 - 12:00 PM

It became pretty evident weeks ago that the Gophers were well-equipped to play with the slate of mid-major non-conference talent that was being thrown at them.

After the Gophers dissembled USC earlier this month, the final two competitions -- vs. North Dakota State and Lafayette -- just felt like formalities leading up to the real season's start. There was little doubt the Gophers would soundly beat these opponents, and even slow starts or moments of sloppiness felt fleeting. The consensus was that these Gophers were unquestionably good enough to beat those teams (which is notable because it didn't always feel that way last year).

But now, the Gophers are at a new point of the season, the point where we figure out if Minnesota can translate their early success to the Big Ten court, whether they can maintain their now lofty expectations and remain one of the top-ranked teams in the nation.

The Gophers have looked good so far, but are they ready for the Big Ten?

You'll hear arguments for both sides, and I have alternately fell in both camps.

Argument No. 1: Bring it on. This Gophers squad is so different from last year's version. Let me count the ways:

a) A renewed focus on defense. Already the Gophers' defensive play is light years ahead of where it was a season ago, and has been pretty efficient all year long, regardless of the opponent. (The only time Minnesota has really struggled defensively was against Duke, which shot 54.5 percent against the Gophers, but had a rare shooting day for any team). The Gophers are 22nd nationally in field goal percentage defense, 15th in steals and ninth in blocked shots. Now keep in mind that many other major programs (including the Big Ten) was playing the same caliber of opponents. So ... not bad.

b) A truly balanced scoring attack. Last year there was talk about the Gophers having the kind of team that could feature a different leading scorer every night. That was mostly because the Gophers simply weren't that good last year, and they didn't have ANY one player capable of breaking out on a consistent basis. The same theory about a different leading scorer night to night is true of this year's squad, but otherwise the scoring profile is quite different. This year there are FIVE players that can be expected to step up every night. Who leads is not so much an anecdote -- as it was last year -- but a technicality, because often it's only by a point or two. The Gophers have had four games with four players finishing with double digits and 10 games when Minnesota had at least three. Rodney Williams, Andre Hollins, Austin Hollins and Joe Coleman are all averaging double digits on the year. And with that kind of balance, it shows in everything. The opponents' defense is forced to spread thin to cover the range of threats. And the Gophers are playing looser because they don't care who scores. It's a beautiful thing.

c) Poise and a killer instinct. It's a tangible thing this year. The Gophers don't have the mental lapses and extended periods of sloppiness like they did in the past, and even when the team gets behind on the scoreboard, there isn't a feeling of panic now, just resolve to figure things out and regain the advantage. And for the most part, they've done just that, whether it be an offense that is slow to take off or a defensive zone to crack. That calm can make all the difference.

Argument No. 2: Beware. The Gophers haven't proven anything yet and the Big Ten is simply a different story.

a) Misleading non-conference success. The Gophers best wins are as follows: Memphis (No. 19 at the time of the victory); Florida State; USC. FSU was supposed to still have some spark and defensive prowess from last year's ACC champion squad, but the Seminoles have since lost to Mercer and Florida. USC was supposed to be much improved from a year ago with a cache of eligible transfers and Jio Fontan returning, but the Trojans have spiraled, losing eight games already. Even South Dakota State came to the Barn without its shining star, Nate Wolters, in the lineup. That leaves a steady diet of wins over mid-major and clearly inferior opponents. Granted, the Gophers took care of business. But beyond that, what did they prove? Not much.

b) The offense still looks stagnant and unflexible sometimes. When the Gophers can't get out in transition, the team still struggles at times in the half court. Yes, they've gotten much better in that regard, and that's helped by the team's balance and the fact that there's no pressure to continually feed the ball to one individual. As it is, the Gophers made it work, even when everything isn't clicking perfectly. But in the Big Ten, the defenses get tougher, the frontcourts get bigger and other teams are very capable of dictating their own pace. The Gophers only score a handful of points in transition each game. Their shooting and ball handling will need to improve simultaneously with their ability to get more creative in the halfcourt.

c) Do the Gophers have enough inside strength and size? Will Trevor Mbakwe be starting on Monday and going forward? We still don't know. Will Mo Walker exhibit the kind of energy necessary to play with this team? What is Elliott Eliason's role now and can he hang with conference bigs in the paint? Will the Gophers continue to play a small lineup with Rodney Williams at the 4 as they have done all season? If they do, will that be an adequate counter to the league's brawn? The Gophers lead the nation in offensive rebounding percentage, but have struggled getting defensive boards -- can they improve in that regard? These are a whole bunch of questions that remain unanswered about the team's frontcourt, and must be figured out soon if the team is to keep the success going.

Given the two arguments, you can decide for yourself what you think the Gophers' Big Ten fate is -- or, you can just wait a couple days and get a better hint. Each side goes through my head, depending on what I see on any given night, and the reality is, at this point, we just don't know what the immediate future brings -- there are too many variables. Right now, I think the Gophers have proven more than they haven't; that is, the known strengths outweigh the weaknesses and unknowns. No. 11 nationwide is high, and there are expectations and pressure that comes with that. Can the Gophers live up to it? We'll find out soon.


Buffalo 17 FINAL
New England 9
Cleveland 10 FINAL
Baltimore 20
Dallas 44 FINAL
Washington 17
Indianapolis 27 FINAL
Tennessee 10
Jacksonville 17 FINAL
Houston 23
San Diego 7 FINAL
Kansas City 19
NY Jets 37 FINAL
Miami 24
Chicago 9 FINAL
Minnesota 13
Philadelphia 34 FINAL
NY Giants 26
New Orleans 23 FINAL
Tampa Bay 20
Carolina 34 FINAL
Atlanta 3
Detroit 20 FINAL
Green Bay 30
Oakland 14 FINAL
Denver 47
Arizona 17 FINAL
San Francisco 20
St. Louis 6 FINAL
Seattle 20
Cincinnati 17 FINAL
Pittsburgh 27
Arizona 1/3/15 3:35 PM
Baltimore 1/3/15 7:15 PM
Detroit 103 FINAL
Cleveland 80
Houston 106 FINAL
San Antonio 110
Oklahoma City 107 FINAL
Dallas 112
New York 79 FINAL
Portland 101
Toronto 116 FINAL
Denver 102
Phoenix 116 FINAL
LA Lakers 107
Toronto 4 FINAL
Florida 6
Vancouver 1 FINAL(OT)
Anaheim 2
Tulane 57 FINAL
St Johns 82
Central Conn St 48 FINAL
Connecticut 81
Iona 81 FINAL
Drexel 62
Concordia (MI) 42 FINAL
Eastern Mich 100
Harvard 46 FINAL
Arizona State 56
Longwood 64 FINAL
Ball State 69
Sacred Heart 76 FINAL
Brown 79
Colgate 64 FINAL
Columbia 69
MD-Eastern Shore 78 FINAL
Duquesne 69
UNC Greensboro 50 FINAL
East Carolina 71
Marist 64 FINAL
Elon 69
Lafayette 76
Cincinnati Christian 58 FINAL
Liberty 78
Morgan State 53 FINAL
Marquette 81
Campbell 56 FINAL
Samford 65
Bucknell 71 FINAL
Siena 73
Long Beach State 67 FINAL
Syracuse 85
Coppin State 80 FINAL
Evansville 85
Indiana State 70
Hofstra 88 FINAL
Long Island 62
Coast Guard 48 FINAL
Army 93
Thomas (GA) 48 FINAL
High Point 85
Texas Southern 58 FINAL
Kansas State 56
Rutgers 59 FINAL
Monmouth 58
NC Wesleyan 54 FINAL
NC A&T 58
South Dakota St 63 FINAL
Northern Iowa 74
Central Penn College 69 FINAL
Radford 119
Bowling Green 79 FINAL
South Florida 70
Harris-Stowe 66 FINAL
SE Missouri St 94
Robert Morris-IL 56 FINAL
SIU Edwardsville 104
Northland College 59 FINAL
North Dakota St 83
Milwaukee 60 FINAL
South Dakota 84
Northwestern St 92 FINAL
Arkansas 100
Saint Peters 59 FINAL
Cornell 52
St Katherine 62 FINAL
Fresno State 93
Haskell 42 FINAL
Oral Roberts 94
Wake Forest 65 FINAL
Richmond 63
Fla Gulf Coast 57 FINAL
Xavier 71
SD Christian 45 FINAL
Northern Ariz 71
Judson 46 FINAL
IUPU-Ft Wayne 80
Ill-Chicago 60 FINAL
Bradley 68
Loyola-Maryland 61 FINAL
Fairfield 59
Miss Valley St 53 FINAL
Houston 80
Lehigh 58 FINAL
Delaware State 56 FINAL
Temple 66
Belmont 56 FINAL
Butler 67
Howard 59 FINAL
Fordham 74
NW Christian 67 FINAL
Nevada 81
UC Davis 83 FINAL
Washington St 90
Abilene Christian 81 FINAL
Grand Canyon 83
Alabama 56
Stony Brook 62 FINAL
Washington 57
Buffalo 56 FINAL
Wisconsin 68
CS-Bakersfield 55 FINAL
California 52
Cincinnati 17 FINAL
Virginia Tech 33
(15) Arizona State 36 FINAL
Duke 31
Miami-Florida 21 FINAL
So Carolina 24
Boston College 30 FINAL
Penn State 31
(25) Nebraska 42 FINAL
(24) USC 45
Texas A&M 1:00 PM
West Virginia
Oklahoma 4:30 PM
(18) Clemson
Arkansas 8:00 PM
Notre Dame 12/30/14 2:00 PM
(22) LSU
(13) Georgia 12/30/14 5:45 PM
(20) Louisville
Maryland 12/30/14 9:00 PM
(9) Ole Miss 12/31/14 11:30 AM
(6) TCU
(21) Boise State 12/31/14 3:00 PM
(12) Arizona
(8) Miss State 12/31/14 7:00 PM
(10) Georgia Tech
(19) Auburn 1/1/15 11:00 AM
(17) Wisconsin
(7) Michigan State 1/1/15 11:30 AM
(4) Baylor
(16) Missouri 1/1/15 12:00 PM
(2) Florida State 1/1/15 4:00 PM
(3) Oregon
(5) Ohio State 1/1/15 7:30 PM
(1) Alabama
Houston 1/2/15 11:00 AM
Iowa 1/2/15 2:20 PM
(11) Kansas State 1/2/15 5:45 PM
(14) UCLA
Washington 1/2/15 9:15 PM
Oklahoma State
East Carolina 1/3/15 11:00 AM
Toledo 1/4/15 8:00 PM
Arkansas State
Drexel 71 FINAL
Miami-Ohio 54
Holy Cross 63 FINAL
Norfolk State 62
East Carolina 62 FINAL
South Florida 69
(10) Oregon State 63 FINAL
(8) Tennessee 74
Providence 51 FINAL
Boston College 79
Florida A&M 47 FINAL
Miami-Florida 83
Oakland 69 FINAL
Central Michigan 74
Chattanooga 59 FINAL
SIU-Edwardsville 49
Fairfield 59 FINAL
La Salle 73
St Francis-PA 59 FINAL
Pittsburgh 97
Milwaukee 72 FINAL
IUPU-Ft Wayne 78
Gardner-Webb 59 FINAL
Longwood 63
New Hampshire 58 FINAL
Manhattan 54
Bucknell 68 FINAL
Binghamton 57
Northeastern 70 FINAL
Albany 67
George Mason 70 FINAL
Towson 72
Richmond 59 FINAL
William & Mary 56
Tulane 60 FINAL
Cincinnati 50
North Florida 51 FINAL
Florida 63
(14) Georgia 51 FINAL
Seton Hall 70
Tennessee St 75 FINAL
(12) Kentucky 87
American Univ 64 FINAL
Wake Forest 77
Massachusetts 78 FINAL
Boston U 57
Quinnipiac 69 FINAL
Saint Josephs 67
Lafayette 49 FINAL
Saint Peters 34
Northwestern 61 FINAL
(20) Michigan State 57
Duquesne 82 FINAL
Lehigh 75
George Washington 72 FINAL
Loyola-Maryland 49
(17) Rutgers 66 FINAL
Indiana 51
(24) Green Bay 66 FINAL
Dayton 72
Western Mich 55 FINAL
Stony Brook 59
Davidson 67 FINAL
Virginia 57
UNC Greensboro 61 FINAL
LSU 82
Denver 63 FINAL
North Texas 55
VA Commonwealth 63 FINAL
Coppin State 52
Huston-Tillotson 36 FINAL
Houston Baptist 86
Lamar 63 FINAL
Rice 97
Miss Valley St 40 FINAL
Alabama 71
Saint Louis 63 FINAL
Eastern Illinois 49
Middle Tennessee 98 FINAL
Tenn Tech 76
Penn State 52 FINAL
(23) Iowa 77
Purdue 62 FINAL
Illinois 55
DePaul 99 FINAL
Illinois State 62
Sam Houston St 46 FINAL
Wichita State 70
South Dakota 76 FINAL
TX-San Antonio 69
(4) Notre Dame 82 FINAL
Coll of Charleston 51 FINAL
SC State 60
Alcorn State 53 FINAL
Texas-El Paso 63
Dartmouth 76 FINAL
Niagara 70
Colgate 68 FINAL
Siena 80
Michigan 53 FINAL
Wisconsin 63
Fla Gulf Coast 73 FINAL
CS-Northridge 64
Yale 51 FINAL
(25) Arizona State 69
UC Santa Barbara 34 FINAL
(16) Stanford 90
Long Island 63 FINAL
Long Beach St 71
Jackson State 56 FINAL
Louisiana 65
Eureka 50 FINAL
Western Ill 91
Cornell 59 FINAL
(22) Syracuse 76
Temple 58 FINAL
Memphis 57
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Gophers Football Time W L Score
2014 season     
Aug 28 - vs. E. Illinois 6 pmX42-20
Sep 6 - vs. M. Tennessee St. 2:30 pmX35-24
Sep 13 - at TCU 3 pmX30-7
Sep 20 - vs. San Jose St. 3 p.m.X24-7
Sep 27 - at Michigan 2:30 pmX30-14
Oct 11 - vs. Northwestern 11 amX24-17
Oct 18 - vs. Purdue 11 amX39-38
Oct 25 - at Illinois 11 amX28-24
Nov 8 - vs. Iowa 11 amX51-14
Nov 15 - vs. Ohio State 11 amX31-24
Nov 22 - at Nebraska 11 amX28-24
Nov 29 - at Wisconsin 2:30 pmX34-24
Jan 1 - vs. Missouri noon




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