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

aMAILia BAG: Can Gophers beat the Hoosiers? Is it a must-win? Why do you still care? And how is bigfoot hair unique?

Posted by: Amelia Rayno under College basketball, Gophers players Updated: February 26, 2013 - 5:28 PM

 

 

aMAILia BAG is a weekly installment on this blog where you send me questions (to @AmeliaRayno on Twitter or amelia.rayno@startribune.com) and I answer them here. Questions below are in bold, while my responses are in regular type.

Can we beat the Hoosiers?

@BeeHeintzSKOL

Hey, what’s that? Behind you. **runs away from computer**

Uh, well, here’s my answer:

Can the Gophers beat the Hoosiers? Sure. The Gophers came darn close the first time around, even though they buried themselves in a 20-point hole first and I think Indiana got a little lax. And hey, this is the Big Ten. Anyone can beat anyone. Anything can happen.

Now – will the Gophers beat the Hoosiers? I can’t see into the future, but I’m not counting on it. Indiana is reallyreallyREALLY good, like maybe national champion good, and the Gophers are playing at their absolute worst right now.

I haven’t seen any signs that Minnesota is turning things around so far – instead, they’re giving every indication they’re in a tail spin.

What’s more, the Hoosiers are known to use a, ahem, 2-3 zone from time-to-time, and would be wise to employ it early and often on Tuesday.

Can the Gophers make sudden adjustments where they haven’t yet been able to this conference season? Can they hold onto the ball, attack a zone logically and return to an offensive groove? Can Andre Hollins step up once more?

If so, they’ve got a shot. If not, I see another loss tagged to the end of the Gophers’ record.

Do you know why Trevor Mbakwe stopped tweeting about the games and just in general? I thought that was a little odd

@knelson_

I haven’t asked him – but I’m betting it has to do with the direction their season has taken. Mbakwe has used the adjective “embarrassing” to describe the last couple games. What is there to tweet about? BELIEVE IT OR NOT, some fans can be pretty cruel and unusual in their interactions with players online – the whole Faceless Trash Talk thing. Mbakwe has thick skin, but I wouldn’t blame him for taking a break from social media until things turn around. Anything he says can be misconstrued. If people want to believe the players don’t care, they will read that into anything. Pic of a pizza for dinner = HOW CAN YOU BE THINKING OF PIZZA?!!

I don’t think I’m exaggerating.

Why do I still care about this gopher team, WHY?!? #aMAILiaBAG

@lukempls

Cause it’s in your blood and you love this team. Listen, I’m a Red Sox fan since kid age. I’ve felt your pain. But that’s what binds sports fans – their DramaticAngryGleefulLividHopefulPlateSmashingDejectedEcstaticDepressedGlorious passion for their team. The highs wouldn’t be highs without the lows.

And that concludes your therapy session for today. That’ll be $120.

The Indiana game is a must win, right? (Unless they win 3 games in BIG10 tourney, unlikely to say the least) #aMELIABAG

@OleOlafLefse

Nah, I don’t think so. The Gophers can lose to Indiana and Purdue and the first round of the Big Ten tournament and still probably be in good shape for a ticket to the Big Dance. Pretty amazing right? More details from the blog and the paper here and here.

Of course, heading into the tournament with absolutely no momentum is another thing entirely.

Where are the people that they said the Gophers are so deep this year?

@kcsolum

Hiding.

Actually, I still hear that thrown around some by the national media. It’s a natural instinct to have when a coach plays 10, 11, 12 guys consistently, so I don’t blame them.

But I think that “asset” has certainly been exposed to say the least. I crunched some numbers on the subject here.

Do you think leadership is a problem? Dre seemed better last NIT w/o Trevor/RS3.

@HargoFett

Yeah, I think leadership is a big problem.

The Gophers don’t have a go-to guy, whether it’s to take the last shot, feed the ball when the rest of the team is struggling or pull the ranks together when the squad is reeling. That hurts.

It’s hard to compare Dre Hollins’ production from last year, because last year the Gophers were playing against NIT competition (which they’ve proven they can beat this season as well). I don’t think that the addition of Mbakwe back to the team has hurt Hollins (which I did consider before this season) because Hollins has truly broken out at points this year.

But no one has been consistent since the conference season started. That Hollins really is not a true point guard is tough to compensate for. Mbakwe is a force, but if no one can get him the ball, it’s tough for him to do much. Rodney Williams has been hot and (more often) cold.

It doesn’t help that Smith shakes up his substitutions to the degree that no one player gets much continuity.

Will the Gophers learn how to run a zone offense before the season is over or under Tubby Smith for that matter?

@kcsolum

It’s hard to say that’s around the corner since it’s the end of February and they’ve been seeing zone defenses since November …

And they don’t seem close. At Iowa, the problem wasn’t the Gophers simply not executing their zone strategy – they didn’t seem to have one. Step one in defeating a zone is to pass the ball quickly, and try to get it to the baseline and then inside. Minnesota didn’t even seem geared to do that.

Media is not allowed into practices (sadly), so I can’t say this with authority, but frankly, I just think they need to practice it more. Or – you know what? I can say that with authority. I don’t know how much they’re practicing it now, but I know it’s nowhere close to sufficient. So whatever attention they’re giving the zone currently --- they should triple it. It’s not uncalled for. When multiple media outlets start using the word “kryptonite” in relation to the Gophers and the zone, that’s not a good thing.

In the age of social media, fan disgruntlement becomes easily overblown. Does this factor into athletic dept. decisions?

@juliecmiller

Good question, Julie.

I think any athletic department has to take in fan disgruntlement to some extent – because they are reliant on fans, in many ways, to keep their program profitable.

At the same time, this administration is not dumb, and, by the way, specializes in basketball prowess. Basketball boss Mike Ellis knows his stuff, and doesn’t need fan complaints or praise to form his opinion of this coaching staff or which direction the university needs to go. I think they have listened, to their credit, to what the fans and those around the program have to say, and have absorbed that as part of the full picture.

But it’s not the whole picture. There are many other things that go into it (their own analysis, money, fit, other prospects, recruiting factors, etc).

If tubby gets bought out what do u think about @Flip_Saunders for coach? Bonus question, what is your fav scotch? #aMAILiaBAG

@ALuvsTwins

I don’t think Saunders is realistic and I’m not sure it’s what this administration would be looking for if they did decide to go in a different direction.

I know it’s a popular rumor, but that’s pretty much what it is – a rumor.

Oh -- and my go-to scotch is Glenfiddich.

Is it time for Tubby to try growing the 'stache again? #aMAILiaBAG #stachesquatchin

@CGarne

I liked the stache. I thought it was regal. Smith probably should have shaved it after that first loss (he let it hang around for a few), but you know, the record with the stache is much more impressive than the record without a stache.

If he gave it another go-round, I’d be in support.

W/bad loses and 14' likely a long shot is Tubby exit close? Is he gone if he goes 0-3 on 14' class? #aMAILiaBAG #$worthquestion

@tceliteskills

Your “money question,” TC Elite, is just about the most popular.

I don’t know how I end up answering this question every week.

I’ve said it a lot, and I’ll say it again, if this team doesn’t turn things around, I do think an exit is close.

It’s tough to say whether Smith has the best shot of landing the 2014 recruits (because they’ve already build relationships with him) or a fresh (and exciting) start would.

But yes, I definitely, think some things need to change for Smith to feel secure in his position.

BONUS BIGFOOT QUESTION:

Is it possible bf dna, especially from hair is different? It always seems degraded and unreadable #bigfoot #aMAILiaBAG

@uofmike

Well, yes, it’s different in that we haven’t catalogued it. It comes back “unreadable” or inconclusive the same way a fingerprint would come back inconclusive if the perpetrator wasn’t on file.

At the same time, those who have looked into it have found that there is a significant number of “inconclusive” samples that display incredibly similar characteristics, enough so to indicate the same species. That species is “unknown” to the system, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad evidence – just that the scientific world at large hasn’t explicitly put “sasquatch hair” in the system as a means for identification.

 

 

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