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: What will next year's Gophers lineup look like? How can Mathieu help? Where are all the post players?

Posted by: Amelia Rayno under College basketball, Gophers coaches, Gophers players Updated: May 9, 2013 - 12:43 PM



And we’re back! I know all of you were just dying without your weekly aMAILiaBAG for a month there. How did you even survive without it, you might wonder. Personally, I survived by getting out of dodge for a little while – which I will be doing in doses this summer – and doing all the things I wasn’t able to do during the season, like plow through the last year of movies (there were some good ones!) and of course get outside and pick up the abandoned search for Bigfoot (I see nothing has been accomplished during my hiatus).

The summer naturally brings a slower time of year for hoops news, so if you haven’t noticed already, I won’t be posting nearly as frequently. I promise I will publish anything newsy in this space, but if you’re not seeing a lot of activity in a particular week, well, you can put the dots together.

However, I would like to improve my off-season presence in any way I can. I’ll stick with occasional mailbags as long as I’m getting questions. And on that note, I’d love to hear any feedback you have from this past year on the blog. What did you like? What didn’t you like? What would you like to see more of? Less of? What’s your opinion of Bigfoot? (Trick question. I will only listen if I agree.) As a reminder, you can email me at Thanks for reading!

Now onto the questions:

(Your questions in bold; my responses in regular type)

Seems like Gophs offering lots of guys. Will [Richard Pitino] have scholarships if any of big three want to come? Is he conceding they won't?


New coach Richard Pitino and his staff have offered a lot of players – as most coaches do, because the liklihood that all of them are going to choose Minnesota is extremely rare.

What’s more, they have a lot of availabilities right now. With Alvin Ellis and Alex Foster each de-committing (whether by choice or by firm suggestion), the Gophers had four scholarships available for next season. They have now gotten commitments from two guards now (Daquein McNeil and now Dre Mathieu), which means they still have two spots available. Former coach Tubby Smith and staff planned to save at least one of those for the loaded 2014 class, and Pitino might do so as well, but keep in mind that two of the players the Gophers are hard after – Tarik Black and Rakeem Buckles – each only have a single year of eligibility left, meaning that their scholarships would open again after the season. I think it’s unlikely that Minnesota will get both of those players, but even if they got one and, say, another guard, they’d still have an extra opening for 2014 (plus those of Austin Hollins and Maverick Ahanmisi, who will graduate).

If you had to guess ... Who do you see in Pitino’s starting five? Can we expect to see a big role for Charles Buggs this year?

Thanks Amelia


As of right now, I think there are going to be a lot of preseason competitions going on for spots, which will certainly keep things lively. At this time last year, we pretty much already had the starting five pegged.

There are a couple of ways the Gophers could go, and that decision could be largely impacted by whether Minnesota is able to sign a big man.

(Note: The signing period officially ends on May 15, but graduate players can sign anytime.)

If the Gophers can get Buckles (possible) or Black (less likely), they could throw out a lineup that looks like this:

Andre Hollins
Joe Coleman/ Daquein McNeil/ Wally Ellenson
Austin Hollins
Buckles/ Black
Elliott Eliason

With the players the Gophers currently have, we could see:

Andre Hollins
Joe Coleman/ Daquein McNeil/ Wally Ellenson
Austin Hollins
Charles Buggs
Elliott Eliason

Or even a lineup with four perimeter players, like this:

Andre Hollins
Daquein McNeil
Austin Hollins
Joe Coleman
Elliott Eliason

Really, I think that the only real locks for spots are Andre Hollins and Austin Hollins. I think that despite the fact that the Gophers have signed two point guards in McNeil and Mathieu, Andre Hollins will still start at point, at least for now. There’s a chance one of those guys could earn the spot enough in the preseason, allowing the Gophers to take Hollins off the ball (where he’s best, IMHO), but for now, I think the rising junior still offers the best option at that position.

Eliason is most likely playing at center simply because the Gophers don’t have many options there. Mo Walker is in the picture as well, but he needs to do some serious conditioning before we talk about a major role for him. If he gets a starting spot, I don’t think it will be at the beginning of the season. Joe Coleman could be a guard that gets the nod, or just as easily become the sixth man – where I think he would thrive. From that standpoint, the other one or two guard spots are totally up for competition. Should be interesting.

Thanks for asst. Info. How do they compare against other Big Ten in both ages and experience?


I wish there was some great database of ages of assistant coaches, but there isn’t, and ages aren’t always reported. I can tell you that if you include Pitino in the conversation, it’s realistically one of the younger staffs in the nation, and relatively raw as well.

Do you think local media attention can be at all helpful in recruiting local kids?


I don’t think it hurts for these kids to see their names in the paper. I don’t think it hurts for them to be reminded that they’re wanted. These local kids for 2014, however, certainly have no shortage of that – not just from Minnesota media, but national media, and different outlets around the country. It’s just part of it.

Hi Amelia: Why do you think Izzo wanted Alvin and Pitino didn’t? Did Richard have too many guys who play Alvin’s position?


Well, that argument would be severely stunted by the fact that Pitino is recruiting a lot of guard types. I don’t know for sure that Pitino DIDN’T reach back out to Ellis (remember – Ellis decommitted before Pitino was announced), but while obviously many schools were interested in the wing, it doesn’t mean he was the best player for every program, or every style.

Hi Amelia,

Great job of covering Gopher basketball. With Cameron Forte going to University of Georgia and Rakeem Buckles and Tarik Black taking time to make a final decision, would the Gophers ever consider Jake White from Wichita State? We’re a little “short” on big men, especially at power forward, for next year.


There’s a possibility that the Gophers would at least talk to White. The Chaska native played just 10.9 minutes a game a season ago, but averaged 3.6 points and 2.9 rebounds with his opportunity. The Gophers definitely could use some brawn for next year, but I haven’t heard about any specific contact with him yet.

Is [Mathieu] a big 'get' for the gophers? Better than what we have?


Better than what the Gophers have? That’s hard to say. Mathieu isn’t a 5-star recruit (he’s a 3-star), but he also could be helpful to Minnesota. I don’t think Pitino would sign guys just to fill spots – he’s made that plenty clear. Without a true point guard already on the roster, Mathieu could play an important role in backing up Andre Hollins or allowing him to play off the ball more.

#aMAILiaBAG with a new coach, do we expect players to be released from scholarship? I personally don't see Mo a Pitino type player.

Mo Walker will definitely have to get in shape. A source mentioned to the Star Tribune that it seems like, in the early goings, Walker has really bought into Pitino’s new brand and work ethic, which is supposedly pretty darn vigorous. If he works for it, and conditions ruthlessly, he could fit in. If he can’t (he’ll be required), his options would likely be to sit or leave.

The recent signing gives a good indication of the recruiting of the new staff. I question offering to all of these guards, especially if Freeman signs. Don't we want to hold on to as many scholarships as possible for the upcoming "big 3" class? How many guards do we have on team and will that hider the chances of signing a top player next year? Where are all of the big men?

Where are all the big men? Signed already! Why do you think the entire country is after Tarik Black? It was a bit of a thin year to start with and now, well, we’re in May. It’s going to be a challenge to find the right players to fill those holes. I know Pitino doesn’t want to sign any old big body just because they need one – and right now, the guard search is proving more plentiful.

I don’t think that the Big Three for 2014 would be scared off by a plethora of guards on the Minnesota roster – they know that if they signed with the Gophers, they’d start over anyone.

Should we be getting worried about our big man situation? Seems like Pitino is doing wonderful getting back-court help, but still nothing for the front-court.

Thoughts? Any possibilities?


It is a little troublesome, I do admit, when you look at what’s still available after the departures of Trevor Mbakwe, Rodney Williams and Andre Ingram. There’s Buggs (no collegiate experience), Walker (a liability to the pace), Eliason (fiery and a tough worker, but limited down low) and that’s about it except for Oto Osenieks, if you want to consider him a “big man.”

The fact is, whether fans want to look at it this way – next year will be a bit of a rebuilding year. Do you put someone on scholarship to fill a hole if he's not the right guy? Probably not. Even if it’s painful to have so few options.

Any news on rakeem buckles?


No – everything on that front is staying pretty hush-hush, and it’s tough to get information since Buckles is technically still at FIU. If the Gophers got him, they’d want him to play immediately, which would require a waiver. There’s a chance those details are being sorted out now. Remember – Buckles wouldn’t be constrained by the signing deadline because he will be a graduate. I wouldn’t be surprised if this does happen.


Your thoughts on how accurately Harry and the Hendersons reflects what we know about Sasquatch. #aMAILiaBAG


Yep – it’s pretty much just like that.


Atlanta 6 FINAL
Detroit 4
Philadelphia 3 FINAL
Houston 6
St. Louis 4 FINAL
Miami 1
Baltimore 3 FINAL
Tampa Bay 2
NY Yankees 2 FINAL
Pittsburgh 1
Chicago Cubs 6 FINAL
San Francisco 8
Los Angeles 6 FINAL
Chicago WSox 1
San Diego 4 FINAL
Seattle 9
Cleveland 9 FINAL
Cincinnati 3
Milwaukee 2 FINAL
LA Angels 3
Oakland 2 FINAL
Chicago Cubs 2
Texas 4 FINAL
Kansas City 5
Colorado 3 FINAL
Arizona 4
Washington 5
Boston 8 FINAL
Minnesota 9
Toronto 0 FINAL
Baltimore 5
Oklahoma City 105 FINAL
Chicago 108
Dallas 75 FINAL
Portland 94
Calgary 4 FINAL(SO)
Boston 3
St. Louis 1 FINAL
Philadelphia 3
Minnesota 2 FINAL
Washington 1
Toronto 2 FINAL
Tampa Bay 4
Dallas 4 FINAL(SO)
Florida 3
NY Islanders 4 FINAL
Nashville 3
Vancouver 2 FINAL(SO)
Arizona 3
Montreal 3 FINAL(SO)
Los Angeles 4
Morgan State 76 FINAL
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Siena 71
Holy Cross 83 FINAL
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Minnesota 63
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VA Commonwealth 58
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Liberty 59
UNC Greensboro 44 FINAL
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Arkansas 72 FINAL
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Appalachian St 61
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Portland 58 FINAL
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Hampton 64
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UAB 59
NC Central 46
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Virginia Tech 51 FINAL
Pittsburgh 45
Central Arkansas 43 FINAL
Nicholls 53
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Louisiana 66
South Alabama 60 FINAL
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ULM 61
Sam Houston St 73 FINAL
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SE Louisiana 75 FINAL
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Northwestern St 45 FINAL
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Alabama A&M 58 FINAL
Jackson State 66
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Grambling 62
Southern U 78 FINAL
Prairie View 50
Alcorn State 55 FINAL
Texas Southern 73
Ark-Pine Bluff 0 Postponed
Miss Valley St 0
Wofford 54 FINAL
Mercer 75
Abilene Christian 72 FINAL
Incarnate Word 62
La Salle 60 FINAL
Rhode Island 65
Illinois 71 FINAL
Nebraska 86
TX-San Antonio 60 FINAL
Rice 49
Valparaiso 55 FINAL
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Indiana State 56
Georgia Tech 64 FINAL
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Charlotte 72 FINAL
Western Ky 80
Texas-El Paso 69 FINAL
North Texas 61
Wichita State 77 FINAL
Evansville 63
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Northern Iowa 69
Bradley 70 FINAL
Drake 86
Presbyterian 62 FINAL
High Point 75
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(12) Kentucky 67
Colorado 75 FINAL
USC 63
San Francisco 74 FINAL
Pacific 64
Idaho State 58 FINAL
Eastern Washington 62
Weber State 42 FINAL
Idaho 71
Purdue 78 FINAL
Minnesota 82
Cal-Irvine 54 FINAL
Cal State Fullerton 66
Long Beach St 60 FINAL
CS-Northridge 77
Hawaii 60 FINAL
UC Santa Barbara 36
UC Davis 56 FINAL
UC-Riverside 61
Northern Ariz 79 FINAL
Portland State 62
Southern Utah 73 FINAL
Sacramento St 107
Utah 64 FINAL
Washington 75
St Marys-CA 64
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