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

aMAILiaBAG: Can the Gophers beat Wisconsin? Will Pitino leave? My fave spots from Iowa City?

Posted by: Amelia Rayno under College basketball, Gophers coaches, Gophers players Updated: January 20, 2014 - 3:43 PM

To submit a question for a future aMAILiaBAG, email me at amelia.rayno@startribune.com or tweet me @AmeliaRayno

@philosofootball: @AmeliaRayno How much (% and #) are fouls up this season? Any chance the NCAA'll amend the directive to refs? Or just force teams to adjust?

For the first part of your question, I'll refer you to this previous mailbag. 

But if you think the NCAA is going to go back on these new guidelines after one year, you're wacky. There are plenty of people that like the changes in the game -- for the most part -- and as with any new emphasis or rule, things are a bit sloppy right now, but players/refs/coaches will eventually adjust.

@Frantzka: @AmeliaRayno Badgers lose three in a row? Seems hard to fathom What do the gophs do to win?

This Big Ten is so unpredictable. What's new, right? After being one of the last remaining unbeaten teams in the country, Wisconsin has now dropped back to back games -- at Indiana and then at home against Michigan on Sunday.

Winning that matchup on Wednesday is certainly not out of the Gophers grasp, but they will need to limit turnovers and play a lot better defense than we saw on Sunday at Iowa. Look, we've seen that the Gophers can be competitive with the pieces they have and the style they play -- they just haven't been dependable in doing that all the time. Wisconsin does not turn over the ball, and they are tops in the nation at not fouling. The Gophers will need a consistent offensive and defensive attack for 40 minutes.

@bportnoe: @AmeliaRayno do you see at least one player leaving the team after this season? #Gophers

There's always a chance someone transfers if they're unhappy. That shouldn't be shocking to anyone. If you look at the people who are unhappy with their minutes so far, you probably go down to the bottom of the rotation, right? Do I have to name names?

@KyleLeonard11: @AmeliaRayno with more exposure for Pitino nationally, do you think he stays here long term? (Nervous MN sports fan, pretty early I know)

First of all, I don't think there's necessarily been more national exposure than expected for Pitino so far. But in any case, we're not even through the first season yet. I really don't think the prospect of him LEAVING should be on anyone's mind. You're having fun. You're enjoying the relationship and starting to think about how good it is -- maybe too good, wait, way too good and OH NO HE'S GOING TO LEAVE!

Stop it. Enjoy a good thing instead of thinking about the breakup.

In general, fans should really not stress about a coach leaving. If Pitino does take another job at some point, it will be because of one of two things, both of which are beneficial to you: a) he brought success to your team or b) he hasn't and you want him to leave anyway.

@tgagemurphy: @AmeliaRayno Any chance of playing EE and Walker at the same time? Both are good passers for Bigs.

Nope, he'll never do that. Neither of those guys can play like a power forward.

@fasolamatt: @AmeliaRayno #aMAILiaBAG favorite place to eat in Iowa City?

I found a place I am now obsessed with called Clinton St. Social Club. Good food, a ton of bourbon, pool table and just a really good vibe in general. Also had the most ridiculously delicious turkey sandwich today at Mama's Deli & Catering. Yum.

@bonehead267: @AmeliaRayno Season has been better than expected so far, have you heard anything in regards to recruiting? Is it helping-hurting-too early?

The Gophers might look a little better than some people expected, but it's certainly not to the point of where it's affecting recruiting. If a team's success were to matter amongst elite recruits, it would probably mean more than winning a pair of Big Ten games against the bottom half of the league. Honestly, you can't talk about success affecting recruiting until you're in the NCAA tournament.

What IS affecting recruiting is coach Richard Pitino's fun-to-play system, and the constant efforts on the part of the staff. I'd say there is reason to be optimistic, simply because of the way we see Malik Smith and DeAndre Mathieu -- two very underrated Pitino "adds" -- performing this year. He has a pretty good early track record of being a good judge of under-the-radar talent.

@runningwithjz: #aMAILiaBAG @AmeliaRayno With EE's emergence this year, do #Gophers have 1 of 3 best front courts in #B1G despite lack of depth/size?

No, I wouldn't say that because the power forward spot is basically a black hole. The Gophers do, however, have the advantage at the five spot almost every time they step on the court (a sentence I never thought I'd type before this season).    

@brianiswhite: @AmeliaRayno The Gophers obvious weakness is PF, do you expect Charles Buggs to see more minutes as the season goes on?

No, there is no indication of that whatsoever. You usually don't see dramatic leaps in playing time; you see situations like that with Daquein McNeil, who is slowly getting more and more opportunities as a role player.

@TheSportsminn: @AmeliaRayno Any insight as to why we did not see Malik Smith more in 2nd half of game yesterday when lead was bigger given his 3pt success?

Smith picked up his third foul less than five minutes into the second, so Pitino was kind of in the same position with him as he was with a lot of players. It was a bad time for Smith to not be getting big minutes -- he played fewer than he has in all but one Big Ten game so far, and it may be no coincidence that he never really seemed to get into an offensive groove.

No doubt there were numerous moments, when the Gophers were reeling, that a hot Malik Smith could have really helped with.

@GopherBBallFan: @AmeliaRayno How in the hell is it possible that Richard's RPI (30) is higher than that of his father's (32), the reigning NCAA champ?

Louisville's non-conference schedule was truly awful this year -- something Gophers fans should remember when Minnesota is playing the likes of Texas A&M Corpus Christi. Everybody does this. The Cardinals, of course had a few notable matchups -- North Carolina and Kentucky, but beyond that, they only played two teams that were in the top 150 nationally, according to kenpom.com.

@KyBrage: @AmeliaRayno Past regimes have wanted hoops practice facilities. Do you think Pitino actually gets this done? #aMAILiaBAG

Every coach wants a practice facility. It's an incredibly meaningful recruiting tool. But really, that comes down to the local donors. Is the investment worth it to them? Pitino has been popular early, and will be more popular if he can help this Gophers team take the next step. If the team starts winning on a regular basis, the money comes. Unfortunately for Minnesota, that takes time. One can argue a practice facility would bring better players and therefore create more wins, but it doesn't always work that way. Pitino is probably going to have to win first.

@BoBoe92: @AmeliaRayno Why can't Mo get more minutes when Elliot doesn't foul? Have you noticed the way Eliason has been playing lately? 

He's one of the best centers in the league. Makes no sense to bench him. Walker has improved, certainly, but his production and potential on the court is nowhere near that of Eliason's.

@RandBallsStu: @AmeliaRayno Polar Vortex? More like Polar Jerk-tex!  #aMAILiaBAG

So well put, Stu. So well put.

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