Ciao everyone -- I've finally come down from my two-week high in Europe and will address your questions about college hoops and beyond while en route on the 19-hour journey home, when all I really want to do is daydream about the places I went and the things I ate. Kind of me, right? I believe the Italians would tell you that's amore.
In case you're curious, of the three cities I visited, I'd rank them like this:
1. Barcelona (would absolutely live there)
2. Cinque Terre (an improbable slice of terrain that sort of felt like a dream)
3. Rome (to those of you who said it would be my new favorite city, Barcelona kicked its patootie. Like, with a steel-toed boot)
On to the business at hand:
(to submit a question for a future aMAILiaBAG, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet me @AmeliaRayno)
@MiNRanger: @AmeliaRayno Are there offers out for the 2016 class?
Of course: recruiting is a never-ending chase. Long before the 2015 class was complete, coach Richard Pitino and Co. were looking ahead. The most notable offers for the 2016 class right now are Hopkins big guard Amir Coffey (ranked 45th nationally per rivals.com), fellow locals Michael Hurt (ranked 145th, wing from Rochester) and Brock Bertram (unranked power forward from Apple Valley) and California center Jayce Johnson.
@MNfan4ever: @AmeliaRayno Hope flight(s) (were) smooth. Who is going to defend the rim and rebound after this year? #Lotsofguards #aMAILiaBAG
Flights are smooth so far and the holiday-ing was superb, thanks!
You're right, there seem to be guards crawling out of the Barn's rafters after this year, but the re-tooling of the backcourt will be somewhat necessary with Andre Hollins and DeAndre Mathieu leaving one year after Austin Hollins, Malik Smith and Maverick Ahanmisi all expired their eligibilities. The frontcourt is far from barren -- the only problem is that most of it will be relatively unproven a year from now. Joey King will be a senior, and the Gophers will rely on him greatly from both a veteran leadership standpoint, and for major minutes and rebounds. Behind him there is the uber-athletic Josh Martin -- who will be a sophomore, and should have plenty of time to learn on the job this year -- as well as international bigs Bakary Konate and Gaston Diedhiou, assuming the later gets admitted at some point. Jonathan Nwankwo, who the Gophers got a commitment from for 2015 is critical in helping to fill the gaps at center, where Mo Walker and ball-swatting Elliott Eiason will have just expired their eligibilities. It could be a strong frontcourt indeed. It could be a liability. We'll start to know more of that after this coming season.
@29tjm: @AmeliaRayno Do you think [Charles] Buggs may transfer unless he has break-out year?
It will be interesting to see how the redshirt sophomore progresses this season. We've seen sparks from him, but at this point, there are still probably more yellow lights than green lights. He needs to be able to perform better defensively than he did a year ago and, of course, be more consistent (and smarter) on the defensive end. Pitino has always lauded his potential and obvious athletic ability. The problem is, Buggs was forced to undergo a surgery on his knee in the late spring due to a congenital issue, and missed a lot of practice time because of it. That won't help. If he doesn't have a notably better season, I could see one of the parties (him or the staff) getting frustrated.
@JorenRico: @AmeliaRayno Have you tried Panther Distillery in Osakis, MN?
I have not, but after perusing their website, I was turned away by the fact that they sell something called "spiked apple spirits." I no longer care what other products they have.
@danob11: @AmeliaRayno It's nice that Jarvis Johnson will stay home (big fan of his), but he's not a high scorer - what's his role with the Gophers?
I think, like the other two guards Minnesota nabbed for the 2015 class (Dupree McBrayer and Kevin Dorsey), Johnson will be asked to take somewhat of a hybrid role. The good news is, there is a ton of depth, so the pressure isn't up on any one of those freshmen. Johnson will likely play some at point and some off the ball, and of course be expected to improve on the defensive end, grab the long rebounds and find his teammates in transition.
@bonehead267: @AmeliaRayno Can't think of his name...sorry..the one not admitted b/c of low English scores? Any update? possibly enrolled by Jan?
Name is Gaston Diedhiou ... and yes, if he gets a strong score on the TOEFL (English proficiency test) upon retaking it, he could be admitted by January.
@CreaAlex: @AmeliaRayno Will we be moving to a smaller, faster lineup with the new players coming in? Or will we still go traditional? #aMAILiaBAG
Yes, I definitely think we'll see a small lineup with all the depth in the backcourt and the versatility of the power forwards on the roster. Before last season, Pitino came in preaching an uptempo, run-and-gun system. Realistically, we didn't see that. While the first-year coach's offense was extremely fluid and fun to watch, the Gophers landed at 257th nationally in adjusted tempo, according to kenpom.com. This year, I think Minnesota will be faster, and more of a driving team rather than relegating to the perimeter as the Gophers did at times last year. Morris will contribute to that, and Andre Hollins should be back to his old ways in beating out opponents to the twine. I expect it to be a more fun brand to watch, actually.
@Aeikens: @AmeliaRayno What do you anticipate the starting lineup being in first game? #aMailiabag
@tgagemurphy: @AmeliaRayno thoughts on depth chart? Any red shirts possible for the incoming class?
Doesn't look like any of them will redshirt. Minnesota will already be without one body for at least the first semester because of Diedhiou getting denied by admissions.
@MiNRanger: @AmeliaRayno Do other schools over commit past their open scholarship slots? With potential for NBA drafts or transfers to free up spots?
Well, a program can't sign players beyond the scholarships it has available. The first signing period comes next month. So if the Gophers, for example, were to get another commitment, they would need someone to transfer before the start of the season.
@rademp1: @AmeliaRayno Where did money come from to upgrade bball at Bierman?
From the general athletic department bankroll.
@biggiecurls: @AmeliaRayno after Jarvis's commitment are the gophers out of the running for Alex Illikainen?
Adding this question as an "In case you missed it" ... since I missed Illikainen's commitment to the enemy, Wisconsin (on Sept. 21) while I was traversing the Mediterranean and all octopus, jamon and wine it has to offer (#humblebrag). So no, Illikainen didn't decide, like Jarvis Johnson to stay at his home-town school, but if he had wanted to, I'm confident a way would have opened up. That's what tends to happen in college basketball when a program really wants a prospect.
@troothtooth: @AmeliaRayno I'm moving to Knoxville in a few weeks. Any chance I find #bigfoot #aMAILIAbag
For sure, if you wander up into the Smokies. Those hills are said to be rife with wood buggers.
@jrachiever71: @AmeliaRayno what are the bourbon selections on your flight?
I am currently on my return flight, and man-handling their supply of Woodford Reserve.
@los_jim: @AmeliaRayno what are the odds we see the return of Chick Pitino again this year? #aMAILiaBag
Come on, never the same chicken suit twice. I'd like to think we'll see something more creative.