Archive for Jacob Wandersee

Gopher Football is Making History

Chances like this don’t come around too often… And by too often, I mean almost never. My father is an alum of the University of Minnesota. In his lifetime, the Gophers Football team has reached double digit wins one time. The highest they have ever been ranked in his lifetime was 13th, done this year and in 2016. They have only ever been ranked in the preseason top 25 one single time.

This 2019 season for the Gophers has been something completely special for Minnesota. They are currently ranked 13th, which is the highest they have been ranked since they were ranked 12th in 1999, just twenty seasons ago.

Minnesota is 5-0 in the Big 10 for the first time since 1961. Even more impressively, they find themselves with an 8-0 record overall for the first time since 1941, when they were number one in the country. The Maroon and Gold have won 10 straight games which is good for the third longest current winning streak in the country.

The Gophers have scored 28 or more points in the first eight games for the first time since 1904. Yes, that was four years before the Model-T was invented.

This season has been unlike any other that any Gopher fan alive can remember. The hype is real. The talent is real. The hope is real.

The season started out pretty shakey. The Gophers squeaked by non-conference opponents South Dakota State, Fresno State and Georgia Southern by a combined 13 points. If a few plays like a timely fumble by SDSU or a converted 4th down against Fresno State don’t occur, Minnesota easily could’ve gone 0-3 to start the season.

But they didn’t. They found a way to win.

Since the beginning of Big 10 play, the Gophers have completely flipped a switch. The lowest output of scoring so far has been 34 points and Minnesota currently has a point differential of 206 to 72 in Big 10 games. This kind of domination hasn’t been seen here essentially as long as I have been alive.

This week marks a turn in the schedule. The Gophers have one of the most difficult remaining schedules as they have to face off with: (5) Penn State, @ (18) Iowa, @ Northwestern and (16) Wisconsin. However, the Gophers are in the driver’s seat in the Big 10 West as they find themselves with a two-game buffer over both Iowa and Wisconsin.

This week will not be easy to say the least. Penn State presents a challenge that the Gophers simply haven’t faced this season. Penn State is favored by 7 points. But just last year, the spread probably would have been at least 20 points.

For the first time that I can remember, the Gophers have a chance. They might not be the favorite. The game might be an uphill battle. But Minnesota is capable of winning the game.

Minnesota ranks 47th in the country in yards per game at 429.5. Penn State ranks 52nd at 422.1. Penn State boasts the 9th best defense in the country giving up 280 yards per game. Minnesota comes in at 13th with 283.8 yards per game. These are two pretty even teams which is simply a crazy thought to type out.

Head Coach PJ Fleck has worked his magic in his time in Minnesota and he has been rewarded handsomely. Just this week, Fleck signed a 7 year extension tying him to Minnesota through 2026.

To some fans, his antics might rub you the wrong way and you might think he is selfish or egotistical. What you can’t argue is that he gets results. You can’t argue that the kids don’t want to play for him because they certainly do. You can’t argue that he hasn’t been able to build a winning culture in a place where winning is often a pipedream.

The Minnesota Golden Gophers Football team is going places. A signature win at home against number five in the country Penn State is the stamp needed to show the nation that they are serious. It won’t be an easy game, but I like their chances for the first time in my life. Row the Boat, Ski-U-Mah and Go Gophers.

Minnesota Sports are Actually Good?

A lot is happening in Minnesota sports right now. Shockingly, most of them are positive. There were a couple different topics that I wanted to touch on, so this is going to be a short summary of everything that is currently happening.

First, our good ‘ole friend Kirk Cousins managed to take home the award of NFC Offensive Player of the Month. In the month of October, the Vikings finished 4-0 after a shaky 2-2 start. More impressively, Cousins finished completing 78% of his passes for 315 yards per game with 10 touchdowns and only one interception.

There isn’t a single Viking fan who after watching the Bears game would’ve thought Kirk would have a month like this. Granted, not everyone had jumped off the bandwagon and people still believed in him; however, nobody, and I mean nobody, would’ve thought he’d be receiving an NFC Offensive Player of the Month award.

The reality of the NFL is that most teams can go as far as their quarterback can take them. The Cousins we have seen the past four games has the ability to take this team to the playoffs. Perhaps they can even make a deep playoff run. Regardless, the Vikings have proven that they are serious contenders and it should be fun the rest of the season.

Second, the Minnesota Timberwolves have been shockingly competent. I wrote about them last week, so I won’t go into too much detail here. The Wolves are 3-1 and really look like a completely different team. Andrew Wiggins has dedicated himself to shooting efficient shots and coach Ryan Saunders isn’t afraid to bench him if he isn’t doing so.

This past Sunday against the Miami Heat, he was benched in the 2nd quarter for not playing the way they need him to play. How did he respond? He scored 16 points in the final four minutes of the game, including four 3-pointers, to seal the game and get the Wolves to 3-0. This is a baby step towards improvement for Wiggins. Even if he relapses back into his step-back mid-range jumper self, at least we can say we had that one night.

Towns has simply been a beast. Before his ejection on Wednesday, he was 2nd in the NBA in scoring (32 ppg), 3rd in rebounding (13.3 rpg), 1st in steals (2.67 spg) and 1st in 3-pointers made with 15. He was also voted NBA Western Conference Player of the Week.

He is about to serve a two game suspension for his fight with 76′ers Joel Embiid. They exchanged punches on the court and used plenty of expletive words to describe each other on social media. Embiid has been trash-talking Towns since he entered the league and it was kind of nice to see Towns give him what was coming to him. More shockingly, Ben Simmons somehow did not get suspended despite attempting to choke out Karl. The review claimed he was “calming down Towns with his arms.” I don’t think that explanation would work in the court of law, but I digress.

Lastly, the Minnesota Golden Gophers are 8-0. If you remember my preseason preview, I said that anything less than 8-0 would be disappointing based on the talent and hype around this football team. And here we are. Below is an excerpt from that preview article:

11/9 vs Penn State. Are you excited for College Gameday to do their show at the University of Minnesota this year? Dinky town will be crazy as Lee Corso, Kirk Herbstreit and friends do their show in front of a bunch of passionate and excited Gophers fans. I can’t wait to see it. But we aren’t beating Penn State.   8-1.

Looks like I hit the nail directly on the head with this prediction. Hopefully the outcome next week is a little different though. I’ll do my column on the Gophers next week previewing the Penn State game, so we will go into further depth at that point. However, the Gophers did exactly what we needed them to do. They are 8-0 and are in the driver’s seat for the Big 10 West. Row the Boat, Ski-U-Mah and Go Gophers!

 

Who’s Sleeping on the Timberwolves?

The 2019-20 NBA season kicked off for your Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday night with a surprising win over the much-hyped Brooklyn Nets. Kyrie Irving finished with 50 points and that’s all anybody nationally really wanted to talk about. However, Kyrie went home with a big fat L and there are some things to discuss concerning our Timberwolves.

First, in case you didn’t already know, Karl-Anthony Towns is a star in this league. It is unfortunate that he doesn’t get as much respect nationally as he should. This is probably a combination of playing for Minnesota and not having a great team around him, but I digress.

Towns finished with 36 points on 11/22 shooting from the field. KAT drained 7 of 11 3-pointers as well, a new career high. He also sprinkled in 14 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals and 3 blocks to fill out his gaudy statline.

Towns is going to be a force this season. He looked great in pick-and-pop situations as well as in the pick-and-roll. He even looked good as a ball handler, being able to take Jarrett Allen to the hoop off the dribble.

If KAT can lead Minnesota to a playoff berth with this roster while putting up these stats, his +3000 odds to win MVP might not be that outlandish. Although we do have a long way to go before that is a serious consideration, Towns certainly is a superstar in this league.

Speaking of superstars, Mr. “Outside of the Top 100 is Disrespectful” Andrew Wiggins had himself a game. Wigs finished 10-27 from the field, 0-4 from 3, and finished with a plus/minus of an astounding -26. For those who don’t know, the plus/minus measures the scoring done when a player is on the court. Therefore, when Wiggins was on the court, the Wolves were outscored by 26. I seriously hope he gets better, although I’m not sure why he would at this point.

The bench was a huge question mark coming into the season and they did not disappoint. Josh Okogie led the way, scoring 11 points and having a plus/minus of +22. Okogie also played tremendous defense on Kyrie as he attempted the game winning shot, a role that is much needed on this team.

Perhaps more importantly, new additions Jake Layman, Noah Vonleh, Shabazz Napier and rookie Jarret Culver all finished with a positive plus/minus and really looked like a solid unit. Hopefully this young group continues to improve.

Another impressive change for the Timberwolves this season will be shot selection. From looking at their shot chart, the Timberwolves only took about 15 shots that were not in the paint at the rim or 3-pointers. Minnesota finished 13/43 from 3, which was only 30%, but showed the commitment they will have to analytics this season.

The Over/Under for the season long win total is 35.5. That is good for a 12th place finish in the West, only ahead of the Thunder, Suns and Grizzlies.

This offseason was filled with discussions about a culture change. The players worked out together more than they ever have before. Leadership and coaches talked about building a positive culture defined by hard work, teamwork, and loyalty to each other. Maybe Thibs and our favorite past player Jimmy Butler did ruin these young kids…

Towns has promised to take a step up this season. In an interview, KAT talked about how everyone was sleeping on the Timberwolves this season. But he is certain that this new look squad will be playoff bound.

I’m not sure if I can buy a leap to the playoffs, but after Wednesday’s thrilling overtime road victory, I can see the possibility of a 42 win team flirting with the idea of playoffs. I’m not sleeping on this team. Not yet anyway.

 

Vikings Bounce Back in a Big Way

After a 2-2 start for the Minnesota Vikings, things seemed pretty bleak. After looking hapless against the Chicago Bears, many fans were left wondering how good this team could actually be. One guy on Vikings Fanline on KFAN even suggested benching Kirk Cousins in favor of backup Sean Mannion.

Granted, that guy is an idiot (and hopefully not a local reader), but the point had some validity. Kirk Cousins had put together a couple of absolutely awful games.

Since then, albeit against some rather shaky defenses to say the least, Cousins has bounced back in a big way. Against the New York Giants, Kirk completed 22 of 27 passes for 306 yards and two touchdowns. With the Philadelphia Eagles secondary in shambles, Cousins was able to complete 22 of 29 passes this time for 333 yards and four touchdowns.

For some context, the last Viking QB to throw for 300 yards in back to back games was Brett Favre… the last Viking to do it for three straight games was Daunte Culpepper. Favre, Culpepper and Cousins, some impressive franchise QB’s.

In all seriousness, the Vikings displayed the formula for their offense to be successful. If they lean too much on the running game, they will have some difficulty beating the good teams. If they lean too much on the pass, our offensive line will be in trouble and Kirk won’t be consistent enough to get it done.

The Vikings offense thrives on mixing up the run and the pass. Running off-tackle with Dalvin Cook, one of the best running backs in the game right now; doing play-action boots and rollouts to get Kirk out of the pocket to see things develop downfield and using two of the best receivers in the game in Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs.

If the Vikings are going to make the playoffs (and hopefully fight for a division title) in a very competitive NFC, they are going to need to continue this winning streak. The Vikings square off against the 2-2-1 Lions in Detroit this Sunday. The Lions have been pesky, almost beating the Chiefs and Packers, but this is a game that the Vikings need to win if they are serious playoff contenders.

The following week, the Vikings host Washington on Thursday Night Football. If they don’t chalk up a win there, they might as well pack it up and call it a season.

Three of the next four weeks after that will be incredibly tough. With hopefully a 6-2 record, the Vikings will travel to Kansas City to take on the Chiefs in a difficult matchup. After that, they will travel to Dallas for a Sunday Night Football game with the Cowboys. Although both of these teams have struggled the past few weeks, both are still serious playoff teams and hard teams to play on the road.

After a home game against the Broncos, the Vikings travel back out west to faceoff with the Seattle Seahawks. We all know how tricky it can be to escape with a win over there. The Vikings realistically could be 7-5 heading into the final four games of the season.

What the season will come down to is the rest of our division games. If the Vikings can take care of the Lions twice, and the Packers and Bears at home, we will be looking at a playoff team that might win the division. If not, they will be on the outside looking in with seven or eight wins.

The Vikings got two bounceback wins in a row and need two more to truly be taken seriously. I like their chances.

 

2019 Twins Season by the Numbers

Let us reflect on the season that was for our Minnesota Twins through the analyzation of some numbers shall we? The Twins broke all kinds of franchise and MLB records, so I thought this would be a good way to put things into perspective. Let’s examine!

101. The Twins managed to win 101 games this season, 17 more than preseason expectations. This win total marks the second best record in franchise history, only one game behind the 1965 team that lost in the World Series.

307. The Twins set the Major League record for most home runs in a season by a team, hammering 307 of them. For a franchise that has always prided itself on playing small ball and focusing on hitting the ball on the ground, this was quite literally the most unbelievable feat that has potentially ever happened in Minnesota sports. I think this even bests Adrian Peterson’s 2,097 rushing yard season. Not a single person in the world could have seen this coming.

5. The number of Twins who hit more than 30 home runs this season, a MLB record. Shout out to Nelson Cruz, Max Kepler, Miguel Sano, Eddie Rosario and Mitch Garver.

4. The number of days it took the Twins season to sputter to another disappointing finish, losing in a 3-0 sweep to the New York Yankees…

1. One team in MLB history has won 100 or more games and gotten swept in the first round of the playoffs. Another record for our Twins!

16. The number of playoff losses Minnesota has suffered in a row. This is tied with the Chicago Blackhawks of the 1970’s for the most straight postseason losses for a professional franchise. The Twins can actually confidently say they are the worst playoff team in American sports history.

13. The number of playoff losses in a row that the Twins have taken at the hands of the Yankees. The last time Minnesota beat New York was in 2004 when Cy Young winner Johan Santana pitched a shutout and the Twins won 2-0.

$119 million. The 2019 salary of the Twins, $15 million behind the league average.

Let’s take a quick look at next year.

1. The number of starting pitchers that are currently under contract for 2020. Jose Berrios will be the ace and after that, it is up in the air as to whether they will resign Michael Pineda, Jake Odorizzi or Kyle Gibson.

$45 million. Roughly the amount of money tied up to current players who are now free agents.

$60 million. The amount of money the Twins better be spending on free agents, specifically quality pitching, in the 2019/20 offseason.

This is a tough season to think about. The Twins provided the most exciting baseball this state has seen in a long time. They broke all kinds of records. They were fun to watch and root for. They smashed #bombas like there was no tomorrow.

But it is difficult to think about all of these things when you consider the abrupt ending to their season. Not only did they lose in the first round, but they were blown out in embarrassing fashion, losing 10-4, 8-2, and 5-1. They were never really in it, ever.

Most of the lineup will be returning next season and there is probably about a 3-5 year window where the Twins should be atop the AL Central. It is absolutely imperative that they spend some money on pitching. If they don’t, and years upon years of history tells me they won’t, every year is simply going to be the same. An exciting regular season with an extremely underwhelming and disappointing finish. Prove me wrong Twins.

 

Fair Pay to Play for College Athletes

California Governor Gavin Newsom signed legislation this past week that will allow collegiate athletes to be paid for the use of their name, likeness and image starting in 2023. Other states are now considering whether they should follow suit or not.

The current rules by the NCAA prohibits student athletes from being paid by the university or by other means. For example, you can’t sell t-shirts that you make with your name on it…. Or you can’t sell your autograph if someone wanted to buy it… Or you can’t endorse a local business and get paid to be a sponsor.  By the way, these are all things a regular college student can do and would even be applauded for doing.

The new law will make it illegal for California universities to revoke an athlete’s scholarship or eligibility for making money in those ways.

It is about freaking time.

The entire system is really a load of, well, you know the phrase. The NCAA is a nonprofit organization that regulates student athletes at participating schools. Guess how much revenue that the NCAA brought in during the 2016/17 school year? Just a shade over $1 billion… Not too bad for unpaid labor.

Where does that revenue go exactly? Mostly to the schools. The athletes do see some benefit in that the revenue helps pay for facilities and other amenities. However, they don’t directly see a dime of any of that revenue.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand that scholarships go a long way in helping students pay for college, or attend it entirely for free. There are millions of high-schoolers out there who would love the opportunity to attend college and a scholarship would mean the world to them.

Also, I’m not sure that having players make a salary makes sense either. That is getting into very tricky factors when you think about which teams bring in the most revenue (football and men’s basketball), and how to decide what to pay these players. That’s an entirely different discussion to have.

However, not letting athletes to be able to make money off of their own merits is simply asinine for many reasons. Why should the NCAA control the likeness of a person? You should not lose your rights as an individual because you play a sport. That makes simply no sense! Also, there are many college athletes who did not come from great financial situations and could really use an income.

Let’s think about a local hypothetical. Tyler Johnson is a Minnesota native who is a star receiver for the Gophers. Many residents (and potential consumers) would recognize him and have a very favorable opinion of him. If a local car dealership wanted someone to endorse their business, Tyler might be a great fit. He would be recognized, he is famous in his own right locally and this interaction would benefit the business, the consumer and Tyler.

Why can’t Tyler make that deal and bring in an income to help him pay for rent, groceries or save up for after college? How is that any different than any job any college student has? What power does the NCAA have to tell Tyler he can’t have this type of job while playing for the Gophers? I know that Gophers football fans would think more highly of a dealership that Tyler Johnson was a part of.

Perhaps one of the most influential voices in sports, LeBron James weighed in on the bill and it was spot on. I will quote him below.

Lebron offered the following statement: “If I would have went off to Ohio State… pretty much that ‘23’ jersey would have got sold all over the place without my name on the back, but everyone would have known the likeness. My body would have been on the NCAA basketball game in 2004. The Schottenstein Center would have been sold out every single night if I was there”

He continued: “Me and my mom, we didn’t have anything. We wouldn’t have been able to benefit at all from it. And the university would’ve been able to capitalize on everything.”

He is so right. Ohio State would have profited like crazy on his presence on the team. Ticket prices would soar, there would be thousands of 23 jerseys that represented him in the stands and he would not see a penny from it. Why should LeBron not be able to make some money off the school selling his jersey?

For most student athletes, college will be the peak of their ability to be recognized and make money off of who they are. Why allow the NCAA and the schools be the only ones to profit from these athletes? Why not let these student athletes sell t-shirts, sign autographs or endorse a business or product? You can side with the NCAA and big business if you want, but I’m siding with the college kid just trying to make a few extra bucks.