What puzzles me about the constant media reports that the Vikings still are in the running to make a deal for Denver quarterback Jay Cutler is that there are people in the organization who don't understand how a deal for Cutler could be made unless the Broncos would get a better-than-average quarterback in exchange, and the Vikings don't appear to have a quarterback to give to the Broncos in a trade for Cutler.

The Vikings really liked Cutler coming out of Vanderbilt in 2006, and they tried hard to manipulate draft choices so they could be in a position to select him.

Once Mike Shanahan got Cutler with the 11th overall pick in the 2006 draft and signed him to a six-year, $48 million contract, he wasn't going to trade him. And the former Broncos coach was so sure of Cutler's ability to produce that he traded veteran quarterback Jake Plummer to Tampa Bay in 2007, even though the established Plummer had led the Broncos to the AFC Championship Game in January 2006.

Rest assured had Shanahan not been fired, there would have been no talk of a Cutler trade.

Personally, I don't believe the Vikings have the personnel to execute a three-way trade to get Cutler, and I believe all the discussion is simply a lot of Internet talk.

I'm convinced that Vikings coach Brad Childress still believes Tarvaris Jackson is the Vikings quarterback of the future and is going to give the fourth-year player a chance to make it.

Likes recruits

One of the first things Tubby Smith did after the Gophers men's basketball team lost to Texas in the first round of the NCAA tournament is to hop on a plane to California, where he watched Justin Cobbs, the recruit from Bishop Montgomery High School in Torrance, play in the California Interscholastic Federation Division IV championship game in Sacramento. Cobbs' team lost 65-64 on a buzzer-beater to Salesian of Richmond.

"He's going to be a good player. I never like putting a lot of pressure, because kids already have enough pressure on them to live up to expectations," Smith said of Cobbs. "He's talented. He's about 6-2. Very physical. Very strong player. Takes the ball to the basket strong. Can shoot with range.

"Once he gets acclimated to the college environment he should be fine. It's not like he has to come in and play right away. We've got Al Nolen. Devoe Joseph was a very adequate backup point guard for us last year. It's not like we don't have a point guard in the system already."

Smith said he believes the Gophers will be very good next season. They lose only two seniors from this year's NCAA tournament team, and they have four recruits coming in next year, with Cobbs joined by former St. Bernard's athlete Trevor Mbakwe, Cooper's Rodney Williams and Hopkins' Royce White, whose Royals advanced to the Class 4A state championship game Thursday night with their 30th victory in as many games this season, a 55-36 victory over St. Cloud Tech at Target Center.

"We really feel good about Trevor Mbakwe, who's having an outstanding season at Miami-Dade. He's a guy that will bring us real toughness and physical play inside," Smith said. "Ralph Sampson, Colton Iverson and Damien Johnson and Travis Busch, they all did a good job for us inside. But we also feel like we've got to get a little more physical. And we've got Paul Carter back and others back. Trevor is 245 [pounds] and a great rebounder."

Smith is very impressed with the caliber of high school basketball played around here.

"It's been outstanding. Just look at the players that are competing in programs around the country," Smith said. "Look at [former Bloomington Jefferson athlete] Cole Aldrich, a young man who is having a great career at Kansas. Look at the guys we have. The AAU program here is just tremendous. And the high school coaching they get is outstanding. ... We signed Rodney Williams and Royce White, guys that are local products who will come in and contribute and help us continue to grow this program. They know they've got to get better. We certainly want to wish all the high school coaches and teams that are competing for championships this year the best. Rodney and Cooper lost the other night. We want to congratulate Osseo on their win."


Gophers men's basketball players Jamal Abu-Shamala, Blake Hoffarber and Busch were named academic All-Big Ten, an award given to letterwinners in the second academic year at an institution with a grade-point average of 3.0 or higher. Last month, Abu-Shamala was honored by the university as Male Scholar Athlete of the Year. ... The Gophers are No. 2 behind Stanford in the Learfield Sports Directors' Cup standings released Thursday. The Gophers ranked 13th after the final fall standings were released in mid-January but jumped because of their third-place finish in women's hockey, 11th-place finish in women's swimming, 12th-place finish in women's indoor track and field and 14th-place finishes in wrestling and men's indoor track and field. The latest standings didn't include the Gophers' NCAA berths in men's and women's basketball. Penn State was right behind the Gophers in third and the only other Big Ten school in the top eight.

It's hard to believe the WCHA Final Five at Xcel Energy Center outdrew the NCAA first- and second-round men's basketball tournament games at the Metrodome last weekend. The Dome drew 42,887 fans in three sessions (two games per session), an average of 14,298 per session, while Xcel Energy Center drew 82,065 fans over five sessions (one game per session), an average of 16,413. And that was even though the Gophers were eliminated by Minnesota Duluth in Thursday's Final Five play-in game, which drew 17,611 fans -- more than any of the three NCAA basketball sessions at the Dome.

Clint Brewster, the ex-Gophers quarterback and the son of coach Tim Brewster, is attending Normandale Community College trying to improve his grades before deciding where he will play this fall. Clint quarterbacked the College of the Sequoias last fall. ... Eric Brewster, the oldest of Tim's three sons, played for NCAA Division III runner-up Wisconsin-Whitewater last fall but missed quite a bit of action because of injuries. Eric watched Gophers practice on Thursday and said if he had more than his one year of eligibility remaining, he would transfer to Minnesota, where he believes he could make the team at wide receiver.

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO AM-830 at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on his Podcast once a week at www.startribune.com/sidcast. shartman@startribune.com