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The Wolves suffered through plenty of injuries in the compressed NBA season, including a knee injury to starting point guard Ricky Rubio.

Marlin Levison, Star Tribune file

Top 12 2012 Minnesota sports stories, No. 3: Year of the ACL

  • December 27, 2012 - 11:11 PM

The end of 2012 is quickly approaching; as such, we have compiled a list of the top 12 Minnesota sports stories -- positive or negative -- from the year. We'll be counting them down every weekday from now until Jan. 1, when the top story will run. Here is No. 3:

It is the Year of the ACL in Minnesota -- in football, to be sure, with Adrian Peterson (more on that a little later in this 12 for 12 list) and in basketball, with major players for the Timberwolves and Gophers trying to work their way back from devastating knee injuries. The focus here is on hoops.

From the moment Ricky Rubio arrived in Minnesota before the 2011-12 season, fans were captivated by his presence. Once he took the court last season, his breathtaking passes and feel for the game took center stage. And when in March he collapsed on the ground with what proved to be a torn ACL, we held our breath and waited for his return. Early results have been mixed, but Rubio -- who made his season debut earlier this month -- has re-energized Target Center and helped the Timberwolves imagine what this team could be like when fully healthy.

Across the city at Williams Arena, Trevor Mbakwe is trying to do the same thing. He injured his knee in November of 2011, made his way back for the start of the Gophers' season, and recently moved into the starting lineup for the No. 11-ranked Gophers. Just as with Rubio, how close Mbakwe can get to full strength this season will have a lot to do with how far his intriguing team goes.

Toss in Kayla Hirt -- a Gophers women's basketball player who redshirted last year after tearing her ACL but was recently named Big Ten Freshman of the Week -- and major knee surgery might become mandatory in Minnesota.

MICHAEL RAND

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