Here in Minnesota, we exist in the in-between. It takes forever to get to either coast. For many months of the year, we’re never sure if we’re going to need heavy coats or shorts from one day to the next.
And our sports teams? Well, right now three of the most prominent winter squads are right there on the fringes as well — maybe good enough to squeak into postseason play (defined as the pro playoffs or the NCAA tournament), but certainly capable of missing out. At roughly the halfway point in terms of overall games played for all three, here is where they stand:
The lowdown: This is the only one of the three teams in question that would, definitively, make the playoffs if the season ended today. Despite Tuesday’s loss to Ottawa, the Wild has five victories in its past seven games … but right before that it lost six in a row. Minnesota is clear of No. 9 Phoenix in the standings, but it has played three more games than the Coyotes.
If you believe in the Wild: You think that the balanced scoring the team has found in the absence of Zach Parise and Mikko Koivu will only be enhanced when they return, and you are confident the up-and-down season is only headed up from here on out.
The lowdown: The Wolves have top-10 offensive and defensive ratings, according to basketball-reference.com, and their record should be 24-13 based on how they have played, according to the site. Instead, they are 18-19 and are tied with Memphis as the No. 10 seed in the crowded West. They are infamously 0-10 in games decided by four points or fewer, and they’re 0-9 when they don’t score at least 100 points. Those are not signs of a playoff team.
If you believe in the Wolves: You think that improved bench play thanks to the return of Chase Budinger and Ronny Turiaf (along with a revitalized Alexey Shved) plus the fact that late-game breaks have to go their way at some point mean that they will start piling up wins soon and climb into a playoff spot.
Gophers men’s basketball
The lowdown: Minnesota is 13-4 overall, 2-2 in the Big Ten. The Gophers missed a golden chance for a huge road victory at Michigan State over the weekend, but they still have to be encouraged by their performance. They are projected as a No. 12 seed in the NCAA tournament right now by thebracketmatrix.com — which pretty much means they are a bubble team.
If you believe in the Gophers: You think they have enough shooters to pull some key upsets this season and that the Big Ten will be strong enough as a whole to support a bunch of teams getting into the tourney.