We’re well into the dog days of summer, with the Twins playing out the string, football still in “the coach has to answer the same question 72 different times until the actual games are played” mode and winter sports a mere whisper.
To liven things up, let’s create a speculative competition: which local will have the best winning percentage this season? Your choices: Twins, Vikings, Gophers football (Big Ten games only), Gophers men’s basketball (Big Ten only), Gophers women’s basketball (Big Ten only) and Timberwolves. The competition is purposely rigged to not include the Wild or Lynx since they would be clear front-runners. Let’s take a look at all of them:
Twins: Their biggest advantage is similar to a golfer playing the Sunday of a major — they will post a score first, and there is value in that. They figure to finish the year somewhere between .430 and .470. That’s not good, but the sheer volume of games means they have a chance to be better than all the rest of the choices (but if they were the best, it would be a long fall and winter).
Vikings: All they would need to almost certainly beat the Twins is an 8-8 record. But they have a thin margin for error. Even 7-9 (.438 winning percentage) might not get it done. Then again, quick turnarounds happen all the time in the NFL, and a 10-6 mark (.625) would make them hard to top by anyone else.
Gophers football (Big Ten games only): Similar to the Vikings, but with an even smaller margin for error. Minnesota was 4-4 in league games a season ago. They have a tough schedule this season, and improving to 5-3 (.625) would be a major accomplishment while slipping back to 3-5 (.375) is feasible.
Gophers men’s and women’s basketball (Big Ten games only): We’ll lump these two programs together. Both have the potential to finish .500 or better in league play. For the men, it will depend on how much they improve in Year 2 under Richard Pitino. For the women, it will depend on whether new coach Marlene Stollings can immediately harness the talent she is being given.
Timberwolves: Their edge is basically the opposite of the Twins’ edge. If every other team falters — and even if they don’t, we suppose — the Wolves will have the last crack at winning this imaginary championship since their season ends in mid-April. It would likely require an improvement from last year’s 40-42 record, and it will almost certainly need to be done with a remade roster minus Kevin Love.
Our best guess? Two of these teams will finish above .500 in the seasons outlined. Three will finish below .500, including the Twins and Wolves. One will finish at .500. Just don’t ask us (yet) how everything will shake out.