Rand's Minnesota Sweet 16: Upsets? Stuff of champs counts

  • Updated: April 15, 2014 - 6:29 AM
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Defensive end Carl Eller led the victorious Vikings through a crowd of happy fans after they beat the Rams for the NFC championship in 1976.

Photo: Associated Press file,

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Here’s a brief recap of Monday’s introduction: This is the “Sweet 16” of what I determined to be the 16 greatest single-season teams in Minnesota sports history. I limited my prospective candidates to teams that play at the highest possible level of college or professional sports.

There were 16 numbers chosen at random for the 16 teams. The team assigned No. 1 “plays” the team assigned No. 16, No. 2 plays No. 15 and so on. I set these up at random instead of truly “seeding” the teams because, well, this would be pretty boring and predictable if I seeded them according to their strength. And away we go with the first eight matchups:

 

No. 16 (1976 Vikings) vs. No. 1 (2006 Twins): Winner — 1976 Vikings. A No. 16 seed takes down a No. 1 right away! Take that, NCAA tourney. OK, the seedings were done at random so this isn’t really an upset. The 1976 Vikings made the last of four Super Bowl appearances — enough to take down a 96-win Twins team that had the Cy Young Award winner, MVP and batting champ.

No. 15 (1991 Twins) vs. No. 2 (1998 Vikings): Winner — 1991 Twins. Talk about a tough first-round matchup. One of the most dominant regular-season teams in NFL history against the worst-to-first World Series champs. The champs take it.

No. 14 (1950 Minneapolis Lakers) vs. No. 3 (1969 Vikings): Winner — 1950 Lakers. The Lakers dominated the early NBA, and the 1950 championship squad (51-17 in the regular season and 11-2 in the playoffs) might have been the best of the bunch.

No. 13 (1990-91 North Stars) vs. No. 4 (2012-13 Gophers women’s hockey): Winner — 2012-13 Gophers. The North Stars had a great playoff run, but the Gophers were undefeated national champs. Enough said.

No. 12 (1987 Twins) vs. No. 5 (2001-02 Gophers men’s hockey): Winner — 1987 Twins. Oh, man. Another brutal matchup. But the first World Series champ beats out the first NCAA men’s hockey title in 23 years, even though both had plenty of drama.

No. 11 (2011 Lynx) vs. No. 6 (2003-04 Gophers women’s basketball): Winner — 2003-04 Gophers. Another agonizing decision. At the end of the day, my feeling was that the Gophers captured more imaginations than the Lynx, even though the Gophers’ Final Four run ended short of a title.

No. 10 (1965 Twins) vs. No. 7 (1940 Gophers football): Winner — 1940 Gophers. These were the glory days of Gophers football, and an undefeated season (8-0) that included huge one-point wins over Northwestern and Michigan added up to a national title. That’s enough to trump the Twins.

No. 9 (1996-97 Gophers men’s basketball) vs. No. 8 (2003-04 Timberwolves): Winner — 2003-04 Wolves. These were very similar seasons, but the tie goes to the one still on the record books.

Coming Wednesday: The Elite 8 features some great matchups, and we’ll expand our comments on a lot of seasons.

MICHAEL RAND

 

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