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A nice bit of searching over at Deadspin yielded an interesting look at the best U.S.-born NBA players since 2003 who were not part of the Rivals.com top 150 in high school.
Deadspin used PER as the ranking metric, and we'll just list off some of the players from the top:
And there are a bunch more. So yes, we can all celebrate the big Reid Travis decision last week and the big Tyus Jones decision tomorrow. But remember: Plenty of very good NBA players are late bloomers, too.
Every week, Jon Marthaler takes us through the weekend in televised sports. Other times, you can find him here. Jon?
Game of the week: Penn State at Minnesota, 11am (BTN).
Earlier this week, the Star Tribune ran an online poll, asking fans which local sports story interested them the most. The winner, by a landslide, was Gopher football, with 42% of the votes cast; the Wild finished second with 15%.
Part of this is because the Gophers are a good story right now, with three straight wins and Jerry Kill's status drawing interest. I think it's also a testament, though, to something else; I think it speaks to Gopher football's status as the sleeping giant of the local sports scene. The Vikings are far and away the area's favorite team, but I think Gopher football might be the natural #2.
The poll is evidence, but just going to a Gopher game is evidence enough. I make jokes about the typically-geriatric Gopher football fan, and there are certainly plenty of old-timers who can remember the pre-1965 glory days - but there are plenty of people in the under-40 crowd as well. We under-40s have no memories of the Gophers ever being good, but we show up anyway, and I think that's a sign.
Today, the Gophers go for a fourth consecutive Big Ten win. The last such streak was 40 years ago, in the same year that was the last time the Gophers won six conference games, the minimum bar for being a decent team. Let the sleeping giant awake, I say. This town has waited a long time.
What else to watch this weekend
Saturday, 6pm: Hockey Night in Everywhere. The NHL Network shows Hockey Night in Canada on Saturday nights, a great development that's tempered by the fact that HNiC long ago became Maple Leafs Night in Canada. Fear not, hockey fans: you have choices! The Wild and Carolina are at 6pm on FSN, to go along with Toronto and Boston on NHL Network; if neither tickles your fancy, at 7:00, you can watch Chicago play Dallas (and root for the arena to collapse.) Or, you can watch...
Saturday, 7pm (CBS): #13 LSU at #1 Alabama. Oregon's out of the title picture, at least for the moment - and wouldn't it be just like Les Miles, the King of Chaos, to throw a wrench into the SEC picture by taking LSU into Tuscaloosa and beating Alabama? (Well, I hope so. I couldn't be more sick of stupid Alabama.)
Sunday, 10am (NBC Sports): Arsenal at Manchester United. Formerly, this was the only rivalry in the Premier League that mattered. Now, it's a matchup of first-place Arsenal trying to prove they belong, vs. eighth-place Manchester United trying to reverse a season that has so far been a disappointment. Also, if you watch this you won't have to watch any of the awful NFL pregame shows.
Sunday, 8:30pm (FSN): Wolves at Los Angeles Lakers. Minnesota's lost 22 straight to the Lakers. They haven't beaten LA since 2007; they haven't won in Los Angeles since 2005. But this year, the Wolves are good and the Lakers aren't, and maybe, just maybe, we can see the Wolves walk off the floor in LA with a win.
But it didn't happen.
Here are five takeaways from that presser and his decision:
1) This one will hurt as far as the Gophers go. Sure, Richard Pitino can still land a good recruiting class, the base of which is already established. And yes, he was playing catch-up from the start when it came to recruiting Travis. That said, there was a legitimate belief he could wind up here, and he didn't. The odds of landing any member of the Big Three are now very slim, and that's tough.
2) So much for the theory that Travis holding a press conference the day of the Gophers' opener indicated he was going to Minnesota. A popular sentiment in recent days -- one we bought into -- involved the notion of "why would he hold a news conference and invite the public if he was going to pick a school other than Minnesota?"
3) You really can't fault his decision. He has a brother, Jonah, at Harvard. And now Reid is going to the Harvard of the West, as some call it. While much of it was certainly basketball-based, it's hard to turn down Stanford (or even Duke, another of the schools in the mix).
4) Those who bash Travis on Twitter ... come on, really?
5) Circling back to No. 1, it will be interesting to see what rabbits Pitino can pull out of his hat to round out his 2014 class and start building 2015. That next class might offer more reasonable "gets" for the Gophers when it comes to locals. Henry Ellenson (No. 42 nationally, brother of Wally, of Rice Lake, Wis.), Jarvis Johnson (No. 68, also from DeLaSalle so don't burn that bridge) and Alex Illikainen (No. 83, of Grand Rapids) are all in play. None are ranked as high as the Big Three, but any of them would be good -- and perhaps more realistic -- gets for Pitino and his staff.
We have decided to pass over the depressing football played on Sunday ... and even pass up (at least for now) the opportunity to talk about the 3-0 Wolves or the getting-it-together Wild in order to swing back to Saturday and take another look at a Gophers football program that is starting to capture some imaginations.
We said it in print today, but we'll say it again: that game Saturday against Indiana was precisely the type of game they have lost so many times in the past 15 years. It was scripted uncannily -- get everybody believing, put together a big lead (35-13 in this case), give it all back, offer one more glimmer of hope and then collapse for good.
The difference, of course, was the final act. Instead of the inevitable game-winning TD or even the game-tying FG that led to an overtime win, Indiana ran one of the worst plays in football -- regardless of outcome -- at the worst possible time. If there is a higher-risk, lower-reward play than the slightly backward swing pass, we have no idea what it is. But that's what the Hoosiers ran. Aaron Hill scooped up the gift, and away we go. Momentum remains on the Gophers' side, as evidenced by these numbers:
*3: The Gophers became just the third college team since 1980 to win three consecutive games in which it was the underdog by a TD or more, per R.J. Bell at Pregame.com.
*7 and 18: Number of votes Minnesota received, respectively, in the AP and Coaches' polls.
*607: Combined yards passing for the Gophers in these last three victories, showing they can throw effectively when needed.
*695: Combined rushing yards for the Gophers in these last three victories, an average of just over 230 per game and the establishment of an identity on the ground.
*1973: The last time the Gophers won four consecutive Big Ten games in one season, which they have a chance to do Saturday against Penn State.
There is still much work to be done, but we have a theory that when we look back on this program in five years, the smart person will look for a turning point and find not the Northwestern or Nebraska victory, but rather the Indiana win. That was the one the Gophers could never never get before -- the winnable game to sustain momentum.
Saturdays, Jon Marthaler tells us what to watch to get us through the weekend. Other times, you can find him here. Jon?
Game of the Week: Gophers at Indiana, 2:30pm (BTN)
So many people spoke of Minnesota's win last week over Nebraska as a "signature" win, as if all the Gophers needed was a single point of inflection to set them on a never-ending upward course. But here's the thing: I sat through the Glen Mason era, and I know different.
Mason's teams had a number of quote-unquote "signature" wins. Penn State in 1999, Michigan in 2005, Ohio State in 2000 (somehow always on the road) -- all felt like the dawn of a new age for Gopher football.
Then, the next week, the Gophers would lose to Purdue, or Indiana, or Northwestern, or really any team in the Big Ten, and it'd be back to the same old thing. Any Gopher fan can rattle off the epic collapses of the Mason years just as fast as the signature wins -- Michigan in 2003, Wisconsin in 2005, Northwestern in 2000, Texas Tech in 2006, Purdue in 2001, and on and on.
Signature wins are fun, don't get me wrong, but what Gopher fans are really desperate for is for a team that not only beats Nebraska, but follows it up the next week with a win, and the next week with a win after that. Minnesota's quest to be that team and that program starts today in Bloomington, against an exciting but porous Indiana squad.
What else to watch this weekend
12:30 pm today (NBC): Liverpool vs. Arsenal. It's the game of the weekend in America's favorite soccer league, as the league leaders visit third-place Liverpool. Arsenal has risen to the top by beating up on the Premier League's dregs, and needs a result today to prove - if only to themselves - if they're for real. Liverpool, similarly, wants to believe that they can at long last contend again for a league title.
7pm tonight (ABC): #7 Miami at #3 Florida State: Somehow, the Seminoles are three-touchdown favorites, despite playing a fellow top-10 team. It speaks to the gulf that we all presume to exist between this year's Big Three of Alabama, Oregon, and FSU, and the rest of the country (sorry, Ohio State and Baylor, but people are judging you.) But, as I keep harping on in these weekend posts, the great thing about college football is that every week, teams have to go out and prove it - and tonight, FSU has to go out and prove it, against an in-state rival.
6:30am Sunday (NBC Sports): Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Sebastian Vettel has locked up a fourth straight driver's championship in Formula One, and has won six races in a row. He goes for a seventh in Abu Dhabi, under the lights at Yas Marina, one of the best tracks in F1. On the other hand, he qualified second, with his teammate Mark Webber in first; unless he drives into a wall, he's going to win. So watch if you liked cheering for the orcs in the Lord of the Rings movies, I guess.
7pm Sunday (FSN): Wild vs. Devils. All right, Wild - how serious are you about making the playoffs this year? The Central is looking dangerous, with Chicago and St. Louis doing well and Colorado shocking everyone on their way to an 11-1 start. If the Wild are to make the playoffs, they need to destroy teams from the shockingly bad (and shockingly-named) Metropolitan Division, which is terrible. New Jersey is among the worst of the bunch. It's a must-win game for the home squad.