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Saturdays, we get Jon Marthaler to tell us what to watch on TV. Jon?
Every so often, we get a weekend that lines up perfectly for you to spend the entire thing inside, watching sports. This is one of them. Let me take you through it, in the form of a question for every event.
3:30pm: Toronto at Seattle, NBCSN. The MLS game of the week - featuring American stars like Michael Bradley and Clint Dempsey - is just the culmination of a day's worth of soccer on NBC Sports Network, following up three Premier League games, beginning at 7:40 am (Man City-Hull, then Sunderland-Crystal Palace, then Chelsea-Aston Villa). The thing is, there's just an enormous number of choices all day today - high school basketball championships, college basketball conference championships, even the NHL (Pittsburgh-Philadelphia at noon on the NHL network, for example). Pick anything - but why not pick some soccer?
7pm: Wild vs. Columbus, FSN. It's the playoff race, and every game is absurdly important, doubly so for home games against the Blue Jackets. Can the Wild prove that their three-game swoon last week is a thing of the past - and close their grip on a playoff berth?
8pm: Hopkins vs. Lakeville North, Channel 45. There are a few prep teams - St. Thomas Academy in hockey and De La Salle in football spring immediately to mind - that the public seems to have a certain emnity for. Hopkins hoops is certainly on that list, as well. But will the Royals win state yet again?
1am tonight: Australian Grand Prix, NBCSN. It's the first race of the Formula One season, and while Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull Racing have won four straight titles, an entirely new engine and set of regulations have them scrambling to actually complete laps in testing so far in 2014. Can Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes vault ahead of them - or can Ferrari return to dominance with Fernando Alonso and the entertaingly-grumpy Kimi Raikonnen on board?
8:25am Sunday: Manchester United vs. Liverpool, NBCSN. United are out of the running for everything this year, but can still play spoiler for teams like Liverpool who are still in the race. Can ManU disrupt their old rivals?
10:55am Sunday: Tottenham vs. Arsenal, NBCSN. Arsenal fight to stay in the title race, Tottenham fight to stay in touch for a possible Champions League berth. Which of the bitter North London rivals will come out of White Hart Lane happy?
12pm Sunday: Twins vs. Miami, FSN. Go ahead, watch baseball. Maybe plan out your garden for the year. Think about changing the spark plugs in the mower. And with the Twins looking terrible, does it really matter who is in the lineup?
2:30pm Sunday: Big Ten basketball championship, CBS. I like to hope that this game goes into quintuple overtime, thereby ruining the tournament selection show that comes right after the game. Would Jim Delaney run onto the court and declare the game a tie, in order to appease the all-controlling TV networks?
5pm Sunday: NCAA Tournament Selection Show. One question: will the Gophers be in? (Okay, it's unlikely. But you never know.)
What to read this weekend
Still got time? Read this in-depth study of the ball for this summer's World Cup, which has already been scientifically proven to knuckle less than previous editions. (It's more interesting than it sounds. Trust me.)
More? How about Eno Sarris, describing what it's like to go inside major-league clubhouses as a baseball stats nerd?
We've looked at the projected NCAA men's basketball field from about 17 angles in trying to figure out if by virtue of their victory over Penn State on Thursday the Gophers are any closer to feeling confident about their chances on Selection Sunday.
All signs point to "no." It's still truly 50-50 right now. Maybe even more like 40-60. ESPN has Minnesota as the very last team out. CBS has Minnesota as the second team out. The Gophers got some good news when Cal, a similar bubble team, was bounced early from the Pac-12 tourney. And, of course, beating Penn State was a must in any of these equations.
But at the end of the day, we have a nagging suspicion it's going to take one more win. A victory over Wisconsin, projected by some as a No. 1 seed in the NCAA field and certainly as a high seed regardless, would come far closer to sealing the deal. We're not sure if it would get the Gophers out of the Tuesday play-in game, but it would make them feel very good about getting in the field.
A close loss? Well, that would sure be better than a blowout loss. How you play is a factor. The Gophers will certainly lobby, too, that one of their best players (Andre Hollins) was out with an injury during a critical stretch of losses (though that argument will also be balanced with the fact that the team's best win, over Wisconsin, came with Hollins playing only a minute).
But if they want to eliminate most doubt and turn 40/60 into, say, 85/15, they need to beat the Badgers again. For all the angles and math, it's about as simple as that right now.
It seemed as though the Ogichidaag would coast to the finish.
And then ...
Canby went on a 19-2 run to tie the game 58-58 with about five minutes left. And that was just the beginning.
Both teams looked gassed toward the end of regulation, but Fond du Lac looked particularly winded. Two of the team's top players ended up fouling out, but it's a good thing Davonte Williamson didn't.
As the game went from regulation (he scored four key points down the stretch to force overtime) to a first OT session (he blocked a shot on a fast break to end the first session knotted at 73) to a second overtime (he had the only basket for his team) to finally a third overtime (he had countless key rebounds and assists), Fond du Lac finally prevailed 85-82 in 3OT.
Williams played all 48 minutes. He was exhausted afterward; he smiled about it when we talked to him afterward, but at the time there was no chance he was running off the court with his teammates. He staggered off slowly, satisfied but dragging.
On a team with virtually no height (6-1 is about as good as it gets), Williamson offered 23 points and 20 rebounds. It was a remarkable performance in one of the most remarkable games we have ever seen.
We'll have video up later on Startribune.com that hopefully captures the spirit of the thing -- not just the game, but what this all means for the Fond du Lac community.
Now that we've answered that question and hopefully avoided a lot of needless comments, the latest mock drafts from ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay are out.
Kiper, who had Johnny Manziel going No. 1 overall in his first two mocks, now has him falling ... wait for it ... all the way ... hang on ... to No. 8 and the ... you know it ... Vikings.
Writes Kiper: As I talk to teams, I get the sense there's a great deal of uncertainty around the quarterbacks in this draft. But there's a point where uncertainty turns into a reasonable bet, and Manziel at this point on the board is closer to the latter. There are some decent weapons in place in Minnesota for Manziel. There's a great deal of uncertainty on the defensive side of the ball here, but it doesn't outweigh the questions at QB. Manziel could be the solution and, drafted here, there's no question he'd come in with a chip on his shoulder.
Also, for what it's worth, both Kiper and McShay have Gophers DT Ra'Shede Hageman going No. 29 overall to the Patriots.
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