Jim Souhan analyzes the local sports scene and advises you to never take his betting advice. He likes old guitars and old music, never eats press box hot dogs, and can be heard on 1500ESPN at 2:05 p.m. weekdays, and Sundays from 10 a.m.-noon.

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Posts about NCAA: football

Minnesota basketball, the good and bad, and a new LPR

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: February 29, 2012 - 8:38 AM

Rick Adelman has been to the Timberwolves what Tubby Smith should have been for the University of Minnesota. He makes a difference in such obvious ways.

Last night, the Gophers held Wisconsin to 16 first-half points and still found a way to lose, because finding a way to lose is what Tubby's teams have done the last two years.

Last night, the Timberwolves beat a good team on the road, whipping the Clippers in LA with a powerhouse fourth-quarter performance, in part because Adelman has a feel for when to play his players, and because he has tremendously upgraded the Wolves' offensive intelligence and defensive tenaciousness.

Darko is not a good player, yet Adelman has used him to good effect twice against the Clippers, particularly in keeping Blake Griffin from the basket. I know Adelman won't win the coach of the year award, but I'd consider him.

In light of last night's developments, here's my latest high-irrelevant, transparently self-serving Local Power Rankings:

1. Timberwolves

I left the No. 1 slot vacant in my last rankings because I couldn't reward the Wolves when they were playing poorly, and no other local teams had earned this spot. The Wolves, having won five of six, easily reclaim this spot. This is a likeable and surging team.

 

2. Gopher hockey

Four straight victories: That's impressive, but we all know we're going to judge this team by the way it performs in the postseason.

3. Minnesota Vikings

The last two seasons were abysmal, but I'm seeing signs of hope. The farther I get from last season the more willing I am to give Christian Ponder the benefit of the doubt as a rookie quarterback playing with a limited supporting cast. Add Matt Kalil, then find a starting cornerback and a speed receiver either in free agency or the draft, and this team could quickly make strides, especially if Ponder learns from last season.

4. Minnesota Twins

I don't think this is a good team, but there's no way it can suffer as many injuries as it did last season, and the infield defense is guaranteed to be better.

5. Minnesota Wild

Other than the Nick Leddy trade, I like all of Chuck Fletcher's moves. He's aggressive and forward-thinking and I do believe he's building a winner. I just think the young scorers he's drafted and acquired are going to have to make it to the X before the record will support that assertion.

6. Gopher football

Nothing new here, although I continue to hear from Minnesotans about how much they like Jerry Kill. If that vibe works on recruits, we may have something here.

7. Gopher basketball

And your new last-place team in the LPR: I give you the Minnesota Golden Basketball Gophers.

Tubby Smith loses games he should have won, then blames the administration, or his players, or nightlife in Minneapolis. He did take the blame for one mistake: Moving Blake Hoffarber to the point last year. Otherwise, he's a finger-pointer of the first degree.

He must go. But does the new president and his 98-person advisory committee think he should go?

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Upcoming:

I'll be on 1500espn at 2:05 from Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers with Reusse and Mackey. I'll also be on from the stadium for Sunday Sports Talk, 10-noon on 1500espn on Sunday morning.

Please follow me on Twitter at @Souhanstrib.

One update...

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: December 2, 2011 - 12:59 PM

I wrote an entire column about the ills of major college sports programs, and I forgot to mention John Calipari.

My sincerest apologies.

Carry on.

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Now I'm heading to 1500espn for my 2:05 appearance, and to host from 3-6. I'll also be on with Tom Pelissero at 6:15. Then I promise not to bother any of you again until Sunday.

Twitter hande: @Souhanstrib

On Penn State and Jamey Carroll, and other non-sequitors

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: November 12, 2011 - 3:02 PM

I've seen and heard a lot of arguments against what I wrote in the Friday Star Tribune - that Penn State should cancel the rest of its games this season and be investigated by the NCAA, which should consider the death penalty for a program that enabled the raping of young boys in its lockerroom.

I believe more than ever that the Penn State game on Saturday in Happy Valley against Nebraska should have been cancelled. Saturday in Happy Valley was not the time or place to celebration the program that provided a haven and hunting ground for Jerry Sandusky, and a massive stadium should not have been provided as a forum in which to cheer for the program or ousted coach Joe Paterno.

For those saying that the NCAA doesn't rule on criminal acts, but only on matters of competitive balance, don't you think that a coverup of heinous acts that, if uncovered, would have damagd recruiting and possibly led to the ouster of the winningest coach in college footbalt gave Penn State a competitive advantage? Shouldn't the NCAA be concerned with the coverup of crimes within a big-time college football program, if not the crimes themselves?

I thought playing the football game was a pathetic display of priorities. But I expect nothing more from college football and the corrup and sanctimonious people who run it.

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My colleague Phil Miller pointed this out today, as we were waiting for the Gopher-Wisconsin football game to start:

In 2008, the Twins signed Adam Everett to play shortstop. In 2009, they traded during the season for Orlando Cabrera. In 2010, they signed J.J. Hardy. In 2011, they signed Tsuyoshi Nishioka. In preparation for the 2012 season, they have signed Jamey Carroll.

That's five straight seasons in which the Twins have been forced to find a starting shortstop outside of the organization. That's an embarrassing stretch for a franchise that prides itself on drafting and developing players.

Who could have imagined the Twins missing Jason Bartlett this much?

For the record, I think the signing of Carroll makes sense. He's affordable, he catches the ball and he gets on base. He's a reasonable if unexciting signing.

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Note to NBA players: Stop trying to make us feel sorry for you. You make too much money. Sign the deal and play, or get a real job. That is all.

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Upcoming:  I'll be in the 1500espn studio with Tom Pelissero for Sunday Morning Sports talk, 10-noon on Sunday. We'll both be in Green Bay to cover the Vikings-Packer game on Monday. I'll be on 1500espn at 2:05, my normal time slot, with Reusse & Mackey. (Mackey's the rational one.) (I can't believe I just said that.)

My twitter name is @Souhanstrib.

 

On Ryan, Smith, Paterno and Cook

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: November 8, 2011 - 8:52 AM

By late last night, when I was done talking to people about Terry Ryan's return to the general manager's job with the Minnesota Twins, I got the sense that Bill Smith was ready to step down.

I don't think he had the stomach for making sweeping changes in the organization, for apportioning blame to people he liked. I think the Pohlads wanted answers, and a plan, and Smith wanted to stay the course and hope that better health would fix what ailed the franchise.

As I wrote in today's paper, Twins employees were heartened by the look in Ryan's eye. I know when I spoke with him privately he looked and sounded intense. He feels it is his responsibility to fix this franchise.

Smith was viewed differently by people at different levels of the organization. Those who worked closely with him admired his work ethic and appreciated his low-key management style. Those above him stopped having faith in him as a No. 1 decision-maker. And many of those below him found him scatter-brained, distracted by his willingness to fill his plate with disparate tasks (he'd sometimes interrupt a meeting about free agents to discuss work that needed to be done on the spring training ballpark in Fort Myers), and difficult to communicate with.

In all, Smith did about as well as could have been expected for an administrator in a position that usually demands personnel expertise. He presided over three highly successful seasons. But as the Twins' organization became less a product of Ryan's philosophies and handiwork and more a product of Smith's tenure, we all saw problems arising.

Minor-league players came to the big leagues unprepared to compete, and sometime unprepared to hit a cutoff man. Players lingered on the disabled list. Joe Mauer went soft without being called on the carpet. Smith signed Nishioka as much for marketing reasons as baseball reasons, and it wound up backfiring horribly on two fronts: Nishioka couldn't play, the player he was supposed to replace, J.J. Hardy, had a career year in Baltimore.

Ryan brings personnel expertise to the job. He also brings leadership. I don't see him being able to fix the Twins in the short term, but he will move them back towards respectability, both on the field and throughout the organization.

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Joe Paterno should not coach this weekend, and if he is as guilty of inaction as he appears to be in the Jerry Sandusky case, he should never coach again.

He failed as a leader. He failed as a human. He should go away, quickly and quietly.

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If the Vikings ever want to be taken seriously again as an organization that values its reputation, and if the Wilfs can even remember issuing the ``Code of Conduct'' in the wake of the Love Boat, and if Chris Cook is found guilty of strangling his girlfriend, the team needs to cut ties with him.

Let due process take its course. If Cook is found guilty, the Vikings can't have him on their roster. Not if they ever want to be taken seriously again as an organization that cares about its reputation.

What Cook allegedly did is much worse than anything that happened on the so-called Love Boat. Violence against women can't be tolerated by a responsible group of owners and team executives.

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Upcoming: I'll be on 1500espn at 2:05 p.m. today. My twitter handle is @Souhanstrib.

 

Wrapping up the weekend in sports

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: September 25, 2011 - 6:35 PM
BLOG…
Congratulations to the Lynx for winning the Western Conference Finals. This sets up a big basketball week for me despite the lockout – I’ll be covering the Lynx in the WNBA finals, and Rick Adelman’s introductory press conference.
It’s nice to be able to say this about Glen Taylor’s operation without a hint of sarcasm: This is a great time to be a basketball fan in Minneapolis, even with a lockout.
On to the Vikings’ latest collapse. My column in the Monday paper will deal with the Vikings’ quarterback situation. Right now I’ll deal with the decision to try for a first down on fourth-and-1 from the Detroit 17 with 12 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.
The Vikings led, 20-17, at that point. They hadn’t scored in the second half. The field goal unit ran onto the field, then was waved off. Donovan McNabb handed the ball to Toby Gerhart, who was lined up as a fullback ahead of Adrian Peterson, and Gerhart was stopped.
There are a number of problems with this sequence. Wouldn’t you rather give the ball to the NFL’s best running back? Yes. Of course.
But the first second-guess is the best second-guess in this case. The Vikings should have kicked the field goal. (And, by the way, I believe in first-guessing. So you can go back and see on my Twitter timeline that I said, before the play, that I’d kick the field goal.)
Even with Peterson carrying the ball, here’s the problem with going for it on fourth-and-1 from the 17: Even if you make the first down, you aren’t guaranteed an eventual touchdown. Odds are, you’d just wind up kicking a field goal, anyway. And you could turn the ball over, or take a sack, or get penalized, and wind up farther back than you started.
Kick the field goal, and the Lions have to score a touchdown to beat you. The Lions didn’t score a touchdown the rest of the way, winning the game with two field goals in regulation and one in overtime.
But if you’re going to go for it on fourth down, wouldn’t you want Jimmy Kleinsasser leading Adrian Peterson? Don’t you want your best player making the deciding play?
Lost in the loss is the outstanding play of the Vikings’ defensive ends, Jared Allen and Brian Robison. They dominated the line of scrimmage.
Both came into the season facing questions. Allen started slowly last year. Robison is considered undersized, and I wondered whether he’d hold up over the course of a game. Both have been excellent and relentless.
That’s the troublesome part of the Vikings’ struggles: They have a lot of admirable veterans who are seeing their last good year(s) wasted because the Vikings can’t get decent play out of the quarterback position.
I don’t doubt the effort or will of many of the Vikings’ veterans - Adrian Peterson, Antoine Winfield, Allen, Chad Greenway, E.J. Henderson, Steve Hutchinson. But the NFL is not about willpower; it’s about coaching, design, and offensive skill players. Discovered this stat as I was researching my Monday column: As offenses explode all around the NFL, the Vikings and McNabb have produced just one pass play longer than 24 yards. It was a screen pass that Toby Gerhart carried 42 yards.
That’s pathetic.               
Gophers football coach Jerry Kill is having more health problems.
I mean this seriously: He should take off the rest of the season. He needs to get control of his health. He also needs to understand that nobody ever wants to see him writhing on the sideline again.
His health issues aside, the Gophers have lost to New Mexico State and North Dakota State at home. Kill and his staff deserve blame, especially for their handling of the quarterback position. I’ll also blame Tim Brewster. He was supposed to be a great recruiter, yet the Gophers do not have better athletes than New Mexico State and North Dakota State. And their best athlete, MarQueis Gray, is playing out of position.
Max Shortell hasn’t won the starting quarterback job, but Gray has lost it. Start Shortell, start developing him, and put Gray at a position where he can help this team – slot receiver. You’d be improving two positions at once.
 
 
 

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