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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Wrote about Oto Osenieks' cool moment at Senior Day. A few other observations from the Gophers' blowout victory over Penn State:
-Richard Pitino had his team ready to play. The Gophers were all over Penn State from the start and thrived even with their best player, Andre Hollins, playing sparingly in the first half because of foul trouble
-Where did everybody go? Yesterday confirmed my long-held suspicion that there are more Gophers fans who will complain about coverage of their team than will show up for the games and act like loyal fans. It was Senior Day. Pitino has given the fan base an interesting product this season, and could still make the NCAA tournament. It was Senior Day for a good four-year player like Austin Hollins.
But as the clock wound down, many fans bolted for the exits. When Pitino had his seniors address the crowd, there wasn't much crowd left.
I never tell people how they should spend their sporting dollars, but I do find it strange that a fan would block off a Sunday afternoon for basketball, watch the home team win big, and leave before seeing players the fans assumedly care about are honored. Had a few long-time Gopher fans email me about this, one calling it ``disgusting.''
-Pitino hasn't accomplished anything particularly impressive yet. I figured this team would go 7-11, and he beat that projection by one game in a conference that isn't quite as good as I thought it would be.
What is impressive is the energy and optimism he has brought to the program. He gushed about his players yesterday. He admitted he should have played Maverick Ahanmisi more - how many college coaches invite criticism or admit mistakes? He has raved about Williams Arena and Gophers fans, whether he means it or not. He found a way to honor Osenieks at the end of the game without, as he said, ``showing up Penn State.''
The guy gets it, what it means to be a public figure, a leader, a winning salesman for his program. His kids obviously like him and play hard for him. If your expectations for this season were reasonable, you have to be impressed with the guy.
I'll be on 1500ESPN at 12:15 with Mackey and Judd. You can follow me on Twitter at @Souhanstrib.
It took a while for them to warm up, but Apple Valley star Tyus Jones and Whitney Young center Jahlil Okafor produced a dazzling exchange near the end of the Chicago school's 80-70 victory at Apple Valley High on Thursday night.
The two Duke recruits played on ESPN2 in a packed gym as their future coach, Duke's Mike Krzyzewski, watched from courtside. Okafor and his team got the better of the matchup, but Jones put on a secnod-half surge and finished with 29 points.
Or you could say the viewers got the best of the matchup when, in the second half, the two stars produced this exchange:
-Jones blocked a shot, drove the length of the court, drew a foul and hit both free thorws.
-Jones hit a three.
-Jones hit a three while being fouled.
That was what the people came to see, or changed the channel to watch. I'll have more on the rare matchup on startribune.com later and in the Friday paper.
For much of the game, Jones was bottled up by Whitney Young's big, active, 2-3 zone. Apple Valley coach Zach Goring even had Jones play at the free throw line on offense in an attempt to break the zone, and that worked at times, especially after Jones' little brother, eighth-grader Tre, ran the point.
But Whitney Young was too tall and athletic for anything to work for long.
Krzyzewski attended with assistant coach Jeff Capel. They sat courtside, with the media, and Coach K turned down interview requests.
``I'm not doing anything tonight,'' he said. ``This is their night.''
In the first half, it was mostly Okafor's night. He scored nine points and dunked three times as Whitney Young took a 38-29 lead. Jones had two buckets but was largely frustrated by Whitney Young's zone defense and transition defense. He also threw a half-dozen passes that should have resulted in assists but didn't.
Apple Valley did a great job handling the large crowd and media contingent, and of capitalizing on a rare Minnesota sports moment.
This was the first Minnesota high school basketball game ever broadcast nationally.
I'll be on WJON in St. Cloud at 7:15, and on 1500ESPN in the Twin Cities at noon tomorrow. My Twitter handle is @Souhanstrib.
Doug Mientkiewicz wanted to add one thing to our conversation that was the basis of today's column: ``My biggest regret in baseball is that we didn't win a World Series when I was with the Twins. We thought we would.''
On to today's Local Power Ranking of the seven local revenue sports, which have shifted since the last time I did them:
1. Gopher men's hockey
This team is skilled enough to win the national title. Is it tough enough?
2. Minnesota Wild
I'm quite impressed with the way Mike Yeo has melded incoming stars, holdover veterans and promising youngsters. He's gone from hot seat to coach of the year candidate in my book. Ryan Suter has played brilliantly ever since his first two, quite nervous, weeks in a Wild uni.
3. Minnesota Vikings
Didn't like seeing a team in a passing league lose its only dynamic receiver and best cornerback, but Rick Spielman has a chance to make his plan work. If he can complement Greg Jennings with another quality receiver or two (I vote for Cal's Keenan Allen and one more free-agent pickup), the offense could be better, and if he can use the draft to land a couple of defensive starters, the defense could be more talented.
His plan will only be as good as his execution.
4. Gopher basketball
I'm rooting for Minnesota facing VCU in the first round. Tubby vs. Shaka Smart. Tubby vs. the man who should replace him. Bring it on, please.
5. Minnesota Twins
I'm encouraged by a handful of individuals in spring camp, but not by the pitching staff, and the pitching staff will determine this team's fate.
6. Minnesota Timberwolves
I love the way Ricky Rubio has played, knowing the season is lost and his teammates aren't good enough.
7. Gopher football
Jerry Kill is 4-12 in the Big Ten. Facts are so annoying.
Catching up on the local sports scene:
-Vikings. I'm at the Dome, where I'm picking a typical grind-it-out victory for the Vikings. Tampa Bay has scary weapons in Doug Martin and Victor Jackson, but the Vikings have a number of advantages in this game.
Their defense has excelled at taking away the best skill-position player or players on the other team, with Larry Fitzgerald being the most recent example. The Vikings have been able to run the ball on pretty much everyone, and are smart enough not to veer away from their strengths, even though Tampa Bay is much better against the run than the pass.
Most of all, though, the Vikings appear to be the superior team at this juncture, and they're getting to play at home, presumably in front of a loud crowd, against a team that doesn't play often on turf. And the Bucs had to play on Sunday and spend Wednesday traveling. NFL players just don't bounce back that easily and quickly, not most of them.
My sure-to-be-wrong prediction: Vikings 23, Bucs 16.
-Twins: In September, I heard that the Twins would make major changes to their coaching staff. The only surprise, among the recently-announced changes, is that Terry Steinbach will be the bench coach. I hadn't heard Terry's name previously, and he wound up taking the position I had heard was reserved for Triple-A manager Gene Glynn.
This lineup makes sense. Glynn is very valuable where he right now, and Steinbach should be a good foil for Ron Gardenhire. Gardenhire is hyperactive on the bench. He needs someone to slow him down and offer all of his options. Gardenhire's first instinct is to act. Steinbach's job will be to make sure Gardenhire has thought every move through thoroughly as possible.
Whatever the changes to the coaching staff, the success of the franchise will depend on finding pitching. With word that Scott Boras client Kyle Lohse may be looking for a $75-million contract, it's more apparent than ever to me that Terry Ryan is going to have to try to get lucky with trades or low-level free-agent signings that will not impress anyone initially.
-Wild: Remember when we had an NHL team in our town? Me, neither.
-Gopher football: I want to like Jerry Kill. I really do. He's making it difficult, though. I've already ripped the removal of North Carolina from future schedules. I'm also disturbed by the removal of redshirts from several key young players.
The last time I went to one of Kill's press conferences, he emphasized the importance of patience. Removing the redshirt from your freshman quarterback at midseason and telling him on Friday that he would be starting on Saturday is not patient. It's an act of desperation.
Jerry: Recruits can smell desperation.
-Gopher basketball: As tough as I've been on Tubby Smith on many fronts, I won't bash him because his son got a DUI. While I believe driving while intoxicated is absolutely wrong and reckless, I also know a million people who have done it at some point in their lives. Saul Smith made a terrible mistake, but let's not play the ``leader-of-young-men card.'' He's an assistant coach. Let's not pretend that an assistant coach getting a DUI is going to alter the lives of a dozen college basketball players.
-Here are a few notes on tonight's game, courtesy of Vikings media relations:
-Matt Blair will enter the Vikings' ring of honor tonight.
-Percy Harvin ranks second in the NFL in receptions, with 53. His 271 receptions rank second in franchise history for a player in his first four seasons. He's caught a pass in every NFL game in which he's played.
-Kicker Blair Walsh leads the league with 27 touchbacks. He's tied for third in the NFL with 16 field goals.
-The Vikings' 72 sacks and 25 forced fumbles since the start of the 2011 season are the most in the NFL.
-Jared Allen has a sack in five straight games.
-Kyle Rudolph is tied for the lead league among tight ends with 5 touchdown catches.
-Please follow me on Twitter at @Souhanstrib. I'll be on WJON at 7:15 a.m and 1500ESPN at 2:05 p.m. tomorrow to talk about the game.
Haven't done Local Power Rankings for a while, so this week's ranking should look far different from the last.
We now have good teams in town. And promising teams. And interesting teams. Today's LPR, which ranks the local high-profile revenue sports based on current performance and promise:
1. Minnesota Lynx
Going for back-to-back. Sometimes I leave the Lynx out of the rankings because they seem to be in a different category. They play in a small league that is subsidized by NBA owners. But let's give the Lynx credit for making it to the Finals for the second straight year while playing an entertaining style.
2. Minnesota Vikings
I thought this team would win five or six games, and that this season would be about making sure they had the right quarterback and coach in place. I was half right.
This team could still stumble, of course, but it should no longer look at any game on the schedule as unwinnable, and the work Frazier and his staff did in their first full offseason together has yielded a smart, well-run team. Christian Ponder and Bill Musgrave are far better at their jobs today than they were a year ago.
3. Gopher hockey
This team should be a powerhouse. You're on notice, Mr. Lucia.
4. Gopher basketball
This team should be a powerhouse. You're on notice, Mr. Smith.
5. Minnesota Timberwolves
This might be the most entertaining and intriguing team in town, and if Ricky Rubio were healthy, this team might be playing for home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. As it is, the roster is vastly improved, Rick Adelman is getting to run his first full training camp, and I expect Kevin Love to find some way to improve on last year's remarkable performance.
6. Gopher football
Losing to Iowa on the road isn't shameful. This team still has a chance to go to a bowl, or at least establish that Jerry Kill has made improvements in his second season.
7. Minnesota Twins
I know, I know, they stink. They stunk in 2011 and they stunk again last year. But you can't accuse them of not making changes. In the last year, they've changed GMs, a handful of coaches, their head athletic trainer, their Triple-A manager and a few behind-the-scenes positions.
In Terry Ryan's first offseason of his second tenure, he hit home runs with Josh Willingham, Jared Burton and Ryan Doumit, and got good value out of Jamey Carroll. He hasn't fixed the biggest problem, which is pitching, but he's earned the benefit of the doubt.
8. Minnesota Wild
The easy thing to say is that the NHL can't afford a lockout, that they're damaging their product.
But is that the way the NHL works? Or will hockey fans always return to the rink?
I think the latter. So while the lockout isn't a good thing for anyone, let's not pretend that the X is going to be empty when the bickering ends.
-I'll be on 1500espn at 2:05 today with Reusse and Mackey to talk Vikings and Twins moves. My Twitter handle is @Souhanstrib.
-Amazing what some people think they read and hear.
On Sunday Sports Talk on 1500espn yesterday, I did not say I thought it was a good thing that Terry Ryan was firing people. I said it was proof that the perception that he's overly loyal to his employees is false, that he frequently makes moves, and that he's as loyal to people moving their way up through the organization as he is to the people who hold their current positions.
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