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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OK, OK, OK, OK, OK, OK, OK, OK.
This really is the state of hockey. It's not just a self-serving slogan.
There are two Minnesotas when it comes to winter sports. There are regions of the state where basketbal rules, and there are those where every backyard holds a homemade rink.
This winter, this is the state of...you know.
The Wild is on a remarkable run that will lead to a bound-to-be-compelling playoff.
Gopher men's hockey has righted itself and made the NCAA tournament, where it will face Minnesota-Duluth and share a field with No. 1 Minnesota State-Mankato and St. Cloud State.
Gopher women's hockey won its third title in four years on Sunday at Ridder Arena. (My piece on goalie Amanda Leveille is here).
Meanwhile, the Gopher basketball team did not make even the NIT, and the Wolves, for all the promise of Andrew Wiggins, are currently unwatchable.
So, until further notice, this is the state of hockey - a state filled with great arenas and great teams.
Tonight my guest will be former St. John's quarterback, keen football observer and relentless world traveler Tom Linnemann, at 5 p.m. at The Local on SouhanUnfiltered.com. We're going to talk about Peterson, Bridgewater, Zimmer, the draft, Melrose's state title in basketball (Tom's an alum), and what it was like for him to surf in Australia, or slum in Viet Nam, or live in Toronto, or return to Minnesota. I guarantee a great conversation.
You can drop by or listen live or later at SouhanUnfiltered.com.
The easy statistic to cite in regards to Andre Hollins' slump is that he has scored fewer than 10 points in four straight games.
That doesn't really, matter, though.
What matters is that in the two games that have mattered most to the Gophers basketball game so far - the two road games to start Big Ten play - Hollins has made only three of his 19 shots.
In the previous two games, the Gophers beat cupcake teams while Hollins played limited minutes, and his scoring wasn't required.
At Purdue and at Maryland, Hollins' leadership and scoring were necessary, and absent.
In two Big Ten games, he is 1-for-9 from three-point range. Perhaps even more revealing, a senior guard known for his ability to get to the basket has attempted only two free throws.
Hollins has been passive and inaccurate, leaving the Gophers at 0-2 heading into Tuesday's game at The Barn against Ohio State.
Tubby Smith was known for slumping seniors, the prevailing theory being that players tired of his coaching style.
Now for the second straight season under Richard Pitino, a senior named Hollins is slumping offensively.
Latest podcasts at SouhanUnfiltered.com are with Strib hockey writer Michael Russo, Wolves' VP Jeff Munneke and Strib NFL writer Mark Craig.
Munneke, one of the nicest people in local sports, told great insider stories about people like J.R. Rider, Christian Laettner, Bill Blair and Sam Cassell.
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.
For my column in the Wednesday Star Tribune, I wrote about how impressed I am with Richard Pitino so far as the Gophers.
Here's a stat I didn't get to in the column that demonstrates how well-coached the Gophers are.
Against a quality team with superior size and athletic ability, the Gophers had more steals (8) than turnovers (6.)
That's hard to do in any game. It's really hard when you play an up-tempo style against a quicker team. Florida State had two steals and 17 turnovers, facing Pitino's multiple full-court and half-court defenses.
Andre Hollins had an interesting night. He scored 21 points, all on three-pointers and free throws. Because the long two-point shot is the least-efficient shot in basketball, that's a good sign. The Gophers need to make three-pointers and draw fouls to be effective. Hollins has already adapted.
In fact, 59 of the Gophers' 71 points came on three-pointers and free throws. Part of that was due to the whistle-happy refs, who did what they could to ruin the entertainment value of the game. But it's also by design.
Pitino is a sharp coach, and he has smart players to work with. This will be an interesting season.
I'll be on 1500ESPN at noon tomorrow with Judd&Dubay. I'll be on WJON in St. Cloud at 7:15 a.m. My Twitter handle is @Souhanstrib.
Time for the latest edition of the Local Power Rankings, my highly irrelevant look at the key revenue Twin Cities sports teams. Things are looking up:
1. Minnesota Vikings
Overachieving at 8-6, they have a chance to make the playoffs at least one year ahead of a realistic rebuilding schedule.
2. Gopher basketball
This is not only a good team, it's a team that quite obviously likes to play together. Andre and Austin Hollins play together like twins, even though they're not.
3. Minnesota Timberwolves
What's one common thread between the two local basketball teams? Both rid themselves of a big man who contributed next to nothing. The Wolves got rid of Darko, to their benefit, and the Gophers got rid of Ralph Sampson, to the same effect.
The Wolves are struggling to score at the rim and from the three-point line. While that's troubling, it's also somewhat due to Kevin Love's struggles to regain his shooting touch. That will come in time.
4. Gopher hockey
The boys are talented but slightly underachieving. They can be better than this.
5. Minnesota Twins
I know, I know, you want them to spend more money. But that's not the issue. Over-spending on a pitcher just to prove you're willing to spend money will not fix what's wrong with this team. Terry Ryan's plan is obvious and logical: Try to get through the 2013 season with a rotation that gives the team a chance to compete, and then be set up to win in the following years as the best players in the farm system reach the majors.
That plsn isn't guaranteed to work, but neither would have over-paying Anibal Sanchez have guaranteed success.
6. Gopher football
Jerry Kill might have caught quite the break, with Wisconsin changing coaches. Then again, Barry Alvarez seems to know what he's doing.
7. MInnesota Wild
It's a terrible negotiation when someone who is terrible at his job (Gary Bettman) sits down across from someone who is very good at his job but cares more about his legacy than the sport (Donald Fehr.) I feel for all the businesses and working-class people who are taking a financial hit because these fools can't cut a deal.
I'll be at Winter Park today for Vikings interviews, then will join Reusse&Mackey on 1500espn at 2:05. I'm also on WJON in St. Cloud every morning at 7:15 with Jay Caldwell. Please follow me on Twitter at @Souhanstrib.
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