It was already shaping up to be a very inexperienced Final Four headed our way next weekend.

The first three men’s basketball teams to earn a place at U.S. Bank Stadium — Texas Tech, Virginia and Auburn — had combined for two trips to the Final Four before this year. Both were by Virginia, and the most recent one came in 1984.

The last entrant — the winner of Duke vs. Michigan State — was going to be a familiar face no matter what.

But it kind of felt like the field needed Duke, the No. 1 overall seed, to get the job done in order to inject some royalty and star power into the Minneapolis Final Four.

Instead, Michigan State prevailed 68-67 in a thrilling game that was part of a thrilling weekend.

It’s going to be a very … strange Final Four, but maybe the lesson is this: All the teams (and fan bases) should be excited to be here, and the parity in the field has the potential to produce some excellent drama.

Without Zion Williamson, that’s the best for which we can hope.

• • •

The dream of three Minnesota teams reaching the men’s hockey Frozen Four met the cold reality of a single-elimination playoff system this weekend.

It’s hard to say what was more stunning: St. Cloud State losing as a No. 1 seed to an American Hockey Association team — this time American International — in the first round for the second consecutive season or Minnesota State Mankato taking a quick 3-0 lead on Providence, only to lose 6-3.

The win-or-go-home drama that makes March Madness such a treat in basketball creates similar tension in men’s hockey. But it feels a bit less fair in a sport with so little scoring.

• • •

Cleveland figures to look a lot different later in the season when the middle of its infield — Francisco Lindor and Jason Kipnis — gets healthy.

But for now (and maybe even then), there was nothing at all fluky about the Twins taking two of three from Cleveland to start the season.

The Twins looked like the better of the two teams with the deeper roster and better lineup at Target Field. Pitching can be the great equalizer, and it will take more than a few impressive outings to give the Twins the edge there.

But the view all along here has been that if the starting rotation and bullpen are at least adequate, the Twins are going to be dangerous. That view was enhanced after an impressive opening series.

• • •

Minnesota fans have long memories when it comes to athletes who rejected them, so the vociferous response to Jimmy Butler’s return Saturday was hardly a surprise.

If Butler is to become an all-time villain to local fans, the most important reaction will be what happens the next time he’s here in an opposing uniform.

A deep playoff run by Butler’s 76ers would make it even more likely he re-signs there, which would mean he’d only play once a year at Target Center. If fans can sustain the hatred even with that long-distance relationship, Butler will have truly earned his place.