Teams that experience new or unexpected success tend to attract an increased fan following. As more people latch on to them, inevitably it often happens that they come crashing down — doomed either tougher competition or by the law of averages catching up to them after a hot streak.
Doesn't this sound all-too-familiar, particularly if you're a Minnesota sports fan?
How many times have you gained a sudden interest in a local team to which you typically only pay mild attention, only to hop on the bandwagon right as it shatters to pieces?
Maybe we just remember these moments more acutely, but I don't think so. And I was curious if we were going to witness another such moment Monday night with the Gophers men's basketball team.
Minnesota was fresh off two impressive wins — first over a Saint Louis team that should be in the NCAA tournament mix at the end of the year and then over Big Ten and national contender Iowa. The Gophers had just achieved their first Top 25 AP ranking in three years earlier Monday, entering the poll at No. 21. And they were welcoming longtime nemesis Michigan State — a slumping but ranked team — to Williams Arena.
The Minnesota sports recipe called for a letdown. The Gophers instead delivered a smackdown.
In routing the Spartans 81-56, Richard Pitino's Gophers controlled the game from start to finish. They scored inside and outside, played suffocating defense and showed no signs of letting up until the final horn.
It was enough for opposing coach Tom Izzo, whose Spartans had defeated the Gophers in 24 of their last 27 tries, to say Michigan State reached "rock bottom" defensively.
So often it's Minnesota coaches left to issue such laments after losses to good teams — and so often those moments come right after more fans have started to believe in them.
This is late December and not March, so we shouldn't get carried away. But the ability to handle new expectations is a good trait for a team to have if it hopes to advance deep into a season.
Here are four other things I'm thinking about this morning:
I know. Nobody cares about my fantasy football team. But ... the seemingly unthinkable happened. After being seemingly buried underneath an avalanche of six Alvin Kamara touchdowns on Friday, I managed to rally and win my semifinal playoff game.
At least a couple people who follow me on Twitter said they overcame the same adversity. This reader used the same formula I did: using huge games from Davante Adams and then on Monday from Stefon Diggs to mount a comeback.
Diggs, by the way, now leads the NFL in both catches (120) and receiving yards (1,459), while Justin Jefferson is setting rookie records for the Vikings. It's amazing what a good trade it turned out to be for both teams.
*Speaking of former Vikings, a Twitter thread on Monday suggested former Vikings offensive lineman Pat Elflein might have found his footing with the Jets after being cut earlier this year by the Vikings. That very well might be true, but ... Pro Football Focus does not reflect that in its grades.
Elflein is listed as the No. 118 guard out of 130 in the league, and in five games with the Jets his overall grade is a dismal 42.5.
*Hey, still speaking of former Vikings: The Washington Football Team might be turning to former Viking Taylor Heinicke in its biggest game of the season Sunday. Heinicke was elevated above 2019 first round pick Dwayne Haskins, and then Haskins was released Monday. If Alex Smith can't play because of an injury, Heinicke will get the nod in a must-win game. If Washington wins over the Eagles, it claims the NFC East title; if it loses, the winner of Giants-Cowboys will take the division.
The same scenario applies with ex-Gopher Chris Streveler, who went on to star in the CFL. If Kyler Murray can't play for the Cardinals on Sunday because of a lingering injury, Streveler would be in line to make the start in a game that can secure a playoff spot for the Cardinals.
*The Timberwolves lost by 36 to the Lakers on Sunday after starting 2-0. The Clippers lost by 51 on the same day after starting 2-0. Now the Wolves and Clippers face each other Tuesday night in Los Angeles. It's safe to say nobody should know what to expect.