Three thoughts from a strangely calm weekend in sports, thanks to the Vikings’ Thursday night game.
Top of their game
The Gophers athletic program is not accustomed to making too many “splash” hires. The hiring of Tubby Smith, even though it didn’t work out quite as everyone hoped, was a notable exception. And the hockey programs can attract big names thanks to prestige and reputation.
But don’t underrate the two big-time coaches who have run the Gophers volleyball program over the past 20 years. Mike Hebert came to Minnesota in 1996 after having built a powerhouse at Illinois. He led the Gophers to three Final Four appearances.
Hugh McCutcheon, who coached the U.S. men to a gold medal in the 2008 Olympics and the women to silver in 2012, was the permanent hire who succeeded Hebert. He has the Gophers in the Final Four this season, with a legitimate chance to win it all.
Both of those hires came about via many factors, and this state’s reputation as a volleyball hotbed was certainly among them. But this much is also true: The U swung big and landed big in both cases, which doesn’t happen all that often here.
Careful what you wish for
There’s a segment of Vikings fandom that thinks Minnesota would be better off being a wild card instead of winning the NFC North, with the thinking being that as a wild card they would draw a matchup against the weak winner of the NFC East.
It’s nonsense for a couple reasons. First, you always want to win your division. You always want a home playoff game (and the chance for more home games if there are upsets).
Second, the way things are trending, the Vikings very well might wind up as the second wild card instead of the first.
The Vikings and Seahawks are in the two wild card spots for now, with identical 8-5 records but with Seattle holding the tiebreaker.
If they were the No. 6 seed, the Vikings probably wouldn’t face the NFC East winner. Their likely opponent would be the NFC North winner.
And if the Vikings were a wild card, the NFC North winner almost certainly would be Green Bay.
The hypothesis based on observations was that the Wolves’ Andrew Wiggins has a strange habit of missing his free-throw attempt when given the chance at a three-point play.
I doubted that sort of thing was even tracked, but this is 2015. Everything is tracked. After some digging, the site nbaminer.com came up and offered the exact statistic — and proof that I wasn’t crazy.
Entering Sunday’s game, Wiggins was No. 3 in the NBA in “and-one” opportunities, having been fouled in the act of making a basket 18 times. Only Cleveland’s LeBron James and Houston’s James Harden had more chances.
But Wiggins was a paltry 7-for-18 (38.9 percent) on his free throws in those situations. On all other free throws this season, he’s better than twice as good as that: 78.2 percent.
Wiggins was 35-for-44 on “and-one” free throws as a rookie (79.5 percent), so whatever is going on this season is likely just a strange blip from a small sample size.