MEMPHIS – Playing their third game Wednesday on a four-game, nine-day trip through three time zones, the Timberwolves and their young players are experiencing their own kind of March Madness.
The real Madness in March — the NCAA men's basketball tournament in which rookies Karl-Anthony Towns and Tyus Jones played this time last year — begins in earnest Thursday.
"This is the best time of the year," Jones said Wednesday before his team played at Memphis. "So many games on when I was growing up, especially early in the tournament, 24/7 it felt like. Filling out a bracket and trying to have a perfect bracket. I've had a number of really good brackets when I was young. I was such a fan when I was younger and I knew all the teams, but obviously it was a little bit of luck as well."
Last year, it became real when Jones led Duke to an NCAA national title and was named the Final Four's Most Outstanding Player in his only collegiate season.
"Great feelings, great memories," he said. "It was a fun stretch last year."
Jones smiles when asked about that tournament run. Towns? No so much.
"It was good for me," said Towns, whose Kentucky team went 38-0 but lost to Wisconsin in the national semifinals. "But we're in the NBA now."
Both intend to watch their respective teams play Thursday while they quibble over which school was disrespected more by receiving a No. 4 seed. Towns is certain it was Kentucky, which beat Texas A&M for the SEC tournament title and is ranked higher but seeded lower.
"It's actually probably both teams did, so we can't say anything to each other," Jones said. "He was trying to get on me for Duke having a fourth seed and then it came out that they did as well. So he had to be quiet."
Some home-state love
Memphis coach Dave Joerger told the Grizzlies' TV pregame show Wednesday he cast an All-Star vote for young Timberwolves star Andrew Wiggins.
Seconds later he backtracked, but it's clear he's a fan of Wiggins, Towns and the young talent his mentor,the late Flip Saunders, assembled in Minnesota, Joerger's home state.
"I don't remember saying that," he said dryly, 20 feet from where he said it. "I think he's big time.
''Those two guys and people sometimes forget about Zach LaVine, who's extremely talented. The core is there going forward."
•Wiggins' NCAA tournament consisted of only two games in 2014, but he has a good feeling about top-seeded Kansas Jayhawks.
"I don't think they can beat us," he said, referring to Duke and Kentucky. "I'm pretty confident. We've got a good bracket. We're No. 1. I'm very confident in my team."
•Wolves center/forward man Gorgui Dieng played to Wednesday's finish despite hurting his hip in the fourth quarter. Limping afterward, he said he thought he was kneed there. "A bruise is a bruise, you know," he said. "Get some treatment tonight, tomorrow and I'll be good to go Friday in Houston."