Four thoughts that somehow didn’t have anything to do with the Vikings/Packers game this weekend:

1 It’s not easy for a coach to be a hero in a 6-6 season, but that’s how many Gophers football fans would treat Tracy Claeys if he’s able to get his squad bowl-eligible with a victory over Wisconsin on Saturday at TCF Bank Stadium. The Gophers, of course, haven’t defeated the Badgers since 2003.

Last year this game mattered for the Big Ten West race. This year, the teams share something less fortunate in common: Both suffered home losses this season in which it looked as if they had scored the winning TD in the closing seconds — Minnesota against Michigan and Wisconsin this past weekend against Northwestern.

2 Tubby Smith was fired as head coach of the Gophers men’s basketball team in March 2013. It seems like longer than 2½ years ago, but facts are facts.

Tubby was fired in the same year the Gophers won an NCAA tournament game for the first time since 1997 (which we’re not even supposed to believe really happened). The idea at the time was that Smith had taken the program as far as it could go; to go farther, a new direction was needed.

That new direction arrived in the form of Richard Pitino. He did well in his first year, though not better than Tubby; he went backward in his second year. And in this, his third year, he had the misfortune of bringing what figures to be — and had better be for his sake — the worst team he will have in his tenure as Gophers coach into a game against Smith’s Texas Tech squad.

Predictably, the Gophers lost. There still might be better times ahead, but this will be a long year.

3 Timberwolves fans will look at the schedule and note that Monday offers the best chance by far, to date, for the Wolves to record their first home victory of the season (to go, strangely, with five road wins). Philadelphia brings an 0-14 record to Target Center.

But let’s not count the victory just yet. If you’ll recall, the 76ers came to Target Center last season sporting an 0-17 record — and left with an 85-77 victory over Minnesota that was probably one of the worst games played in the NBA all season. This year’s rematch at Target Center, at the very least, offers the intrigue of Karl-Anthony Towns vs. Jahlil Okafor.

4 You are forgiven if you looked at Thomas Vanek’s underwhelming 21-goal effort last season, his first with the Wild, and wondered if his best days were behind him and if the Wild would ultimately regret signing the former Gophers standout.

Vanek’s turnaround so far this year — eight goals and 16 points in the first 19 games, putting him on pace for a 35-goal season — has been as startling as his demise was a year ago.

MICHAEL RAND