It was a sports weekend where the biggest local story lines were … technicalities.
On Friday, an untucked jersey played a role — albeit a more minor one than the stunned Timberwolves might want to admit — in a gut-punching overtime loss to Oklahoma City.
And Saturday, St. John's escaped in the Division III football quarterfinals when Wheaton was penalized for spiking the ball on a touchdown in the closing seconds, setting up a missed extra point in a one-point loss.
In both cases, a rule on the books was applied. When the Wolves' Jordan Bell tried to check back into the game with an untucked jersey, delay of game was called. It was extremely ticky-tack to call it there, but the rule was correctly applied (and confirmed a day later by the NBA).
But the Wolves didn't lose because of the violation, which cost them a point. They still led 121-120 with 1.1 seconds left after the call and free throw. If Karl-Anthony Towns, who missed his first free throw before the delay of game call, simply missed the second one it would have kept the Thunder, which was out of timeouts, from going the length of the court since the clock starts after a rebounder touches it and the Wolves would have won.
Towns missed the free throw he tried to make and made the one he tried to miss. Most of the blame falls on execution, not on an official being a stickler for rules.
St. John's absolutely benefited from its break, but that one was more clear-cut. You can't simulate a dog urinating (as Ole Miss found out when flagged for that gaffe in a one-point Egg Bowl loss) and you can't spike the ball.
I bet it will be a long time before a Wolves player checks in with an untucked jersey or a Wheaton player spikes a football.
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The Vikings and Packers executed paint-by-numbers wins over inferior opponents Sunday, but there don't figure to be any ho-hum weekends for either team the rest of the season.
Perhaps the most interesting thing is how last year's NFC North champs, the Bears, are now in position to have a major influence on this year's division race.
If the suddenly hot Bears can win at Green Bay next week, the Vikings will be back in control of the division race. Even if Minnesota loses to the Chargers, a win the following week against the Packers would give the Vikings a 70% chance to win the division, per FiveThirtyEight.com.
But the Bears could also play double-spoiler if they then knocked off the Vikings in Week 17 at U.S. Bank Stadium — and Chicago still has an outside chance to win the NFC North and certainly has a path to the wild card.
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Welcome to big-time bowls, Gophers.
While some projections had Minnesota facing Alabama in a bowl game, Sunday's announcement of an Outback Bowl meeting against Auburn is still a major marquee matchup. The Tigers are 9-3 with wins over Alabama and Oregon plus three close losses to national powers.
If the Gophers are eager to show they belong in the conversation with other top programs and aren't just the beneficiaries of a favorable schedule, this is a measuring stick game.
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The Twins have set themselves up to win big this offseason with contracts for Jake Odorizzi ($17.8 million) and Michael Pineda (prorated $7.6 million because of his suspension) that leave them with a surprising amount of room to make a major splash.
The three best starters (along with Jose Berrios) from a staff that finished a respectable 11th in starters ERA last season are back. But that's not enough. Now the Twins must find another arm — a No. 2 starter or better — either in free agency or a trade.