Welcome to the Friday edition of The Cooler, where tough times don’t last. Tough people do. Let’s get to it:
*You should listen to all 45 minutes of this week’s Access Vikings podcast in which Ben Goessling, Andrew Krammer and I discuss the disappointing Vikings season overall and dissect some of the key questions the franchise has going forward.
Toward the end, though, you will find one particularly interesting snippet that I hadn’t imagined we would be discussing: The possibility that the Vikings try to bolster their offensive line depth by trading from a position of strength — namely by dealing No. 1 corner Xavier Rhodes.
Now, part of me thinks head coach Mike Zimmer might do everything short of handcuffing himself to Rhodes to prevent any such trade. Even though Rhodes had a tough year by his standards, including missing two games and playing through others with injuries, he is a top-notch player still in his prime who plays a position valued highly in both the league and by Zimmer.
That said, he will be 29 in June and carries a cap hit of $13.4 million next season. The Vikings figure to get 2018 first round pick Mike Hughes back from his torn ACL, and will also have Trae Waynes, Mackensie Alexander and Holton Hill on the roster next season. Alexander’s improved play in 2018 and Hill’s competency make this conversation worth having.
For the salary cap-strapped Vikings, who still have to figure out a way to pay one or both of Sheldon Richardson and Anthony Barr on defense, dealing someone like Rhodes could be a way to creatively add a top-level offensive lineman. It would be a risk, and Zimmer would surely have reservations about it. But it’s not as crazy as it sounds (and if you don’t believe me, listen to the podcast).
*The Gophers men’s basketball team’s 59-52 win at Wisconsin on Thursday night was significant for many reasons. It snapped an eight-game losing streak to the Badgers, gave the Gophers their first win at Wisconsin since 2009 and vaulted Minnesota all the way up to No. 10 in the RPI.
If you like more Gophers/Badgers stats, try this: If we consider the 2018 football season and the 2018-19 basketball season to be the same seasons, this was apparently the first season since 1973 that the Gophers won in football and basketball in Madison.
But also as significant is how the Gophers won: with defense, in a low-scoring game. I looked it up and Richard Pitino’s Gophers entered Thursday 2-27 in Big Ten games in which they had scored 60 points or fewer during his tenure. That’s not an overly surprising record since it’s hard to win with that many points, but it does underscore how rare it’s been for the Gophers to win defensive battles.
*James Harden beat the Warriors in dramatic fashion with a three-pointer in overtime Thursday. But he only had to do that because Steph Curry made a go-ahead jump shot after Kevin Durant saved the ball … while being so obviously out of bounds that everyone involved with the play should be ashamed.
At least we got a lot of Bird Box memes out of it.