One of the great things about being a Minnesota sports fan is that there’s never a shortage of teams to follow and games to watch. In the midst of all the hubbub, there is a lot that often slips past the busy sports fan. It might be an obscure bit of news. Or maybe a bizarre occurrence that’s worth a second look. To help capture all the moments you might have missed, TC Huddle gives you T.W.I.M.S. Notes…a look back at the obscure news blotter from This Week In Minnesota Sports.
MLB Puts Expanded Replay on Hold
Late last week, Major League Baseball made the announcement that expanded replay would have to wait at least another year. As a result, video reviews of trapped balls, fair-or-foul calls down the lines, and fan interference of plays will not be added to the list of reviewable plays for 2012. This is good news for the New York Yankees, who have benefited from their fair share of blown calls over the past decade. Most notable for Twins fans was the so-called “foul” ball Joe Mauer hit down the line in the 2009 ALDS. With the game tied 3-3 in the top of the 11th, Mauer’s double down the left field line landed a good 8 inches inside the foul line (see here). But umpire Phil Cuzzi (who was right on top of the play) called it foul. Twins lost that one, and went on to lose the series. When bad calls—like Mauer’s foul ball or Armando Gallaraga’s almost-perfect game—significantly alter the outcome of a game, MLB has to do something. Obviously, parameters have to be set for use of video review. But reviewing key plays when there is a stoppage in play? It should be a part of the game.
Headline Says It All: “Vikings Add FullBack Felton; Manning Signs with Broncos”
If you’re wondering how the Vikings have been doing in the free agent market this offseason, read the following headline, which appeared in the Star Tribune a few days ago: “Vikings add fullback Felton; Manning signs with Broncos for 5 years.” That’s right, ladies and gentlemen…while other teams are making big splashes in the free agent market, the Vikings are signing players like Jerome Felton and Lex Hilliard. Who are these guys, you ask? Well, to put it bluntly, they are 250-pound bowling balls that double as fullbacks. What’s more, they don’t appear to be very good at the football part. Felton spent time with the Lions before being released in 2010, played 9 games with Carolina before being released halfway through last season, and finished the 2011 season as part of a dismal Colts team. Hilliard, on the other hand, has at least stayed with one team (the Dolphins), even if a significant amount of that time was spent on the practice squad. What does this mean for the Purple? Pretty simple: they won’t be very good in 2012.
Gopher Recruit Wally Ellenson Set to Compete in Final Four’s NCAA Dunk Contest
University of Minnesota men’s basketball recruit Wally Ellenson is set to compete in next weekend’s NCAA Final Four dunk contest, which is being held March 30 in New Orleans. The 6’5 swingman out of Rice Lake (Wis.) was entered in the competition because of a fan vote that he won on Facebook. Specifically, his video was chosen over 16 other applicants. Ellenson, who averaged 21 points and 10 rebounds per game this season, will be a freshman with the Gophers next season.
U of M Men’s Basketball Set to Play in 2013 Maui Invitational
After a topsy-turvy season that had more ups and downs than a rollercoaster ride at Valleyfair, Tubby Smith has the Gophers men’s basketball team playing its best basketball since early December. After three consecutive road wins in the NIT, the Gophers are in the Final Four, along with Washington, Massachusetts and Stanford. While the NIT is anything but the NCAA tournament, it does offer some real value to Tubby Smith and his young Gophers team. Not only are they playing meaningful games deep into March, they are gaining valuable experience handling the pressures of a post-season tournament—even if it isn’t the NCAA. Hopefully, their NIT tournament run bodes well for future Gophers seasons. Given that their starting lineup currently consists of two freshmen, two sophomores and a junior, we could be looking at a dangerous Gophers team in future years.
To that end, Tubby is working hard to schedule tougher competition. Most notably, the Gophers are set to compete in the 2013 Maui Invitational. Who else will be there? A pretty impressive list of teams…Syracuse, Gonzaga, Dayton, Arkansas, Baylor, California, and Chaminade. If the Gophers keep their current group of young, talented players, they could be a favorite to win this tournament in 2013.
Quote of the Week: Kris Humphries
New Jersey Nets forward Kris Humphries was recently asked if he would waive his no-trade clause. His response was eye-raising, to say the least. “Would you jump off a bridge? It depends how the water is [or] if there was a drowning baby in the water. I mean, because you [might] jump off in the summer, if it was warm out, [and] you know the water was deep underneath. It’s all circumstantial, is the point I’m trying to make.” Um…can you repeat the part of the stuff where you said all about things…uhhh, the things? Not sure exactly why Kris chose this analogy to make his point, but it sounds like the simple answer to the question should have been, “Perhaps. It will depend on the circumstances.”
Runner-Up Quote of the Week: Tubby Smith
With an April 10th deadline looming, underclassmen across the country are mulling their options and trying to decide if they will declare early for the 2012 NBA draft. When asked if he expected any of his players to leave school and enter the draft, Gophers men’s basketball coach Tubby Smith had a funny response. “We didn’t have anybody who was even Big Ten honorable mention, so I wouldn’t expect it. But you never know. You’ve got to expect the unexpected.” Most of the time, I’d agree with Coach Smith: You never know. But sometimes…well, yeah, sometimes you do know. I think we’re pretty safe on this one, Coach.
Brad Miller Set to Retire
A Wolves season that has already been decimated by injuries just got a little bit worse. NBA journeyman Brad Miller—a key cog on the Wolves bench this season—is retiring at the end of the season. The decision was somewhat unexpected, and heaps even more pressure on Wolves front man, David Kahn, who already was facing a tough decision about what do with center Darko Milicic. Now he has to figure out how to replace Miller’s 43 total minutes played this season, along with his 1.1 points per game and 0.6 rebounds per game. Not an easy task.
When asked about his retirement, Miller said his body wouldn’t allow him to play anywhere except “the 35-year old league at the Y.” Hey Brad, it isn’t the NBA, but the over-35 leagues aren’t so bad…minus the guys who knee you in the thigh when you drive around them, and the guys who threaten to punch you for boxing out, and the players who refuse to pass even when they are triple teamed, and the dudes who intentionally foul you to prevent an open layup early in the first half…yeah, besides all that, the over-35 leagues are great!
Iowa State’s Royce White Heading to the NBA
It was a short stay for Royce White at Iowa State. After a season in which he was named the Big 12’s Newcomer of the Year, took the Cyclones to the third round of the NCAA tournament, and led his team in five different statistical categories (points, rebounds, assists, steals, blocks), the 6-8 forward is ready for the NBA. White announced earlier this week that he is leaving school early to enter this summer’s NBA draft. While White played only one season of college basketball, his name has circulated a lot the past three years. He began his career with the Gophers in 2009-10 before leaving the U and transferring to Iowa State. He sat out the 2010-11 season before playing his only season of college basketball this year. While some would question White’s maturity and emotional stability, he is undoubtedly talented enough—and athletic enough—for the NBA game. How quickly he is able to adjust to the NBA game remains to be seen. But, given what we saw in the NCAA tournament, he should do just fine in years ahead.
Joe Buri is a former high school athletic director who currently works as an attorney in corporate America. In addition to writing for TC Huddle, he also volunteers as an assistant varsity basketball coach at a local Twin Cities high school. Once dubbed “The Human Stump,” he considers holding former NBA forward Devean George to 39 points a highlight of his collegiate basketball experience.