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Michael Rand started RandBall with hopes that he could convince the world to love jumpsuits as much as he does. So far, he's only succeeded in using the word "redacted" a lot. He welcomes suggestions, news tips, links of pure genius, and pictures of pets in Halloween costumes here, though he already knows he will regret that last part.

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Thursday (A defining season of Gophers football) edition: Wha' Happened?

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated August 28th at 9:00am 273024091

killThe Gophers football team won eight games last season, including four consecutive Big Ten contests for the first time in 40 years. The offense was ragged at times, but the defense made huge strides. In the hard to quantify “eye test,” the Gophers looked the part of a Big Ten team for the first time in a while. They were fundamentally sound and rarely made those crushing mistakes that cause fans (and coaches) to rant and rave. It made them enticing to watch, if not always exciting to watch.

As such, Minnesota enters a season with honest momentum for the first time in many years. A lot of established players are back — most notably in the secondary and on the offensive line, two positions that have become even more critical on a football field in recent years — and there are legitimate reasons to think that the team can take another step beyond last year’s progress.

Then again, there are legitimate reasons to think this season could take, at least in terms of achievement, a step back. The schedule is brutal. The passing game is still unproven. And even though the team’s depth looks to be improved, it’s hard to know for sure until the games begin.

As such, this season — which begins tonight with a home game against Eastern Illinois — could become a “defining” season in the tenure of Jerry Kill. If last year was the one that brought the program back to respectability, this one has the chance to either sustain, stifle or perhaps even exceed that.

Ultimately, even with a tough schedule, the year will be defined in a lot of ways by wins and losses. Anything less than seven wins is a step back. Seven or eight wins is a solid holding pattern against this slate. Anything better than that means we can start really getting excited about this program in 2014 and beyond.

Our money is on the solid holding pattern. But decades of Gophers history have told us to expect worse … while a few years of Kill have made us think we could expect even better.

TFD: Data says Vikings are a last-place team, Peterson is inconsistent

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated August 28th at 6:35am 272944381

adrianpetersonIf you were enjoying this 3-0 Vikings preseason a little too much, here’s the FiveThirtyEight site’s chance to throw water all over you.

Based on Vegas point spreads, the Vikings project to win 6.5 games this season — last in the NFC North. They have a 17 percent chance of making the playoffs and a mere 1 percent chance to win the Super Bowl.

That’s fairly expected. Maybe not even that bad. But the site also uses fancy numbers to arrive at this conclusion — not incorrectly — about Adrian Peterson and the running game:

Obviously Adrian Peterson’s long runs are worth something: They’re worth a lot of yards. But yards are easier than ever to come by in today’s game. No matter how great a running back is at breaking long ones, he’s not going to be as efficient at gobbling up yards as his team’s passing game is (no matter how mediocre the team’s quarterbacks are). On the other hand, the better a team is at strategically maximizing the running game, the more valuable those “bonus” yards become — because the running plays that produce them are no longer taking the place of passes.

In other words, if you can’t run consistently, it doesn’t matter if you can break a bunch of long runs, because you’d still be better off passing. But if you can run consistently, those long runs become gravy. None of this is to say that Peterson’s shortcomings necessarily reflect poorly on his running skills, no more than we can say the same for any running back’s underperformance. Peterson has simply produced a little below average at the bread-and-butter stuff that keeps the running game relevant, and this undercuts the value of his long runs considerably.

Long story short: Peterson is great at breaking long runs and a little below-average at churning out the good-but-not-great runs that eat clock, help the passing game and move the chains.

If you’d rather not think about that, let’s imagine a season in which Peterson actually gets some help from the passing game … and let’s end with Deadspin’s Green Bay Packers preview.

Photo caption contest: Aaron Rodgers and Matt Flynn dressed in all-denim

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated August 27th at 2:24pm 272921241

Discuss:

Timberwolves are a 32-win team according to NBA simulation

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated August 27th at 12:48pm 272906531

rubioPart two in today’s theme of how good are the Wolves going to be in the wake of the Kevin Love trade:

A fancy simulation found at ESPN Insider says the Wolves will win 32 games this season. That number is probably a little high, since simulations are not predictions and tend to be optimistic, but here is the methodology:

Just before the start of the 2014-15 season, we sorted teams into tiers based on projections, and we’re repeating the process today to see where teams stand after a tumultuous offseason. Team baseline win projections have been formulated by combining early SCHOENE forecasts with team projections generated by the same RPM-based methodology we used last week to rank players.

The hope is to balance out any inherent biases within the two systems and, in reality, the forecasts are pretty close for all but a couple of teams. Baseline wins were plugged into a Monte Carlo-style simulator of the 2014-15 schedule that accounted for home-court advantage and other scheduling factors. Finally, the top eight players on each team were used to calculate a postseason baseline, and using the seeds from each simulated regular season, the playoffs were played out. This process was repeated 1,000 times.

The results of all those probabilities and random numbers serve as the basis for separating the teams in tiers below. A lot has changed since last season. (To see just how much, just click on the final version of last spring’s Hollinger Playoff Odds.) Each team’s average win total in the 1,000 simulations is listed in parenthesis.

The Wolves are in the tier of teams expected to win more than 25 games but not make the playoffs, which sounds about right. As for 32 wins? We’d take that, and we imagine those with the Wolves would as well.

Wednesday (The Wolves long-term with Love and without Love) edition: Wha' Happened?

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated August 27th at 11:52am 272874281

wolvesphotoThe 1996-97 Timberwolves, with a young Kevin Garnett and Stephon Marbury, won 40 games. Back then, the West was the NBA’s lesser conference (four teams in the Wolves’ division won 24 games or fewer), and that 40-42 record was enough to get the Wolves the No. 6 seed in the playoffs. It felt like the start of something big, and even though Marbury blew up the dynamic duo, it was the beginning of eight consecutive playoff appearances.

The 2013-14 Timberwolves, with Kevin Love and a cast of others, won 40 games. These days, the West is the NBA’s dominant conference (the Suns, at 48-34, couldn’t even get into the playoffs), and the Wolves missed the postseason by a long shot. It felt like the beginning of the end of a rebuilding project that never got off the ground, and it signaled the end of the Love Era in Minnesota.

We bring up the past not as a way to pick at old scabs but rather as a way to frame the Love Era. In a different league, the Wolves might have been an up-and-comer. Instead, they traded love and started over. In the big picture, though, we do wonder: Are they better off, regardless?

In the short-term, Minnesota goes from being a 40-win team to what will probably be a 28-to-30-win team. As constructed a year ago, and without much prospect for injecting new talent beyond trading Love, the Wolves’ ceiling with Love as their core player was probably what it was during KG’s time before Sam Cassell and Latrell Sprewell: 45-50 wins and a quick playoff exit.

That sounds pretty good when compared to what has happened the last decade, but it’s not the goal when constructing a team. The goal, of course, is to win a championship. The 2014-15 Wolves are further from that goal than the 2013-14 Wolves were. But, say, the 2016-17 Wolves with Love or with the current core?

An argument could be made that a core led by Wiggins and co. has a better chance to be special than a core with Love.

Maybe that’s crazy talk and wishful thinking. Or maybe the second-best player in franchise history forcing his way out will end up being one of the best things that ever happened to the Wolves.

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St. Louis - LP: A. Wainwright 1 FINAL
Pittsburgh - WP: J. Locke 3
Texas - WP: C. Lewis 12 FINAL
Seattle - LP: E. Ramirez 4
Washington - LP: D. Fister 4 FINAL
Philadelphia - WP: K. Kendrick 8
Tampa Bay - WP: D. Smyly 3 FINAL
Baltimore - LP: K. Gausman 1
Boston - LP: T. Layne 2 FINAL
Toronto - WP: M. Stroman 5
NY Yankees - WP: S. Greene 8 FINAL
Detroit - LP: D. Price 4
Atlanta - WP: J. Teheran 3 FINAL
NY Mets - LP: Z. Wheeler 2
Chicago Cubs - LP: J. Turner 5 FINAL
Cincinnati - WP: M. Latos 7
Cleveland - LP: C. Kluber 2 FINAL
Chicago WSox - WP: H. Noesi 3
Minnesota - LP: P. Hughes 1 FINAL
Kansas City - WP: W. Davis 6
Oakland - WP: D. Otero 5 FINAL
Houston - LP: C. Qualls 4
Milwaukee - LP: Z. Duke 2 FINAL
San Diego - WP: D. Thayer 3
Los Angeles - WP: C. Kershaw 3 FINAL
Arizona - LP: W. Miley 1
Miami - LP: H. Alvarez 1 FINAL
LA Angels - WP: H. Santiago 6
Colorado - LP: J. Nicasio 2 FINAL
San Francisco - WP: S. Casilla 4
Atlanta 5:00 PM
Jacksonville
Detroit 6:00 PM
Buffalo
Indianapolis 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Kansas City 6:00 PM
Green Bay
NY Jets 6:00 PM
Philadelphia
St. Louis 6:00 PM
Miami
Carolina 6:30 PM
Pittsburgh
New England 6:30 PM
NY Giants
Washington 6:30 PM
Tampa Bay
Baltimore 7:00 PM
New Orleans
Chicago 7:00 PM
Cleveland
Denver 7:00 PM
Dallas
Minnesota 7:00 PM
Tennessee
San Francisco 7:00 PM
Houston
Arizona 9:00 PM
San Diego
Seattle 9:00 PM
Oakland
(21) Texas A&M 5:00 PM
(9) So Carolina
Wake Forest 6:02 PM
ULM
Boise State 7:00 PM
(18) Ole Miss
Tulane 7:00 PM
Tulsa
Temple 8:15 PM
Vanderbilt
Rutgers 9:00 PM
Washington St
Weber State 9:30 PM
(19) Arizona State
BYU 8/29/14 6:00 PM
Connecticut
(6) Jacksonville St 8/29/14 6:30 PM
(8) Michigan State
Bowling Green 8/29/14 6:30 PM
Western Ky
TX-San Antonio 8/29/14 8:00 PM
Houston
Colorado State 8/29/14 8:00 PM
Colorado
UNLV 8/29/14 9:30 PM
Arizona
Penn State 8/30/14 7:30 AM
UCF
Troy 8/30/14 11:00 AM
UAB
(7) UCLA 8/30/14 11:00 AM
Virginia
Western Mich 8/30/14 11:00 AM
Purdue
(5) Ohio State 8/30/14 11:00 AM
Navy
Appalachian St 8/30/14 11:00 AM
Michigan
Ga Southern 8/30/14 11:30 AM
NC State
Boston College 8/30/14 2:00 PM
Massachusetts
West Virginia 8/30/14 2:30 PM
(2) Alabama
Rice 8/30/14 2:30 PM
(17) Notre Dame
(10) South Dakota St 8/30/14 2:30 PM
(24) Missouri
Fla Atlantic 8/30/14 2:30 PM
(22) Nebraska
California 8/30/14 2:30 PM
Northwestern
Marshall 8/30/14 2:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
UC Davis 8/30/14 3:00 PM
(11) Stanford
Arkansas 8/30/14 3:00 PM
(6) Auburn
(16) Clemson 8/30/14 4:30 PM
(12) Georgia
Liberty 8/30/14 5:00 PM
(23) North Carolina
Ohio U 8/30/14 5:00 PM
Kent State
Louisiana Tech 8/30/14 6:00 PM
(4) Oklahoma
Idaho 8/30/14 6:00 PM
Florida
Stephen F Austin 8/30/14 6:10 PM
(20) Kansas State
Fresno State 8/30/14 6:30 PM
(15) USC
Southern Miss 8/30/14 6:30 PM
Miss State
Texas-El Paso 8/30/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico
North Texas 8/30/14 7:00 PM
Texas
(1) Florida State 8/30/14 7:00 PM
Oklahoma State
(14) Wisconsin 8/30/14 8:00 PM
(13) LSU
South Dakota 8/30/14 9:30 PM
(3) Oregon
(25) Washington 8/30/14 9:30 PM
Hawaii
Utah State 8/31/14 6:00 PM
Tennessee
SMU 8/31/14 6:30 PM
(10) Baylor
Miami-Florida 9/1/14 7:00 PM
Louisville
D.C. 1 FINAL
Los Angeles 4
Ottawa 8/29/14 6:30 PM
Montreal
Winnipeg 8/31/14 3:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Toronto 9/1/14 12:00 PM
Hamilton
Edmonton 9/1/14 3:30 PM
Calgary
Brt Columbia 9/5/14 6:30 PM
Ottawa
Calgary 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Edmonton

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