RandBall

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 (An extended Twins managerial search) edition: Wha' Happened?

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated October 23rd at 9:30am 0

gardyryanThe Twins fired Ron Gardenhire more than three weeks ago. At the time, GM Terry Ryan said there was no timetable for how long the process of finding a successor would take, but the best guess now is that it won’t happen until after the World Series — meaning it will be at least four weeks from Gardy’s firing date of Monday, Sept. 29.

How fast the Twins move ultimately won’t matter. But the most recent update offered by La Velle E. Neal on Wednesday makes us wonder: are the Twins taking their time and making sure they make a thorough decision at this point, or are they stalled?

We ask because all three of the top identified candidates (Paul Molitor, Doug Mientkiewicz and Torey Lovullo) have reportedly either interviewed multiple times or the Twins have permission to do so.

And yet Ryan is reportedly open to the idea of expanding the search to new candidates, and owner Jim Pohlad hasn’t yet been in on any of the interviews.

That first piece of information is a sign, at least to us, that either Ryan isn’t sold on any of the three front-runners or that his preferred candidate among the three — whomever it might be, though a lot of people would presume it to be Molitor — isn’t sold on the job from his end.

That second piece of information is a sign, at least to us, that the Twins really aren’t that close to making a decision. Pohlad presumably will be brought in only for the final interview with the candidate Ryan wants to hire.

Again, the timing won’t ultimately matter much. The process, though, is interesting and right now it’s reasonable to wonder if the wheels are turning — or if they’re just spinning.

TFD: Softer upcoming pass defenses mean its time for Vikings' Bridgewater to make his mark

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated October 22nd at 5:30pm 0

brigewaterAll it takes these days is two bad games by a rookie quarterback to make us question whether he is going to be the right guy to lead a team for the next decade.

We freely admit we have some concerns about Teddy Bridgewater at this point — most of them similar to what Patrick Reusse wrote recently, in that he doesn’t seem to do one thing, physically, great.

Instead, Bridgewater will be relying on intangibles, which largely means football intelligence mixed with poise and presence. After three NFL starts, he’s not there yet — nor should he be.

But we should also note this: those last two starts, which have been struggles, have also been against two of the best defensive lines the Vikings will face all season. Detroit and Buffalo get hellacious pressure, and the Vikings’ offensive line is a mess. Both the Lions and Bills rank among the NFL’s top five in sacks and interceptions.

What does that mean? Well, when it comes to appraising Bridgewater’s early work, it means we also need to give some credit to the opponent. He carved up an awful defense (Falcons) in his first start. And in his next three games, he’ll face:

*Tampa Bay, which has just nine sacks this season and is averaging 295 passing yards per game, worst in the NFL (hello, Leslie Frazier, my old friend).

*Washington, which has just three interceptions this season while allowing 15 TD passes (both stats put them among the 10 worst NFL pass defenses).

*Chicago, which does rank eighth in sacks (with 19) but is allowing 8 yards per pass attempt — 28th in the league.

Sure, the Vikings and Bridgewater will have to beat better defenses at some point to prove they are legitimate. But these next three games should be an opportunity for Bridgewater to gain some proficiency, yardage and confidence.

On the flip side, if he still struggles in this stretch … well, then some of the concern will gain legitimacy, even if it is still very early in his tenure.

Gophers seventh-most likely team to make college football playoff, says U of Wisconsin statistical model

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated October 22nd at 3:53pm 280082212

gophersbadgersAn associate professor in the engineering department at the University of Wisconsin has created a statistical model that is VERY favorable to your Gophers football team (and not the Badgers, by the way).

Laura McLay’s “Badger Bracketology” is an attempt, she says, to forecast which four teams will make the inaugural college football playoff this season.

The methodology, at a glance:

I start with the outcomes of the games played so far, starting with at least 8 weeks of data. This is used to come up with a rating for each team that I then rank. The ranking methodology uses a connectivity matrix based on Google’s PageRank algorithm (similar to a Markov chain). So far, I’ve considered three variants of this model that take various bits of information account like who a team beats, who it loses to, and the additional value provided by home wins. I used data from the 2012 and 2013 seasons to tune the parameters needed for the models.

The ratings along with the impact of home field advantage are then used to determine a win probability for each game. … My method is simple, but it gives us everything we need without being so complex that I would be suspicious of overfitting.

McLay actually uses three models, with 10,000 replications for each one. The most useful tool is the “ensemble,” which takes the average of the three models.

This is the first week for which the model has churned out projections for the playoff. It starts off about as expected, with Florida State as the most likely, followed by Mississippi, Mississippi State and then Alabama. Next you find Georgia, then Notre Dame and then …

Minnesota.

Yes, the Gophers are No. 7 in the model right now. That is to say, they are the seventh-most likely team to reach a four-team college football playoff for a national championship. Seventh. Yes, that’s right out of the money. But it’s so close to the money. They’re ahead of Michigan State (No. 8), while Wisconsin is nowhere to be found in the top 25.

Much of the season is yet to be played. So much can happen. But just know that, as of now, a simulation from the University of Wisconsin says things are looking good for the Gophers.

H/T: Fasolamatt.

Wednesday (Bennett a true wild card for Wolves) edition: Wha' Happened?

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated October 22nd at 1:25pm 280050892

rubioWhen the Wolves were finally able to announce the blockbuster trade that sent Kevin Love to the Cavaliers, two of the three pieces they received in return were easy to categorize.

Andrew Wiggins, the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft, was the clear jewel of the trade. He was the deal-maker and the deal-breaker. His superstar potential made it possible for the Wolves to feel good about dealing an established star player.

Thaddeus Young, a power forward with credentials, came over to fill Love’s spot in the lineup, contribute points and rebounds, and help mentor some of the team’s younger players. He was the known commodity in the deal.

The third piece, though, was Andrew Anthony Bennett. He was the No. 1 overall pick in 2013, then had a disastrous rookie year. The only thing you could say about him was that he had the potential to be a boom or a bust — a true wild card. But his potential was intriguing, nonetheless.

In early preseason action, Bennett — now healthy — has shown off some of those skills that led the Cavs to make the power forward the top pick a year ago. He plays with energy, he has a nice mid-range jumper and he could be a fan favorite. His nickname, “Big Daddy Canada,” is also fantastic.

We don’t imagine a strong contribution from Bennett will make much of a difference in the bottom line for this year’s Wolves team. It’s still a group that will struggle to win 35 games and likely will settle in more around 30 by season’s end.

But if Bennett can continue to contribute when the real games start, he certainly has the opportunity to make the Wolves better in the future — and to make the Love trade look even better as well.

TFD: U's Pitino responds to Nebraska coach's plea for more 'personality'

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated October 21st at 6:49pm 279984152

pitinoAt Big Ten media day last week, Nebraska coach Tim Miles referred to some of the Big Ten coaches as “stiffs,” adding with a smile: “Richard Pitino. Come on. Let’s have some of that personality we know you’ve got in there somewhere, buddy.”

The Gophers’ Pitino, with a smile on his face, too, said this in response at Gophers media day on Tuesday: “No comment. … He should know better. … He’s just challenging me and trying to bait me. I’m not buying his thing. But what I love about Tim Miles is that he’s the exact same way in a  press conference as … that’s just the way he is. We can’t all be as funny as Tim Miles, and I’m OK with that.”

Good times, good fun. We don’t imagine either coach is upset. Just some friendly banter. Here is a video clip of both Miles and Pitino.

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San Francisco - LP: J. Peavy 2 FINAL
Kansas City - WP: K. Herrera 7
San Diego 7:25 PM
Denver
Detroit 10/26/14 8:30 AM
Atlanta
Buffalo 10/26/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
St. Louis 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Kansas City
Houston 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Tennessee
Minnesota 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
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Carolina
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Cincinnati
Miami 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
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New England
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Arizona
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Cleveland
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Pittsburgh
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New Orleans
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Boston 100
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New York 103
Cleveland 92 FINAL
Memphis 96
Minnesota 110 FINAL
Milwaukee 91
Atlanta 117 FINAL
San Antonio 107
Portland 86 FINAL
LA Lakers 94
Phoenix 105 FINAL
LA Clippers 108
Toronto 0 Postponed
Ottawa 0
Philadelphia 5 FINAL
Pittsburgh 3
Washington 2 FINAL
Edmonton 3
Buffalo 1 FINAL
Anaheim 4
Arkansas State 40 FINAL
Louisiana 55
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Virginia Tech
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(16) Nebraska
Maryland 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Wisconsin
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(11) Kansas State
Minnesota 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Illinois
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SMU
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Virginia
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(25) UCLA 10/25/14 1:00 PM
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Washington St
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Texas State 10/25/14 6:00 PM
ULM
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(24) LSU
(4) Alabama 10/25/14 6:30 PM
Tennessee
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(5) Auburn
(13) Ohio State 10/25/14 7:00 PM
Penn State
(20) USC 10/25/14 9:00 PM
(19) Utah
(14) Arizona State 10/25/14 9:45 PM
Washington
Nevada 10/25/14 10:59 PM
Hawaii
Chivas USA 0 FINAL
Real Salt Lake 2
Montreal 10/24/14 5:30 PM
Ottawa
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Calgary
Hamilton 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Toronto
Brt Columbia 10/25/14 6:00 PM
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Hamilton 10/31/14 6:30 PM
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Brt Columbia 11/1/14 6:00 PM
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