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 (The woeful Wolves at the season's midpoint) edition: Wha' Happened?

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated January 22nd at 9:32am 289442071

flipfansBefore the NBA season started, Bovada and other Las Vegas casinos set over-under win total lines for all the teams. The Wolves’ number was 26.5, which seemed quite reasonable and even tempted those with optimism to make a sprint to Sin City to bet the over.

Anyone who made that bet needs the Wolves to win at least 27 games. We are halfway through the season now, and we can report this much: Minnesota has taken care of the crooked number, the seven. Now all that remains is the 20.

This is not exactly impossible — the Wolves going 20-21, basically .500 ball over the season’s second half — but it is improbable enough that we wouldn’t pay anyone more than 1 cent on every dollar bet to buy them out of their over tickets.

The reasons are many, but the primary one is simple: as the season has gone along, a franchise that nearly perfected losing has somehow gotten even better at it.

The Wolves were 2-2 in the season’s first four games; the two losses were by four points at Memphis and by one point at home against the Bulls. In their fifth game, Ricky Rubio hurt his ankle early on. They wound up losing in overtime, and they have only won five times since then. Nikola Pekovic and Kevin Martin quickly followed Rubio to the injured list, with Pek being the first of the three to finally return Wednesday in a blowout loss to the Mavericks.

Rubio, Martin, Pekovic, J.J. Barea (bought out before the season) and Ronny Turiaf (two games played) combined to play just 26 games in the first half of the season. Put them in a 5-on-5 game against any other 5 on the Wolves’ roster and they probably win 8 of 10 times. Add to the mix that Corey Brewer was traded after 24 games, and you have an almost foolproof losing cocktail.

A 19-year-old (Andrew Wiggins) is the only player to have started all 41 games, while second-year center Gorgui Dieng is the only other player to have played all 41 games. Rubio and Martin will return at some point (your guess is as good as ours as to exactly when), but it also wouldn’t surprise us if those gains are somewhat offset if Thad Young and/or Mo Williams are traded to contenders for more young pieces or salary flexibility.

Our best guess is this Wolves team will at least be somewhat improved in the second half, meaning it won’t stay on the same pace and finish with 14 wins — which would make this the worst team in franchise history. Where it falls on that spectrum — 10 Wolves teams in full 82 game seasons have won between 15 and 26 games — remains to be seen, but if you are still clinging to that betting slip and it says “over” on it … well it is, indeed, over.

TFD: Aaron Rodgers says God doesn't care who wins football games

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated January 22nd at 8:23am 289362711

rodgersgrapeWe’ve teased Packers fans and Aaron Rodgers a bit this week, but let’s end the day with an AMEN for the Packers’ QB for this quote, regardless of whether you believe in God:

CBS Sports transcribed the back-and-forth between Rodgers and co-host Jason Wilde, with the set-up being that Wilde was reading a question submitted by a reader.

Jason Wilde: Melissa says: I always find it a little off-putting when athletes, actors, and anybody says, “This is what God wanted” or “I want to thank God for helping us win today” — anything along those lines when a game or award is won. I’m paraphrasing here, but you get the gist. Personally, with all the chaos in the world, I’m not sure God really cares about the outcome of a game or an awards show. What do you think of statements such as these? You’ve obviously got your faith. Does what happens on Sunday impact your relationship with God or your faith at all?

Aaron Rodgers: I agree with her. I don’t think God cares a whole lot about the outcome. He cares about the people involved, but I don’t think he’s a big football fan.

Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer weighs in on 'Deflategate'

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated January 21st at 2:10pm 289342011

zimmerVikings head coach Mike Zimmer is a no-nonsense guy who doesn’t look for a lot of excuses when it comes to winning and losing. It shouldn’t be surprising, then, that Zimmer — when asked Wednesday at the Senior Bowl about the ball deflation controversy that has emerged in the wake of the Patriots’ AFC title game thrashing of the Colts — wasn’t buying it.

I think it was like 41-7, right?” Zimmer said, according to NFL.com“I don’t think the balls had a lot to do with it.”

Well, 45-7, but point taken. That said, the Vikings were EMBROILED IN CONTROVERSY over a somewhat similar ball situation earlier this season (and by that we mean it passed with barely a whimper aside from a warning and reminder from the league), when sideline attendants were shown heating footballs against league rules during Minnesota’s freezing 31-13 win over the Panthers.

Forbes: Timberwolves' franchise value jumped from $430 million last year to $625 million this year

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated January 21st at 12:59pm 289331231

wolvesForbes Magazine annually compiles sports franchise value data, and the numbers for the NBA came out this week. The league — which announced a massive new TV deal in October, jumping from less than $1 billion per year to more than $2.6 billion per year — figured to see some large gains in franchise values.

But the numbers that came out Wednesday are eye-opening even when accounting for expectations. The average value of franchises jumped a whopping 72 percent from last year to this year, per Forbes.

The Timberwolves’ increase wasn’t quite that dramatic, but it is still quite sharp: a 45 percent increase, from $430 million in 2014 to $625 million in 2015. While that value puts Minnesota 29th among the 30 NBA franchises (only the Bucks are valued lower), it is the continuation of a sharp upward trend for the Wolves.

For most of the mid-to-late-2000s, the Wolves hovered around a $300 million value mark. The recession and NBA work stoppage dropped the Wolves to down to $264 million in 2011 (their lowest value since 2004) and it increased only modestly to $272 million in 2012.

From there, though, it jumped to $364 million in 2013, $430 in 2014 and now $625 million. That’s a 130 percent increase in just three years, which certainly brings a smile to the face of team owner Glen Taylor (who also owns the Star Tribune).

Of course, the valuation doesn’t mean much unless it moves the needle on a potential sale price for the team. Kevin Garnett better start saving his money.

Wednesday (Faith in Pitino being tested) edition: Wha' Happened?

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated January 21st at 10:23am 289307231

pitinoRichard Pitino was hired as Gophers men’s baskeball coach in April of 2013, a couple weeks after Tubby Smith was fired. Smith was jettisoned right after leading Minnesota to its first NCAA tournament victory since 1997 and its first non-vacated NCAA tourney win since 1990. The sentiment — which still seems like the proper one — is that Smith had taken the program as far as he was going to take it. There was a level of stagnation with the players and apathy in the Barn.

Pitino was brought in, and the presumption was it would take some time for him to bring in players to fit his style — that the program might need to take a short-term step back in order to take a larger step forward in the long-term.

Last year’s Gophers team went 8-10 in the Big Ten and was probably one win away from making the NCAA tourney. Instead, Minnesota went to the NIT and won that tournament for a 25-win season that fueled all sorts of optimism going into this year. Instead, the year has descended into a 1-6 Big Ten start — one punctuated by as ugly a game as you might want to watch Tuesday, a 52-49 loss at Nebraska that our own Amelia Rayno aptly described for the Gophers as playing “only a little bit  worse than their opponent.”

Earlier this week, before that loss, Pitino suggested last year’s team had overachieved and re-asserted that he wasn’t the one who set expectations for this year’s team. On the first point: maybe so, though Pitino still had some nice leftover pieces (namely Andre and Austin Hollins) left over from Smith’s NCAA tourney team.

This year’s problems are myriad. The Gophers have had eligibility issues, a transfer kicked off the team, a current player transfer and still another get in trouble with the law. The core of the team, though, has remained intact and reasonably healthy. If last year’s team overachieved, this year’s bunch has underachieved.

All the close losses and ugly stretches have served to test the patience of the Gophers faithful, particularly when it comes to the second-year head coach. The grumbling starts with this: if the Gophers are 1-6 this year, what are they going to be like next year when they lose their two most established guards (Andre Hollins and DeAndre Mathieu) and their two most established big men (Mo Walker and Elliott Eliason) to graduation.

The counter to that is those players have faltered in key situations this year and perhaps the next wave will be better. More likely, though, is that this rebuild won’t start to really take off until Year 4, when Pitino has a roster full of his players, and they have a measure of Big Ten experience.

That’s a long time to be patient — fans and administration alike — and it will offer plenty of time to compare Pitino to his predecessor. Pitino’s Big Ten regular-season record stands at 9-16 (.360) as of now. Conference record was one of the biggest knocks on Tubby, who finished at 46-62 (.426).

It’s fair for Pitino to preach patience because this will take time, but it’s also fair to start looking at his tenure through a more critical eye as we measure whether true progress is being made.

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Team Carter 28
Miami 96 FINAL
Chicago 84
Oklahoma City 98 FINAL
Cleveland 108
Dallas 106 FINAL
New Orleans 109
Indiana 106 FINAL
Orlando 99
LA Clippers 120 FINAL
Phoenix 100
Minnesota 100 FINAL
Atlanta 112
Detroit 110 FINAL
Toronto 114
Milwaukee 95 FINAL
San Antonio 101
Boston 111 FINAL
Golden State 114
Washington 117 FINAL
Denver 115
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LA Lakers 87
Team Toews 17 FINAL
Team Foligno 12
South Florida 53 FINAL
Connecticut 66
Boston College 64 FINAL
Georgia Tech 62
Virginia 50 FINAL
Virginia Tech 47
Indiana 70 FINAL
Ohio State 82
Stony Brook 61 FINAL
Binghamton 54
Cincinnati 56 FINAL
UCF 46
Maine 70 FINAL
Hartford 61
Monmouth 64 FINAL
Manhattan 71
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Marist 73
Rowan 48 FINAL
Princeton 96
St Bonaventure 48 FINAL
Rhode Island 53
Duke 77 FINAL
St Johns 68
Saint Peters 69 FINAL
Siena 55
Drake 40 FINAL
Wichita State 74
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UMass Lowell 50
Seton Hall 57 FINAL
Butler 77
NJIT 72 FINAL
South Alabama 55
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Illinois State 53
Louisville 80 FINAL
Pittsburgh 68
UMBC 55 FINAL
Albany 69
Niagara 64 FINAL
Iona 87
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NC State 78
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Tennessee St 55
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Villanova 71
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Maryland 68
Washington 56 FINAL
Utah 77
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Seton Hall 99 FINAL
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Villanova 81
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Florida 72
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UMBC 42
Vanderbilt 55 FINAL
Alabama 52
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Lehigh 65
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SMU 57
Utah 51 FINAL
Washington 63
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Coll of Charleston 53
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Drexel 61
Hofstra 56 FINAL
William & Mary 57
Hartford 58 FINAL
Albany 82
Binghamton 54 FINAL
Stony Brook 67
Towson 63 FINAL
UNC-Wilmington 71
Wake Forest 80 FINAL
(17) Florida State 110
Georgia Tech 68 FINAL
Virginia 62
(22) Georgia 51 FINAL
(5) Tennessee 59
Drake 79 FINAL
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Iona 80 FINAL
Canisius 62
Fairfield 33 FINAL
Monmouth 59
Northwestern 75 FINAL
Penn State 76
Wisconsin 71 FINAL
Michigan State 77
Ohio State 79 FINAL
Purdue 71
Northern Iowa 57 FINAL
Indiana State 55
Butler 58 FINAL
Xavier 54
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Marquette 75
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DePaul 90
Northeastern 77 FINAL
Elon 80
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Cincinnati 31
Oregon 78 FINAL
Arizona 81
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Loyola-Chicago 45
NC State 49 FINAL
(23) Syracuse 66
(7) Maryland 84 FINAL
Indiana 74
Illinois State 35 FINAL
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Washington St 73
Tulane 45 FINAL
South Florida 64
(14) Kentucky 83 FINAL
Missouri 69
(9) Oregon State 68 FINAL
(13) Arizona State 57
Vermont 63 FINAL
UMass Lowell 72
Iowa State 58 FINAL
(8) Texas 57
Southern Ill 61 FINAL
Wichita State 80
(15) Duke 74 FINAL
(12) North Carolina 67
Miami-Florida 55 FINAL
(4) Louisville 68
(21) Minnesota 61 FINAL
(25) Rutgers 66
California 72 FINAL
UCLA 57
(11) Stanford 71 FINAL
USC 60

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