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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TFD: Vikings a top-5 NFL team in terms of 25-and-under talent, ESPN says

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated January 27th at 6:48am 289849521

fridgewaterLooking for some offseason Vikings hope after another losing season? Well, ESPN.com just ranked the 32 NFL teams in order of which have the most talented players who are 25-and-under. The Vikings, who have had seven first-round picks the past three years, fared quite well — No. 4 behind only the Colts, Patriots and Rams. The Packers were No. 9, the Lions were No. 20 and the Bears were second-to-last at No. 31. Per the ranking of the Vikings, five players were singled out — including QB Teddy Bridgewater and LB Anthony Barr, who are both 22.

Teddy Bridgewater, QB: The Vikings’ new franchise quarterback also happens to be the youngest player on the team. Bridgewater struggled early as a rookie, but the game looked like it slowed down for him as the season went on, and he already has a great understanding of how to distribute the ball. His lack of overwhelming arm strength and his slight frame worry me with regard to his long-term projection.

Anthony Barr, OLB: A running back-turned-edge rusher at UCLA, Barr now is expanding his role even further at the NFL level by playing off the line of scrimmage and dropping into coverage — in addition to getting after opposing quarterbacks. He closes on the football really well. Just wait until he really gets comfortable at the position.

The Cavaliers are winning again, but Kevin Love still isn't his old self

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated January 26th at 3:02pm 289832521

lovePredictably, right as the latest flurry of “What’s wrong with the Cavaliers” stories started hitting a couple weeks ago (this was either the second or third round of them, depending on how you were counting), Cleveland started getting its act together. LeBron James returned from injury, he started getting more help, and Cleveland ripped off a six-game winning streak that is ongoing after Sunday’s win against OKC.

The Cavs are now 25-20 — not anywhere near what people thought they would be, but still they’re trending upward. That said, Kevin Love … well, he’s still working to find his game. He actually had his best game during the winning streak against OKC, getting 19 points and 13 rebounds while hitting 5 of 7 three-pointers despite having a dizzy spell early in the game. That kind of output used to be routine for Love; in the previous five games of the winning streak, though, Love:

*Missed one game with back spasms.

*Shot a combined 17 for 47 (36.2 percent) and was just 3 for 17 from three-point range while scoring an average of 15.3 ppg.

*Had a game against Charlotte in which he played 30 minutes but grabbed just three rebounds.

Long story short: Love is still trying to find his way in Cleveland, and the time for him to do it is shrinking with every game.

Monday (Deflategate hurt Tom Brady's feelings) edition: Wha' Happened?

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated January 26th at 10:26am 289796031

deflatriotsWeek 1 of “Deflategate” had the Patriots playing defense. Now that we’re less than a week away from the Super Bowl, it’s clear their strategy has shifted. They’re ready to play offense with this story of underinflated footballs.

Quarterback Tom Brady set the tone on his radio program Monday morning with a classic move: turning himself into the victim. He’s going to be the bigger person and move past this evil NFL investigation because that’s what bigger people do.

“I personalized a lot of things and thought this was all about me and my feelings got hurt,” Brady said on WEEI.

Like another famous football player who was in a far more serious situation, Brady vows to get to the bottom of this. But now is not the time, he said. It’s time to focus on the Super Bowl.

I’ll have my opportunity to try to figure out what happened and figure out a theory like everyone else is trying to do,” Brady said. “But this isn’t the time for that, and honestly I’m not interested in trying to find out right now because we have the biggest game of our season ahead.”

We can’t say we blame Brady for this strategy of shifting the narrative and claiming to be the victim. You see this all the time from high-profile folks accused of wrongdoings, regardless of whether they turn out to be guilty, innocent or somewhere in between.

If you can go beyond merely planting the seed of doubt that you did something wrong and actually have people believe that the real wrong is being perpetrated on you … why wouldn’t you at least give it a shot?

The NFL, in particular, is in a vulnerable position with fans after the way this season played out. “Typical NFL hogwash” is how one ESPN commenter describes all of this. Build up your credibility by being the victim and tearing down your accuser. Whether the Patriots are ultimately guilty or not, someone is advising Brady and co. very well.

TFD: Deep look at Johnny Manziel's rookie year reflects a lot of problems

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated January 23rd at 5:14pm 289632761

manzielEight months ago, we wrote about how we wished the Vikings had drafted Johnny Manziel instead of Teddy Bridgewater. Years from now, we might insist this was just some sort of reverse psychology in order to spare us embarrassment.

For now, though, we will continue to come clean and provide more evidence of Manziel’s troubled rookie year (which stands in contrast to Bridgewater’s uneven but certainly promising rookie year).

ESPN went deep on the Browns and their QB. Here is a taste:

The former Heisman Trophy winner had been passed over 21 times, prompting a text from Manziel to then-Browns quarterbacks coach Dowell Loggains that he wanted to “wreck this league” in Cleveland. The words were actually more R-rated, but the implication was clear.

Twitter erupted at the selection. A Cleveland radio host cheered and screamed openly on air. Manziel gave his “money” sign as he walked onstage to greet Roger Goodell.

By season’s end, cheering had turned to frustration and anger as Manziel struggled mightily in almost six quarters as a starter, then was fined for being AWOL the final Saturday of the season. Offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan resigned with two years left on his contract. Loggains was fired. The Browns openly discussed Manziel’s viability as the franchise’s quarterback at a wide-ranging postseason staff meeting about the roster. And at least a couple of Manziel’s teammates were joking his text should have read “wreck this team.”

The takeaway from the peel-back-the-curtain look at Manziel’s rookie year is that there is, of course, still time for Manziel to get things right — but his actions have to start matching his words.

Wild at the break: Parise, Suter and the impact of grieving

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated January 23rd at 2:49pm 289608481

pariseA couple of weeks ago, John Munson reached out to me on Twitter with this sentiment:

Yo why doesn’t someone analyze the impact of grief in The Wild’s undoing. There is a story there beyond memorializing JP methinks.

I go a ways back with John — 15 years now — to a time when one of us was a young writer covering general assignment sports for the Star Tribune and the other of us was the bass player for a little band called Semisonic. We were both part of a strange and wonderful pickup basketball game that ran every Tuesday and Thursday, comprised primarily of local journalists and local musicians. (Don’t let that description fool you; the quality of the ball was strong, and the games were always the right mix of intense and fun). The two of us chatted sports often during the breaks and down times of those games, and John’s sports opinions have maintained value through the years. He’s a sports fan who tends to think of things from a different — more human? — perspective than a lot of us.

I’ve thought about his tweet pretty much every day since he sent it, trying to get a better handle on it. Munson was referring to both Ryan Suter and Zach Parise, two of the Wild’s best players, who have both lost their hockey-playing fathers in the past six months. Bob Suter — whom Ryan described not just his dad but his best friend – died a month before the season started of a heart attack at age 57. J.P. Parise died earlier this month after a battle with lung cancer at age 73.

Media members and fans have spent ample time dissecting the Wild’s coaching, the Wild’s goaltending, the Wild’s physical health — whether it’s on-ice injuries or the bizarre but impactful battle with the mumps. But true grieving? The loss of fathers? That’s much heavier, harder to quantify stuff. It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t think about it or ask about it even though the questions are hard.

So when I caught up with Parise on Thursday at a promotional event, I told him about Munson’s tweet and listened to him speak earnestly, again, about how tough things have been.

“It’s been really hard. I can’t speak for Ryan, obviously. I can only see what he went through,” Parise said. “But for me personally, it’s been really hard the last couple of months just seeing everything, and the way everything happened. It’s been awful. A lot of times at the rink, my mind wasn’t there.”

This is where we can all be reminded that athletes are humans. They are not a set of statistics to write in ink or a set of expectations to be mandated. Fans want answers and hate excuses, but life events are not excuses in the way that breaking a stick or having a puck take a funny hop are excuses. Life is a thing we are all living.

We are all fragile. We have all dealt with difficult things in our personal lives, and most of us have been asked to continue working or going about our day-to-day lives while also processing those difficult things. Most of us probably would agree that’s very tough. It’s not the kind of thing you’d be able to label and say it impacted you X percent at your job, but you know it did.

This is not even to say that the performance of Parise or Suter has declined this year. Parise leads the team with 19 goals; Suter, despite a recent hit to his plus-minus rating, is the team’s lone All-Star. Sometimes personal tragedy can be channeled into great performances, as sports history has shown us many times.

“That’s kind of the cool thing about hockey,” Ryan Suter said in September, when he talked about his father’s death for the first time. “You get to get out on the ice and you don’t really have to think about anything. You can just go out and be in your own little world.”

But sometimes life creeps back in, and we should all remember that. Getting back to Munson’s original tweet, the impact of grief on the Wild’s season … the only conclusive thing I would ever say about it is that it caused pain. Parise’s loss is the freshest, and he’s still working through it.

“It was hard to separate myself from what was going on. Mentally, I just wasn’t there and it was hard to play,” Parise said. “But it’s getting better, and hopefully it will continue to.”

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Milwaukee 115 FINAL
Orlando 100
New York 82 FINAL
Indiana 103
Denver 69 FINAL
Memphis 99
Chicago 111 2nd OT 0:32
LA Lakers 118
Montreal 1 FINAL
NY Rangers 0
Winnipeg 2 FINAL
Philadelphia 5
Boston 5 FINAL
NY Islanders 2
Arizona 3 FINAL
Toronto 1
Dallas 6 FINAL
Ottawa 3
Detroit 1 FINAL
Tampa Bay 5
Columbus 2 FINAL
Florida 3
Nashville 4 FINAL(SO)
St. Louis 5
Minnesota 1 FINAL
Calgary 0
Buffalo 2 FINAL
Edmonton 3
Anaheim 3 FINAL
San Jose 6
DePaul 72 FINAL
Providence 83
Michigan State 71 FINAL
Rutgers 51
Boston Univ 67 FINAL
Army 71
Fla Atlantic 61 FINAL
Charlotte 86
Youngstown St 87 FINAL
Detroit 93
East Tenn St 55 FINAL
Furman 59
Saint Louis 60 FINAL
George Mason 68
USC Upstate 78 FINAL
Jacksonville 65
High Point 72 FINAL
Liberty 53
Central Conn St 55 FINAL
Long Island 67
Western Ky 56 FINAL
Louisiana Tech 69
Dayton 64 FINAL
Massachusetts 66
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Mercer 75
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UNC Greensboro 42
Maryland 56 FINAL
Ohio State 80
FIU 56 FINAL
Old Dominion 71
Fair-Dickinson 65 FINAL
Robert Morris 87
Mount St Marys 67 FINAL
St Francis-NY 73
Bryant 68 FINAL
St Francis-PA 75
Northern Ky 75 FINAL
Stetson 85
Coll of Charleston 70 FINAL
Towson 74
Western Carolina 85 FINAL
Va Military 70
Sacred Heart 64 FINAL
Wagner 75
Lipscomb 62 FINAL
Fla Gulf Coast 78
Kennesaw St 67 FINAL
North Florida 86
Appalachian St 46 FINAL
Ga Southern 83
Holy Cross 54 FINAL
Loyola-Maryland 64
Eastern Ill 51 FINAL
UT Martin 81
Jacksonville St 82 FINAL
Belmont 103
Connecticut 58 FINAL
Cincinnati 70
Rider 58 FINAL
Saint Peters 49
SIU Edwardsville 75 FINAL
SE Missouri St 61
Marshall 69 FINAL
Southern Miss 54
Tenn Tech 56 FINAL
Tennessee St 64
Middle Tennessee 58 FINAL
TX-San Antonio 69
Ill-Chicago 65 FINAL
Milwaukee 71
Weber State 67 FINAL
North Dakota 60
Denver 54 FINAL
North Dakota St 61
IUPU-Ft Wayne 66 FINAL
South Dakota 55
Louisiana 85 FINAL
South Alabama 89
Ark-Little Rock 75 FINAL
Arkansas State 65
Georgia State 88 FINAL
Texas-Arlington 74
ULM 58 FINAL
Troy 55
Portland 46 FINAL
Gonzaga 64
Kentucky 69 FINAL
Missouri 53
Eastern Ky 78 FINAL
Murray State 85
UAB 69 FINAL
Texas-El Paso 71
Idaho State 76 FINAL
Northern Colorado 79
UMKC 57 FINAL
Grand Canyon 78
Chicago State 62 FINAL
Utah Valley U 78
Colorado 98 FINAL
USC 94
Cal Poly 57 FINAL
UC Irvine 67
Hawaii 84 FINAL
CS-Northridge 73
Pepperdine 50 FINAL
Pacific 43
Santa Clara 64 FINAL
San Diego 69
Utah 59 FINAL
UCLA 69
UC Santa Barbara 64 FINAL
UC Davis 70
Montana 73 FINAL
Portland State 54
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Sacramento St 75
Long Beach State 91 FINAL
Cal State Fullerton 85
Loyola Marymount 54 FINAL
St Marys-CA 68
San Francisco 74 FINAL
BYU 78
California 76 FINAL
Washington St 67
Louisiana 47 FINAL
South Alabama 57
Saint Josephs 51 FINAL
Saint Louis 52
Appalachian St 77 FINAL
Georgia Southern 74
Niagara 58 FINAL
Saint Peters 65
Old Dominion 80 FINAL
FIU 67
Southern Miss 65 FINAL
Marshall 67
Georgia State 45 FINAL
TX-Arlington 57
Ark-Little Rock 69 FINAL
Arkansas State 70
ULM 51 FINAL
Troy 90
Pittsburgh 45 FINAL
(17) Duke 62
(6) Tennessee 73 FINAL
(10) Kentucky 72
(24) Oklahoma 81 FINAL
(14) Texas 84
Nebraska Omaha 59 FINAL
IUPU-Ft Wayne 70
UC-Riverside 68 FINAL
CS-Northridge 56
Army 65 FINAL
Boston U 40
New Orleans 40 FINAL
Nicholls 56
Charlotte 68 FINAL
Florida Atlantic 71
Towson 54 FINAL
Delaware 72
Hofstra 66 FINAL
Northeastern 45
New Hampshire 56 FINAL
Maine 87
Albany 89 FINAL
Vermont 48
Hartford 60 FINAL
Stony Brook 58
UNC-Wilmington 62 FINAL
William & Mary 67
Clemson 62 FINAL
Wake Forest 64
Alabama 54 FINAL
(1) South Carolina 85
(23) Syracuse 58 FINAL
(8) Louisville 78
Missouri 68 FINAL
Florida 52
Iona 66 FINAL
Fairfield 77
Manhattan 38 FINAL
Marist 77
NC State 63 FINAL
Virginia 71
(4) Notre Dame 74 FINAL
Virginia Tech 50
(22) Rutgers 58 FINAL
Purdue 49
(5) Maryland 91 FINAL
Michigan 65
Milwaukee 58 FINAL
Cleveland State 67
Wright State 108 FINAL
Oakland 89
Jacksonville 64 FINAL
USC Upstate 66
North Florida 40 FINAL
Kennesaw St 46
Stetson 62 FINAL
Northern Ky 68
Loyola-Maryland 57 FINAL
Holy Cross 51
Lamar 87 FINAL
Sam Houston St 68
Fla Gulf Coast 71 FINAL
Lipscomb 49
Vanderbilt 44 FINAL
(18) Miss State 69
IUPUI 62 FINAL
Western Ill 73
Abilene Christian 53 FINAL
Houston Baptist 50
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TX A&M-CC 63
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SE Louisiana 57
Oral Roberts 46 FINAL
South Dakota St 71
Louisiana Tech 66 FINAL
Western Ky 82
TX-San Antonio 53 FINAL
Middle Tennessee 73
Texas-El Paso 52 FINAL
UAB 67
Auburn 47 FINAL
Arkansas 52
Grand Canyon 65 FINAL
UMKC 59
Illinois 57 FINAL
(15) Nebraska 59
(20) Iowa 102 FINAL
Northwestern 99
Utah Valley U 55 FINAL
Chicago State 60
Green Bay 67 FINAL
Valparaiso 52
Ole Miss 41 FINAL
LSU 70
Portland State 31 FINAL
Montana 72
Sacramento St 64 FINAL
Montana State 91
North Dakota 55 FINAL
Weber State 48
Ohio State 85 FINAL
Wisconsin 73
Northern Colorado 61 FINAL
Idaho State 70
BYU 68 FINAL
San Francisco 63
St Marys-CA 56 FINAL
Loyola Marymount 49
Pacific 63 FINAL
Pepperdine 59
Cal-Irvine 61 FINAL
UC Santa Barbara 58
San Diego 64 FINAL
Santa Clara 61
UC Davis 64 FINAL
Cal Poly 72
Long Beach St 34 2nd Half 14:05
Hawaii 48

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