Five thoughts from an interesting weekend in local sports:
1. Much was made of Jimmy Butler’s tweets after the Timberwolves’ contentious, ejection-filled loss to the Jazz on Friday, but the most interesting one might have been his reply to a fan who tweeted at Butler, “Ricky is more Minnesota than you, Thibs or that mug Teague will ever be.”
Butler’s tweeted reply to that: “But he isn’t a better player or coach than anybody that you just named ...”
You have to imagine the Wolves are getting tired (and then some) of the Ricky Rubio/Jeff Teague comparisons, and that frustration laid the groundwork for Teague’s full bodycheck of Rubio as well as Butler’s tweet.
2. If you’re trying to follow the bouncing rumors in the Vikings QB sweepstakes, a New York-based writer who covers the Jets had an interesting report this weekend.
Ralph Vacchiano, writing for SportsNet New York, had this: “Despite their willingness to throw a truckload of money and a heavily front-loaded contract at Cousins in an attempt to lure the free agent franchise quarterback to New York, the Jets are worried he might already be destined to sign with the Vikings instead.”
There’s no direct sourcing for the report, but a “team source” is cited as saying the Jets are “aware of the leaguewide speculation that Cousins is ticketed for Minnesota.”
Free agent talks can formally begin a week from Monday.
3. Even with two more losses to Penn State this weekend in the Big Ten quarterfinals — that’s four losses to the Nittany Lions in the past two weeks — the Gophers men’s hockey team’s spot in the NCAA field of 16 looks to be secure.
College Hockey News gives them a 97 percent chance of getting in, using simulations of remaining outcomes and how it will impact teams in the PairWise rankings.
The Gophers are fortunate they racked up some quality wins earlier in the season and are perhaps even luckier college hockey uses a strict formula to determine the field. Minnesota certainly isn’t playing like one of the 16 best teams in college hockey right now.
4. The Gophers women’s basketball team, on the other hand, did itself a favor in the conference tournament by knocking off Iowa and taking Ohio State down to the wire in the semifinals. Minnesota is projected as a No. 9 seed by ESPN.com and is a near-lock to make the field of 64.
The ascent of the Gophers women this season is just as impressive, if not more so, than the rise of the Gophers men’s team from bottom-feeder to NCAA tourney-bound a season ago.
5. A sneaky reason for concern when it comes to the inconsistent Wild: special teams. A year ago, the Wild scored 10 more power play goals than it allowed, outscoring foes 47-37. This year, Minnesota entered play Sunday being outscored 44-41 on the power play.
A big factor: The Wild had allowed 226 power plays (third most in the NHL) going into Sunday, while having just 196 (tied for No. 21 in the league) of its own. That’s a tough way to win, particularly once the playoffs roll around.