Should Minnesota Feel Happy for the Lakers?

minneapolislakers

By Shaymus McLaughlin
 

It’s now been over a week since the Los Angeles Lakers won the NBA championship, their 15th overall as a franchise, and I’m still not sure how I feel about it. As a sports fan, it’s certainly a wonderful story. Kobe was finally able to win without the great Shaq-Fu, Phil Jackson jumped ahead of Red Auerbach for the most NBA titles, Lamar Odom was able to overcome his odious candy addiction and provide great play in the Finals, Pau won his first championship, and Derek Fisher achieved a scientific breakthrough- bringing himself back from the dead after flat-lining for 82 straight regular season games.

 Here’s my problem: I’m a Minnesotan at heart, and I can’t get over the fact that the Lakers used to be ours. That should be 15 championships for the Minneapolis Lakers, not the Los Angeles “We don’t actually have any lakes” Lakers.

 Should I be happy that the team with strong ties to my home state won again? Maybe I should, but I simply can’t. It’s like trying to root for your ex-girlfriend, who hit the dating scene with consistent success right after the break-up and is now married to a ridiculously rich and handsome guy, and the couple have nothing but great memories that nobody will stop talking about. Meanwhile, 30 years later you’re still trying to reclaim what was lost with a girl who can’t do anything right (Really, Timberwolves!?! $48 million for Marko Jaric? Really?!) minn-lakers-team-photo

 To be perfectly honest, I think I would be legitimately happy for the Lakers if it weren’t for one big thing:

  We Minnesotans don’t get any credit here, and frankly, we should. Not even a mention from fans, sports channels, columns, articles…nobody. It’s like the Lakers’ humble Midwest roots have been overshadowed by the glitz and glamour of L.A., and now nobody even knows the beginnings of the Lakers’ rich history.

 Nobody mentions that, of the Lakers’ 15 total championships, five of them came while the Lakers were still in Minneapolis. That’s a third of the Lakers’ rings. And not only that, we managed to get those five championships in just six years! The only other professional basketball team that can match the Minneapolis Lakers’ pace is Bill Russell’s Celtics (who won eight in a row starting in 1959, just a few years after Minneapolis won its last NBA title… and yes, I’m still slamming my head into the desk after writing that).

 We were the first repeat champions (1949 and 1950), had one of the first franchise players in George Mikan, won the first ever NBA Championship after the NBL and BAA merger in 1949, and accomplished three titles in a row from 1952 to 1954. This run established the Minneapolis Lakers as the first NBA dynasty. We have six players and one coach in the Hall of Fame, despite existing for only twelve years. Think about it: We pumped out Hall of Famers like Tyler Perry pumps out underwhelming movies. It’s a nearly unprecedented pace. 

 Yet NOBODY EVER MENTIONS any of this. When Lakers history is discussed, people talk about Magic Johnson, Kobe, Jerry West, Kareem, Wilt Chamberlain, Pat Riley… all from their time in L.A. Never do we hear about Jim Pollard or Vern Mikkelsen. lakers

 The Lakers were conceived, born, and raised by Minnesota. The LA Lakers are essentially Minnesota’s child. In real life, when a child grows up and has success as an adult, people always give some credit to the parents. “You must have been raised well,” they say. The Lakers were raised as well as any child or team could hope for. Minnesotans threw their support behind the team for many years, and the Minneapolis Lakers responded by doing the only thing that fans truly ask for: win championships.

 Now, every time I hear the name LA Lakers, I can’t help but cringe a little bit. The fact that they retained the name Lakers, despite the obvious lack of lakes in the area, just feels like rubbing salt on the wound. Remember that ex-girlfriend from earlier? Imagine if the ridiculously rich and handsome guy she married was a movie star, so her name was constantly coming up in the news. That’s how it feels when I hear someone talk about the LA Lakers.

 I wasn’t even around for those early titles, so it’s not that I’m bitter. Ok, maybe I am a little bit. But I can’t help it, and I don’t blame any other Minnesotan if they feel the same way. It’s a parent’s natural instinct to hope their child succeeds like the Los Angeles Lakers have, but it’s also natural to want them around forever. Especially so when they reach the nearly unprecedented heights that the L.A. Lakers have. But just like in your personal life, you should never forget where the foundation for the future success was initially laid.

Minnesota Minutes

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With Andy Weise

Vikings:

In the latest twist, Brett Favre did in fact have surgery on his injured shoulder. What’s next? Seriously, I am not even trying to follow this thing anymore because Brett Favre wearing purple is so far fetched that until he actually signs on the dotted line, it’s too hard to imagine. It’s almost like the Vikings know about this whole thing anyways, they keep talking about how Sage and Tarvaris are doing well in the OTAs- but nothing ever about who is winning the race to the starting QB position. We here in Minneapolis even got a story this past week about John David Booty having a great offseason. In my opinion, Booty should stay as the third QB if Favre signs and whoever loses the backup job, gets the ax.

Kevin and Fat Pat Williams sure seem like they won’t miss any time next year. That’s great news considering the dominance of the run defense the Vikings have had for the last several years.


Twins:

Joe Mauer isn’t on steroids, he’s just damn good. Experts have raved about this guy since the dinosaurs became extinct and for a guy who turned 26 in April and already won two AL batting titles, I would say he’s doing fairly well. The power was something that was always going to come, yet some Twins fans hate on the guy because at times he’s looked like he’d rather get a base hit then try to swing for the fences. I’ll never understand the negative press he gets as “Baby Jesus” (a nickname given to him by a popular talk show host because of how people care for the sometimes injury prone, St. Paul native). Contrary to popular reports, his mother’s name isn’t Mary and he won’t be the first player to draw a walk in the home run derby (if he gets placed in the event). The next question that plagues the inconsistent Twins is: can they sign Mauer or will he follow the likes of Torii Hunter and Johan Santana to the bigger markets? What team wouldn’t want Mauer? I wouldn’t be surprised if they Twins address his contract during this season. There’s another Joe I also hope gets an extension: Joe Crede. My man-crush on him is through the roof and he’s been able to fill a much needed void at third base this year despite missing some games because of numerous injuries and not having a good batting average.


Timberwolves:

David Kahn (it’s ok to picture Khan from Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan), is the new boss and he continues to wine and dine the man he replaced: Kevin McHale. As time continues to go on, it looks more and more likely that McHale will coach next year. Much of the old front office and coaching staff are handling all the pre-draft workouts, which in my opinion is kind of weird if Kahn ends up replacing everyone. It almost seems like a way for him to make excuses his first year or two, he can blame these guys if they screw up even though he’s the guy that is supposedly going to call the shots.

So what do the Wolves do with the draft? Tyreke Evans or DeMar DeRozan seem like two good options at No. 6. The Wolves have to look at upgrading both the point and shooting guard spots. Randy Foye could still end up being a starter but long-term, he might be best as the sixth man. Like the way the Bulls use Ben Gordon or the Mavericks use Jason Terry: instant offense. Foye’s entering his fourth year and the Wolves still don’t know what exactly he brings to the table besides inconsistent play. Kahn needs to explore all options including trading expiring contracts (Mike Miller, Brian Cardinal & Mark Madsen) for proven talent. Guys like Michael Redd, Richard Jefferson, Chris Kaman, Samuel Dalembert and Kirk Hinrich are all rumored to be available. The Wolves should target someone who can come in and help out immediately. I’m not incredibly optimistic at this point, but I’m not expecting anything great either so maybe something works out.

Wild:minnwild

The hiring of Chuck Fletcher was received well locally. Now the hiring of the coach is the next big deal with Minnesota native Todd Richards being rumored for the job. Maybe it’s because he seems to have the right resume for the job or that he was born in Crystal, Minnesota where my future wife and I just bought a house, but it just seems like Richards should be the next guy calling the shots. The hope is that the Wild have done enough to convince Marian Gaborik that he needs to remain in Minnesota. As a casual Wild fan, the hiring of Fletcher and hopefully soon of Richards, can only do good things for the franchise. Let’s put this in terms of other sports, for the Wolves this is probably like hiring Dennis Lindsey (Assistant GM San Antonio Spurs) as the GM and Tom Thibodeau (assistant coach of the Celtics) as the head coach. This whole “Minnesota the state of hockey” thing was fun for awhile, but now the Wild need to get really serious and compete for championships year in, year out like the other powerhouses of the league (Detroit Red Wings being the best example).

Minnesota Twins Extraordinarily Mediocre

David Palmer

As we wrapped up the first month of the Major League season the Twins had to win their last two games to finish April at .500.  With an 11-11 record, they are the definition of average, mediocre, consistently inconsistent or whatever adjective you want to insert for a team that has more ups and downs than Lindsey Lohan.  I think it is safe to say that we have learned a few things from the month:

1. Francisco Liriano is not, and may never be, the same pitcher he was in 2006.  When he came back from his Tommy John Surgery last year, the Twins made it clear that they were going to baby him.  Part of this philosophy included changing his mechanics to put less torque on his throwing arm.  In turn, his once devastating slider has become much less effective.  His K/9 IP rate has gone from an exceptional 10.7 in 2006 to a pedestrian 6.4 this season.  That is only slightly better than Cincy’s Aaron Harang…yeah.  Hitters can now sit on his fastball, since his changeup never was that great to begin with.  He might have fewer arm problems than before, but at what price did the organization pay because they turned a future Cy Young winner into a middle of the rotation guy?

2. I have been saying this for a year and a half, but I guess why stop now.  NICK PUNTO SHOULD NOT BE AN EVERYDAY PLAYER!!  I hope the capital letters and multiple exclamation points express how I feel about this.  He has started in 19 of the 22 games so far, which is about 18 too many.  He is hitting a cool .228 with one extra base hit.  It would be one thing if he was our last option for a shortstop, but Brendan Harris is hitting .350 with double the slugging % as Little Nicky.  Yeah, we lose some defensive range, but I think it’s worth having the extra bat in the lineup. The fact that he thinks diving into first is faster than running through it really sums things up for Punto.  I don’t think Ussein Bolt dove through the finish line in the Olympics.  It’s science. 

3. The outfield platoon system that we have is clearly not working.  We have four outfielders for three spots: Denard Span, Carlos Gomez, Delmon Young and Michael Cuddyer.  Span is the only one who is in the lineup everyday, since he has turned himself into one of the best leadoff hitters in the AL.  After that, the other three are scuffling.  It is no surprise since none of them know whether or not they’ll be in the lineup from day-to-day.   I can’t ever remember a successful team that was platooning their entire outfield.  Michael Cuddyer is doing his best to prove that he had a total fluke season in 2006.  He is flailing wildly at everything thrown to him, and other than a couple nice catches in right field, he really hasn’t contributed anything thus far.  He needs to be traded, for a setup guy.  That way everybody has a defined role, which would lead to more confidence, more at-bats, and more production.

4. Alexi Casilla is already a legendary tobacco chewer.  Good God.  If you’ve watched any Twins games, you’ve noticed the egg of chew he has in his lower lip on a daily basis.  I think chew is disgusting, but I’m not saying I’ve never done it.  If I ever attempted to put that much in my mouth you’d have to peel me off the pool of vomit I made before passing out in it.  How can that guy hit a 90 mph fastball with that in his lip?

5. Our bullpen is shaky at best.  If anything keeps us out of playoff contention it will be the bullpen.  Before the recent call-up of Jose Mijares, we had the setup guy by committee going.  Not good times:  this committee has a combined ERA of 4.91.  That means over half the time they are giving up a run in the inning they pitch in.  For a team that doesn’t score a lot of runs, that is devastating.  Even Joe Nathan blew a save on Tuesday night.  Now that Mijares is back in the bigs, hopefully he can bring some consistency to the eighth inning role.  The problem is that Guerrier, Ayala, Crain and Breslow all feature pretty much the same repertoire of pitches, with not much difference in velocities.   Opposing teams feel pretty comfortable seeing any one of them.

I haven’t lost hope on the season, especially since we are only a game out of the loss column from KC, Detroit and Chicago.  Luckily we play in the AL Central Division. And on the bell curve of Major League talent, all the teams are located centrally.

Twins Preview: Starting Infield

By David Palmer

I’m going to give you the position-by-position breakdown of where the Twins are at this spring regarding their starting infield.  It includes some new faces, some old faces and some killer sideburns thanks to Joe Mauer.  This team should get the most consistent offensive and defensive consistency from this position group.

In case you missed it, I broke down the Twins starting rotation last week right here.

Without further ado, I give you Justin Morneau.  The 2008 Canadian Athlete of the Year.  Not the best baseball player, the best athlete.   That means he beat out 90% of the NHL (including Crosby), Steve Nash, Mike Weir, and, well, that’s about it.  Anytime you can beat out hockey players in Canada at anything is a good thing.  Anyway, Morneau is the team’s first baseman and premier player, and if anything happens to him, we’re basically screwed.  He had 129 RBI last season, but it seemed more like 1,109.  I swear he drove in two-thirds of our runs.  The great thing about Morneau is that he wants to even get better.  He has publicly taken more of a leadership role, and transformed himself into a Gold Glove caliber first baseman.  He is also the only Twin that I can reliably say will hit more than 20 home runs this year.  I feel comforted by the fact that he is our first baseman for the foreseeable future.

After a solid rookie year last season, Alexi Casilla will be holding down second base and likely the second spot in the batting order also.  I’m a little skeptical about what his production at the plate will be this year.  He was red hot after being called up in June, but slowly cooled off as the scouting reports caught up to him.  Now that opposing teams have nearly 400 at-bats to look at from last year, he is looking like a possible candidate for the dreaded sophomore slump.  The upside is that he has tremendous range in the field and is a switch hitter, but still has a tendency to boot easy plays (ala Christian Guzman).  Hopefully, he can make the necessary adjustments and remain an offensive contributor.

The second half of our double play combination is shortstop Nick Punto, or “Nicky” as Gardenhire affectionately calls him, or “Bitch” as I like to call him.  I really have no idea what we are going to get out of him this season.  He might have the widest range of possibilities of any Twin this year.  He could hit .210 and play below average defense with a few Web Gems mixed in, or he could hit .290, score 85 runs, and cause chaos on the bases, while playing a Gold Glove shortstop.  All I really know is that Gardy has a total man-crush on Punto and will give him every chance to succeed.  Rumor has it, in this economy, the Twins put a clause into his new contact that says he has to do his own dry-cleaning from getting so many jerseys dirty the last couple of years.  He likes diving.  I think he’s found a way to get grass stains from Astroturf.   In all seriousness, his best asset is working pitchers.  Really, that’s about all he does well.  He goes to the plate with the mindset of fouling off as many balls as possible.  Not getting a hit, just slowly wearing a pitcher down.  Basically, he’s the anti-Delmon Young.  Hopefully he can justify his new 2-year $8.5 million deal.

I want to thank the White Sox organization and Kenny Williams for not re-signing Joe Crede.  Thanks to them, he is now our third baseman.  His back issues have been much discussed recently, but in my mind, it is a great pick-up even if he never gets one at-bat.  He was a notorious Twin killer.  In 40 AB against us last year he had 16 hits, 5 doubles, 7 home runs and 17 RBI.  Read that statline again.  Yeah, that says seven dingers.  Take that away from the Sox and we’re the ones hoisting a Division Champion banner in the rafters this April.  It will be interesting to see if Crede can live up to expectations at the plate.  With the pressure of staying healthy, playing for a new team, being the “power guy” from the right side and adjusting to the turf, I see a slow start out of the gate for him.  With that said, I still think he gives our team a little extra swagger.  Just knowing we took him from the Sox adds to the growing confidence of this group of guys.

Joe Mauer is the guy on the team that every girl wants to sleep with and every guy wants to be like.  He’s the quiet, unassuming, good-looking, hometown hero.  He was a high school player of the year in both football (as a stud QB) and baseball his senior season.  He’s a pretty decent athlete.  Joe is coming off his second AL batting title in three years.  I don’t think he’ll ever be the twenty plus homerun hitter that scouts thought he could become, but I’m okay with that if he can keep a .420 on base %, and play Gold Glove defense. Back inflammation has bothered him ever since his (since removed) kidney obstruction.  Hopefully he should be ready by the opener, or shortly thereafter, because he is a crucial cog in the machine.

I like where we’re at with this current group of infielders, and all of them should get a lot of at-bats to prove they belong.   And if Mauer isn’t healthy we can at least look forward to more Mike Redmond face time and nothing more.

Twins Pitchers, Catchers and Grounds Crew Reporting

By David Palmer

With pitchers and catcher officially reporting to spring training in the next couple of days, the Twins go to war with basically the same roster they had to finish last year.  The biggest acquisition we made was hiring a groundskeeper for Target Field.

Before Twins General Manager Bill Smith came around, Terry Ryan was widely known as one of the league’s best and smartest.  I have raked on the Twins front office quite a bit this off-season, but for good reason.  Trades and free agents continue to slip through our fingers for no particular reason.  We are like the Troy Williamson of professional franchises.  As Peter Christian has mentioned before, Bill Smith might possibly be the worst negotiator of all time.  I would love to hear the phone conversation between Bill Smith and Scott Boras in negotiations for Joe Crede.  It probably goes something like this:

Smith: Hey Satan, it’s Bill Smith.

Boras: Umm, Who?

Smith: You know, GM for the Minnesota Twins.  Any chance of coming down on the Crede price?

Boras: Minnesota has a baseball team?

Smith: How is his back doing?

Boras: He’ll be fine, and we’re only asking for $7 million for 1 year.

Smith: Whoa, Whoa, Whoa there Scotty, who do you think we are, the Yankees?

Boras: Sorry Bill, that’s the best we can do.  I’ve got to go, there are some orphanages that I have to burn down.

Smith: Okie dokie, before you go, do you have any free agent pitchers over the age of 40 that we could sign?

Boras: No, but I hear Scott Erickson wants to come out of retirement.

Smith: NICE! Do you have his number?

It might be the biggest negotiating mismatch since the US purchased Alaska from Russia for 2 cents an acre in 1867. 

You will be hearing a lot about the Twins bullpen over the next six weeks, and rightfully so- they sucked ass last year.  If Guerrier can’t regain his 2007 form and Mijares doesn’t pan out, we are in serious trouble.  No fear though, Luis Ayala brings his 5.71 ERA from the Mets to our ‘pen.  That should straighten things out.  Hopefully he can bring some of that great Met karma with him too.

On a lighter note, as I mentioned before, we just picked up our second groundskeeper in franchise history; the great Larry DiVito was hired to head the crew at Target Field in 2010.  For those who haven’t followed Larry’s career in depth, he was head groundskeeper for the Nationals the past three seasons.  He cut his teeth as a groundskeeper in Rhode Island for the Triple-A Pawtucket Red Sox.

This is where he first learned his craft under the tutelage of the legendary Dino Caparelli. Things didn’t come easy at first for Larry.  He struggled with the fortune and fame of groundskeeper apprentice.  Fast women, a faster buzz (from mixing Vicodin and laundry detergent), and high-stakes games of cribbage consumed his nights.  But, it all caught up to him on August 2nd 1999.  During a day game between Pawtucket and Scranton, DiVito ran naked onto the field with some sort of spray screaming, “the dung beetles are everywhere, we’ve got to get rid of the dung beetles!”   He was checked into rehab the next day.

This is where he became a born-again Christian and vowed to never touch laundry detergent again.   Ok, I obviously made that whole behind-the-music type of story up, but if Larry can keep the infield grass a little longer, Gomez might have 150 bunt hits in 2010.  Brett Butler, who had 41 bunt hits in 1992, holds the MLB record.  That is well within reach for Gomez.  He led the majors with 30 last year, on turf I might add.  The left side of the infield at Target Field should be a marshland.

This is one of the best times of year because this is when hope springs eternal for all major league squads; everyone thinks they have a chance, even the Brewers.  The weather is thawing a little bit, and baseball can seriously be discussed for the next 8 months.   I couldn’t be happier, World Series here we come.

Minnesota Minutes

By Andy Weise

-Good ole Peter King is stirring the pot once again in Minnesota after his recent interview on PTI suggesting that if Brett Favre were to return another season in the NFL, he’d want to play for the Minnesota Vikings. Cue up the endless amounts of speculation and most likely another set of tampering suspicions that the Vikings organization will endure if Favre actually does end up here in Minnesota. I’ve always said from day one, he can play for Minnesota for a year – that will be fine with me as I just want to see the expression on the face of Packers fans when their hero runs out wearing white, purple and gold.

-The Minnesota Twins are pushing the debut of more commercials this year focusing on the marketing of Target Field, the new home of the Twins that will open a year from now. I’m curious if the money that no longer goes to the payroll of the players is going to this product rollout. After trading Johan Santana and letting Torii Hunter walk a year ago, the Twins have given raises to Joe Nathan, Justin Morneau and Michael Cuddyer. Jason Kubel got a recent bump, but the team is still well below the 2007 payroll. I’m rooting for the Twins to actually step up and make an offer to free agent third basemen Joe Crede, come on Billy Smith.

-When the Gophers ended that terrible streak against Illinois, I had a couple of text messages waiting in my outgoing box for the last; let’s just say it’s been awhile since Minnesota beat those guys. I’m heading to a classic match-up of high school b-ball on Tuesday when Robbinsdale Cooper faces off with Hopkins. It’s a match-up featuring Rodney Williams (4-star Gophers’ recruit from Cooper) against his best friend Royce White (5-star Gophers’ recruit out of Hopkins). Hopkins features a team with at least five future division 1 players and could probably beat a lot of D1 college teams right now. Hopefully White and Williams do not disappoint.

-Kevin McHale got a standing ovation as he entered the floor of the new Boston Garden when the Timberwolves faced the Celtics on Sunday. Now as I saw the replay of the standing ovation I thought: Are they cheering for him because of his playing days in Boston? Surely he was a great player, but then I reminded myself – “Well he did give Boston another title last year.” Not only did he trade Kevin Garnett to Boston but he also traded them Wally Sczerbiak a year and a half prior. Wally ended up landing them Ray Allen. The Wolves have done well as of late, but they still need to add better defensive players at the point guard and center position. With multiple picks coming this offseason, they could land Hasheem Thabeet and one of many point guards available.

-One rumor that won’t go away? Flip Saunders will return to coach the Timberwolves in 2009 when Fred Hoiberg takes over the Vice President of Basketball Operations position. Flip is still sitting at home collecting money from the Detroit Pistons and will definitely be a candidate for multiple openings next year. While McHale has certainly improved the team over his second run as coach, McHale dislikes the travel from his many years as a player and in the end, and that will be enough for McHale to decide he’s had enough. I hope he does go out on a positive note though. He was tremendous during his playing career at the University of Minnesota and he did have some success during the Kevin Garnett era. But most would agree that his stay has been extended too long.

Tubby Time at TSB

By Paul M. Banks and Rikki Greenberg

Orlando “Tubby” Smith is currently the men’s basketball head coach at the University of Minnesota. Smith previously served in the same role at the University of Tulsa, the University of Georgia, and most recently, University of Kentucky. Smith’s coaching has had an immediate impact on the previously inept Gophers squad. The team went from 8–22 in 2006-2007 to 20–14 in 2007-2008.

Smith also led his Golden Gophers to the Big Ten Tournament semi-finals after defeating 2nd seeded Indiana. Coach Smith also harvested a top 25 recruiting class, the best in years for the program. In 2008, Smith had the highest salary of any employee of the State of Minnesota.

The legendary coach’s resume includes a national title, 5 SEC Championships, and three coach of the year awards. My apprentice Rikki and I asked him a few questions after his team got upset by Northwestern.

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Coming off an emotional win at Wisconsin, his team displayed a lack of energy at Northwestern, especially in the second half. Tubby talked about why they possibly had a (please excuse the horrible cliché) “trap” game.

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“You got to be able to match the level of intensity and if you don’t, you’re not going to win. I think the guys tried and we went to a line up, we tried a lot of different defensive adjustments and changing our defensive ability. I know we played hard and with energy. We’re a good team, but we don’t have that guy to take over and dominate the inside.”

In the midst of his presser, a spider dropped in on the podium. Tubby commented on the unsuspecting party crasher
“It’s a good sign right? (laughter ensues) Even he’s got the best of the Gophers! I’m going to crush him.”

You go man!

A reporter there asked him “whether or not the loss to Northwestern was a good thing for the team?” (que? Huh? What? Why?)

“Oh no, I don’t think there is any good time for a loss, but if there’s one time to be had certainly to get one behind a good win. I think it was a real attention getter for our guys…to understand how hard they have to prepare and play and I thought that was important. We played a lot of guys so we should have found that combination, but we couldn’t.”

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Finally, Tubby commented on how NU plays a “unique brand of basketball” with their Princeton set on offense and their 1-3-1 zone on defense. Mr. Banks (not Lacey Banks of the Chicago Sun-Times, but our own Mr. Banks) asked him what the biggest difference between the current Northwestern team is from the NU team Minnesota played last year, and in what areas they improved the most from last year…

“Northwestern doesn’t win a lot of games and they’ve battled through some of the toughest teams in the league. Today they looked they corrected some things I saw on the tape. A lot of it had to with shots…a lot of lay-ups and when you don’t shoot well, your problems get magnified.”

Bill Carmody and Craig Moore: NU’s leaders

By Paul M. Banks

After upsetting the #7 Michigan State Spartans on Wednesday night, the Northwestern Wildcats became the talk of Big Ten College Basketball. Coupled with the 74-65 victory over No. 18 Minnesota on Sunday, Northwestern has defeated ranked opponents in consecutive games for the first time in school history. The MSU win was the Wildcats’ first over a team ranked in the top 10 since it downed No. 8 Michigan in 1994. It’s the program’s first victory over a top 10 opponent on the road since a 71-65 win at No. 4 Minnesota Jan. 3, 1953.

Kevin Coble’s 31 points marked the third-highest scoring game of his career and tie Craig Moore’s effort at Brown on Nov. 22 as the highest output by a Big Ten player this season.

NU’s victory snapped Michigan State’s 28-game home winning streak, the third-longest streak in the nation. The last time the Spartans had lost a game at the Breslin Center was Feb. 3, 2007 to No. 4 Ohio State. It also ended Michigan State’s 85-game home winning streak against unranked opponents.

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NU Head Coach Bill Carmody was named “the best offensive mind” in college basketball by Sports Illustrated. Of course, his won-loss record doesn’t exactly reflect that…but

-He needs 5 wins to reach 200 for his collegiate coaching career his ninth season with the Northwestern Wildcats

-His 2005 senior class graduated with 57 victories (more than any other class in the first 102 years of the program)

-The 2006-07 season set a school record with 11 non-conference wins and recorded double-figures in wins before the start of the Big Ten play for the first time in program history.

Wildcats senior shooting guard Craig Moore holds every major three-point record in school history and his currently the team’s second leading scorer behind Coble. He was Named to the Big Ten All-Freshman team in 2006

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His comments on beating a ranked opponent in Minnesota after a couple of tough losses with blown leads…

“We knew we were capable and just had to finish it. We played the half and played 35 minutes and blew leads, so we knew we had to step it up in the second half, suck it up, hold onto our guts and play and I think that’s what we did tonight.”

Being “in the zone,” hitting a couple threes “from the parking lot” as the Sun-Times Lacy Banks said…

“Well that’s where I practice from.”

On his gunslinger mentality…

“Where ever I’m open, that’s where I’m going to shoot from. I don’t know where I’m going to end up half the time so I’m oblivious to that type of stuff. If I’m open, I’m going to shoot it.”

On the crowd at Welsh-Ryan, how usually half (or more) cheers for the other team during Big Ten season and the Purple Passion from the stands…

“Yeah it was great. I mean, half the time I can’t tell the difference between our fans and the opposing team’s fans so I just take it as they’re cheering for us. Our fans were great tonight and I can’t ask anything else from them. Hopefully, they’ll keep coming.”

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