Writer’s Block: The madness continues past March

What started as a wild and crazy March in several areas of sports, local high school to world-wide events, carried on through the first week of April and in all likelihood will only continue deep into the summer.

Jason Olson

Jason Olson

I was lucky enough to see the Minnesota Twins ninth-inning rally April 3 in what was a great reward to Twins fans after a ho-hum eight innings in which they collected only three hits off the Detroit starting pitcher Anibal Sanchez and company.

As I write this late Thursday night, the Twins are off to a 2-1 start thanks to an 8-2 win in the rubber game of the opening series.

As long as the relief pitchers can keep the score close, I think the Twins can be competitive in a winnable American League Central.

Detroit, of course, should be the favorite to win the division, but the rest of the teams in the division have a strong chance of finishing second.

My prediction for the Twins is a 75-win season and a third-place finish in the division behind the Tigers and Cleveland.

The firing and hiring surrounding the Gophers men’s basketball team has been interesting to follow just because of how many people turned down the job after Tubby Smith was fired after a six-year run at the Golden Gophers coach.

The timing wasn’t the best, given the strong junior class in Minnesota that has been courted by the big-time programs in college hoops.

I think the hiring of Richard Pitino is a good move from the standpoint of his high-profile pedigree (Rick Pitino’s son) and glowing recommendations from coaches like Billy Donovan and others.

I think it was a smart move for the U’s administration to go in a totally opposite direction from Tubby to Pitino since Pitino is about 30 years younger and has a better chance to relate to the 16-and 17-year-olds in the recruiting process.

When Tubby came to Minnesota, expectations were high that he would be able to land the big-name kids and he did for the most part, but in-game coaching adjustments left something to be desired like against Wisconsin, Iowa and in the NCAA tournament against Florida.

Three more sports items I wanted to touch on:

– Two standout hockey players from our area, St. Francis’ Joey Benik and Blaine’s Jonny Brodzinski have a real shot at helping St. Cloud State University raise its first NCAA national championship in the Frozen Four.

The pair have earned numerous honors already, as freshman, and to have Benik score twice in each of the NCAA regionals says a lot for the kid who broke his leg 30 minutes into the first practice of the season. St. Cloud opened against Quinnepiac April 11. At least for this weekend, it’s “Go Huskies” for me! Make Minnesota proud.

– The Minnesota Wild made the trade deadline deal to nab Buffalo’s captain Jason Pominville while giving up some significant parts to the team’s future in defenseman Johan Larson and Matt Hackett. The move was necessary to help stabilize the scoring situation. The top line has captains Mikko Koivu and Zach Parise.

Pominville debuted in Los Angeles and the Wild entered the game tied with Vancouver at the top of the Northwest Division with 44 points. If the Wild can continue to grab points like it has as of late, I don’t see why Minnesota can’t grab a top-three seed heading into the playoffs.

– Another Blaine grad, Nick Bjugstad, made the leap from the Gophers to sign a pro contract with the Florida Panthers.

The Gophers ended the season much earlier than others thought with a loss to Yale in the NCAA Regional opener.

Bjugstad sat down with the Panthers TV play-by-play man, Steve Goldstein, for a conversation about playing for the Gophers and being ready for the NHL. Check out the video on the Panthers site.

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