Well, another basketball season has come and gone--the 100th year, we were told, of Minnesota high school tournament ball, but the 112th year for the selection of a Minnesota Player of the Year by Minnesota Hoops. And, of course, it ain't entirely over. We don't know yet what the magnitude of the Timberwolves' improvement will be, though with Ricky Rubio and several others out with injuries it does not look like our Wolves will finish strongly.
Last year, for the first time, we were able to make it a poll of Minnesota Hoops visitors in selecting Kevin Love as the 2011 PoY. I'll be asking for your help in choosing the 2012 PoY as well. But to begin at the beginning.
Story of the Year
1. Doh! Forgot about the Minnesota Lynx WNBA championship! I mean, it's been awhile. I guess one could ask, was that this same season? Was that part of 2011-2012, or was it last year? Was it part of 2010-2011? Well, I say it was part of the new season because Mya Moore played for Connecticut in 2010-2011, and she played for the Lynx in 2011-2012. Okay, so having solved that problem, then, are they the story of 2011-2012? Again, doh! I had the new and improved T-Wolves #1 and this was a vastly better story. So, yes, the Lynx are the story of the year.
2. The Minnesota Timberwolves added some new blood--most notably Ricky Rubio and coach Rick Adelman--and came out in 2013 like a new club, removed from the ineptitude of years gone by. Rubio made himself a strong Rookie of the Year candidate though, now, due to his knee injury, he will be an also-ran in that vote. Adelman should (but won't) get consideration for coach of the year. Kevin Love should (but won't) get consideration for MVP. But while most were healthy the Wolves flirted with the .500 mark and with a playoff spot, neither of which I had expected. Yes, we expected the Wolves to be better, but not this much better. And Rubio? I was a skeptic, and so his performance was the real difference-maker relative to my expectations. But in the end the Wolves have now slumped (3-7 in their last 10) to 25-29, 3.5 games out of the playoffs.
But Love is among the league leaders in scoring (26.5 ppg) and boards (13.7 rpg). Rubio is among the league leaders in assists (8.2 apg) and steals (2.2 spg). And there is optimism for the future, something that has not existed for the past 7 or 8 years. It would seem that good health is all that is really needed to make the next step. Anything less than a playoff spot (at least #6, I mean who wants to go on the road vs. #1 or 2?, so in other words, a winnable match-up in the 1st round) will be a disappointment.
3. Osseo 87 Hopkins 86 (3OT) in boys Class AAAA semi-final. There is no precedent for a three-time defending state champion to lose in triple OT in the state tournament, so by at least that standard this was one of the great games of all-time. Osseo went on to validate the win by taking the state title the next night in another thriller, 49-47 over Lakeville North on an Ian Theisen jumper at the final buzzer. Lots of Osseo and Hopkins talent returns next year so a repeat could be in order, but on the other hand Tyus Jones and Apple Valley could be ready to step in and take the spotlight in boys basketball.
4. St. Thomas women make it to the D3 Final Four. Coach Ruth Sinn and company waltzed through the MIAC undefeated and then swept through the NCAA with almost equal ease before losing to Illinois Wesleyan 67-53. The Tommies then routed #1-rated Amherst 87-60 for 3rd place. Taylor Young was named to the 4th D3Hoops all-America team, the only non-junior or senior named among 20 women. The Tommies bring back an embarrassment of riches next year and a trip to the Final Four surely will be among the team's goals and its fans' expectations.
5. Carlie Wagner arrives. The New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva sophomore arrived with a bang. It was the 1st round of the girls Class AA tournament, and it was the game in which Rebekah Dahlman would break Tayler Hill's career scoring record. Well, Dahlman did, scoring 25 to get to 3,895 (versus Hill's career total of 3,888). But Wagner overshadowed Dahlman's great moment, scoring 43 and NRHEG routed the Bombers 75-45. Two nights later she scored a tournament record 48 in the third place game won by NRHEG over Pequot Lakes 71-61, giving her a tournament record of 113 points in three games, also breaking one of Tayler Hill's records.
6. Minnesota Gopher men and women finish strong. It wasn't the NCAA, to be sure. In the case of the Gopher men, it was the NIT. The Gophers won four games--all on the road or a neutral site--before getting hosed by Stanford 75-51 in the final. For the women it wasn't even the WNIT, it was something called the WBI, but hey, call it anything but late for lunch. The Gophers won 4 home games against mid-major teams like Charleston Southern, Bradley, Manhattan and Northern Iowa. Well, a win is a win.
And so both go into next year with significantly higher expectations. The women have Big 10 freshman of the year and 1st string freshmen all-American Rachel Banham back. The men bring back everybody who contributed to that NIT runner-up finish, plus Trevor Mbakwe, who blew out his knee in December, but was granted an extra year of eligibility and so will be back next year. The only real question is how in the world Tubby will distribute minutes across a ridiculously deep roster. For the women the only question is who can replace Kiara Buford as Banham's sidekick and #2 scorer. Gopher fans hope the answer is Kayla Hirt.
Team of the Year
1. Minnesota Lynx 27-7 regular season, 7-1 post-season, 34-8, WNBA champions.
2. St. Thomas women (31-2) and third place in the D3 Final Four
3. Hopkins girls (31-1) and repeat state Class AAAA champions
4. Minnesota Timberwolves (25-29 as of 4-1-12) for their vast improvement in W and L, and the excitement surrounding them this year
5. Minnesota Gopher men (23-15). It was an up-and-down year. Down means 6-12 in the Big 10. Up means an upset win in the Big 10 tournament and 4 straight wins in the NIT to finish 5-2.
Coach of the Year
1. Rick Adelman, Minnesota Timberwolves. More responsible for Wolves resurgence than anybody.
2. Cheryl Reeve, Minnesota Lynx. Got everybody on the same page. Not an easy task, as the previous season demonstrated.
3. Ruth Sinn, St. Thomas women. Took Tommies to the D3 Final Four.
4. Brian Cosgriff, Hopkins girls. Won a second straight and fourth overall girls state title.
5. Billy McKee, Augsburg women. From doormat to .500.
Game of the Year
1. Osseo boys 87 Hopkins 86 (OT). Class AAAA boys semi-final.
EDIT: 2. Minnesota Lynx 85 San Antonio Silver Stars 67, Game 3, Conference Semi-finals
3. Gopher women 76 Ohio State 65 at Williams Arena. Well played game on both sides. OSU did not beat themseleves, but the Gophere did.
4. Augsburg women 61 St. Ben's 53. Mike Durbin's 1st loss to Augsburg in 26 years as Bennies' coach.
5. Minnesota Gopher men 77 Indiana 74. At Indiana. Early season game showed how good the Gophers could be, but never were.
6 (tie). Benilde boys 76 Hopkins 71
Wayzata girls 66 Hopkins 57
8. Eastview boys 64 Madison (WI) Memorial 37