Saturday, Dec. 7, 2019


 

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Fleck Updates LB Kamal Martin Status

 

Enjoy a Tuesday notes column including news from Minnesota coach P.J. Fleck about senior linebacker Kamal Martin, one of the team’s best players who was held out of last Saturday’s Penn State game because of an undisclosed injury.

Fleck said on KFAN Radio this afternoon that Martin came to him after warm-ups prior to the game and announced he was playing. Martin badly wanted to be on the field but Fleck told him there is a lot of football remaining this fall and it was best that the future pro sit out the game.

“Had a great day at practice today,” Fleck said of Martin. “Looked really good.”

Fanduel.com has Iowa (6-3 and 3-3) as a surprise three point favorite over Minnesota (9-0 and 6-0) for Saturday’s game in Iowa City.

In Minnesota’s six Big Ten Conference games the Gophers have been behind only about 11 minutes (10:35).

With a sellout crowd of 51,883 announced for last Saturday’s dramatic Penn State game, and with over 40,000 expected for the season’s final home game against Wisconsin November 30, the Gophers are certain to average more in attendance per game than last year’s 37,915. That’s the lowest season average in TCF Bank Stadium history (opened in 2009).

This afternoon at the stadium Fleck will present a ceremonial game ball from the Penn State game to Governor Tim Walz who will accept it on behalf of the state of Minnesota.

Fleck is the Dodd Trophy Coach of the Week for Minnesota’s upset 31-26 win over nationally ranked Penn State.

The Nittany Lions came into the game ranked No. 5 in the country, with Minnesota No. 13 in the Associated Press poll. Coach James Franklin is now 1-7 against nationally ranked teams on the road at PSU, per the Big Ten Network.

The Gophers learn tonight on ESPN how far they have moved up from No. 17 in the latest College Football Playoffs rankings. It should be a big jump because Penn State was No. 4 last week.

The Capital Club will hear from new University of Minnesota president Joan Gabel Wednesday, November 20 at Town & Country Club. More information about the club is available from Patrick Klinger, patrickklinger@klingercompany.com.

Familiar Arizona Coyotes names at Xcel Energy Center Thursday night will include former Wild goalie Darcy Kuemper, ex-Gopher forward Phil Kessel, and assistant coach Phil Housley, a native of South Saint Paul.

The Wild is 14-4-3 in its last 21 games against the Coyotes, including a win in Arizona last Saturday. Minnesota is 5-1-2 in the last eight games with Arizona played at Xcel Energy Center.

Because the Timberwolves revamped their offensive and defensive schemes for this season, they are drawing more early season attention from NBA scouts than in the past under coach Tom Thibodeau. An NBA insider praised new coach Ryan Saunders.

“Ryan has done a phenomenal job of getting guys in the right frame of mind,” the source said. “Things were so negative in the past.”

Scouts caution the teams they work for to be alert against the fast tempo Wolves, with defenders needing to get back down the floor in a hurry, guard the three-point line, and defend any open shooter standing behind the arc. “Their offense is predicated on the three-point shot, and (also) the shot close to the basket,” the source said.

Rookie Jarrett Culver, 20, has potential to be one of the team’s best three-point shooters. “He is talented. I am kind of excited to see his development,” said the insider who has watched the Wolves early season games.

The Timberwolves’ record so far is 6-4 including wins over struggling teams. The opinion here is Minnesota doesn’t have enough talent to win beyond 35 or 40 games during the 82-game schedule.

It was 30 years ago last week the expansion Timberwolves played their first ever regular season game in the Metrodome, losing to Michael Jordan and the Bulls before an announced crowd of 35,427. The Wolves went on to set a single season NBA attendance record of 1,072,572.

A prominent but now retired former Minnesota high school football coach predicts these schools will emerge as 2019 state champions: 6A Wayzata; 5A Chaska; 4A Hutchinson; 3A Pierz; 2A Caledonia; 1A BOLD; 9-Man, Hancock.

As usual, the most attractive U men’s basketball nonconference opponents won’t be coming to Williams Arena. The Gophers played Oklahoma last Saturday night in Sioux Falls, with games this week at Butler (tonight) and Utah (Friday). In late December coach Richard Pitino’s team is at Oklahoma State, while the best of the nonconference opponents, DePaul and Clemson, come to Minneapolis November 29 and December 2.

Tickets for DePaul and Clemson are priced at $15 to $50, while Iowa, Michigan State and Wisconsin prices are $45 to $90, per Gophersports.com.

Zach Edey, the over 7-foot Canadian prep center the Gophers were pursuing, has verbally committed to Purdue. The early period for Division I basketball signings is November 13-20.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported a few days ago that Prior Lake power forward Dawson Garcia, who the Gophers want, recently visited Marquette for a second time.

Nate Reuvers, the 6-11 Wisconsin junior forward from Lakeville North, averaged 18 points, 10 points and 6.5 blocks in a pair of games for the Badgers last week and yesterday was announced as the Big Ten Player of the Week.

The Twins will hear from starting pitcher Jake Odorizzi this week whether he is accepting their one-year qualifying offer of $17.8 million.

With four-fifths of the starting rotation to be determined between now and next season, there will be plenty of offseason Twins news. There are other questions, too, including who will be the starting outfielders on opening day. Will Byron Buxton’s September wrist surgery allow him to be in the lineup? Will Eddie Rosario be traded for starting pitching?

Max Kepler (photo courtesy of Minnesota Twins).

Likely roster locks for opening day include starter Jose Berrios, reliever Taylor Rogers, DH Nelson Cruz, catcher Mitch Garver, second baseman Luis Arraez, shortstop Jorge Polanco, third baseman Miguel Sano and outfielder Max Kepler who will be in his native Germany this month promoting baseball.

The 22-year-old Arraez led the club with a 334 batting average in 2019, his rookie season, and he drew comparisons to former Twins second baseman Rod Carew. Hall of Famer Carew hit .292 his rookie season of 1967 when he was 21 years old. Similarities between the two left-handed hitters include peek-a-boo batting stances and hitting the ball to all fields.

Rosters expand from 25 to 26 through August 31 of next year with a cap of 28 through the last month of the season.

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David Shama

David Shama is a former sports editor and columnist with local publications. His writing and reporting experiences include covering the Minnesota Vikings, Minnesota Twins, Minnesota Timberwolves and Minnesota Gophers. Shama’s career experiences also include sports marketing. He is the former Marketing Director of the Minnesota North Stars of the NHL. He is also the former Marketing Director of the United States Tennis Association’s Northern Section. A native of Minneapolis, Shama has been part of the community his entire life. He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota where he majored in journalism. He also has a Master’s degree in education from the University of St. Thomas. He was a member of the Governor’s NBA’s Task Force to help create interest in bringing pro basketball to town in the 1980s.

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