1. How will the Minnesota Golden Gophers fair in the Big 10 tournament?
Nate Leer: I would bet they lose their first game by making mistakes and/or struggling offensively down the stretch. The reality is they are a young team that needs seasoning. Playing a game or 2 in the Big Ten tournament could help them prepare for the NCAA tournament. However, I do not think they are ready to compete with the best teams in the Big Ten on the biggest stage the league offers, its conference tournament. This team brings almost everyone back next year so they are really ahead of schedule considering how bad they were last year. Let’s just enjoy the season they have had and look at any postseason wins as gravy.
Kras: I think the Gophers have the potential to win a game but I don’t think they will do much more than that. They had a nice win streak until Wisconson put them in check this past weekend. I believe to have success in the tourney the Gophers will need Nate Mason and Reggie Lynch to have solid games. To go along with that, they need either Akeem Springs or Dupree McBrayer to have an effective game shooting the ball. This team’s lack of experience in tournament games will ultimately hurt them but it will be good for their development moving forward into the NCAA tournament and into next season.
2. Should the Minnesota Twins be concerned with their spring training woes or is it still too early to worry?
Nate Leer: They should be concerned because it is the culmination and result of a dud offseason. They didn’t commit fully to a youth movement by trading the likes of 2B Brian Dozier or SP Ervin Santana. Even more disappointing to fans, they didn’t significantly improve the team either. Seeing their rotation options getting shelled can’t be looked at as a good thing. This team is short on talent and a bad start to spring training is a bad omen for how the season may go as well.
Kras: When talking about a team that is coming off of a 100+ loss season I think it is concerning, Considering there was minimal movement from a player personnel standpoint it is hard to think they will be leaps and bounds better than last season. I hate to slap the panic button yet, but what do we really expect this team to do this season? Unless the young guys step up to the plate, pun intended, I don’t see a lot of good things coming from this team again this year. The odds that they are relevant beyond June are not good and I hope I’m wrong.
3. What big name free agent do you think would be the best fit for the Minnesota Vikings?
Kras: I personally think the Vikings should go after free agent RB Jamaal Charles. I believe he adds some abilities that the Vikings have not had at the RB position in years. His pass catching ability, coupled with his ability to make plays in the open field, might be enough to cover up some of the holes in the O-line. All things considered, Charles is not the long term solution at the position and it will still need to be addressed for the future. At least Charles can fill the void for now. Charles should come at a reasonable price, likely around the $5 million a year mark. A 2nd option for the Vikings would be any O-line help they can find.
Nate Leer: A talented receiving RB like Charles would be sweet but the Vikes need to focus their free agent evaluations and money on OL, particularly LT. If Matt Kalil leaves or the team feels he is not the answer going forward, they will need to find the best possible replacement for him. There are a decent number of former starting LTs on the market so the team needs to decide who has the most left and fits their system. Then they need to pay the player whatever is necessary to bring him in. If they can solidify the LT spot, the rest of the O-line looks a lot better. Everyone knows about the Vikes struggles last year across the O-line but it really started with Kalil going down. After the Jake Long experiment also ended in injury, the Vikes had to switch TJ Clemmings over. That did not work well, weakened the RT spot and necessitated moving their depth RG to RT. Both of those positions suffered with the shifting around and led to poor O-line play across the board.
1. Will the San Antonio Spurs be able to pass the Golden State Warriors as the #1 team in the West?
Kras: The Spurs are hovering right around 2 games back of the Warriors with 20 or so games left to play. I could very well see the Spurs overtaking the #1 spot. I don’t see the Spurs changing up their game plan to try and achieve the #1 seed in the West but I think they will play more consistent basketball down the stretch. That will be the difference. After the injury to Kevin Durant, the Warriors have had to adjust and learn to play without him in the lineup and it seems to have set them back a bit. The absence of KD also makes the Warriors that much more of a small team. This Warriors team, however, still has plenty of talent with Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green who were all part of a 73 win season. They all know how to win at a high level when it counts.
Nate Leer: Probably not. I don’t think the Spurs care even a little bit about seeding and the Warriors still have plenty of talent without Kevin Durant for the time being. Expect San Antonio to continue to rest players down the stretch as opposed to making a strong push for the #1 seed.
2. What 2 teams that missed the MLB playoffs last season do you feel have the best chance to reach the postseason this year?
Nate Leer: I think the Seattle Mariners and St. Louis Cardinals are the 2 teams most likely to jump back into the playoffs. Seattle has put together a solid team across the board. Over the last couple years they have added nice pieces to their lineup and pitching staff. They are more than just a collection of talent, though, as the pieces actually fit together well. As long as their young, talented bullpen can handle a full season, the rest of the team falls into place pretty well. The Cards stick out for me in the NL because they seem to always be in contention and I would not bet on them missing the playoffs 2 years in a row.
3. Who were you most impressed by at the NFL Combine?
Kras: For me it was simply the guy I wanted to see win the Heisman Trophy, Jabrill Peppers. His athletic ability is second to none. Beyond how he performed at the combine, how he fits in and where he fits into the NFL will be important. He could be a linebacker, safety, or cornerback and will likely see a bit of work at each position as a rookie. Unless he excels at one position, expect him to be involved in a few different defensive packages. Peppers ran a sub 4.5 40-yard dash and showed his athletic ability in the vertical jump and the broad jump.
Nate Leer: RB Christian McCaffrey impressed me more than anyone else. He ran a 4.5 40 which checks the speed box in his evaluation. He is smallish for a lead back but everyone knew that. The flip side is that he shined in quickness tests and receiving drills. He looks like a better version of a Danny Woodhead or Darren Sproles. That makes him a great fit for a team that will use him in pass patterns 25 – 50% of his snaps. He will clearly be a threat receiving out of the backfield but will also look good running routes out of the slot if a team is creative enough to use him there. That elite versatility makes him a great fit for modern NFL offenses. Oh, and former Gopher great QB Mitch Leidner looked good too. For real.