There are a number of interesting sporting events going on this weekend that will provide some solid indicators to the future for a number of Upper Midwest sporting teams:
Tonight the Bucks and Timberwolves will play at the Target Center and after some initial success to start the NBA season, both teams have been struggling of late looking for consistent line-ups and rotations among the players they have healthy. Obviously for Minnesota Ricky Rubio and his health and recovery from knee surgery will play a big factor in the rest of their season. While the Bucks really have no injury excuses at all. They have to put together the puzzle from all the pieces they have. Right now both teams are .500 playoff squads which is where they were on paper to start the season. It will be interesting to see if the winning team from tonight’s cotest can springboard from this game to something better.
How one perceives the University of Wisconsin’s football season will come down to how well they play in the Big Ten Championship game. A win will be an historic one for UW and head coach Bret Bielema and that history (Only Woody Hayes and Bo Schembechler have take teams to three straight three-straight Rose Bowls) should trump all negatives which have happen this season. If not, then a .500 season at 7-7 is a real possibility. Not that quarterback and offensive line problems wouldn’t have some effect on a team’s fortunes but the fact UW has lost so many close games and had so many players make the All Big Ten teams suggests there was plenty of talent on hand to overcome such handicaps.
Both the Packers and Vikings have back-loaded scheduled of NFC North games, so the winner of Sunday’s game in Green Bay is going to have a huge lift mentally in playing out the rest of the schedule over the other. This leaves the Vikings in a very precarious state because they are just 6-5 and will probably be without Percy Harvin in the contest. The Packers have enough playmakers (although they’re banged up too) to eke out a victory.
Pat Reusse believe this will be the season the University of Wisconsin’s men’s basketball team has it’s NCAA tournament streak snapped and after watching the UW-Virginia game on Wednesday, he might be right. Josh Gasser’s season-ending injury robbed UW of the only experienced player returning this season in their backcourt. The frontcourt of Ryan Evans Jared Berggren and MIke Brusewitz could make-up for this if they were playing well. Unfortunately they are not and thus every good team UW has faced so far this season with the possible exception of Arkansas (an NIT pick at best) they have lost to decisively. Heck, they had to rally in the second half just to beat the Razorbacks. And there are plenty of good teams in the Big Ten this season. Freshman Sam Dekker has shown he can be real asset on offense but his defense and rebounding are keeping from getting consistent minutes if not a starting role. A win over California, however, Sunday, would certainly help their tournament resume and spark a run just before Big Ten play starts.
It would be more than a little unfair to ask Nic Kerdelis to be the next Wayne Getzky but in a sense that is what UW’s men’s hockey team is asking him to be in order to turn around a struggling team. The problem is Kerdelis’ first WCHA series is at first place Denver this weekend. Rather than asking for wins, perhaps if he can put some life in the Badgers’ offense actually make them competitive maybe all one can ask for. As for Minnesota, they have a big weekend series against Nebraska-Omaha, the best team they’ve faced all season so far. We’ll see how solid they are against stepped up competition.
Also this weekend we’ll see if anybody this season can defeat the University of Minnesota women’s hockey team as they face on their best opponents so far, Wisconsin, at Ridder Area in Minneapolis at 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.