A new year has started. It’s 2017, and we all have clean slate.
We all make New Year’s resolutions, but how often do we stick to them? We’re going to get to the gym more. We’re going to eat healthier, we’re going to drink less alcohol and more water. The new year gives us a fresh start and a chance to look at how we can better ourselves.READ MORE: Supply And Drought Issues Impacting Christmas Tree Prices
That’s no different for sports teams. The only exception is that those “resolutions” become goals, and the new year usually starts when you’re eliminated from the postseason.
With that said, here are four 2017 goals for Minnesota sports teams. Three of those teams are currently in the gut of their seasons.
Gopher Basketball: Earn An NCAA Tournament Bid
It’s a new season and a new team for Richard Pitino and the University of Minnesota men’s basketball program. The Gophers finished the non-conference schedule 12-1 and had Michigan State on the ropes before losing their Big Ten opener in overtime, 75-74. But they responded Sunday with arguably the biggest victory in the Pitino era, 91-82 in overtime at No. 15-ranked Purdue. The Boilermakers are one of the early favorites to win the league, so it’s a huge momentum boost for Minnesota after such a tough opening loss.
It can also serve as a springboard. After all, the win means little if you can’t follow it up at Northwestern Thursday and then on your home court against Ohio State. The Gophers have come close before against several top opponents, but a road win over Purdue should take the goal of getting to the Big Dance to a higher level. How fun would it be to not only have your name called on Selection Sunday in March, but not have to sweat it out? A win like that proves the Gophers can and should have NCAA Tournament goals this season. With that comes your reminder that they won just eight games last year.
Minnesota Vikings: Part Ways With Adrian Peterson, Make QB DecisionREAD MORE: USA Love List
The Minnesota Vikings have two big decisions to make this offseason with two of their most important positions. The first is with running back Adrian Peterson. He missed most of the season after suffering a torn meniscus in Week 2 against the Packers. He also missed a year due to suspension involving a child abuse case. Peterson is due $18 million next season, but there’s no way the Vikings will pay him that after missing most of the season due to injury. So do you try to renegotiate the contract, or let him walk? It might be the right time for Peterson and the Vikings to part ways. He said earlier this week he would consider a pay cut to stay with the Vikings, but that we’ll believe it when we see it.
The Vikings will also have to make a decision with Sam Bradford and Teddy Bridgewater at quarterback. We won’t know until late in the summer how Bridgewater has recovered from a devastating knee injury just before the start of the season. Bradford had a successful season with the Vikings under extremely tough circumstances. Despite starting with a limited knowledge of the offense and playing behind a battered offensive line with virtually no run game to speak of, he still set a single-season NFL record for completion percentage at 71.6. So will the Vikings give Bradford a multi-year extension and trade Bridgewater or hold off as long as they can to see how Bridgewater looks? It’s an awfully difficult situation, one where Bradford and his agent seemingly have some control.
Minnesota Wild: Make Western Conference Playoff Run
“Get back to the Western Conference finals and get back to me.” That’s the motto of the skeptical Wild fans and it has been for some time. The Wild, despite firing Mike Yeo last year, still made the playoffs before bowing out to the Dallas Stars in the first round. The Wild hasn’t made a playoff run since 2003, when they got to the Western Conference Finals. The good news is the Wild are second in the conference. The bad news is it’s January, when fans are all waiting for the long losing streak that inevitably comes. Finishing the back half of the season strong and earning at least one home playoff series can go a long way in getting the Wild deep into the Stanley Cup playoffs. Bruce Boudreau can also exercise some demons in the process as he’s known for his playoff struggles. Assuming they make the playoffs, the goal should be to get to the conference finals. They can set that up by finishing strong to earn home playoff series.
Minnesota Timberwolves: Move on from Ricky Rubio
David Kahn proved one thing with the Timberwolves: He’s a terrible evaluator of basketball talent. He passed on Steph Curry, twice, and Ricky Rubio is still the team’s point guard. Yes, Rubio can pass and defend, but opponents give him space and dare him to shoot. They dare him because they know he’s a terrible shooter, has zero confidence in his own shot and he won’t take it.
Rubio has been the subject of trade rumors for months, and it might be time to cut the cord on his time with the Timberwolves. If you want a team that can win in the playoffs and get a fan base excited, it is essential to have a point guard who can at least threaten to score. You need a point guard who can take over a game, score and be a clutch player. Rubio will never be that player. The Timberwolves’ 2017 goal should be to find a trade partner for him and let Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn handle the offense. If the current trend continues, the Timberwolves will be drafting another guard in the next draft as it is.MORE NEWS: TSA: Record Numbers Of Travelers For Thanksgiving
It will be interesting to see what moves are made and the decisions teams make as a sign of where their organization is headed. The Gophers and Wild can do enough to keep fans engaged, and it will be a fun couple months if they can exceed expectations.