Sportswriters on Super Bowl, Gopher men’s basketball

Following are opinions from Mille Lacs County Times  sports editor Gary Larson, former Princeton Union-Eagle editor and sports columnist Luther Dorr, former Times intern Logan Marxhausen and sports fan Ben Johnson. Note: This feature is written on Monday each week.

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•Question:  The Seattle Seahawks rolled over the Denver Broncos 43-8 in Super Bowl XLVIII Sunday. What are your thoughts on the game?

-Dorr: Long-time Viking fans are probably happy now that the Broncos have bypassed the Vikings as the franchise with the most losses in Super Bowl history (five). And someone cleared $1,225 on a $25 bet that the first score of the Super Bowl would be a safety. When the first play of a game is a bad snap that ends up being a safety, you could surmise that things would go badly for Denver the rest of the way. I saw only the final minutes of the first half and watched off and on in a second half that was devoid of any doubt about who would win. It’s not a surprise that Seattle won but it certainly was a surprise that the Seahawks won with such ease. I’m not sure that another game would turn out the same but on this day Seattle was easily the best team.

-Marxhausen: The Seahawks out-played the Broncos from snap one. To come out for the first play and have miscommunication between the center and quarterback that costs Denver a safety and the ball is laughable and is considered a rookie mistake. Even the weather conditions for the Super Bowl were ideal for the Broncos. Clear skies and almost 50 degrees made for optimal conditions for the Bronco offense to get rolling, but the Seahawk defense denied any chances for their Denver to get going. Pass rushers Chris Clemons and Cliff Avril were constantly in the Denver back field and causing Peyton Manning to be rushed. Richard Sherman and Byron Maxwell did not allow separation with Bronco outside receivers, so Manning couldn’t make any plays. Safety Kam Chancellor was a huge motivator for the Seahawk defense with big hits and an interception. And then there is MVP Malcolm Smith who had a 69-yard pick six. They played press coverage, they didn’t allow many yards after catch and they forced turnovers. The Seattle Seahawks’ defense deserved the MVP award.

-Larson: Nearly everyone was expecting a close game. So, was Seattle that much better or was Denver totally unprepared? I’ll go with a combination of both. And, there were probably several NFC teams (at least San Francisco and Carolina) better than Denver, the AFC’s best. The Seahawks appeared much more athletic and more than a step faster. Percy Harvin reminded us of the spectacular plays he made while a Viking. Young gun quarterback Russell Wilson easily won the quarterback duel with veteran Peyton Manning. Seattle is certainly the team to beat next season.

-Johnson: I was not expecting this outcome.  From the botched snap early in the game, Denver looked as though it never came to play.  Maybe the nerves and the hype of the biggest game of the year got the best of the Broncos.  Hats off to the defense of the Seahawks for putting pressure on quarterback Peyton Manning throughout the game.  Manning was never comfortable in the pocket and it showed.  Before Sunday’s game, I had a hard time believing that a team can make it to the Super Bowl and win it while relying so largely upon creating turnovers.  Seattle proved that theory wrong by once again dominating the turnover battle 4-0.  I would love to see a quarterback like Russell Wilson in purple and gold in the next year or two.  He is athletic and mobile, has a good arm, is a great leader, and is very humble.  I don’t think this is the last time we will see him and the Seahawks in the Super Bowl.

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•Question: The University of Minnesota men’s basketball team lost to Northwestern 55-54 Saturday at home to slip to a 4-5 Big Ten record and 15-7 overall mark. What are your impressions of first-year coach Richard Pitino’s team so far in Big Ten play and what are the chances the Gophers can get an NCAA tourney bid?

-Dorr: Perhaps too much was made of wins over Wisconsin and Ohio State, both 4-5 in the Big Ten (as are the Gophers), both teams having long losing streaks recently that included losses at home (three in a row for the Badgers). I thought both Gopher players got fouled on their final shots against Northwestern but Mo Walker, at 6-10, has to make that rebound shot to win the game. If Minnesota goes 9-9 (5-4 the rest of the way) in the Big Ten, it will likely get an NCAA bid. I’m not sure the team can do that. The loss of Andre Hollins to a serious ankle injury has been more costly than some thought, but it’s simple – he’s their best player. And Austin Hollins hasn’t played up to the level that he did in December. Malik Smith returned to Earth against the Wildcats with a 1-for-9 performance on threes, days after some thought him ready for sainthood following his performance in the loss at Nebraska.  There is enough talent for the team to make a run but Andre Hollins needs to be there.

-Marxhausen: As it can be said when concerning a new coach, this will happen. The Gophers are a better team then what their record shows. Out of their seven losses only one was a double-digit loss. They have had a tough road this season and the Big Ten has many formidable opponents, but being able to finish is what gets teams into the tournament. If they keep losing at this rate they will have to win the Big Ten Tournament to get into the NCAA tourney. They have the ability to finish the season strong if they can pull together as a team. There are nine games left and they would rather get a higher seed if at all possible, so winning it of upmost importance for the rest of the season.

-Larson:  Give young Pitino credit for a decent season thus far. The Gophers don’t have overwhelming talent and a 4-5 Big Ten record isn’t too bad for this team. A final 9-9 Big Ten mark and a win or two in the conference tournament would get Minnesota into the NCAA meet. But, I don’t see that happening.

-Johnson: The Big Ten is a fierce conference.  The Gophers have fallen into a tough stretch, losing four out of their last six games. With the exception of the Iowa game, however, they have all been very close.  The Gophers need to make their free-throws and put up better shots from the three-point range.  They have struggled in both of these areas in Big Ten games.  Once Andre Hollins returns to the court, the offense should see a boost.  It’s too early to judge Pitino’s team yet.  Maybe after they visit Wisconsin, we might get a better idea of their chances for a tourney bid.  As they stand, I would say their chances aren’t good.

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Do you have an opinion on this week’s question? Do you agree or disagree with the sportswriters? Let us know by sending an e-mail to editor.millelacscotimes@ecm-inc.com or comment online.

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