Wolves and Bucks raring to go after last week's break, what we're expecting from two top teams

Timberwolves Bucks Basketball
Minnesota Timberwolves' Mike Conley fouls Milwaukee Bucks' Malik Beasley during the first half of an NBA basketball game on Feb. 8.
Morry Gash | AP

The Minnesota Timberwolves and Milwaukee Bucks are coming off a break for last week's All-Star Game. They're among the NBA's top teams this season and they're playing at the Target Center Friday night.

MPR News contributors Eric Nelson and Wally Langfellow joined MPR News host Cathy Wurzer to debrief the All-Star Game, plus we checked in on the Wolves as well as college basketball, Twins baseball, and the start of soccer season.

Nelson is co-host of the 10,000 Takes sports talk show and a Vikings reporter for CBS sports. Langfellow is the other host of 10,000 Takes and the founder of Minnesota Score Magazine.

Use the audio player above to listen to the full conversation. 

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Audio transcript

CATHY WURZER: OK, so I mentioned the girls state high school hockey tournament a few minutes ago. You had the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Milwaukee Bucks coming off a break for last week's All-Star game. There's a lot going on in sports. College basketball too, Twins baseball, start of the soccer season. Who better to talk about all this than our two sports guys, Wally Langfellow and Eric Nelson. Wally is the founder of Minnesota Score magazine and the co-host of Ten Thousand Takes sports talk show. Eric is the other host of said show and the Vikings reporter for CBS Sports. Guys, how are you?

WALLY LANGFELLOW: Well, I woke up in the 1980s today.

[LAUGHTER]

CATHY WURZER: A little cell phone trouble there?

WALLY LANGFELLOW: No cell phone, no internet. I mean, my Comcast was down. My AT&T was down. Comcast is still down.

ERIC NELSON: He's using a Rand McNally map to get around the Twin--

CATHY WURZER: By candlelight early in the morning.

ERIC NELSON: He's highlighting--

WALLY LANGFELLOW: I have a compass.

ERIC NELSON: --roads that he should know.

CATHY WURZER: I have a compass.

WALLY LANGFELLOW: I have a compass.

CATHY WURZER: Good. All right. Sorry about that. But I'm glad you're here. I'm glad both of you guys are here. Let us see. I think we should start with the Timberwolves because that seems to be one of the bigger stories. Eric, what's happening?

ERIC NELSON: Yeah, well, the All-Star weekend has come and gone. And the T-wolves resume action tomorrow night against Milwaukee. So we have a border battle. And finally, on the NBA level, this border battle has some juice because the Timberwolves are 39 and 16. They've won four in a row. They are the top seed in the West. The Bucks are 35 and 21. They are the three seed in the East. And dare I say it, this is way down the road, but who knows-- Milwaukee, Minnesota, NBA Finals, I-94 Series. That would be a lot of fun. A lot has to happen.

But I do know this, the Bucks have struggled so far under their new head coach, Doc Rivers. The tipoff for this game, if you're going, 9:00 PM. It's on ESPN national cable TV. And there's a lot of star power in this matchup. Milwaukee has Giannis Antetokounmpo, also known as the Greek Freak. He averages almost 31 points per game. They also have Damian Lillard at point guard.

And of course, Minnesota will counter with Ant, KAT, and Rudy G, who was second in the NBA in rebounding. Those are the marquee players for Minnesota. And I think Rudy G, even though he did not go to All-Star weekend a few days ago in Indianapolis, he should have been an All-Star. He's playing outstanding basketball.

CATHY WURZER: Those are All-Star nicknames, by the way. Since we're on the topic of basketball, Wally Langfellow, I was talking to former Governor Arne Carlson earlier this morning about something else. And he mentioned the men's Gopher basketball team, which he adores, of course. Always hoping that they will win. How are they doing, by the way?

WALLY LANGFELLOW: Well, they play tonight. By the way, the Timberwolves game is tomorrow night, just to clarify.

CATHY WURZER: Yes, thank you.

WALLY LANGFELLOW: The Gophers are tonight, 7 o'clock. They play Ohio State. Gophers got a big win over Rutgers on Sunday. Rutgers had won four in a row. They had been moving up the ladder. But that's a good win for Minnesota. Will they make the NCAA tournament? They're going to have to keep winning, basically, is what it comes down to. Probably going to need to get to 20 or 21 wins, which is still within the realm of possibility. Let's not forget, the Big 10 tournament is here at Target Center next month. So there's a chance that they could do some damage there.

Tonight, they play Ohio State, 7 o'clock, at Williams Arena. Now, Ohio State is not having a very good year. However, OK, so they're 5 and 10 in the conference and 15 and 11 overall, Ohio State. A very so-so bottom of the Big 10 team. However, Ohio State knocked off second-ranked Purdue this past Sunday. So while the Gophers were beating Rutgers, Ohio State beat the second-ranked team in the country. So obviously, the Gophers can't look past this. It's a big game for them.

They've had some great play from Pharrel Payne. The Twin Cities kid had 21 points, 11 rebounds the other night against Rutgers. Elijah Hawkins, Cam Christie, and Dawson Garcia, the Prior Lake kid, is playing very well. And he's just a junior. So they're right there, Cathy. But they're going to have to keep winning. It has definitely, though, been an upswing this year for the Gopher men's basketball program. It's been fun to go back into the Barn and see people get excited about this team again.

CATHY WURZER: Good. Say, Eric, never too soon to talk about soccer, of course, many fans. Minnesota United opening this weekend, is that right?

ERIC NELSON: Yes. Get ready for action on the pitch. Minnesota United at Austin FC, that'll be Saturday night. Major League Soccer opener for both clubs. So MinU will kick off another soccer season. And they're trying to rebound from a very disappointing finish in 2023, as the Loons missed the playoffs. If you're wondering about the home opener for Minnesota United, that is March 2, a week from Saturday. They host the defending MLS Cup champion Columbus Crew at 1:00 PM. And I looked at the long-range forecast, it could be 50 degrees for that match at Allianz Field. So that would be spectacular, weather-wise.

Now, the Loons are reportedly, Cathy, close to hiring 32-year-old Eric Ramsay as their new manager. Currently, he's an assistant coach with Manchester United, which is a pedigree program in the European Soccer League. And Ramsay has received high praise across the pond in the UK for his coaching ability and innovative ideas that he brings to the job. So this is not a done deal yet. But I know MinU and ManU, as they call them over there in England, trying to work this thing out logistically.

CATHY WURZER: It sounds like a good hire if they can do it. Say, let's talk about the Twins here, Wally Langfellow. I've not been paying a whole lot of attention when it comes to spring training. Sorry about that. What's your opinion? How do the Twins look at this point?

WALLY LANGFELLOW: Well, they'll look really good if Byron Buxton actually plays. I mean, that's what it's going to come down to.

CATHY WURZER: He says he's feeling good.

WALLY LANGFELLOW: He says he's feeling good, which is important. And we just got done talking to Bobby Nightengale. He's going to be on our show later today. And he is the Star Tribune beat writer for the Twins. And he told us that he hasn't seen Buxton not only physically but mentally this good in the year or so that he has followed him. So we'll see. Hopefully, Byron Buxton will be 100% and be able to give the Twins what they had hoped for with him for the last, whatever it is, eight to 10 years. And that'll be a key piece to their success.

Obviously, they're still going to have to pitch the baseball. And we'll see how that pitching staff shakes out this year. But they're still the favorites to win the AL Central. They won it last year. And they have some talent. It's just a matter of, can they do it on a day-to-day basis for an entire season? They open up, by the way, so their first official Grapefruit League game, exhibition game, is against Pittsburgh at Fort Myers. That's their training camp in Fort Myers. That is on Saturday. But the Twins will play tomorrow. They play against John Anderson's Golden Gophers tomorrow afternoon.

CATHY WURZER: Yeah.

WALLY LANGFELLOW: So that'll be fun for Anderson. This is his last go-round, as I'm sure you are aware.

CATHY WURZER: Yes.

WALLY LANGFELLOW: And he has been at the U of M for 43 years now. And so--

CATHY WURZER: Really? Gosh.

WALLY LANGFELLOW: --he gets one last chance to go up against the Twins. But that's tomorrow. And then the official start of Grapefruit League begins on Saturday.

CATHY WURZER: Any hope of the team picking up any other of these free agents that are out there? Some pretty talented people.

WALLY LANGFELLOW: Oh, I don't know. Joe Pohlad, who is operating the Pohlad Twins, said yesterday or earlier this week that they're not going to spend money on a big name free agent. So you're not going to get Blake Snell, who was two-time Cy Young winner. You're not going to get former MVP Cody Bellinger. I think that they might be picking around the edges and pick up some guys that might fill some voids. But I don't think that they're going to go after any big-name stars. They're not going to spend $30 million, is what Joe Pohlad said, on one player. So I think you can rest assured that that's not going to happen.

CATHY WURZER: All right. Gentlemen, I always appreciate talking to you. Thanks so much. It's fun.

WALLY LANGFELLOW: Thanks, Cathy.

ERIC NELSON: Thank you.

CATHY WURZER: Talk to you later Wally Langfellow is the founder of Minnesota Score sports magazine. Eric Nelson is the Vikings reporter for CBS Sports. Together, they host the sports talk show Ten Thousand Takes on TV and radio.

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