The 10 best things to happen to Minnesota sports in 2016

2016 won't go down as one of the greatest years in Minnesota sports history – but there were still plenty of memorable moments.
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2016 won't go down as one of the best years in Minnesota sports history. In fact, it might be one of the most disappointing.

But there were still some great moments, from the grand opening of U.S. Bank Stadium to Brian Dozier's historic season to the Lynx reaching the WNBA Finals yet again.

Here are the 10 best Minnesota sports moments of 2016.

10. A dynasty in the making

Time will tell, but the Gophers volleyball team has given college volleyball fans a reason to be hopeful. Minnesota qualified for their second straight Final Four under the direction of Hugh McCutcheon. The Gophers fell to eventual national champion Stanford 3-1 in the semifinals.

Minnesota's special season included some big honors for a number of the team's biggest stars – including outside hitter Sarah Wilhite.

9. KG's last great dunk with the Wolves

Kevin Garnett's time with the Timberwolves maybe didn't end the way everyone had hoped. But there's one thing no one can disagree with – he can still drop the hammer with no regard for human life.

His final great dunk in a Wolves uniform was no exception, and Blake Griffin can hang the poster from his wall.

8. The emergence of Adam Thielen

Before 2016, very few people knew about Adam Thielen. The Detroit Lakes native was signed by the Vikings as an undrafted free-agent in 2o13, where he eventually was placed on the practice squad. He battled for a roster spot in 2014 and played sparingly in three seasons, totaling 20 catches for 281 yards and a touchdown.

But all of that changed in 2016. Thielen has caught 68 passes for 960 yards and 5 touchdowns – all career bests.

The Minnesota State product had the most productive day of his career last Sunday in Green Bay when he caught 12 passes for 202 yards and two touchdowns against the Packers.

7. A Wild winning streak

The Minnesota Wild have been a lot of fun to watch under first-year coach Bruce Boudreau. After a slow start in their new system the Wild have been red-hot of late.

Riding a franchise record 11-game winning streak, the Wild have not lost since Dec. 2.

And the last three victories have come in tough places play – Montreal, New York and Nashville.

6. David Plummer brings home Olympic medals

Former Gophers swimmer David Plummer had a big 2016. At age 30, he brought home a pair of medals from the Rio Olympics.

Plummer won the bronze in the 100 meter backstroke with a time of 52.40 seconds. He also earned gold for his heat swim on the 4 x 100 meter medley relay. When he's not winning Olympic medals he's a high school swim coach.

5. Rachel Banham's record night

Not every player gets another chance at greatness, but Rachel Banham did. The NCAA gave her a medical redshirt after she tore her ACL in 2015.

Banham responded in a big way with a second half of the season that won't soon be forgotten. Banham was a first-team All American and a finalist for the Naismith Award in 2016. Her season was highlighted by an NCAA record-tying 60-point performance against Northwestern.

4. Gopher women's hockey back-to-back champions

All Brad Frost and the Gopher women's hockey program does is win NCAA Championships and 2016 was no exception.

The Gophers beat previously undefeated Boston College 3-1 in last year's national title game, giving the Gophers back-to-back national championships. It was Minnesota's fourth trip to the championship game in the last five seasons.

3. Lynx reach another WNBA Finals

The Minnesota Lynx may have failed to repeat as the WNBA champion, but they reached the Finals for the fifth time in six seasons.

Minnesota finished the regular season with the WNBA's best record at 28-6, including a 15-2 mark at Target Center.

Minnesota has been the most dominant team in the WNBA since 2011. During that stretch the Lynx have won three WNBA titles (2011, 2013, 2015). If the pattern holds true, 2017 should bring another WNBA title to Minnesota.

2. Grand opening of U.S. Bank Stadium

 Image credit: Minnesota Vikings, vikings.com

Image credit: Minnesota Vikings, vikings.com

As bad as the Vikings have been the last two months, it's almost hard to remember that 2016 began with a lot of promise. It featured a 5-0 start, highlighted by a 17-14 victory over the Green Bay Packers on Monday Night Football during the grand opening of U.S. Bank Stadium.

The Vikings looked almost unbeatable in their new $1.1 billion home at the start of the season. After beating the Packers, the Vikings dismantled the Giants and Texans before their Week 5 bye. They've gone 2-8 since.

The stadium is set to host Super LII on Feb. 4, 2018.

1. Brian Dozier's historic season

 Image Credit: AP Photo/Carlos Osorio

Image Credit: AP Photo/Carlos Osorio

No Minnesota athlete or team was better than Brian Dozier was in 2016.

He became the first American League second baseman to hit 40 home runs in a single season, finishing the year with 42 long balls, a career-best 99 RBIs and 104 runs scored. He also hit a career-high .268.

Dozier's play made the Twins watchable in 2016.

While Dozier's season was one for the ages, his tenure in a Twins uniform may not last forever. Both Los Angeles and St. Louis are reportedly interested in acquiring the 29-year-old.

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