Axios Twin Cities

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Happy Friday, everyone!

Cover your sensitive plants in the garden tonight, the NWS advises. Near-freezing temps are in the forecast.

  • Breezy today with a high of 43 and a slight chance of rain (or snow?) in the afternoon.

🎧 Soundtrack: "Howlin' for You" by The Black Keys.

Today's newsletter is 898 words, a 3-minute read.

1 big thing: Wolves playoff push begins with stiff test

Anthony Edwards and the Wolves will go head-to-head with Kevin Durant and the Phoenix Suns. Photo: Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The Timberwolves picked the wrong year to put together the second-best team in the franchise's 35-year history.

State of play: In their quest for a first-ever trip to the NBA Finals, the Wolves will need to navigate a Western Conference field stacked with seven teams that won 49 or more games — something that hasn't happened since 2015.

Why it matters: A long-suffering Wolves fan base finally has a real contender to cheer for this season, but their prospects of a deep run took a hit when they drew the Phoenix Suns in the first round.

Threat level: Despite being the lower-seeded team, the Suns are slight favorites to win the series. Phoenix dominated the Wolves in the regular season, winning all three games by an average margin of 16 points.

Staring at the Suns: Phoenix has a scary trio of superstars in Devin Booker, two-time NBA champion Kevin Durant, and Bradley Beal. The Suns got healthy and hit their stride in the back half of the season.

A basketball player drives against a defender with the ball in his hands and both arms raised to shoot
Wolves star Karl-Anthony Towns missed much of March after having knee surgery. Photo: David Berding/Getty Images

The X-Factor: Karl-Anthony Towns. He came back from a meniscus injury to play in the last two games of the season and looked rusty. He has a tough assignment of chasing around smaller, quicker Suns players.

  • If he can regain his midseason form that earned him an All-Star selection, the Wolves can advance to the second round.

What we're watching: If the Wolves beat Phoenix, they will have to play either the reigning champion Denver Nuggets or LeBron James and the L.A. Lakers.

First game: 2:30pm Saturday on ESPN.

Time to get excited

2. 👟 Our pedestrian-friendly arena district

Downtown Minneapolis is going to be hopping on Saturday, with afternoon Wolves and Twins games, plus a Lion King matinee at the Orpheum Theater.

Luckily, the area is one of the best for walkability and transit.

By the numbers: Target Field's walkability score tied for the second-best among all MLB ballparks, according to Walk Score.

Data: Walk Score; Table: Axios Visuals

How it works: A Walk Score above 69 is considered "good" — meaning, it's easy to walk or use public transportation. A "walker's paradise" is a score of 90 or above.

Our thought bubble: Of course, Target Field scored well. It's within a 20-minute walk of most of Minneapolis' buzziest restaurants and bars.

  • The ballpark also sits atop a transit hub and is close to the Cedar Lake bike trail.

3. The Spoon: Check your fridge for bad basil

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

🤢 Trader Joe's has recalled Infinite Herbs organic basil linked to a salmonella outbreak that has made four Minnesotans sick. (FOX9)

🧾 Minnesota lawmakers are considering stricter guidelines for cities hoping to ask permission to raise local sales taxes. (Star Tribune)

🚬 A bill to ban flavored tobacco in Minnesota doesn't have the votes to pass this year, House Speaker Melissa Hortman told reporters yesterday. (KTTC)

🪧 U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar's daughter was among the students arrested in New York after they refused police orders to leave a pro-Palestinian encampment on the Columbia University campus. (Associated Press)

  • Earlier this week, the Minneapolis Democrat questioned Columbia's president over her handling of the protests.

4. 🎓 College counselors anxious over FAFSA snafus

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

New data show applications for federal college financial aid are down sharply in Minnesota — and thousands of students who did apply are still waiting to hear how much aid they can expect.

The big picture: Minnesota's not alone. A rocky rollout of a new version of the federal financial aid application known as the FAFSA has led to processing delays nationwide.

Why it matters: "Without urgent intervention, we risk a catastrophic decline in college enrollment," eight college access organizations warned Gov. Tim Walz in a letter this week.

By the numbers: Data released yesterday show more than 26,000 Minnesota students have submitted their FAFSA so far — an 18% drop from the same point last year.

Context: In January, technical glitches marred the government's rollout of a new FAFSA form — which, ironically, was meant to be far simpler and quicker to complete.

  • Later, the discovery of a math error in the formula forced federal officials to recalculate students' aid awards, leading to more delays.
  • Many schools, including the University of Minnesota, have already pushed back enrollment deadlines.

What they're saying: Zoey Haines with the college access organization Achieve Twin Cities worries the delays could trip up low-income students or students of color — who often "need a solid financial aid package" to make it to college.

The intrigue: Minnesota now guarantees free tuition for students with family incomes of $80,000 or less per year.

  • Yes, but: Students must complete the FAFSA process to qualify.

The good news: Haines says a student filling out the form now is less likely to run into glitches than this winter.

Full story

Sponsored event listings

Stay booked and busy

📅 Upcoming events around the city.

Nippon Noir, One Night in Tokyo: A Vegan Japanese Wine Dinner at J. Selby's on April 30: Immerse yourself in the flavors of Japan with a curated six-course wine dinner with pairings by Le culte du vin aka Kale & Aubry Walch of The Herbivorous Butcher. Indulge in a fusion of Japanese cuisine and exquisite wines for a night you won't forget. $125.

Hosting an event? Email [email protected].

5. 🪟 Hot Home, cool windows

Photo: Spacecrafting

This modern west metro mansion just steps from downtown Wayzata is now on the market. Listed for $5,250,000, it's located at 152 Birch Lane West.

Why we love it: The contemporary, luxurious home features 31-foot ceilings in the great room, a chef's kitchen with a 16-foot island, and a spacious owner's suite on the second floor with an attached outdoor lounge.

Plus: It's just a few blocks away from downtown Wayzata's shopping and restaurant district on the shores of Lake Minnetonka.

Layout: The 8,240-square-foot home has five bedrooms and five bathrooms with a four-car attached heated garage.

Interior features: Gas fireplaces, library, balcony, finished basement with gaming area, workout room, and guest suite.

Exterior features: Screen porch with 24-foot glass wall, patio, landscaping pond, outdoor kitchen.

Take a look around

🏀 Nick is going to Game 1 tomorrow.

⚽️ Torey is now a "soccer mom" — her toddler had his first "practice" last night!

🎤 Kyle is excited to head to Shakopee for the state high school speech tournament.

This newsletter was edited by Ross Terrell and copy edited by Patricia Guadalupe.