Archive for January, 2008

"I love the Drake"
Thursday, January 31, 2008

Jerry Seinfeld said it best.

For my first road trip in the Missouri Valley conference (outside of the conference tournament) I visited Drake on Wednesday night to cover the Creighton game.

Not only was it a great basketball game, but also a terrific environment. For those of you who haven’t been to the Knapp Center, it’s basically an enlarged gymnasium: pennants hang from the ceiling, there is no true “upper deck”, and it holds about 7,100. The student sections are put right behind each basket and slope pretty steeply in such a way that there isn’t a bad seat at each end. Granted, I sat on press row so I can’t tell you how great of a vantage point the Creighton fans had as they were shoved in one of the upper corners. They don’t sell beer, so there is a minimal number of casual fans. Most of the fans took part in the “white-out” (read: wore white) and were into the game from the tip-off. It was louder at the Knapp Center than I’ve heard it at Qwest. Simply stated: it’s the way college basketball was meant to be played.

The Drake is Good

While the final margin was ten points (75-65 Bulldogs), that does not indicate how close this game truly was. I was impressed with how the Jays hung in there in the first half, withstanding some Drake runs that could’ve ended the game early. In the second half, Creighton matched Drake shot-for-shot, and even took the lead with 10:19 left. P’Allen Stinnett had a coming-out party of sorts in the second half, punctuated by a steal on one end and an emphatic dunk on the other. Booker Woodfox poured in 19 points as well. But Josh Young and the Bulldogs were too tough. Young hit six three pointers and scored 24 points, while the ‘dogs hit their free throws down the stretch to pull out the win.

Hate the Drake

Adam Emmenecker simply makes this team go. The point guard had a game-high nine assists to go along with 12 points. Each time Creighton made a big shot, Emmenecker would either drive the lane with sweet lay-in or find the open guy on the wing. The senior leads the conference in assists (5.55). Come March, he could very well make an even bigger name for himself.

How Could You Not Like the Drake?

Josh Young could also find himself at the center of attention in about six weeks. The sophomore started his first game since January 9th after coming back from an ankle injury. This guy simply finds the bottom of the bucket with every shot.

I wondered, how does a guy from Lawton, Oklahoma play for Drake? In talking with someone who covers the team, coach Keno Davis said that Drake identified Young very early in the recruiting process. They knew that schools like Oklahoma and Oklahoma State would eventually come in on Young, but not until late in the game; Young is, after all, 6’1″ and isn’t playing the point. He scored more points than any freshman in the MVC last year. This year, he’s the only player in the MVC to rank in the top-five in scoring (1st, 15.9) , steals (4th, 1.88) , three-point baskets (2nd, 3/game) and three-point field goal percentage (3rd, 48%).

Safe to say that Josh Young was a good find?

Who’s the Drake?

Even in the loss, I felt Creighton took a step Wednesday night. It’s a fairly young team with a lot of new faces, and that game was right there for the taking with two minutes left. But Dana Altman has never been a fan of moral victories.

“Our program is at a point where close is not good enough. I told our guys that,” said Altman. “There’s no satisfaction in coming close. We should be better than what we are. But that’s as much my fault as it is theirs. We got a ways to go.”

Summation

In a four-way tie for fourth place in the Valley, it is nearly impossible for Creighton to work its way up to an at-large bid in the NCAA Tournament.

Can the Jays pull out of this funk? Is winning the valley tournament out of the question for this team?

Right now, they have to position themselves in the standings to nab that No.2 seed in the Valley tournament. As of Thursday, the Jays are two games behind Illinois State for that second spot. Time to start winning.

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Monday Riff
Monday, January 28, 2008

Here are a few quick hits to begin the week.

  • Last month, it looked like we might need to get creative in order to cover two area teams in the NCAA Tournament. Now, it looks like I might be able to use some vacation time in mid-March.
  • Husker football recruiting continues to roll along, with now 21 verbal commitments for the 2008 class. For the first time in four years, Huskers fans don’t seem to care a whole lot about “star ratings”.

  • I just checked the college football page on espn.com. The top stories listed in the sidebar read as follows: “Three players kicked off Penn State football team“, “Wake Forest RB dismissed from team over threat“, and “Texas A&M players indicted in home-invasion case“. I have a solution: extend the football season to 12 months.

  • In a ketv.com poll, 72% of you believe the Patriots will beat the Giants in Super Bowl XLII. The other 28% of you didn’t understand the question.

  • Stubhub says that the average resale price of a SuperBowl ticket is currently $4,300. That’s $4,285 more than the average resale price of a 2007 Cotton Bowl ticket.

  • If the NHL holds an All-Star Game, and nobody knows what the acronym “NHL” stands for, does it really happen?

  • How does a Los Angeles roofing company eliminate my presence from a newscast? At the Lakers/Cavs game at Staples Center on Sunday, water started dripping from the roof, delaying the game for 12 minutes. Apparently, after inspecting the roof that morning, a pair of roofers left their rain-soaked clothes on the cat walk. That’s where the water came from: their clothing. The game went heavy, our 5:30pm newscast began 12 minutes late, and my sportscast was cut from the show. Talk about the Butterfly Effect.

  • Over the last two days, I’ve watched six episodes of “Saved By the Bell: The College Years”. Is that wrong?

Majerus’ Mouth Gets Him in Trouble
Thursday, January 24, 2008

A university will give a coach time to develop players and mold them into his system. Scoring only twenty points in a game? In a coach’s first year, it’s forgivable. However, following some recent off-the-court news, Rick Majerus is in danger of losing his job.

Majerus attended a Hillary Clinton rally last Saturday in suburban St. Louis, at which a television reporter asked him about some of his views. At first, the Saint Louis University basketball coach said he didn’t want to “go there.” Soon after, he identified himself as a Catholic and acknowledged that he is both pro-choice and in favor of stem-cell research. While those views may not be uncommon, the problem comes with his place of employment: SLU is a Jesuit, Catholic university.

Archbishop Raymond Burke told a St. Louis television station that Majerus’ comments were “very disappointing to me and shocking that a representative of a Catholic institution would make these declarations”. He hopes that SLU will “be very clear that these positions are not the positions of the university and that no representative of the university will publicly espouse them”.

Majerus, on the other hand, doesn’t seem concerned about the possible ramifications. “I don’t need the job. I like the job, but if Father asked me to step down, I would. I think I would,” Majerus told ESPN.com. “Even if I did need the job, it isn’t something that would deter me from this. I’m not going to change my opinions.”

“I believe in ending the war. I believe in gun control. I believe in stem-cell [research]. I believe in pro-choice. I respect that women need to make the decisions that are right for them, and I think it’s wrong for people to speculate what they would do in a gut-wrenching, agonizing situation.”

While I may not share all of Majerus’ views, he is still entitled to them. We all are. It is, however, a dicey situation when you are employed by a university founded on the beliefs which you deny. If I work for McDonald’s, I should expect some consequences for touting the Whopper.

Creighton coach Dana Altman works for a Jesuit university. If he came out with similar political views, I would expect there to be some response from the school’s leadership. Would he lose his job? No. I also don’t think Altman would ever put himself out there like that.

That being said, if opinions such as Majerus’ are so contrary to the university, why wasn’t this talked about during the interview process? A little digging would’ve revealed that Majerus campaigned for John Kerry in three states. Archbishop Burke said he’d deny the catholic Kerry communion because of his pro-choice stance. If political views are so important, they should be discussed before a hire is made.

Did SLU not know what kind of coach it was getting? If that’s the case, the Billiken higher-ups only have themselves to blame.

Here’s the deeper issue: should college coaches espouse their political views even if they’re only representing their own individual opinions?

My take: they’re allowed to express any views they desire. Freedom of speech prevails. But the coach should also be prepared to deal with any and all repercussions. Freedom of speech does not equate to freedom from consequences.

Your thoughts?

Bluejays Bullied
Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Bluejays had their opportunities, but could not close the deal against Drake Tuesday night, falling 68-to-60 in overtime in front of more than 17,000 fans.

Creighton only has itself to blame. The Jays hit some three-pointers in the first half (8-for-15) to take a 30-to-24 lead into the intermission. They kept shooting from long range in the second half, but the shots weren’t falling (3-for-11). CU attempted eight 3-pointers in the overtime session alone, making only one of them.

The Jays seemed resigned to the fact that they wouldn’t be able to work the ball inside. 59-percent of their field goal attempts were from beyond the three-point line. Dane Watts questioned the team’s toughness after the game. Said coach Dana Altman, “We didn’t throw the ball inside and didn’t do a good job of looking in there. We have to be a better rebounding team. In the second half, they got those second-chance points that eventually were the difference in the game.”

I don’t have a problem with guys firing up threes, but only if some of them are going in.

Chad Millard 1-for-6
Cavel Witter 1-for-6
Booker Woodfox 1-for-5
Nick Bahe 2-for-6

The Jays had a lot of shooters Tuesday night. Just not a lot of makers.

Sometimes hitting a three-point shot is the worst thing that can happen to a player. Then he keeps shooting them. Live by the sword, die by the sword.

The Jays had a chance at the end of regulation with the game tied at 54. They found Millard in the corner for a game-winning three, but it clanked off the iron. In a situation like that, I’m dumbfounded as to why senior Dane Watts isn’t the go-to guy. Just give him the rock and let him stroke it outside or pound it inside. I’ll take my chances with my team leader shooting 50% from the floor. Hasn’t he earned that right?

Bottom line: Drake is good. I heard at least one Creighton apologist before the game say something to the effect of, “Creighton will win. They always beat Drake. The Bulldogs never win here.” That is one of the weakest arguments in picking a contest. Teams come out of nowhere all of the time. In fact, it happens every March.

Now it’s pretty clear: Drake is for real. In fact, the Bulldogs beat the Jays by playing old-school Creighton basketball: pressure defense and rebounding. Looking out at the court, you could say Drake was bizzaro Creighton. The Bulldogs even had a Korver on the team.

Simply put, these Jays had better get tough. Because that’s exactly what this upcoming stretch will be.

Second-Best Not Bad
Monday, January 21, 2008

In my Super Bowl wish list below, this was the second-best matchup for the big game. After New York beat Green Bay in Sunday’s NFC Championship Game, the Giants now head to Glendale, Arizona to face New England.

Can two quarterback brothers win the Super Bowl in back-to-back years? Can Eli do in four years what it took Peyton nine years to do? Will the Patriots finish off their perfect season?

Sure, it’s not Packers and Patriots, but there are still plenty of subplots for this one.

Who would’ve thought that most fans will be rooting for a New York team in a big game?

Who takes the trophy?

Everything Must Go!
Saturday, January 19, 2008

It appears that one member of Bill Callahan’s old coaching staff is ridding his closet of Husker gear at rock-bottom prices.

The seller is Aaron Stamn (username: “abstamn”), a graduate assistant under Bill Callahan from 2004-05. Stamn just finished his second season as tight ends coach and special teams coordinator at the University at Buffalo. Apparently, it was time to finally unload the university-issued clothing.
This leather jacket sold for $56.

This Adidas warmup jacket was sold for a mere $8.26

The high bid for these running shorts was $2.25!

How about $1.99 for these warm-up pants?

You couldn’t beat these deals at a GoodWill store!

Callahan Heading Home
Friday, January 18, 2008

To the NFL, that is.

From ESPN.com’s John Clayton:

The New York Jets reached agreement Friday afternoon with former Nebraska coach Bill Callahan to be the assistant head coach and be in charge of the running offense.

Callahan was under consideration in Tampa Bay for a job but talks between the Jets and Callahan heated up over the past several days. Brian Schottenheimer remains the offensive coordinator, but Callahan was brought in to coach the offense line and work with the running game.

The former head coach of the Oakland Raiders is considered a West Coast offense specialist but is also one of the better offensive line coaches in the league. Tony Wise has been the offensive line coach but he is expected to be coaching elsewhere next season.

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You may wonder how a coach who specializes in the West Coast offense could be in charge of the run game. Much of the WCO stems from the run game, although it may have been difficult to see last season. He will also coach the offensive line, and carry the title of assistant head coach.

I think Callahan will do well, although who knows how good (read: bad) the Jets will be.

And if Callahan thought the Nebraska media was tough…

For Those That Thought Nebraska was an NCAA Team
Wednesday, January 16, 2008

You may say it’s too early to say it, but the Huskers’ hopes of qualifying for an NCAA at-large bid were dealt a major blow Tuesday night. Big Twelve bottom-feeding Colorado (my alma mater) beat Nebraska 55-51 in Boulder, handing the Huskers their second loss to open up conference play.

It was as ugly a Big Twelve game as you’ll see, one that Nebraska had to have. You can’t expect to make it to the “Big Dance” when you lay a big egg at the foot of the Flatirons. Sure, there’s plenty of season left. But it’s an uphill climb from here on out, and I’m not sure Nebraska has the firepower to last through the fight.

Realistically, the Huskers will have to go 8-6 the rest of the way to have a shot at the Dance.

On the bright side, freshman Cookie Miller continues to improve, scoring a team-high 18 points.

On the scary side, Nebraska is in danger of starting 0-5 in conference play. Baylor travels to Lincoln on Saturday, then the Huskers head to Lawrence and Columbia.

And FYI, the Bears are 14-2 and look mighty dangerous.

Yes, I just used the phrase “mighty dangerous.”

Collins Okafor Recommits
Tuesday, January 15, 2008

He committed to Nebraska in October of 2006. Fifteen months later, Colling Okafor made a recommitment. In front of friends, family and media on Monday, the Westside running back announced he will be attending the University of Nebraska.

He came into the “Warrior Room” with four hats: Kansas, Iowa, Stanford and Nebraska. Sitting at the mock podium, he picked up the Stanford hat first and said, “It’s not Stanford.” He then put on the Husker hat to a round of applause. He spoke afterwards about how difficult the decision was.

On his official visit to Lincoln this past weekend, Bo Pelini made quite an impression on Okafor. “He said if you wanna decommit, decommit now. I was like, ‘Wow’… As a head coach that’s saying a lot. He was honest ’cause he had a job to do… He said he has the players backs, and they have his back… He said he never had a losing season, and he’s not planning on having one now.”

When we caught up with him in late November, Okafor told us he was still committed to Nebraska despite visiting other schools. The coaching change put him in limbo, and he felt he was left in the dark following Callahan’s firing.

Sunday night, Okafor told offensive coordinator Shawn Watson on the phone that he was coming to Nebraska. Watson hung up the phone as he yelled to Pelini, so Okafor figured the head coach was in the general vicinity of Watson’s office.

In other good news, Okafor told us Monday that his weekend host, running back Marlon Lucky, told him that he will return to Nebraska for his senior season. Lucky had considered leaving early for the NFL.

NFL’s Picture Perfect Playoff
Monday, January 14, 2008

Home field advantage was supposed to provide some sort of advantage. I believe that’s why the word is included in the phrase.

Sunday, both home teams lost, giving credibility to those that argue that the phrase should simply be changed to “home field.” As of now, no one is arguing that point, which makes that previous sentence moot.
Now that the final four teams are set, it’s time to determine what Super Bowl the National Football League execs are hoping for. It doesn’t take long to figure it out.

If the NFL were to issue a news release stating its desires in preferencial order, this is how it would read:

1) Patriots vs Packers

2) Patriots vs Giants

3) Chargers vs Packers

4) Chargers vs Giants

The NFL would like nothing more than to see the Patriots pursue perfection against every male football fan’s idol, Brett Favre. Not only that, it’s a Super Bowl rematch 11 years in the making. Who can forget Favre celebrating like a kid with his helmet off following his touchdown pass to Desmond Howard?

The second matchup provides the NFL with New England gunning for 19-0 against Peyton Manning’s brother. How will Eli perform on the world’s biggest stage? Will the NFL have two brothers who are also Super Bowl winning quarterbacks?

The third-best option for the NFL gives fans a chance to see Brett Favre. While Green Bay may not be the largest media market, I’m guessing there isn’t a football fan alive who wouldn’t tune in to see the ageless one go for another Super Bowl title.

The fourth option is actually pretty compelling, and could be 3a. In this game, Eli Manning and Philip Rivers square off in a matchup of traded number one picks. Manning, of course, was selected by San Diego with the number one overall pick in 2004. The Giants picked Rivers fourth overall in the same draft. The two were dealt for each other. Plus, it would involve two peaking teams on opposite coasts, which the NFL wouldn’t mind. Especially with New York being involved.

Feel free to submit your football fantasy.