Archive for March, 2009

Musings from Husker Practice
Saturday, March 28, 2009

I spent Friday at Nebraska football practice. Well, technically I was there for the first 20 minutes. Actually, about 25 minutes. They’re pretty lenient in letting us stay a little longer.

I spoke with a handful of guys. Here are a few observations:

Zac Lee is ready for the spotlight. I asked him if he is okay with all of the cameras and microphones. “Of course! I love talking to you guys,” he told me. “This is why you come to a place like this. You want to be in the spotlight, you want to be the guy.” Ready or not, he is the guy.

Even though his competition consists of a redshirt freshman, an injured true freshman and a converted linebacker, he is still adamant that he must compete for the starting job. He knows that if he becomes complacent, that won’t be good for anybody.

Marcus Mendoza is an interesting guy. The converted running back is trying his hand at wide receiver, something he did at times in 2008. The backfield is deep, and as talented and quick as Mendoza may be, he understands he has a better chance of getting on the field if he’s in the receiving corps.

Speaking of receivers, Menelik Holt and Niles Paul seem ready to assume the top two spots vacated by Nate Swift and Todd Peterson. However, as receivers coach Ted Gilmore said on Friday, they haven’t earned anything yet.

I also caught up with Anthony Blue. He’s recovering from a season-ending knee injury he sustained a year ago at this time. He feels back physically, but has some catching up to do on the mental side. It’s not something he thinks about too much, but Bo Pelini or Marvin Sanders will let him know when he’s not moving as he should. After some more prodding about his injury, Blue basically told me to stop asking about it. “I’m trying not to think about it.” Fair enough.

Twittering

I caved. I now have a Twitter account. Just search for my name and follow me. I don’t know what that means, but it sounds fairly cool. I’ll update it periodically. I know some NBA players have updated it during halftime of games. Maybe I’ll update it during a sportscast… shortly before collecting my walking papers.  Follow me if you want to live.

A New Spring(ball) Dawns
Tuesday, March 24, 2009

As Jodie Meeks hit his go-ahead bucket with 10.6 seconds to go Monday night against Creighton, I turned to a colleague and said, “Well, it’s time for spring football.”

Indeed it is.

Bo Pelini met with the media on Tuesday to give a preview of the upcoming fifteen practices. Here are seven things we learned:

1) Freshman quarterback Cody Green has a soft tissue injury to his hip, sustained in a so-called freak accident during workouts. He will miss the first part of spring practice. Pelini was informed that on a scale of one to ten, “it’s a one.”

2) LaTravis Washington will move from linebacker to quarterback this spring. Patrick Witt’s departure likely had something to do with this, although Washington did play some quarterback in high school.

3) Sausage pizza is a good appetizer for a Husker news conference.

4) Major Culbert, John Leverson, Justin Rogers and Austin Stafford are no longer on the team.

5) A bunch of players have added some noticeable muscle to their frames. Running back Roy Helu called it both a blessing and a curse. “Everytime I walk by a mirror I look at myself.”

6) Expectations remain high. Says Bo: “We’re not where we wanna be defensively… I expect to be there this year.”

7) Marinara sauce is a welcomed addition to the media luncheon. It can only mean that the Husker program is on the rise.

It was there for the taking
Monday, March 23, 2009

The big boys rarely come to Omaha.  Check that, they never do.  Unless you count Depaul as a big boy.

Monday night, the Bluejays had a golden opportunity to take out the biggest boy on the block.  Creighton led Kentucky for much of the second half, but missed five of six free throws in the final 3:25, opening up the door for the Wildcats.  Future NBA phenom Jodie Meeks scored a three-point play with 10.6 seconds remaining to give Kentucky its first lead since the 5:48 mark.  Booker Woodfox missed an open three-point attempt at the end of regulation which would’ve given Creighton the win.  Instead, its season ends with a record of 27-8.

It was hyped as David versus Goliath, but you couldn’t tell the difference for much of the night.  At least not on the scoreboard.  Sure the Wildcats were big, lean, mean and long, but Creighton had plenty of stones in the sling.  They outrebounded Kentucky 35-34, but shot only 37% for the game.  In some ways, Creighton was fortunate to be in the position it was.  If you would’ve told Dana Altman his team would shoot 37% from the floor and his team would have a one point lead with 11 seconds left, I think he’d take it in a heartbeat.

The players were rather despondent after the game.  It’s hard to see such a physical game come down to the easiest of free throws.

Did the Bluejays max out this season?    You make the call.

As a postscript, I asked P’Allen Stinnett if he would be back next season.  “Definitely, definitely, I’ll be here,” he said.  “If I’m wanted,” he added, before finishing with a smile and a “just kidding.”

Sallie Would’ve Been a Good Bench Player for Nebraska, too
Thursday, March 19, 2009

Roburt Sallie put on an incredible display in Kansas City on Thursday. The sophomore scored a career-high 35 points, hitting ten three-pointers to lead Memphis to a 81-70 win over Cal State Northridge.

Sallie, you may remember, was attending classes at Nebraska in September 2006 but was a casualty of clearinghouse issues and was ruled academically ineligible. He enrolled at City College of San Francisco and played there in the 2007-08 season. He was prepared to return to Nebraska but it was discovered that someone at UNL had actually enrolled Sallie in classes back in 2006, putting him in violation of a Big 12 rule. Since he was enrolled but didn’t meet initial eligibility requirements, he was never allowed to play in the Big 12.

Which brings us to the NCAA Tournament of 2009. Sallie came off the bench to spark 2-seeded Memphis in the opening round. Meanwhile, Nebraska lost in the first round of the NIT. You have to wonder if this week would’ve been a little different for the Huskers had Sallie been around.

I’m sure the thought has crossed Doc Sadler’s mind a time or two.

NCAA or NIT?
Thursday, March 12, 2009

Nebraska laid an enormous egg in the Big 12 Tournament. Let’s hope that performance doesn’t leave a bad taste in the mouths of the selection committee. The NIT selection committee.

Finishing .500 in in the third-highest RPI league is an achievement in itself. A good enough achievement to merit a postseason bid.

Creighton, on the other hand, will have some sweaty palms on Sunday. The Missouri Valley is ninth nationally in conference RPI. With the way the conference tournaments have played out, the Bluejays have only two wins over top-50 RPI teams (Illinois State and Dayton). Butler losing in its conference championship didn’t do Creighton any favors, as Cleveland State forced the Bulldogs to use up one of the valuable at-larges.

The Bluejays, however, still have a chance. With these BCS tournaments, upsets in the conference championship games seem a little less likely. Creighton had better hope that pans out. The fact that the Jays’ 24-point defeat will be a distant memory come this weekend, works in their favor.

I still put Creighton down as a coin-flip. Perhaps slightly below a coin flip. As in, if you flip a coin ten times, Creighton would have to call it correctly six or seven times to get in.

But just like a coin flip, Creighton’s post-season future is out of its hands.

Ready for the Weekend
Thursday, March 5, 2009

The title of this entry means nothing. Maybe I’m ready for the weekend, maybe I’m not. But I needed a title for this and that’s what we’re going with.

Before the season I pegged Nebraska as a 5-11 Big 12 team. With a win in Waco the Huskers will finish 8-8 in league. That should garner Doc Sadler some votes for Big 12 coach of the year, if not a little pay-bump to afford a new collared shirt.

The Big 12 is top-heavy. And the teams at the top are pretty even. Oklahoma loses to Kansas. Missouri beats Kansas. Kansas beats Missouri. Missouri beats Oklahoma. Kansas loses to Texas Tech. Okay, that last one doesn’t fit. The point being, there are three teams in the Big 12 who could lay claim to top-three seeds in the NCAA Tournament. Who will advance the farthest? I’m still not entirely sold on Kansas, and Blake Griffin hasn’t been the same since his injury. I’ll take Mizzou.

Before the big dance comes the Big 12 Tournament. Now, I’m not about to say that Nebraska can win the tournament. They’re not deep enough to make a run to the championship game. That being said, they can beat anybody in Oklahoma City. Except the Thunder. The Huskers hung tough with Oklahoma on the road, they narrowly lost to Kansas at home, and they beat Missouri this year. They’ve proven they can hang with the big boys, and I don’t think anybody wants to face Nebraska’s tenacious defense in a tournament.   Swing away, get out of that first round and who knows.

Who is going to take over for Jimmy Fallon in two weeks?

The Dallas Cowboys cut Terrell Owens on Wednesday night. Why do the good guys always get the rawest deals? According to his publicist, Owens still has roughly 20 million reasons to live with the Cowboys’ decision.

What team will now take a chance on TO? I’m not saying he has a lot of personal baggage, but he needs two private jets whenever he travels.

Okay — does Creighton need to win the Missouri Valley Tournament to make it to the NCAA Tournament? I say if they just win one game, they’re in no matter what. Getting bounced in the quarterfinals would no doubt open up their resume to intense examination. The number two seed has won at least one game in ten straight MVC tournaments. If it’s eleven straight, the Jays will be polishing off their dancing shoes.

I recently went for a three-mile run in spandex. You’re welcome, America.