1. I don’t think Creighton is a soft team. You don’t win 20 games by Feb. 1, with the target on your back, by being soft. But the target is weighing on Creighton. You have to show up every game. This team has a serious soft streak and when it comes out, it’s not pretty. It was expected that Indiana State would give its best shot against CU, and that included a “black out” (why black? I have no idea) by the crowd. An ISU win wasn’t going to be an upset. The Sycamores played with their hair on fire, played like they had to have it.
What was disappointing is seeing CU take it without fighting back. There are times when this team doesn’t fight back, doesn’t scratch and claw when the 3s aren’t pouring in and they have to make a stand with their defense or by finding another way to score. finding a way to win. This is no time to panic. But it’s definitely a time for urgency. Creighton lacks that trait. It needs it.
Kansas and Indiana can slip up or have a mid-winter slump and it’s no biggie. They’ll still be in position to get their seed. But a school like Creighton, with a non-conference resume that has become underwhelming, can’t afford any slips. Mid-majors get few breaks for conference losses. Nobody expected the Jays to go undefeated in the Valley. It’s too hard. But they need to go down swinging. Champions and Sweet 16 contenders aren’t allowed to have soft streaks.
2. Creighton needs Will Artino to emerge as a force inside, a reliable bouncer who can take some heat off of Doug McDermott and fill the space when Gregory Echenique gets in foul trouble or disappears. The 3-point shooters are what they are — if they’re hot, it looks great; if they aren’t, it doesn’t. The defense is what it is. The dynamic that can change is some energy inside. Step right up, Will.
3. I’m pumped about the outdoor hockey doubleheader tomorrow. I don’t know what kind of crowd to expect. The word around town is that several buses filled with North Dakota fans are on their way south. I think it will be big, it will be fun and it will be surreal. This smacks of the kind of “see-and-be-seen” crowd that we get for big events. That may not lend itself to a loud hockey crowd. Nor does the proximity of the stands to the ice. Will the players even hear the fans? It’s not the ideal atmosphere for an important home conference game. But I’m glad the Lancers and UNO are doing this. For all the hockey played in this town, it’s rarely in the spotlight. It will be on Saturday.
4. I’m glad Urban Meyer called out the Big Ten football coaches on their recruiting. For one thing, he’s right. The league does need to examine how to make Big Ten football better. Meyer wants to talk about it, put it all on the table, including changing the times of games (11 a.m. kicks are bad for recruiting) in order to get recruits on campus. I’m sure the kneejerk reaction is that Meyer wants to start over-signing SEC-style. I don’t think so. That wouldn’t fly in the Big Ten and Meyer knows it. But the league needs a shake-up. Some thought Nebraska would do that but Bo Pelini’s program isn’t up to that yet. Meyer is the guy to do it. From my two-year perspective, the Big Ten is a little too satisfied with being the conference of integrity, legends and leaders. You don’t have to sacrifice your integrity in order to win big. You can have the Rose Bowl and the national championship, too. You have to care, really care, about winning.
5. You wonder why Meyer would do this. Does he really want the other Big Ten schools to recruit better? Yes. I do think that’s part of it. As a competitor, and a former SEC guy, he wants to compete with the SEC. I also think it’s about Urban saying, I’m the only guy in this league who cares about winning on a national scale. Again, it’s good for the league. Love him or hate him, nobody will ignore him and everyone will want to beat him. That’s good for Big Ten football.
6. There was a lot to like in Nebraska’s recruiting class. Is Bo Pelini settling in, buying in, as a recruiter? Maybe. But one of the most significant things about signing day was Nebraska finishing third in the Big Ten ratings behind Ohio State and Michigan. That is, the Huskers were closer to OSU and Michigan than they are Purdue and Iowa. That’s where they want to be. Nebraska may not be able to out-recruit Meyer and Brady Hoke. But it’s important to be associated with those two and not fall back to the pack.
7. Thanks to all for the kind comments on my Tom/Josh Banderas column. I had a blast. The only part of recruiting I like is the actual signing day, when every kid in school who is signing an athletic letter, whether it be cross country at Kansas State or football at Wayne State, goes up to the stage and signs the letter, along with their parents, who are dressed in the school’s colors. I’m a real sucker for that. If that ever happens to me, I will probably be one of those parents who wears my kids’ college gear everywhere, or has the mascot head cover in my golf bag. I just hope it’s not Notre Dame.
8. One thing I noticed at the big signing shindig at Lincoln Southwest on Wednesday: every high school kid watching in the audience had an iPhone. And I mean every one of them. Somebody please help me.
9. Whatever happened to Kansas basketball? The Jayhawks are not as bad as they played at TCU, but they’re obviously not as good as the team that won at Ohio State. It’s somewhere in the middle. The Jayhawks are a team without a point guard. And how does a program like KU end up without a point guard?
10. There’s not a lot of buzz around Husker hoops these days. They’re coming off a loss to Ohio State, they haven’t had a game and they’ve got Penn State tomorrow night. Illinois’ upset over Indiana seemed to separate everyone else from the bottom two, who play in Lincoln. Don’t expect Iowa to fall back; I think Iowa’s too good to keep losing these close games. I would expect a win tomorrow night would solidify NU as an No. 11 seed, a loss would make the battle for last place more interesting. That’s not to downplay tomorrow night’s game. Any chance Nebraska gets to win a Big Ten game is big. I still think there’s a rush-the-floor moment left. It will have to come next week against Michigan State.
12. Central High’s recent losses didn’t help the buzz surrounding the Eagles’ game against Oak Hill this weekend in Grand Island. It’s still a very big deal, especially getting a program like Oak Hill to come to Nebraska. And Central is actually more interesting now than before — how will they respond?
13. I’ll be sneaking peeks at Pebble Beach whenever possible this weekend. I got to play Pebble 15 years ago — on my honeymoon. Yes, my wife is a keeper. I still have no idea how I talked her into that trip. I love watching the eighth hole, my favorite in golf, the hole Jack Nicklaus calls the best par-4 in golf. Part of that is the scenery. And then there’s this: I actually parred that hole, with a 9-wood from about 180 yards over the cliff to the back of the green, chipped to five feet and somehow didn’t choke. Today I would have hit a 27-degree hybrid. And I probably would have dunked it into the Pacific.
14. I’m a big ‘Hawaii Five-O’ fan, from way back. I still venture onto ME TV and catch one of the classic episodes. I love the updated show, which has more violence, technology and a sense of humor, but just enough nods to the past, such as a skinnier but equally-diabolical and elusive Wo Fat. Last week was another reason why I’m a fan of the new 5-0. They remade the classic episode “Hookman,” which producers attempted to remake frame by frame. It totally worked. It was scary how close it was to the original. A bonus was seeing Max Weinberg — yes, that Max Weinberg, of the E Street Band — playing an old man, an owner of a gun shop. Weinberg was terrific. Whoever did his make-up should get an Emmy.
15. That’s enough for this week. Wherever you go, have fun this weekend. I’ll see you at Omaha’s largest outdoor skating rink tomorrow.