It’s Friday! That means Ten Big stories in 10 little bites. We hit Devaney and Daytona, Mack Brown and Chip Kelly, Darin Ruf and Mike Gesell, oversigning and BracketBusters. But first, Husker baseball.
While we sit here in a snowdrift, Darin Erstad and Nebraska tries to jumpstart its season in Austin. The first weekend — 0-4 in sunny SoCal — was a disaster. And UT’s Disch-Falk Field isn’t the place you go looking for a rebound.
But maybe NU can channel the efforts of past Huskers.
Fourteen years ago, Nebraska baseball wasn’t even a blip on the national radar when Augie Garrido brought his No. 9 Longhorns to Lincoln in late-March. The Huskers swept ‘em. That weekend sparked the best NU rivalry of the Big 12 era — much better than NU-Texas in football.
Garrido and Dave Van Horn simultaneously built powerhouses. Geographically and stylistically, they didn’t have much in common. But they both won big. They pushed each other. The rivalry peaked in 2005, when Mike Anderson’s fourth-ranked Huskers hosted No. 1 UT on ESPN. In the bottom of the 16th, Andy Gerch slid home for the game-winner.
From ’99 to 2011, the Huskers and ‘Horns met 44 times. Each side won 22 times. (That included the final three years when Nebraska was terrible.)
Texas had all the advantages a southern giant has, particularly pitching staffs that belonged in the Yankees farm system. Yet year after year, Nebraska gave Texas its absolute best shot.
The Huskers need to find that same grit this weekend in Austin. If anybody can inspire their best, it’s the burnt orange.
>> The priority for Creighton basketball is obviously winning the Missouri Valley. But for NCAA purposes, the goal should be winning two of the next three — at St. Mary’s, at Bradley, Wichita State. That, in my opinion, would remove the pressure of winning the Valley tournament. If CU finishes 1-2, however, it better cut down the nets in St. Louis.
Tomorrow’s matchup with St. Mary’s likely hinges on slowing down Matthew Dellavedova. The Jays don’t have the best track record against elite guards.
>> The RPI has always been overrated in ranking college basketball teams. But this week the formula says the Mountain West is better than the Big Ten. A Harvard study says RPI isn’t a very good predictor of NCAA tournament results, either.
>> Mike Gesell returns to Devaney. A year ago, he played his last high school game on the same floor, a loss to Scottsbluff. This time, he’ll be wearing black and gold.
It’s been a steady, but unspectacular year for Gesell. He’s started every game. He’s third on the team in minutes. He averages 9 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists. Yet he’s shooting just 40 percent. And he’s had a few moments late in games he’d like to have back. My sense is Gesell is learning a lot. And he’ll be a much better player in 2014.
Saturday’s game is big for both sides. Nebraska won’t have a better chance the rest of the season for a “W.” And Iowa needs a win to strengthen its NCAA tournament case.
>> NCAA hypocrisy, example No. 73. This one will really tick you off.
>> Dan Wetzel writes about how NASCAR saved last year’s Daytona 500 from that massive fire.
>> Guess who leads the nation again in oversigning? Hint: He just won three national titles in four years. If you don’t perform for Nick Saban, he sends you packing faster than a bad contestant on The Bachelor. (Yes, I watch … sometimes).
>> Mack Brown is switching to an Oregon-style tempo for spring practice. Chip Kelly may go down as the most influential offensive mind of his generation. Pretty impressive for someone who coached just six years of Division I football.
>> I am officially hyping February as the most overhyped month of the year: Signing Day, NBA Trade Deadline, Storm Q, The Oscars. What am I forgetting? Oh, yeah, the NFL Combine. Rex Burkhead, by the way, makes his appearance Sunday. More on that in Monday’s Chatter.
>> Pennsylvania columnist David Jones blasts the idea of North Carolina joining the Big Ten. It’s an excellent column, which includes this excerpt:
“It would be just a less consequential form of empire building. As ruthless and cynical and arrogant as any other in history. It’s Great Britain in 19th Century Africa and the Middle East. It’s the German Reich from Switzerland to the Ural Mountains of Russia. It’s the ancient Romans from Syria to Mauritania. And it will be doomed to the same failure.
“Why? If the money’s good for everyone, why can’t it work? If so many Yankees now live in Atlanta and Raleigh, why won’t these schools feel right at home? After all, money and success and lots of TV time makes everyone happy, right?
“This is why: People belong with their own kind. And most Carolinians aren’t transplanted New Yorkers and Ohioans working for GlaxoSmithKline. They are hot-weather-barbecued Southerners who grew up in the pines. They love their area’s unique basketball heritage, they talk like Andy Griffith and see the world in different ways than we do. Many of them are wonderful people. My kid goes to camp in northwest North Carolina every year and I’ve met many of the locals.
“But they do not belong in the Big Ten. And they will feel like the foreigners they will be if this expansion happens. Many Penn Staters still feel like strangers in the Midwestern conference next door two decades after its consummation. This will be exponentially less tolerable.”
>> Mike Schmidt praised Creighton grad Darin Ruf at Phillies training camp:
“At this point, I’m a big fan,” Schmidt said. “I chatted with him really quickly, told him, ‘Congratulations on your great start with the Phillies in the Major Leagues.’ I think he opened a lot of eyes when he came up. I don’t want to speak out of turn, but I would guess they want him to play … I just like him.
“He’s a great young kid. He has no fear as a hitter against tough right-handers. You see that sometimes. He can give you a hell of an at-bat against a nasty right-handed pitcher. He’s very mature for 26. I wouldn’t discount him being your Opening Day starter [in left field]. Let’s wait and see. He has everything you need to win that job.”
>> A half-court shot you really need to see. Who says soccer and basketball don’t mix?
>> Apparently, Colin Cowherd referenced my Sunday project on the Huskers’ 500-mile radius during his show today. That’s the good news. The bad news? He called me “Dick Chetelin”! I’ll have to check the podcast.
>> Finally, Thursday on Twitter, I asked Husker fans to choose their favorite Devaney Center feature: 1) The state of Nebraska outlined on the court or 2) The massive scoreboard hanging from the rafters.
Most chose the court. I, too, loved that design. So much that I recreated it on our basement carpet. Note to 9-year-olds reading this blog: Don’t put masking tape on your carpet. And if you do, definitely don’t color that masking tape with a red marker. (Twenty-two years later, you better believe it’s still there).
>> Thanks for reading. Have a great weekend.