When Nebraska entered the Big Ten Conference 18 months ago, the timing was perfect for so many reasons.
Fans’ patience with the Big 12 (mostly Texas) had expired. The development of the Big Ten Network had opened all sorts of exciting possibilities. And with Tom Osborne as AD, the Huskers had the perfect leader and ambassador for a bold move.
But for at least one reason, the timing was really bad, too. Nebraska’s high-profile programs were struggling.
As a result, the Huskers haven’t exactly taken the league by storm. It’s been a forgettable 18 months for football, men’s basketball, baseball, even volleyball, which suffered upsets in the last two NCAA tournaments.
Ask Big Ten fans about Nebraska and you’re likely to hear glowing reviews. That’s a testament to Midwestern hospitality and Nebraska’s cultural fit. But it’s also a reflection of the fact that NU hasn’t won enough to tick anybody off.
Well, except one school.
Check out Nebraska’s records against the Hawkeyes in Big Ten competition:
Men’s basketball: 2-1
Women’s basketball: 5-0
On this side of the river, those five programs attract the largest crowds. And Nebraska is 15-2. Ouch.
(In fairness to the Hawks, they have won the softball battle, 2-1. And a few others. But by my count, the all-sports tally is 19-7, Nebraska.)
Saturday afternoon at the Devaney Center, Tim Miles’ team delivered the biggest gut punch of the Husker/Hawkeye series, rallying from 16 down at halftime.
Then Sunday afternoon on the same court, the Husker women blew out the black and gold. As Sam McKewon reported, Iowa women’s basketball coach Lisa Bluder dropped this gem afterward.
“For Nebraska, it’s the Border War, but we have a lot of Border Wars. So it’s not like maybe the intensity that Nebraska feels. And it’s not like we haven’t beaten Nebraska before. We have.”
Not in Big Ten play, Coach.
I don’t know the reason for Nebraska’s dominance. Perhaps it’s as coincidental as NU’s abysmal performances against Northwestern in 2011-12. Or perhaps Iowa is a deeper athletic funk than the Huskers.
Maybe all this time, Osborne was distributing memos stressing the need to beat Iowa — we all know how much Dr. Tom cared about that Heroes Trophy. Or maybe Iowa’s move to let Kharismatic Kirk deliver all the pre-game pep talks has backfired. (OK, that’s not true).
Whatever the reason, I’m beginning to understand why the Hawkeyes care so much about wrestling.
They don’t have anything else.
>> You can find mock NCAA tournament brackets all over the Internet. Individually, they mean nothing. But I couldn’t help but smile at the latest from Jerry Palm. In Kansas City, Mo., he has this four-team pod:
(2) Kansas vs. (15) Long Beach State
(7) Oregon vs. (10) Creighton
If you offered Jays fans that draw right now, they’d be willing to walk to the Sprint Center — wearing a Wichita State T-shirt. That’s because Creighton is playing nothing like an NCAA tournament team.
We could pinpoint multiple reasons. But let’s focus today on the backcourt’s offensive woes. Austin Chatman and Jahenns Manigat present no challenge to defenses, especially off the dribble. Saturday night, they were scoreless the first 36 minutes of the game. Zero points. None.
Chatman and Manigat were hitting a few 3s the first three months of the season, which covered up some of their offensive deficiencies. Now that they’re missing, the offense is in meltdown mode.
The past six games, Creighton is 2-4. During that span, Chatman is 8 of 33 from the field. Manigat is 13-for-34 — that includes his three garbage-time buckets at St. Mary’s. They’ve combined for just 4.3 assists per game.
If Josh Jones were still in the rotation, if Andre Yates or Avery Dingman or Nevin Johnson had developed offensively this season, maybe Creighton could get away with a bad month from its starters. But it can’t.
Doug McDermott may be the nation’s best offensive player. But even he doesn’t look good playing 3-on-5.
>> Rex Burkhead doesn’t run a good 40-yard dash. We knew that was coming. But what he lacks in straight-line speed, he makes up for in overall athleticism.
I’ll be surprised if he goes before the fourth or fifth round, but with running backs, draft position doesn’t matter one bit. It comes down to landing in a place where you’ll get a fair shot. Burkhead’s combine performance should secure him that much.
>> It’s NCC week at UNO! The Summit is a higher level than the Mavs’ old league, but I’ll always take a little more interest in match-ups against old North Central Conference rivals. On Saturday, John Karhoff and Justin Simmons led the way and UNO knocked off North Dakota. This week brings two more NCC rivals — South Dakota State and North Dakota State — to Ralston Arena. We’ll have more on UNO later in the week.
>> Clay Travis says Johnny Manziel opened an NCAA loophole for college athletes to get paid big bucks.
>> Central Florida has a 29-year-old basketball player. That’s only half of what makes the story worth telling.
>> Surprise, surprise. West Virginia is having travel problems in the Big 12. Apparently getting from Morgantown to Lubbock isn’t a quick little vacation.
>> College basketball’s offensive slump is reaching disturbing levels. According to the Associated Press, teams are averaging 67.7 points per game, the lowest total since 1981-82. The overall field goal percentage in Division I was 43.3 percent, the lowest since 1964-65. And the 3-point shooting percentage was 33.9 percent, the lowest since the 3-point shot was instituted in 1986.
>> Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze, angered by rumors of improper recruiting, dared his skeptics to send him emails with proof. And being SEC fans, they did. The Memphis paper printed those emails and they’re quite entertaining.
>> The Lakers will make the playoffs. You can bet on it. Kobe Bryant cares too much to be part of the biggest regular-season disaster in NBA history. His performance Sunday in Dallas, inspired by Mark Cuban, was incredible.
>> An all-time NBA 1-on-1 contest. I like Jordan and Durant on the left side of the bracket, and LeBron and Kobe on the right side. That’s where things get tough. I’ll take Jordan and Kobe in the Finals, with MJ winning. The wild card in the bracket is Allen Iverson.
>> A fascinating profile of the NBA’s best gambler.
>> I like giving Iowa fans a hard time. But their favorite sport provided an amazing story last week that illustrates why the IOC is crazy. The U.S. wrestling team went to Iran and the crowd chanted Jordan Burroughs’ name.