It’s Friday! That means Ten Big stories in 10 little bites. We hit Connie Yori and LeBron James, Bob Stoops and Hayden Fry, Derrin Hansen and Rory McIlroy. But first, Creighton hoops.
As if the Jays weren’t having a big enough week, another Catholic 7 bombshell dropped Thursday night.
Eleven days after the Washington Post’s John Feinstein reported Creighton was “too far west” for Georgetown and Co., the Jays are apparently back in. And not just in, but potentially in for 2013-14. (Or not, depending on which report you read.)
Thus, it’s possible Creighton has already played its last Valley road game. And its last home date could come Saturday against Wichita State.
The actual game was already big enough. Win, and the Jays seize their first outright conference crown in 12 years. Win, and it (mostly) erases an awful five-week stretch that nearly undercut the 17-1 start. Win, and it’s the single biggest “W” of the McDermott era.
Lose, and the Jays are squarely on the bubble for the NCAA tournament. Lose, and arch-rival Wichita State struts out of Omaha with another conference title. Lose, and it represents the low point of a late-season meltdown that derailed a signature season.
College basketball is different than football. There are 40 games instead of 14. But the significance of this game — the emotional gap between victory and defeat — is in the same ballpark as Nebraska’s Big Ten championship date with Wisconsin.
By Saturday at 3:30 p.m., Creighton fans are either going to feel jubilation or misery. There isn’t much in between.
But big picture, the Catholic 7 news is more significant than any win. Creighton officials haven’t said squat about the conference shuffle the past few months. But if indeed they make the cut, it’s a landmark moment in the history of the university — in the same ballpark as NU’s Big Ten move.
It makes Creighton basketball a player on the national stage. It makes Omaha a top-flight basketball town.
Picture conference tournaments at Madison Square Garden. Picture this potential conference home schedule: Marquette, DePaul, Butler, St. Louis, Dayton, Xavier, Georgetown, St. John’s and Villanova.
No longer would Creighton fans have to (or get to, depending on your point of view) complain about their mid-major status. No longer would Greg McDermott feel the need to treat Missouri State, Drake and Bradley as equals — I know you gotta respect your opponent, Coach, but it’s a hard sell.
A move to the Big East would bring the national TV cameras to CenturyLink on a regular basis, opening the door to a new level of recruits. It would (hopefully) spark a hoops rivalry with the Huskers. It would be a whole new world.
For now, the focus is Wichita State. It’s a big one. Especially if it’s the last one.
>> One more potential goodbye: Doug McDermott?
Creighton’s struggles may have knocked McDermott off the All-American team. But if he thinks he can be a first-round draft pick — and if he thinks the program will take a step back without Grant Gibbs and Gregory Echenique — then he might bolt.
Just in case it happens, take a moment and appreciate No. 3 a little more on Saturday.
>> I made the mistake of taking my 2-year-old to Ralston Arena last night without a ticket. We waited outside in line for 20-25 minutes in what felt like 0-degree temps. By the time we reached the ticket booth, the only thing available was standing-room only. By the time we saw the court, UNO was already trailing South Dakota State 33-19.
Bad experience? No way. We found some seats. We found some candy. Luke ran around in his Kevin Durant jersey.
UNO has a long way to go to reach SDSU’s level (finding a guard like Nate Wolters would help), but Derrin Hansen still made a lot of progress in year one of a full Summit schedule. And nights like Thursday, you can envision what the UNO scene might look like with the Mavs in NCAA tournament contention.
>> The Big Ten is essentially a three-team race: Indiana (12-3), Michigan State (11-4), Wisconsin (11-4).
IU’s schedule: Iowa, Ohio State, at Michigan.
MSU: at Michigan, Wisconsin, Northwestern
Wisconsin: Purdue, at Michigan State, at Penn State
I don’t see the Hoosiers losing twice, which means either Michigan State or Wisconsin must go 3-0. The Spartans can do it. Maybe.
>> Speaking of Big Ten races, the Husker women are suddenly in the thick of it. One game — Sunday at home against conference leader Penn State — for a share of the championship.
Nothing compares to the 2010 season, when NU went undefeated in the regular season. But winning 10 straight (11 with a win Sunday) would be an incredible accomplishment. Arguably the high point of Nebraska’s 18 months in the Big Ten.
>> A few more notes on conference realignment. The new Big East may be a catalyst for another round. Could the Valley pick up a school like Valparaiso?
“Most people at my level would tell you, never have you felt so helpless. You just wait,” said one Missouri Valley athletic director, who spoke to USA TODAY Sports on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of realignment issues. “We’re just sitting here wondering if Creighton goes, which of the 26 schools in our footprint that make some sense should we be pursuing. You just have no idea what tomorrow is like because you don’t have any control of it.”
>> There is no bigger loser in conference realignment than UConn.
>> LeBron James just finished one of the best months in NBA history. Don’t believe me? Check out his shot chart.
>> Ben McLemore took a hard road to Allen Fieldhouse. Another great profile on the Jayhawks’ stud guard.
>> Randy Bennett and St. Mary’s got hammered this morning by the NCAA.
>> Rory McIlroy walked off the course this morning at Doral. Wisdom teeth, he says.
>> A Kansan had his Ken Griffey Jr. collection stolen. Gregg Marshall and Griffey himself helped ease his pain. Cool story.
>> Why does Bob Stoops always underachieve? Stewart Mandel examines the gap between preseason polls and postseason finishes.
>> Taylor Martinez can throw the short ball. It’s the 15-25 yard passes that are problematic. An interesting examination of college quarterbacks.
>> Good note from Phil Steele on Twitter: Last year, Nebraska football became just the fourth team since 1996 to rally four times from double-digit second-half deficits. The others: 2000 North Carolina State, 2008 Arkansas and 2005 UCLA.
>> An entertaining Q&A with Hayden Fry.
>> Finally, I presented a late-night Twitter poll Thursday. If you were buying NBA season tickets, rank your top 5 choices. Consider the teams’ success level, star power, style of play and home-court atmosphere.
This was the voters’ order of finish:
1– Oklahoma City
3– L.A. Lakers
5– L.A. Clippers
6– Golden State
7– New York
Here’s my top 5:
1– Oklahoma City (2nd-best team in the NBA. Love Durant. Love the crowd)
2– Denver (Their speed and offensive balance is a wonder to watch)
3– Miami (LeBron in his prime — ‘Nough said)
4– Golden State (Steph Curry is Reggie Miller with handles. And the Oracle is wild)
5– Clippers/New York (The Clips have Lob City; the Knicks have the Garden)
>> My goal is to one day have enough Mad Chatter readers to fill the empty seats in Charlotte. Thanks for reading. Have a great weekend.