When we think of local sports history in this neck of the woods, we think of Husker football. Bob Devaney and Tom Osborne, blustery November dates with Oklahoma. We think of Bob Gibson and Rosenblatt Stadium. We don’t think much of basketball.
Yet decades from now, when people look back on the 2010s, what stands out may be a basketball boom:
Doug McDermott, the best player in Creighton history. The Jays’ promotion to the Big East. UNO’s jump to Division I. A dynasty at Omaha Central. And, of course, the new arena and new coach in Lincoln.
Tim Miles hasn’t proven much yet, but we’re seven months from the 2013-14 season opener and a program that hasn’t made the NCAA tournament in 15 years has already sold 10,355 season tickets. That’s about 70 percent of the total capacity.
Could NU sell it out with season tickets? It would be an incredible statement about fan enthusiasm. It would provide a home-court advantage Nebraska hasn’t had since the 90s.
I’ll make no bold predictions about the rest of the decade. But if you don’t notice the surge in local basketball interest, you aren’t paying attention.
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>> “We’ll be throwing the ball a lot more this coming fall,” Taylor Martinez said today on a Big Ten teleconference.
Martinez said today he’d like to be at 30 per game as a senior, especially because of Nebraska’s array of receiving talent.
As a sophomore, Taylor Martinez threw the ball 22 times a game. As a junior, he threw it 26 times a game. (Remove Arkansas State, Idaho State and Iowa — when the weather was horrible — and the average was 29.7 attempts). So he was pretty close to 30 anyway.
But more isn’t necessarily better for Martinez. He eclipsed 30 passes five times in 2012 — Southern Miss, UCLA, Northwestern, Michigan State and Wisconsin (in Indy). Nebraska lost two of those games and needed good fortune in the fourth quarter to beat the Wildcats and Spartans. Taylor led game-winning drives in both games and deserves credit for that.
But if the Husker offense does indeed become one of the nation’s best in 2013, I recommend a 65-35 run/pass split similar to last year.
>> Wichita State cracked CBS Sports’ Preseason top 25 for 2013-14. I’m a little surprised Iowa did not.
>> Is Illinois-Chicago really going to replace Creighton in the Missouri Valley? Wouldn’t Doug Elgin be wiser to pick a school that has some recent basketball success? Valparaiso? Belmont? Oral Roberts? The Flames haven’t been to the tournament since 2004. And they don’t stir up much interest in Chicago.
>> ESPN’s ultimate bracket of NCAA tournament games includes two Creighton games. The Florida game in 2002, I buy, as one of the four best 5/12 matchups. But the West Virginia game in 2005? That’s not even close to a classic. A lot of peculiar choices on this list.
>> What’s it feel like to screw up as a college basketball official? Interesting stuff from Deadspin.
>> ESPN’s NBA Draft expert Chad Ford released his first mock draft Tuesday — first round only. His Top 10: Nerlens Noel, Marcus Smart, Ben McLemore. Otto Porter, Victor Oladipo, Trey Burke, Shabazz Muhammad, Alex Len, Anthony Bennett, Gary Harris.
One notable omission from the top 30: McDermott.
If you’re a two-time All-American looking at players like P.J. Hairston ahead of you in draft projections, does it inspire you to jump into the league and prove yourself? Or to say “The heck with these people, I’m going back for one more year of college, where I’m appreciated.”
I don’t know. But Doug would be crazy to leave early if he’s not a first-round pick — he’s liable to spend 2013-14 in the D-League. So a mock draft like Ford’s is actually a good sign for Creighton fans.
(Here’s another mock from nbadraft.net, which has McDermott going 23rd).
>> I also listened this morning to Ford’s podcast with Bill Simmons. He was talking about the Catch-22 prospects face after their freshmen seasons.
Usually, the best thing for development is to return for a sophomore year, Ford said. But scouts and fans don’t simply want to see you reproduce your freshman year, they expect dramatic improvement. If it doesn’t happen, suddenly you’re no longer a hot prospect.
Look at Cody Zeller, Ford said. He would’ve been a top-5 pick after his freshman year. Now he’s clinging to the lottery.
“This is why I would drag Mitch McGary to the NBA Draft, if I could,” Ford said. His stock will never be higher than now.
>> Will the Lakers make the playoffs? It’s become the top NBA storyline of April. Let’s break it down. L.A. is 41-37. Utah is 41-38. But the Jazz own the tiebreaker.
Utah’s last three games are: Minnesota, at Minnesota and at Memphis. I think a good guess would be two out of three and a 43-39 record. Which means the Lakers would need to get to 44-38.
Can they win three of their last four? Their schedule: at Portland, Golden State, San Antonio, Houston. I think they get it done. We’ll see Spurs-Lakers in the first round and it’ll be riveting.
>> A perfect day at Augusta, by Rick Reilly. Great column. My Master pick is at the end of today’s Chatter.
>> How does Arnold Palmer order an Arnold Palmer at Augusta National? Steve Politi has the answer. Here’s the 30-for-30 on the origin of iced tea/lemonade.
>> RG3 set an NFL record for jersey sales last year. And I haven’t even bought one yet!
>> Johnny Manziel is the new role model for the next generation of high school QBs. Good stuff from Mitch Sherman.
>> Bob Stoops says players should quit crying about what they receive from the NCAA. They get plenty, he says.
>> Tom Verducci says MLB needs to prohibit runners from slamming into catchers at home plate. Agree completely. I would also demand that runners breaking up a double play make a good-faith effort to slide into second base, not the shortstop’s shins.
>> Turn on a baseball game and you’re more likely to see a perfect game than a left-handed catcher. But why?
>> Finally, my Masters pick. The sensible choices are Tiger or Rory, with Phil not far behind. My gut tells me Rory, but let’s be a little bolder than that — Dustin Johnson.