You’ve heard the excuses. You’ve seen the numbers.
Nebraska football and basketball are behind the eight ball because of their location. There are 1.8 million people within the borders and that’s just not enough to stockpile elite programs.
Husker football, which benefited from Johnny Rodgers, Dave Rimington, Zach Wiegert, Eric Crouch and dozens of other in-state standouts, has signed a grand total of one native son each of the past two years.
Husker basketball, which surged in the 90s thanks to Nebraskans Rich King, Bruce Chubick, Andre Woolridge and Erick Strickland, hasn’t signed an in-state high school player since 2002. Eleven years!
Football has let a few quality prospects get away recently: Trevor Robinson, Harland Gunn, Kyle Dooley, among others. But the state is producing fewer Division I and major-conference recruits than at any point in the scholarship era.
Nebraska basketball has lost its share, too: Akoy Agau, Mike Gesell, Elliot Eliason, Wes Eikmeier, Jesse Carr, Greg and Dwight Smith, Josh Jones, Antoine Young, Matt Hill. You can argue that some weren’t good enough for NU. My rebuttal: Neither were the players Barry Collier and Doc Sadler signed. Either way, it’s a fact that the state only produces one or two Division I players per year.
There’s a reason I rehash all this today.
Chatrice White, who averaged 23 points, 14 rebounds and five blocks at Shelby-Rising City, committed last night to Illinois. White turned down dozens of major-conference schools, including Nebraska.
What a crushing blow, right? Yes and no. It’s hard to watch a talent like that leave the state. But in women’s athletics, Nebraska resembles a major-population base. Look at some of these names and their college destinations:
Sadie Murren (Wahoo), signed with Nebraska
Brianna Craig (Lincoln Northeast), Kansas State
Brianna Rollerson (Omaha Central), Creighton
Hannah Tvrdy (Seward), Nebraska
Alexa Kastanek (Lincoln Southeast), Iowa
Lauren Works (Lincoln Southwest), Creighton
That’s just the past two years in basketball — it doesn’t include Marissa Kastanek, Jordan Hooper, Emily Cady and others. Now look at volleyball this year alone:
Kadie Rolfzen (Papio-La Vista South), signed with Nebraska
Amber Rolfzen (Papio-La Vista South), Nebraska
Kelly Hunter (Papio-La Vista South), Nebraska
Maggie Heim (Marian), Ohio State
Samara West (North), Iowa State
Katie Higgins (Kearney), Notre Dame
Amanda Foje (Duchesne), Creighton
Jessica Bird (Bennington), Creighton
That’s not even the complete list — other prospects are going to mid-major Division I schools.
Why is Nebraska producing so many more elite female athletes than male athletes? I don’t have the answer. I have a few theories, but I want to hear yours, too — email me or drop a comment. It’s an issue I’d like to examine more closely.
I know these things are cyclical. I also know that if Nebraska produced as many elite football players as volleyball players, Bo Pelini’s life would be a lot easier.
>> Why do I think the Big Ten divisions are more balanced than the average analyst does? Because Penn State doesn’t belong in the top half of the league. Not over the next 7-10 years. The Nittany Lions, burdened by scholarship cuts, will be a 6-6 team (and Bill O’Brien will probably leave in the next two years). They’ll be behind Nebraska, Wisconsin, Iowa and Northwestern in winning percentage.
If that’s true — I don’t know many who disagree — then what’s so imbalanced? Iowa equals Michigan State — perhaps not at the moment, but over the past 10 years, Iowa has actually been five games better. Wisconsin equals Michigan — Brady Hoke may turn UM back into a national power, but Wisconsin has clearly been the better program over the last decade.
Nebraska isn’t Ohio State, but nobody in the league is. It didn’t matter how you designed the divisions. Wherever Ohio State landed was going to have a slight edge. As long as Gary Andersen isn’t Don Morton (the awful predecessor to Barry Alvarez), the Big Ten West will be fine.
>> ESPN’s Big Ten bloggers, who do excellent work, also examine how nine games affects the Big Ten’s chances of qualifying for the College Football Playoff.
>> Stewart Mandel’s college football mailbag, always worth reading, begins with Big Ten divisions, too.
>> Get ready, Kelly Hunter. Husker volleyball needs you. The incoming freshman from Papillion La Vista-South, who spent much of her high school career feeding the Rolfzens, is likely to be the starting setter after Alexa Strange announced her transfer Tuesday. With John Cook already replacing five starters, it could be a very long first season at the Devaney Center.
>> The senior tour pro who called in Tiger’s illegal drop at the Masters and saved — yes, saved — him from disqualification.
>> Revealing stat from ESPN.com. The top hitting team (measured by OPS) after the sixth inning is the Kansas City Royals. By far. The Royals are hitting .837 in the late innings. Who’s second? The Pittsburgh Pirates (.788). Keep it up and those two underdogs will be around in September.
>> Good stat from Creighton SID Rob Anderson: In the final 100 Creighton games at Rosenblatt, CU and its opponent produced a .283 batting average, 11.4 runs per game and 190 homers. In the first 100 games at TD Ameritrade, those numbers are .242. 7.6 runs and 47 homers. Bring in the fences before you scare away every high school hitting recruit within 300 miles!
>> I am not a gambler. I am not a conspiracy theorist. But the end last night’s Nuggets-Warriors game was one of the strangest things in a game I’d seen in a long time.
Golden State’s Jarrett Jack made two free throws with 26 seconds left, cutting the Denver lead to 107-100. Mark Jackson’s team did not foul. The game clock ran all the way to 2 seconds, when the Nuggets accepted a shot-clock violation. (To make matters worse, Steph Curry spent the last 1:19 on the bench — it initially appeared Jackson was subbing offense for defense, but he never put Curry back in.)
Now I realize seven points is three possessions. But this was a potential series-clinching game. You have the best 3-point shooters in the league. You have two timeouts and each time you call one, you can move the ball to the frontcourt. I’ve seen NBA teams rally from six points down in the final 10 seconds. Yet Golden State didn’t want to try with 26 seconds?
What was the point spread last night? Denver by 7.5. Hmmmm…