1. I’m sitting down to write my Sunday column, off my conversation with Nebraska AD Shawn Eichorst. The interview went an hour. Man, I ask a lot of questions.
I learned several things about the man, most notably that he’s a different kind of AD for Nebraska in many ways, but similar to the last guy in others. He’s not here to turn everything upside down and shake, start hockey or serve beer. That doesn’t mean you won’t wake up one day and see something you hadn’t seen before.
One of the takeaway quotes was “You learn a lot when you keep your mouth shut.” That should be the little sign on his desk. I might make myself one while we’re at it.
2. Another good rule is to be careful about poking a stick at the SEC. Bob Stoops did that this week, and he won’t live it down for a while. Not that he cares. I respect the SEC, and it’s the best, yada, yada, yada.
But I totally get what Stoops was doing earlier this week when he said the SEC was overhyped. There’s too much SEC overkill. And it all comes from the same place: the SEC media. No group of media in college football takes care of their own like the SEC. These people take every opportunity to trumpet every SEC success and the league’s superiority. It’s a regional thing, it’s a pride thing, and no region takes more pride in its football than the south. I respect that. But I get tired of it, too.
I’ve said for years the bottom half of the SEC is overrated. It’s good, but not best in the country good. And after Alabama and LSU, who’s great? I just watched a good, not great, Nebraska team take South Carolina and Georgia to the mat for three quarters in the last two bowl games. SEC talent and depth prevailed in the fourth, but NU was hardly outclassed. In fact, NU had its way throughout both games. And these were supposedly two of the SEC’s better teams.
That aside, I don’t know when we started keeping score of the best conference. My guess is, we started when the SEC started its run. Nobody was talking much about the SEC before 2006, certainly not in the 1990′s or 80′s or 70′s. Or any other league. College football hasn’t been a sport defined by conferences. The eras have been marked by dynasties, the Bud Wilkinson Sooners, the John McKay Trojans, the Switzer and Osborne Big Red’s, Miami and Florida State, with Joe Paterno and Bear Bryant winning titles at various times. And now the Saban Era.
What’s happening now is more about Saban than it is Mississippi or South Carolina. Anyway, the SEC has the best team now, and several other good ones. They get it done in bowl season. I don’t buy into the SEC hype, top to bottom, but like the man said, “You learn a lot when you keep your mouth shut.”
3. I really like the way Nick Saban came out this week and promoted playing better schedules, starting with nine conference games. Of course, when you’re ‘Bama, you can take on the world. But you can also promote status quo and nobody will argue. Saban gets it. Better games isn’t always better for dynasties, but it’s good for the game and fans.
4. Creighton plays Wichita State this weekend and I hope it isn’t the last dance. This would be a terrific non-conference series and I’m sure Gene Stephenson wouldn’t mind bringing his Shox back to Omaha. I’m sure he’d prefer late June to late March.
5. Nebraska had the best baseball pedigree coming into the Big Ten but that doesn’t mean domination. It’s where your program is now. And entering Big Ten baseball, NU wasn’t in a good place. It needed to restock its roster, but also learn how to win again. That isn’t happening overnight. But the Huskers can tell us where they are these next three weeks, starting with this weekend’s series at Minnesota and ending back there in two weeks at the Big Ten tournament.
I don’t think Husker fans expect their program to be NCAA regional ready; that would be a pleasant surprise. Rule the Big Ten? Not yet. But a fourth-place finish and a two-and-out scenario in the tourney would be a disappointment. You want to see Darin Erstad’s team compete hard these next three weekends. That’s the least of what you expect from an Erstad team.
6. The second annual “Coaches For Cancer” event at Champions Run on Thursday night was big fun. Creighton’s Greg McDermott, Nebraska’s Tim Miles and UNO’s Derrin Hansen took turns jabbing each other with one-liners at the podium and a lot of money was raised for a good cause. There was a lot of chemistry and energy in the room. Lot of good vibes for hoops. Best line came from Miles, on NU selling out the new Pinnacle Bank Arena: “I bought 5,000 tickets myself.”
7. I have a hard time buying Mark Jackson’s claim that Golden State has the greatest shooting backcourt in NBA history. But I can’t seem to think of anyone better. Maybe Jerry West and Gail Goodrich. I remember those Laker teams, I don’t remember “the logo” or anyone else hitting that running 3-pointer that Steph Curry hit the other night. I’m pulling for a Golden State-Miami finals. Why do I get the feeling Memphis is going to muscle its way into the thing?
8. Tiger Woods is on the leader board of the Players Championship. Should be a great weekend to watch golf. Good thing Sunday isn’t Mother’s Day or anything.