It’s Friday! That means Ten Big stories in 10 little bites. We cover Doug McDermott and the mystery Bluejay who needs to help him, Husker basketball dreams and Oregon football’s officiating nightmare, Michael Sam, LeBron James, the Miracle On Ice and more. But first, recruitin’.
We’re putting together a nice project for Sunday’s World-Herald examining Nebraska’s state-by-state recruiting since Bob Devaney, with rankings and trends and (the best part) an all-star lineup from each state. Here’s a preview:
Perception: Nebraska needed speed in the early 90s to supplement its Midwestern brawn, so it went down to Florida.
Reality: Nebraska has relied far more heavily on Texas and California for athletes.
Perception: The Sunshine State has been critical to NU’s success over the years.
Reality: Aside from the class of 1992, recruiting in Florida has bordered on disaster.
Since Tommie Frazier and Tyrone Williams, only two Florida high school signees have developed into regular Nebraska starters — Shevin Wiggins and Fabian Washington, both of whom grew up in Bradenton/Palmetto. Two in 20 years.
The list of disappointments includes Leslee Dennis, Justin Stephens, Robert Pollard, Danny Muy, Harrison Beck, Cruz Barrett, Latravis Washington, Antonio Bell, Brion Carnes and Tyler Moore.
(In the 80s, Nebraska only signed three Florida players — Mike Grant, Gene Chealey and McCathorn Clayton. None held onto a starting job.)
Yes, Florida natives have helped the Huskers. But most were transfers, unknown to NU until they started playing junior-college ball. Lavonte David, Stanley Jean-Baptiste, Steve Octavien. Andre Jones. The list is long.
All this makes Nebraska’s Florida initiative the past two years so intriguing. Bo Pelini signed three Florida high school players in 2013: Boaz Joseph, Kevin Maurice and Ernest Suttles, who’s no longer with the program. He signed three more this February: Zack Darlington, Sedrick King and Chris Jones.
It might work for Nebraska. But remember, Tommie Frazier was the exception to Florida recruiting, not the rule.
>> How far can Doug McDermott carry Creighton? Since the Jays beat Georgetown on Jan. 25 (with five players in double figures), McDermott has scored an eye-opening 45 percent of Creighton’s points.
Nobody but McDermott has exceeded 12 points in a game. Grant Gibbs had 12 and Austin Chatman had 10 at St. John’s. Will Artino had 11 last night. Chatman had 11 against DePaul.
I could watch McDermott play basketball all day. But he needs more help. If Ethan Wragge is struggling with his shot, where does help come from? Artino? Possibly. But Devin Brooks is the stronger candidate.
Brooks struggled against St. John’s in Omaha, then after missing the DePaul game with an illness, he scored nine total points in limited minutes on this two-game road trip. The Jays could use about 15 from Brooks Sunday against Villanova.
>> Much can change in a month, of course. But my hunch is the Big East regular-season champion grabs a No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament.
On top of a nice piece of hardware, that’s what Creighton is playing for Sunday against Villanova. A two seed basically guarantees that Creighton would play the first weekend in St. Louis or Milwaukee.
If the Jays fall to a four seed or lower, they could end up anywhere. This is a back-burner topic for mid-February, but I imagine Creighton fans would love to make another March trip to St. Louis. For old time’s sake.
>> Solo sixth. That is Nebraska’s current place in the Big Ten standings. Tim Miles’ team is ahead of Minnesota, Indiana, Purdue and Illinois. And just a half-game back of Ohio State.
All of this is subject to change, of course, especially with a Husker road trip to East Lansing on Sunday. But it’s not inconceivable that if NU wins out at home, steals a road win and gets to 10-8 in the league, it could grab a first-round bye in Indianapolis. Wrap your head around that idea for a moment.
I’d just like to see Nebraska enter the final week (at Indiana, Wisconsin at home) on the bubble — 8-8 or better in the league.
>> I’m not saying the “10-second gap between plays” isn’t worth discussion — it is. But can we all take three steps back and take a deep breath? It’s not going to pass. At least not this offseason without a valid study proving that hurry-up offenses indeed increase the risk of defensive injuries.
I don’t have much sympathy for defensive tackles who are fatigued. I do, however, think officials need to give defensive coordinators a bit longer to match personnel after an offensive substitution. And I do think the NCAA should consider a rule change that alleviates a defender’s need to be in a stance for 30 seconds.
Quarterbacks initiating a snap count at 30 seconds — then not actually snapping the ball until 3 seconds — borders on ridiculous. Why does it happen? Because offensive coordinators want to assess a defense from the sixth story of a press box. Is that consistent with the spirit of football? I don’t think so.
>> One of the storylines from the Michael Sam story that surprises/impresses me most is how his Missouri teammates kept the news relatively private for an entire football season. Pat Forde examines why.
>> SI’s Michael Rosenberg investigates gay Russians’ (lack of) interest in the NFL. Funny column.
>> The New York Times with a cool interactive project on Olympians who finish fourth.
Tuesday on the Dan Patrick Show, guest host Chris Mannix asked Nebraska bobsledder Curt Tomasevicz if he’d rather finish second or fourth. Initially Tomasevicz said second would sting more. But over time, it’d be a lot better to have a silver than have nothing at all. (For the record, he has a gold from 2010).
>> Hockey fans, here’s a good one on Evgeni Malkin’s Russian roots.
>> Another hockey story! What the “Miracle on Ice” means in Russia. Really good story from the Wall Street Journal.
>> Is LeBron James really going to let his entire career pass without participating in the dunk contest? He is, isn’t he. What a disappointment.
One of these years the NBA (and its new commissioner) needs to throw $1 million at the winner and see if LeBron will bite. While we wait for that, enjoy someone who wasn’t afraid to compete.
>> ESPN examines a California high school football power comprised of migrant workers. Excellent.
>> Finally, which local team makes its sport’s national semifinals first? At last count, Nebraska football held a one-vote advantage over Creighton basketball. (No love for Kirk Ferentz?!?)
>> Thanks for reading. Have a great weekend.