So much ground to cover today, but let’s start with Tuesday’s Twitter poll, one of my favorites in the illustrious history of Mad Chatter public surveys:
Select and rank the best five head coaches in the Nebraska athletic department.
Tough one, huh. I received close to 100 responses on Twitter and email. And here’s how the points broke down (five points for a first-place vote, four points for second, etc.):
10 — Dan Kendig, women’s gymnastics. 20 points
9 — Bill Straub, women’s bowling. 36 points
8 — Mark Manning, wrestling. 38 points
T-6 — Darin Erstad, baseball. 44 points
T-6 — Bo Pelini, football. 44 points
5 — Rhonda Revelle, softball. 59 points
4 — Gary Pepin, track and field. 74 points
3 — Tim Miles, men’s basketball. 171 points
2 — Connie Yori, women’s basketball. 236 points
1 — John Cook, volleyball. 255 points
A few notes:
>> Several readers said they would upgrade Erstad and Miles if they continued on their current trajectory. If Husker hoops makes the NCAA tournament, Miles will no doubt gain some more love.
>> Did Miles and Yori benefit from the timing of the poll? Both have red-hot teams right now. What if the poll were taken in the fall during a Husker football win streak? Would Pelini crack the top 5?
>> Should a “best coaches” ranking account for degree of stress and pressure? If so, then Pelini obviously should be higher. But based on accomplishments, it’s hard to argue with Cook, Yori and Pepin, the 34-year-veteran who may be the most underrated coach on the list.
>> Basketball is endlessly complicated. And remarkably simple. One of the things good teams do is make sure their best players get enough shots.
Nebraska basketball, early in the season, was an offensive mess. Too many guys wanting to score 20 points. Too few guys recognizing their strengths and weaknesses. No role definition.
That’s all changed the past month. Look at this little graph I created. It shows the percentage of Husker shots attempted by NU’s offensive Big 3 — Terran Petteway, Shavon Shields and Walt Pitchford. (I counted free-throw attempts as half a field-goal attempt).
As you can see, with the exception of the Iowa game (an outlier), Petteway, Shields and Pitchford are consistently getting more shots than they did during January’s skid. More than 60 percent of the team total, in fact.
Some of this is due to Deverell Biggs’ departure. But it’s also because guys like David Rivers and Benny Parker enter the game with a clear vision for their roles. (If you don’t think this is important, look at Iowa right now).
Nebraska is starting to have an offensive identity. And if it can get anything the next two weeks out of Ray Gallegos (he’s bound to hit four or five 3s one of these nights, right?), it can raise its level even higher.
>> With 2 1/2 weeks left, I get a kick out of college basketball analysts who look at a bubble team’s loss on Feb. 25 and say, “Well, they’re going to the NIT.” I heard that with St. John’s last night, after its home loss to Xavier.
You’re telling me that if the Johnnies, who were “in” most brackets yesterday, win their last two, then their first two in the Big East tournament (including an upset of Creighton or Villanova), that wouldn’t be good enough to make up for a loss to Xavier? That’s absurd. It wouldn’t even take a Big East championship.
Truth is, there is a lot of losing that’s going to happen in the next 2 1/2 weeks. Most bubble teams will lose two or three more games. That brings us back to Nebraska. The Huskers’ game at Illinois is very big, but it’s not an elimination game. Don’t freak out, Husker fans, if analysts greet an NU loss tonight with the words, “Well, they’re going to the NIT.”
>> All in all, it was a good night on the bubble for the Huskers. We’ll find out later if Minnesota’s win over Iowa helps or hurts NU (my sense is it helps since it keeps the Gophers in the Top 50, making NU’s win look better).
But we know for sure that Georgia’s win over Missouri helped. Nebraska is without an impressive non-conference win, but the Bulldogs are doing their part to change that. As for Mizzou, it’s still ahead of NU in the at-large pecking order, but the Tigers are proving dreadful on the road.
I re-tweeted Kansas City Star columnist Sam Mellinger last night, who made this remark: “Mizzou kills it in football, blows in basketball. If fans stop caring about hoops, the transition to SEC will be complete.”
>> I enjoyed this SI.com breakdown of Kansas’ 10 straight conference championships — and which was most impressive. That streak is a testament to Self’s remarkable coaching acumen. But it’s hard not to pin some blame on Texas, Kansas State, etc. None of those schools could put it together just once?
>> Cool examination of the D-League’s Rio Grande Valley Vipers, who play “the most extreme professional basketball in America.” Can it work in the NBA? Grantland’s Jason Schwartz has the story.
>> The Texans’ draft dilemma evokes memories of 2006, when Houston opted for the pass rusher (Mario Williams) over the sexy Heisman winner (Reggie Bush) and the local quarterback (Vince Young). It was the right decision then. But will a QB be too important to pass up this time? Or can Houston grab one in round two, after taking Clowney with the first pick? Good read from Judy Battista.
>> How did the Angels became the worst franchise in baseball? And why they’re trying to become more like the Cardinals.
>> Time to tap into the Mad Chatter mailbag.
Here’s Keith on Husker hoops: “Frankly, I’m not on the bandwagon quite yet. Either BIG is overrated or the Huskers are better than I think. Every time I watch them…well, it’s never pretty, almost exhausting, if not painful. Yet somehow they stumble, bumble into another W.”
(And people say I’m a pessimist!)
Here’s Denny on Creighton: “I must say I have followed Creighton for many years & this in my opinion the best Jay team I have seen. But I must admit they couldn’t have picked a better time to join the Big East as this is by far the weakest the B. E. has been in years. The teams that left are all ranked in the top twenty and Villanova is HIGHLY overrated.”
(Jaybackers, send your angry emails to Denny@CreightonFan.com)
Here’s Jim commenting on my theory that people should do more standing at basketball games: “No way to express my contempt for those who criticize for sitting down. I drive downtown, find parking, walk to the arena, get to my seat, and now I am being scolded for not standing?
“My vocal cords are not in my butt. I noticed that when you made this comment to your buddy on press row, you were sitting down. How do you people write this stuff and still make eye contact with people?”
(This is why I work from home, Jim.)
Here’s Skip on my stand-up column: “I like the theory, but there needs to be a exception. Any game officiated by Jim Burr will put the theory on hold while he walks over to the scorer’s table, takes a nap, views the replay monitor, takes a drink, turns to walk back to the court, turns back to the table, views the monitor again, and then we play basketball. Wait two minutes and repeat.
“One of the pillars of quantum mechanics is the “Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle”. Apparently, in basketball, it’s the Burr Uncertainty Game Delay.”
(Now this is a reader with a sense of humor!)
Here’s Phil on Doug McDermott: “People ask for comparisons – I suggest Rick Barry. That may be too far back for some to remember, but if you can, take a look at some old video.”
(Hadn’t thought of Barry. Here’s a few highlights. Hopefully McDermott has a little more luck with his hairline.)
Here’s Ryan on the bizarre strength of basketball on the I-80 corridor: “Imagine if I had told you in early 2010 that in four years, the state of Nebraska would have the Big Ten Player of the Year, the Big East Player of the Year and the National Player of the Year and potentially two NCAA tournament teams. …
“Can you imagine what your answer would have been? Heck, I would have said you were crazy four months ago.”
(Funny you should mention it, Ryan. I did write a column lamenting local hoops in 2010. Happy to say things have turned).