Friday, January 27, 2006 Recruiting Rankings are "Make-Believe"

A footnote to yesterday's posting. Even the folks at don't view their rankings all that highly:

“The whole class rankings is very dangerous,” Big 12 recruiting analyst Matt Malatesta said. “I know that people love to talk about it because it’s the off-season, and everyone wants to talk about it. Everything is make- believe until they hit the field."

Yawn...Fortunately the silly season of recruiting is almost over...

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Recruiting Rankings Irrelevant

Stewart Mandel of Sports Illustrated looks at recruiting rankings, and generally found that the rankings don't really mean a lot. Sometimes they are right; sometimes not.

Back in 2004, I looked at Tom Lemming's rankings and found that they really were rather irrelevant in predicting future success. Everybody likes to point to teams that had highly ranked recruiting classes and then had big success with those players, but they never go back and look at all those rankings and evaluate all those rankings.

From 1993 through 1999, only 61% of Lemming's "Top 10" had top 25 football teams 3 or 4 years later, when those "top ten" classes should have been juniors and seniors. Oh sure, teams such as Florida State and Tennessee were both highly ranked by Lemming and had pretty good teams down the line. But there were some major misses as well. Notre Dame had top ten classes 7 out of 8 years from 1993 through 2000, but certainly didn't have much success with those classes. Alabama had top 10 classes from 1998 to 2000, but is just now getting back to prominance. And everybody's poster child for recruiting, USC, ripped off 4 straight "top 10" classes from 1994 through 1997, and couldn't crack the top 25.

Just remember that next week when signing day happens.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Mavs 3, Sparty 2

While not as entertaining from a pure competition standpoint, UNO's 3-2 victory over Michigan State is sure a lot more satisfying. Scott Parse regained the status as the nation's leading scorer with 2 assists last night. The most impressive was forcing the turnover while short-handed, then feeding Tomas Klempa for the eventual game-winning goal in the 2nd period.

Freshman Jared Kaufmann put in another solid performance in goal, only allowing 1 power play goal to one of the hottest teams in the country. He's probably still sore from the whack he took in a second period scrum.

This morning's Pairwise ratings has UNO in a tie for 9th place, which is rather bizarre because UNO currently sits in 9th place in their conference. This weekend is the tough road-trip to Alaska-Fairbanks. They really need to get some points up north this weekend.

I really think it may be easier for UNO to get to the NCAA tournament this season than the Joe (for the CCHA tournament's semi-finals). UNO's non-conference performance, as well as the performance by the rest of the CCHA has elevated the conference's position to the point they may get five teams in the tournament. My guess is that UNO needs to win 3 out of 4 remaining home games (Lake Superior State and Michigoon), then try to split the remaining series at Northern Michigan, Western Michigan, and Alaska-Fairbanks.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Rock Chalk Jayhawk....P U!

In hoops, Kansas blasted Nebraska 96-54 this afternoon; this was the worst loss by the Huskers against the Jayhawks and fourth worst in Nebraska history. I've been a proponent of Barry Collier, but it's looking like he is going to be fired in the next couple of months, barring a turnaround.

The Kansas fans were chanting "Just Like Football" towards the end of the game. Perhaps Collier can turn around the Huskers season like Bill Callahan did...

Sparty 4, Mavs 3: Oh so close

Last night's Michigan State/UNO game was epic; perhaps the best hockey game played in Omaha in years. Michigan State might be the hottest team in college hockey today; their Pairwise rating is 4th in the country, and they are on a 6 game winning streak with a couple of shutouts.

It was high-action hockey on both ends, with each team controlling the play for extended periods with several back and forth opportunities for either team to score. UNO had several chances to win the game at the end of the third period, plus in overtime. Bill Thomas was stopped several times on breakaways, including once in OT. But Sparty fired a nearly perfect shot into the back of the net to win the game in OT, gaining a small amount of revenge on UNO for their OT winner at Munn in November. Great crowd last night; one of the loudest in years.

Game 2 tonight; hopefully the Mavs can get a couple of points to split the series tonight. UNO can choose 2 ways to react to last night: come out even more determined to win, or fold. They really need tonight's game.

Fans who can't make it to the game can catch it on Nebraska Public TV.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Mavs Looking Better than their Record

Two weekends ago, UNO had a horrible weekend against Notre Dame, but last weekend at Ohio State, they bounced back rather nicely, gaining 3 points on the road. Now, has released their PairWise ratings, which attempt to mimic the NCAA selection committee's rankings for the NCAA tournament. And despite what their 12-10-2 record would have you believe, the Mavs would likely be in the NCAA tournament if the season were to end today. drew up some sample brackets, and right now, they would match up UNO versus the Minnesota Golden Gophers in the Northeastern Regional.

But the NCAA tournament is more than 2 months away; we're barely halfway through the season. This weekend brings the Michigan State Spartans to town. Sparty is playing better as of late, beating the Weasels of Michigoon last night 2-0. UNO swept Sparty at Munn in November, so Sparty will be looking for revenge and extend their five-game winning streak. One factor in UNO's favor is that Tuesday night game. UNO played on Tuesday night 2 weeks ago, and came out flat the following Friday versus Notre Dame. Last week, Ohio State played Miami on Tuesday night, and came out flat against UNO on Friday night. Could the Tuesday night jinx come through again?

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Sporting News shows Callahan a little love

Matt Hayes of the Sporting News, like most of the national media, certainly took shots at Bill Callahan during the football season. But, this week, he recognizes that Callahan might be finally pulling the Huskers out of the ditch that Callahan and his boss drove the Huskers into.

That raises an interesting phenomenon that has taken hold in this country over the past couple of years. Honest criticism is viewed by some people as hatred or treason. Sometimes it's over serious topics like Chuck Hagel's criticism of President Bush's Iraq policy. Sometimes it's over something as trivial as Nebraska football. It's a sad state of the polarized nature of this country.

Another example came up today on Big Sports 590. (I prefer Kevin and Mike'l on 1620 the Zone, but I can't get their signal most of the time.) Matt Perrault, the afternoon host, was going to promote the Huskers Recruiting Dinner (YAWN!!!!) until the president of Nebraska's "Touchdown Club" booster organization said that a "Callahan-hater" like Perrault wouldn't be welcome. So, Nebraska loses out on some free positive publicity, and insteads looks more and more paranoid.

Hate is a strong term. But in today's society, it seems that criticism gets morphed into hate. I really wonder what some people will say when they run into real hatred. Will they even be able to recognize it?

Sunday, January 15, 2006

14,000 excuses for not taking down the tree sooner

Finally got around to taking down the Christmas tree this weekend. Some people might think this is late, but remember, the "12 days of Christmas" traditionally STARTS on December 25th. And judging by the number of people at the tree recycling center, I wasn't the only one. In the 5 minutes I was there, a half dozen more trees showed up.

The undecorating didn't stop me from catching some of the football and hockey action this weekend. I don't ever remember so many road teams winning in the playoffs before; 3 road teams won last weekend, and 2 more today. And anyone who bothered to watch NBC's coverage of the NHL sure got a treat yesterday. Philadelphia scored twice in the last 3 minutes of regulation to tie the game, but Colorado won in overtime. Then they switched to Boston-Dallas just in time for a shootout.

Props to UNO goalie Jerad Kaufmann for shutting out #20 Ohio State on Friday night. UNO followed that up with a tie on Saturday night, giving them 3 needed points in the standings. Up this weekend is Michigan State at the Qwest Center. UNO swept the Spartans in November at their place; another sweep would help UNO's positioning in both the conference and in the battle for the NCAA tournament. Miami is pulling away in the standings, but the rest of the league is up for grabs. 7 points seperates 2nd place from last place.

Last month, I complimented Steve Pederson for his plan to sell the additional 6,500 Nebraska football season tickets. And, as things look, it turned out even better than expected, as they received over 14,000 requests. Scanning the internet over the last couple of weeks, I was amazed by the number of people who worried that a $250 donation per ticket wouldn't be enough to lock into tickets. Guess a lot of people weren't aware that Husker season tickets have been readily available for the last few years for a $150 donation. That ignorance means more money in the athletic department coffers; this reverse auction may have turned out even better than planned. (I think that's why they cut off requests last week.) Of course, the Huskers performances against Colorado and Michigoon didn't hurt either.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Omaha Royals: Solving their problems

The most positive news about the Omaha Royals this week came out on Friday, and it doesn't involve a new stadium. It's that the Minkers are considering selling their interest in the Royals. I don't know whether these new prospective owners would be able to do a better job or not; they still are from out of town. But, they probably can look at the failures by the current owners and make the necessary changes.

New ownership may still move forward on a new stadium, which may make sense for them. These prospective owners recognize the value of Rosenblatt, and if they decide to proceed on a new stadium, they will probably do a better job of selling it to the people of Omaha. Which, if they want much in the way of contributions from the city, they'll need to do.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Omaha Royals: Rosenblatt is the least of your problems

In today's "State of the City" address, Mayor Mike Fahey announced that the Omaha Royals are working on a financing plan to build a new baseball stadium in "North Downtown" west of the Qwest Center. Since nothing has been disclosed about the plan, it's difficult to comment as to whether this is a good deal for Omaha or not.

Judging from the Royals past comments on the stadium, I get the impression that the Royals were expecting the taxpayers to pay for most of this stadium. That idea simply won't fly; they'll need to better explain the benefits of this stadium to justify a major taxpayer investment.

Many stadium backers point to the Qwest Center as an example of the benefit that could occur. Problem is, unlike the Qwest Center, we already have a wonderful baseball stadium. ESPN spends nearly 2 weeks a year fawning over Rosenblatt Stadium. Before the Qwest Center, the Civic Auditorium was booked solid and Omaha was missing out on major events. The need for a new arena was there; without the Qwest Center, Omaha stood zero chance of hosting U2, Paul McCartney, the Rolling Stones, or the NCAA basketball, wrestling, and volleyball tournaments.

The question for the Royals is: what is the benefit to Omaha for the new stadium? Except for anchoring new development downtown, that hasn't been explained.

The Royals talk about how Rosenblatt is too big for the Royals, but fail to explain why a smaller stadium downtown would help them, except to cut down on the number of empty seats. Rosenblatt didn't suddenly outgrow the Royals; in fact, the opposite has happened. Under the mismanagement of the Minker family, the Omaha Royals have alienated fans and discouraged people from attending games.

I've talked to several people who are knowledgable about the Royals situation, and they agree that a new stadium isn't going to help the Royals at all. And depending on how the new stadium operates, it might hurt them even more than it helps.

Rosenblatt Stadium gives the Royals three distinct advantages:
  • free parking
  • close proximity to Omaha's biggest tourist attraction: the Henry Doorly Zoo
  • a $500,000 a year subsidy from the city of Omaha

Relocating to North Downtown would eliminate at least 2 of those advantages. The Royals talk about the difficulty in convincing fans to pay $8 for a ticket. That difficulty increases when suddenly you add a $6 parking fee in a downtown lot/parking garage on top of that $8.

The proble with the Royals isn't the stadium, it's the product. They are the top minor league affiliate of one of the worst-managed major league baseball team: the Kansas City Royals. In the 70's and 80's, Kansas City used to have their best minor leaguers in Omaha. Now, Kansas City trades away their best players before their salaries skyrocket, and then call up their prospects straight from class AA Wichita straight to the major leagues, bypassing Omaha.

And the Minker family has been mostly incompetent in promoting baseball in Omaha. Except for radio ads promoting yet-another-fireworks-night, the Royals don't give the average family a reason to attend their games. Periodically, you hear stories of families being harassed at the gate.

A new ballpark will encourage folks to come down and check the new place out. But if they don't give fans a reason to come back (or worse, continue to give folks reasons to stay away), the attendance gains from a new stadium will be extremely short-lived.

If the Royals want to pay for a new stadium themselves, or can come up with a plan using private funds, more power to them. But don't expect the taxpayers to bail them out of the mess they created.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Monday Morning Quarterbacking

Saturday night, UNO managed to pull out a 2-2 tie with Notre Dame to avoid getting swept at home. A very disappointing weekend, but there were a few positives to take away. First of all, larger crowds: almost 14,000 combined over the 2 games. (My prediction that the Mavs would double the average attendance of the Omaha Aksarben Knights is looking pretty good...) Saturday night, 2 players in particular stepped it up to show some heart: Freshman Tomas Klempa and Hobey Baker candidate Scott Parse took their game up a level and showed some grit and hustle in battling the trapping Irish.

While the extra joustling cost Parse a couple of trips to the penalty box (only 12 penalties this season before Saturday), it still didn't keep him from contributing an assist on both goals. Parse is now #1 in the nation in scoring.

The retired publisher of the Omaha daily couldn't help once again misanalyzing the Huskers. In Sunday's column, "Weird" Harold Andersen claimed that Bill Callahan's decision to go for 2 in the 4th quarter of the Alamo Bowl was "a gutsy call" that "got little or no attention". Uh, no, it wasn't a "gutsy call" at all. The reason why it got "little or no attention" was that going for 2 was a no-brainer at that point. If you make the 2 point conversion, you are within a field goal of tying the game. If you miss, you still need a touchdown. At that point in the game, there is little difference between being down 4 versus 5 points, but there is a BIG difference between being down 3 versus 4 points.

Speaking of the Huskers, defensive coordinator Kevin Cosgrove has been offered the job as linebackers coach for the Minnesota Vikings. I'm no Cosgrove fan, so I'm actually hoping he takes the job. In-laws from the Minnesota/Wisconsin area warned us about Cosgrove when he came to Lincoln, and Barry Alvarez was able to hire his successor at Wisconsin after Nebraska took Cosgrove off his hands.

Who would replace Cosgrove? One candidate comes to mind immediately: Marvin Sanders. Sanders turned down a job with the St. Louis Rams to join the Husker staff in 2003. In 2004, he begged to be included in the new coaching staff, but was turned down. Sanders was a key reason why Nebraska's defense improved so much in 2003, according to Bo Pelini. Hiring Sanders would not only be a great upgrade for the Nebraska coaching staff, it would also help heal the divisions in the Husker fan base by bringing a former player onto the staff. Sanders is an outstanding coach, and is a former Husker who really wants to be part of the Husker program.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Mavs: A Team in need of a Heart Transplant

There is no doubt UNO is a talented hockey team. Junior Scott Parse is 2nd in the country in scoring, while sophomore linemate Bill Thomas is 5th.

But there is one thing that seems to be sorely lacking: Heart.

Tuesday night, they went into the 3rd period at Mankato leading 2-0. They give up a power play goal at the start of the 3rd period, and the implosion begins. 10 minutes later, UNO is down 5-2.

Last night against last place Notre Dame with the largest crowd of the year on hand, they come out sleepwalking in the first period and don't wake up much in the 2nd and find themselves down 3-0 late in the 2nd before scoring just before the end of the period. They end up losing 4-1.

Every Mav fan is frustrated by what they saw last night. This team needs a good dose of grit and toughness. In the early years, UNO didn't have the big-time talent. It was a team built on hard-work. Now we've got some big name talent, but the heart has disappeared.

Could we find some eligibility for a Jeff Edwards, a Derek Reynolds, or Jeff Hoggan?

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

All Hail the Greatest Team Ever..... oops!

ESPN's premature coronation of the 2005 USC Trojans as the greatest team ever was a wonderful job of marketing. They just forgot one little detail:

USC isn't even the greatest team in 2005.

I wonder how long their ludicrous comparison of 2005 USC to 1995 Nebraska will stay online. Lee Barfknecht of the Omaha newspaper made this same mistake in 2003. Before the Big XII championship game, he tried to claim that the 2003 Oklahoma Sooners were the greatest ever. The Sooners went on to get throttled by Kansas State.

Congratulations to the Bovines. And kudos to the best player in college football this season: Vince Young.

Now, if they'd only quit singing "I've been working on the railroad"...

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Scott Parse for Hobey Baker

UNO's Scott Parse ended 2005 as one of the hottest players in college hockey. Thursday night against Alabama-Huntsville, he tallied 5 points. Then, last night, Parse and his linemates Bill Thomas and Brian Marshall teamed up to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat against Yale.

Down 2-1, Parse assisted on Marshall's game-tying goal with 33 seconds left. Then, with the Qwest Center still buzzing at the start of overtime, Parse made an incredible pass to a wide open Marshall streaking down the ice, who buried it for the game winner just 19 seconds into OT.

ConAgra tried to top UNO's last minute fireworks with an impressive choreographed display last night, but nothing could top those 2 goals.

Parse is now #2 in the nation in scoring with 36 points, and leads the nation with his 1.89 points per game average. UNO's first Hobey Baker candidate?

This week, UNO travels to Minnesota State-Mankato for a game Tuesday, then welcomes Notre Dame for a 2 game conference series next weekend. Every conference game is huge; only 6 points seperates 2nd place from 12th.