Tuesday, February 28, 2006

The Barry Collier Conundrum

I imagine that it would be easy to assume based on my postings about Barry Collier that one would assume that I'm advocating his firing. Which I'm not; however, I'm not sure I'm defending him anymore. Here's my take on the "Keep Barry/Fire Barry" argument:

Keep Barry
  • Currently in 6th place in the Big XII, and only 1 game out of 4th place (and the first round bye in the Big XII tournament with 2 games to play)
  • A winning season at 17-10.
  • A fairly young team with some talented young players (Aleks Maric, Marcus Walker, and Jamel White)
  • Playing better ever since Joe McCray left the team
Fire Barry
In all fairness, I haven't seen much of Nebraska basketball this season. With the diminishing interest in Husker hoops, no Omaha TV station carries the games so except for an occasional ESPN or FSN game, I only go by what I read and hear. I'm torn; Barry's teams are much better than the final few Danny Nee teams, and their actions don't embarass the school or the state. But, on the other hand, you'd like to have seen a little more progress.

But it really doesn't matter what I or most other fans think.

I'm focusing my analysis on what I think will happen, not what should happen. And in my mind, I think Barry Collier is on his way out. Some people think that having a successful season will prevent Steve Pederson from firing Collier, but that's never stopped him before. Some people think Nebraska is just a football school, but then how do you explain Texas and Oklahoma? Some people think that Nebraskans don't care about basketball, but then how do you explain the sellouts at Devaney in the early to mid 90's, or the 13,000 that regularly attend Creighton games?

I may very well be wrong, but I think Barry Collier is going to be fired, based purely on the deafening silence from above. In fact, I think he knows it as well. And remember, I'm not saying "should be" either.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Husker Information Minister doing a little Name Dropping

This morning on KFAB, Husker Information Minister Jim Rose followed up a story about Indiana's Senior Day by commenting to remember the name "Mike Davis". He said "that's all I'm going to say about it."

Gee, I wonder what he might be referring to?

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Lousy Weekend Wrapup

Last night's loss has the Nebraska-Omaha fan base in an ugly mood; probably a natural reaction to an ugly game with an ugly result. Time to turn that foul mood towards something positive; namely squeegeeing the fresh ice at the Qwest Center with Bowling Green this weekend.

It was a weird weekend in college hockey. Wisconsin got swept by Minnesota-Mankato. The Weasels of Michigoon tied, then lost, to Ferris (Bueller!) State.

UNO is still 7th in the PairWise ratings, so they are still in position to make the NCAA tournament with a good showing in the CCHA playoffs. Everything UNO wanted to accomplish is still possible; as far as the CCHA playoffs goes, it's just going to take more work. No need to hit the panic button yet.

Husker hoops followed up a very impressive victory against Colorado with an off performance at Texas A&M. Aleks Maric got into early foul problems, Nebraska fell behind quickly by 10, and that's pretty much the way the game played out.

Johnny Dorn pitched much better today, giving up 3 runs in 5 innings today against St. Johns for the Husker baseball team. Huskers won 12-4 after losing to Rice 3-2 yesterday.

Saturday, February 25, 2006


Going into this weekend, UNO only needed one win against last place Western Michigan, or a loss from both Lake Superior State and Northern Michigan.

It didn't happen.

Last night, UNO had a 3 goal lead late in the 3rd period, but the Broncos came back to tie it up. Then tonight, the Broncos jumped to an early lead, and UNO had to play catchup all night. And Northern Michigan got the sweep against Ohio State.

This one hurts. UNO's 10 game unbeaten streak came to a crashing halt.

UNO has to put this weekend behind them in a hurry. There's no point crying over the lost first-round bye. It's gone, and Bowling Green is coming in.

Where's my Sharpie???

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

YostBuilt Analysis

Interesting read from the Evil Empire on last weekend's Michigoon/Nebraska-Omaha series. Despite not even listening to the games, he correctly predicted that on 3 out of 4 UNO goals Friday night, a Weasel defenseman "screwed up".

Speaking of Jack Johnson, lots of commentary there about the Weasel's talented goon. The speculation is that he'll only play one season in Ann Arbor. You can see his talent, but his lack of discipline is going to inhibit his development.

Husker fans might enjoy their take on the Alamo Bowl as well.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Here we go again

In today's Omaha World-Herald, Nebraska executive associate athletic director Marc Boehm was interviewed regarding Barry Collier:

"We're not going to discuss the job status of any employee - head coach or any employee - unless that job status changes."

Sound familiar? It sure reminded me of previous statements by Steve Pederson that he doesn't talk about coaches in-season.

Only problem with that policy, is that Pederson and company don't always follow that policy.

In the uproar that followed last season's 40-15 thrashing by Kansas, Pederson sent a letter to boosters - violating that very policy that they cited today:

"I did some interviews earlier this week where I was asked about the coaching staff, the team, and the future of Nebraska football. I told them that I've seen dramatic improvement in practice and on Saturdays. We are playing a style of football that is attracting the nation's top young talent. Our coaching staff has the trust of our players and together they are improving. Our prospects for recruiting another strong class are great."

Perhaps Barry Collier has already been told he's going to be fired. But if he hasn't, this continued dangling in the wind is just delaying the inevitable. If you aren't going to live by the no-comment rule when Bill Callahan is in the cross-hairs, then don't use it regarding Barry Collier.

Boehm's "no comment" is about as close to "he's fired" as you can get. If you really want to dispel these rumors, you'd say something along the lines of "There are still 4 games left in the season, and we're in the upper division in the Big XII conference standings. Our focus is on finishing this season strong." Last Saturday's loss hurts, but the Huskers are still in position to get a first round bye in the Big XII tournament.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Monday Morning Quarterbacking - President's Day Edition

UNO's 3 points this weekend all but wrapped up home ice and a first round bye for the boys in the CCHA playoffs. They just need a win against last place Western Michigan, or a loss by Lake Superior State (against Michigan State) and Northern Michigan (against Ohio State).

Michigan State's sweep of Miami this weekend shook up USCHO's PairWise ratings; UNO is now in a 3-way tie for 4th place. This still projects them out to the east coast for the NCAA tournament, but now as a #2 seed.

Just like college football fans bitching about the BCS, hockey fans bitch about the PairWise ratings as well. We'll hear the same complaints next month in college basketball from somebody who ended up in the NIT instead of the NCAA basketball tournament.

All in all, it was a shame that this series conflicted with the Nebraska High School wrestling tournament. The Civic is a great barn for college hockey, but this series could have drawn 9,000 or more to the Qwest Center when you consider lost skybox and club tickets, plus a walkup crowd that the sellout turned away. It did get incredibly loud at the end of Friday night's game; nobody heard the horn go off at the end.

Meanwhile, in Lincoln, a big crowd showed up to watch Barry Collier's team take on Bobby Knight. Problem was that Aleks Maric picked up two quick fouls in the first half and spent the rest of the half on the bench, which ended up erasing the momentum Nebraska brought from their win at Iowa State. When Maric sat, Nebraska was up, but by halftime, Tech was up. This was another loss that has Husker fans shaking their heads.

Husker baseball got started this week, with Joba Chamberlain on fire but Johnny Dorn getting rocked. No radio coverage will begin until after basketball season, since all of Pinnacle's staff is busy with hoops. (Rose is the PA announcer at men's basketball games.) This is where Pinnacle's decision to fire John Bishop last year really hurts the Huskers. Husker baseball is huge right now, and baseball games will probably get better ratings than basketball. Heck, 1620 the Zone carried 3 Creighton baseball games this past weekend, and they've hired Bishop to announce for them.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Saved by an Angell

Amazing the things you notice in a tight hockey game. During the third period of tonight's UNO-Michigoon, my (admittedly uneducated) eyes observed Mav defenseman Phil Angell struggling to clear the puck several times. Once into the bench, several times right into the stick of a waiting Weasel. So as the clock ticked into the final minutes of the game with the Mavs trailing the Weasels 4-3, UNO was looking for a hero. Would it be Hobey Baker candidate Scott Parse? How about Bill Thomas? And don't forget last night's hero, Alex Nikiforuk.

With just over 2 and a half minutes to go in the 3rd, UNO gets control of the puck deep in Weasel territory and the Parse-Thomas-Marshall line is out there. I take a quick glance at the bench and goalie Jared Kaufmann; do you pull him yet? I look back, and I see tonight's hero take a big slapshot from just inside the blue line. The puck whizzes past the Weasel goalie and the lamp lights with 2:02 left in the game.

The hero? None other than Phil Angell, the guy who I could have sworn was struggling earlier in the period.

UNO kills off a penalty that stretched into the overtime, which gave the Weasels several chances to end the game. And with 30 seconds left in OT, Thomas tried to feed Parse with the game winner, but the shot went wide. The game ended as a 4-4 tie, giving UNO 3 points on the weekend and extending their undefeated streak to 9 games.

UNO has also clinched a home ice playoff series; the worst they can finish is 7th place. With next week's series against last place Western Michigan, they can clinch a first round bye with one victory or one loss each by Lake Superior State and Northern Michigan next weekend.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Mavs 4, Weasels 3

UNO's hot run in 2006 continued tonight at the Civic with a thrilling 4-3 victory over Michigoon. UNO jumped out to an early lead in the 1st period, and found themselves up 3-0 in the third period before the Weasels came storming back. Freshman goon Jack Johnson pulled the Weasels to within 1 by scoring with under 4 minutes in the game while both teams were one man short. Then, Matt Hunwick scored his second goal of the period to tie the game one minute later. (Video: WOWT.com)

Did that silence the Mav crowd? For about 2 seconds. By the time the teams lined up for the ensuing faceoff, the crowd was already chanting.

Six seconds later, bedlam ensued.

Alex Nikiforuk took the faceoff and skated straight for Weasel goalie Noah Ruden and buried his shot to reclaim the lead with the game-winner. That had to be quite a shot to the Weasels psyche after fighting back to tie the game and grab the momentum, only to have Niki immediately rip it out of their throats.

Quite a game at the old barn, and should be quite a game tomorrow night to finish out the series.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

USCHO: UNO a #1 Seed in NCAA Tournament

USCHO.com's latest "Bracketology" has UNO a #1 seed in the NCAA tournament, if they were to be seeded today. However, as a #1 seed they would get shipped out to Worcester, Mass. Last week, as a #2 seed, they would have been sent to Grand Forks to play at the Ralph...

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

The Weasels are Coming, The Weasels are Coming!

This weekend has to be the biggest sports weekend in Omaha this year. The Nebraska High School Wrestling Tournament starts tomorrow morning. Creighton plays at 11 pm Saturday night in the ESPN "Bracket Buster".

But the biggest event of this weekend by far has to be the 2 game series between Nebraska-Omaha and the Michigoon Weasels. Why?

It's simple. This series is HUGE. UNO is 5th in the country in USCHO's Pairwise Ratings, 6th in RPI. Michigoon is 8th. Michigan is 2nd in the CCHA; UNO is tied for 4th place. The top 4 teams in the CCHA get a first round bye, so this weekend's winner will likely earn a bye during the first round of the CCHA playoffs.

UNO is one of the hottest teams in the country; they've only lost once (and that was in overtime against Michigan State) in their last 11 games. They feature the nation's leading scorer in Scott Parse, who also leads the fan voting for the Hobey Baker award.

Michigoon is a traditional power, winning 9 national titles. They feature the fifth leading scorer in the country in T.J. Hensick. They also feature one of the roughest players in the game in Jack Johnson, who has over 100 penalty minutes this season.

Both games are almost sold out, and should be epic. This will be the biggest regular season series ever played in Omaha. And without a doubt, the biggest event in Omaha sports this weekend.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Another Steve Pederson Coaching Search underway?

With Lee Barfknecht of the Omaha World-Herald stalking Steve Pederson again, that can only mean that another coaching search is underway. Oh sure, Steve Pederson denies that it was only a casual get-together with an old friend. But when that "old friend" is Rick Majerus and your current basketball coach is under fire, it sure looks like the coaching search is underway. While I think hiring Rick Majerus might allow Steve Pederson to shed his "Enemy of the State" title, I also think that's about as likely as me winning tomorrow night's $300 million Powerball jackpot.

Tom Shatel nails it in today's World-Herald. Even you believe Pederson's latest yarn, it certainly looks bad. Pederson's football coaching search was roundly criticized and satirized, and he's not getting his basketball coaching search off to a very good start either.

Barry Collier isn't fired... yet. Nebraska is 5-5 in the Big XII, good for 5th place. An upper division finish isn't out of the question; heck, it's not impossible for them to work their way to 4th place and a 1st round bye in the Big XII tournament. And don't get me wrong, I'm not advocating firing Collier. Collier's teams are a vast improvement over what we saw at the end of the Danny Nee era.

But, after 6 years, I'm not sure I can defend him all that much anymore. And all the signs seem to point to a firing. In the past week, Jim Rose himself seemed to imply that Collier was history twice: once in an interview with WHB radio in Kansas City and again this morning on KFAB. If the "Husker Information Minister" isn't going to step up to defend him, I'm not sure who will.

Whether I like it or not, it looks like Barry Collier's days in Lincoln are coming to an end. And with that, the circus appears to be back in town.

PS: Speaking of Jim Rose, it looks like the Pinnacle folks are going on retreat, so Kent Pavelka is back behind the microphone for the next two basketball games on radio.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Post "Recruiting Sabbatical" Topics

Did you miss me? Probably not. But here are some odds-and-ends that I've found in catching up after my "recruiting sabbatical"...

As predicted, the recruiting services were not kind to Callahan's 2006 signees. Scout had them around #30, and Rivals had them at #20. No big deal; these rankings are irrelevant and mostly make-believe. But it is fun to watch the recruitniks squirm. Let's check back in a few years and then evaluate these players.

Tom Shatel notes that Kansas was able to raise $31 million for football facilites rather quickly. (more from KU and ESPN) Compare that with the difficulty Steve Pederson is having raising $50 million at Nebraska. (2 years to raise only $21 million.) More evidence that there is a problem in Lincoln that is going to need to be addressed at some point. The additional funds from expanded seating will buy more time, but eventually, this is going to need to be addressed. Denial is not a river in Egypt.

Joe McCray is proving that it takes more than just talent to succeed in athletics. After getting suspended and then dismissed from the Husker basketball team, the team caught fire and won 3 in a row. After a poor finish against Kansas, the Huskers looked pretty good in the first half today against #7 Texas, but wilted at the start of the second half. Sure looks like a case of addition by subtraction at this point.

And finally, the hottest team in these parts has to be the Nebraska-Omaha hockey team. After a poor performance against Notre Dame at the start of January, they've only lost once in their last 11 games - and that was in overtime against Michigan State. This weekend, they went on the road and swept Northern Michigan. Tonight, they got off to a hot start with 4 goals in the opening period and won 8-3. USCHO's pairwise ratings currently have the Mavs as a #2 seed in the NCAA tournament. College Hockey News has UNO a possible #1 seed. Unbelivable!!! Next up for the Mavs - Michigoon.

Leading the way for the Mavs is Hobey Baker candidate Scott Parse, who continues to lead the nation in scoring. And Parse is now aking a commanding lead in fan balloting this week.

One highlight from my sabbatical... last night, I ran into the Colorado men's golf team. A friendly group of guys; they even offered me an extra can of juice from their bag. I think they wanted to take it back. though, when I showed them my Husker duffle bag as I thanked them. Not a happy bunch of Buffies!