Sunday, February 24, 2008

Sunday Night Dessert: Huskers Sweep, Mavs Get Swept

After a couple of miserable games the previous week against Missouri and Iowa State (gaack, that was a horrific second half against the Clones...), Husker hoops shocked the Big XII with a couple of upsets of Top 25 teams. First on Wednesday night, the Huskers foiled future NBA'er Michael Beasley's pregame prediction of scoring 50, holding him to just 17 as the Huskers beat Kansas State 71-64. I didn't get to see it, and only got to hear most of it through a screechy speaker.
Then Saturday afternoon, in College Station in front former NU AD Bill Byrne and former President George Bush (#41), the Huskers beat Texas A&M 65-59. Both games seemed to follow similar form; Nebraska played strong from the start and held the lead most of the way, playing great defense and shooting well. Saturday's win might have been costly as Cookie Miller suffered a dislocated shoulder and left the game with about six minutes left. The extent of the injury apparently won't be known until an MRI tomorrow, but I'm not terribly optimistic. Miller is fourth in the conference in assists, so his injury could be a major loss down the stretch. A week ago, the season looked rather bleak, but a couple of upsets makes the NIT or the new CBI a possibility. And with a young squad (only senior Aleks Maric graduates), the more basketball these guys play together can only benefit.

UNO Maverick hockey, on the other hand, got swept at Northern Michigan this weekend. Bryan Marshall's injury last weekend kept him out of action this weekend, making this the third year in a row that the Mavs leading scorer went down with an injury late in the season. Friday night's performance was forgettable, losing 6-4 and Saturday night's game was heartbreaking, giving up a 3-1 lead to lose 4-3 in overtime. Before Marshall's injury, UNO was thinking a #5 seed in the CCHA playoffs... now they are looking at a #8 seed in the playoffs. That #8 seed is especially rough because if they win their first round series, they'll likely get matched up with #1 Michigoon at Yost in the second round.

The operators of Omaha's Qwest Center, when they aren't trying to ship the College World Series out of town, are scheduling some big-name concerts for the Qwest Center. That's good news for Omahans. Problem with that is UNO still has some hockey to play at home, and MECA already scheduled a Keith Urban/Carrie Underwood concert for the night of the first game of the CCHA playoffs. So now UNO's first round opponent either needs to arrive a day earlier to start the series on Thursday, delay the series to a Saturday-Sunday-Monday series (with a quicker turnaround for the winner to head on the road for the second round), or play game one at the Civic (and reticket thousands of season ticketholders). Thanks again, MECA.

Speaking of arenas, Tom Osborne tells the Lincoln Journal-Star that a new arena near Haymarket Park would be "doable" as a new home for Husker basketball. Interesting idea that probably was sparked by Nebraska's experience at the Qwest Center in December. I get the feeling that Doc Sadler has Nebraska basketball on an upward path, and if that's the case, the Devaney Center will probably start filling up like it did fifteen years ago at the height of the Danny Nee era. And if that's the case, upgraded facilities (premium seating and suites, amenities, practice facilities for both the men and women) are going to be in demand. A new Haymarket arena is still four or five years away, as any vote doesn't appear to be planned for another year, followed by a year of design and two years of construction. The Devaney Center has served Nebraska basketball well, but it may be time to consider the next level for this program.

One thing that will be interesting to note is how the subject of beer is going to be addressed at a new arena. Will a Haymarket Park arrangement, where alcohol is banned during University events but sold at other events, be economically viable for a new Lincoln arena? Or will the economics of the Omaha's Qwest Center apply, where alcohol is sold at Creighton basketball and UNO hockey games. On one hand, alcohol certainly wasn't an issue at the Oregon game earlier this season in Omaha, and alcohol sales haven't been an issue at Creighton or UNO games. On the other hand, Osborne has been on record as being concerned with the connections between alcohol and collegiate athletics. This issue might not surface for a while, but if there are concerns about financing a new Lincoln arena, money from the sale of beer is potentially an issue with it's viability.

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