Thursday, January 28, 2010

OWH profile of Alex Hudson

Not much to add about Alex Hudson than what the World-Herald's Chad Purcell writes, but I think Hudson could be one of the best UNO hockey players when his career is done.  Maybe not quite at the Scott Parse, Bill Thomas, Jeff Hoggan, Greg Zanon, or Dan Ellis level...but not far off either.

Speaking of Scott Parse, he's really starting to put together a nice rookie season with the LA Kings.  According to "Jewels from the Crown", he leads the Kings in terms of goals per 60 minutes on the ice. (H/T:  MavPuck)

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Sunday Night Dessert: Mavs Break Out

Last week, I suggested that if UNO hockey starts "finding a way to make some of those shots quality opportunities, this group could start scoring in bunches."  Well, that was the story of the weekend for the Mavs...with UNO sweeping Northern Michigan this weekend.  A badly needed sweep and more importantly, a shot of confidence.  Crisp passing and relentless pressure were the key, not to mention a little bit more discretion in taking shots.  Not just tossing it on net, but rather taking a shot with a great chance at pushing through a rebound.  Chad Purcell says UNO could be "scary good" down the stretch.  Don't know if that's sunshine being blown by the local beat writer or not, but I've thought this team would hit their stride late in the season with the reputation of Dean Blais.

The next three weeks are key weekends for UNO hockey, with series at Notre Dame, then home games against Ohio State and Michigan.  UNO's campaign to sell out the Friday night game is well underway, and the "Hockey Night in Omaha" promotion should ensure a large crowd for the Saturday night game against Michigan

Tom Shatel got a little more information about the new UNO arena...and found out that it's 8,000 to 9,000 seats, not the 7k that was mentioned last week.  Much better.  I know the Qwest Center is a little too big for UNO, and it's not on campus, but 7k is way too small for the Omaha market.  8500 or so is probably about right, as long as there's a way to expand it to 10k eventually.  If they can find a way to include the Omaha Lancers in the mix, so much the better.  I'm sure the Lancers would rather not play in BFE Sarpy County after the lessons they learned in Council Bluffs.

Speaking of BFE, I had to drive out to Papillion last week, so I decided to drive past the new Sarpy County ballpark location, and all I have to say is:  My goodness, but this location is even FURTHER out of the way than I thought.  Close to Papillion, yes.  But I checked my watch and set my odometer as I passed 126th & Highway 370 and headed home.  19 minutes and 15.5 miles later, I was in my West Omaha driveway.  I knew I was in trouble when I said "OMG, I'm just now getting to Cabelas?"   Yes, it's about 2 minutes closer than TD Ameritrade Park from my house, but for much of the Omaha market, including the West Omaha market, if folks don't like driving to Rosenblatt today, they're not going to BFE Ballpark.

UNO football came out the surprise winner in the Bronson Marsh sweepstakes after late interest from Nebraska and Kansas.  It's hard to turn down scholarship money.

Nebraska basketball had another rough finish last night against Missouri after battling them long and hard for the first 30 minutes or so on the road.  The big surprise is that Christian "Bratwurst" Standhardinger sat out for academic reasons last night.  I still think Doc Sadler is trying to get his young players ready to play, and they showed signs last night...but they ain't there yet.  Nebraska might have been helped by Missouri looking ahead to Kansas tomorrow night.

With New Orleans' victory over the Vikings tonight, we now await another eight months or so of drama with Brett Favre.  Truth be told, I take a little different spin on this.  The more this situation goes on, the more I'm convinced that the Vikings and Brad Childress has been much of the instigator here.  Note what the Philadelphia Daily News said about Childress' need for a quarterback, and how he pursued Favre throughout the last year.  Is Favre done now?  Hard to say; he certainly took some abuse tonight.  But even if Favre says he's done, nobody will believe it until Favre is sitting at home in Mississippi next September.

Finally, an apology to some of you.  I had noticed that comments had dried up in recent weeks, but never bothered to dig into it.  Turns out my spam filter started rejecting comments several weeks ago...and I never noticed it until last week.  I went back and approved the old comments, and will be keeping a closer eye on things in the future.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

UNO Gauging Interest in a New Arena - But Why?

Today's Omaha World-Herald reports that UNO is gauging interest in a new campus arena for hockey, basketball, wrestling, and volleyball.  My first reaction was "great"; UNO hockey could sure use a home where they won't get bumped and can share practice facilities.  The other sports can also use the improved facilities, especially once UNO makes the inevitable switch to division 1.

But then my heart sank when I read the details: 
“The new multi-use complex,” the survey reads, “would be the new home for the University of Nebraska at Omaha hockey team. The complex would have a capacity range of 7,000 to 8,000 seats plus a secondary ice sheet that can be used by the athletic department and other community and campus programs. 
8,000 seats maximum?  What's the point of that?  The Omaha area already has two arenas that size that have their own issues; why build a third that's essentially the same size as the MAC and the Civic Auditorium?  Yes, it's on campus and would have a practice facility attached, but building something that's the same size as a building they regularly sold out just seems to be a poor plan to grow the program.

UNO moved into the Qwest Center to grow the program, and found out that building was probably too big, especially with all of the inconveniences of sharing an arena with another school and a city that entices major events to Omaha.  That's not a slam on the Qwest Center; it's great for the city to have NCAA championships to come to town.  It's just not convenient for UNO's hockey team to get bumped on a regular basis.

UNO is embarking on a drive to sell out the Qwest Center against Ohio State in a couple of weeks.  In less than one week of the promotion, a third of the remaining tickets have been sold.  With less than 5,000 seats left, UNO seems assured of a crowd of 11,000 or more even if nobody else buys a ticket. Here's my question:  If UNO can draw 14,000 or 15,000 to the Qwest Center for a hockey game, why would UNO even consider moving into an arena half that size?

Is UNO suggesting that Maverick hockey is as big as it'll ever be?

I'd argue not.  I don't know how big UNO hockey can be, but I'd suggest that the bare minimum capacity of a new arena is 8,315.  Start there if that's all you can afford, as long as it can be expanded.  Better yet, shoot for around 10,000.

But 7,000?  What's the point in that?

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Sunday Night Beer: A Weekend To Forget

Both Nebraska basketball and UNO hockey suffered painful losses this weekend.  I missed much of the Husker hoops game last night, but did catch the sad ending.  I don't know what Doc Sadler was thinking at the end of the game, but waiting until 15 seconds left to start fouling was a major blunder.  I see he admits it as well.  It was especially painful when you consider that Iowa State passed the ball back into the backcourt with eight seconds left on the shot clock.  In that situation, your best bet is to play tough defense and get ready to rebound.

UNO hockey outshot Lake Superior State 82-56 this weekend...and got swept.  I think it's time to put the "hot goaltender" excuse to rest.  UNO just seems to turn everybody into a budding Patrick Roy on the stat sheets.  They're putting the puck on net, but they're not quality scoring opportunities yet.  It shows that UNO still isn't where they need to be under Dean Blais; it's great that they are pushing the offense, but until they figure a way to get it past the goaltender, it's all for naught.  But if they do start finding a way to make some of those shots quality opportunities, this group could start scoring in bunches.

A lot has been said about the idea of Nebraska hooking up with Boise State down the line, but it's becoming apparent that the interest is only coming from Lincoln.  The offer was sent to Boise a couple of months ago, and there's been no response from the Broncos.  I guess Boise State athletic director Gene Bleymaier isn't ready to walk the talk about "playing anybody."  Even with the risk that neither school would be relevent in six years, I think it's a series worth scheduling for both schools and for college football.

The New York Times feature on Bill Callahan has gotten quite a bit of play this weekend both here and in New York.  The question was raised as to whether Callahan would make a good offensive coordinator, and my stock answer is:  not unless the head coach has an offensive mind and keeps Callahan in check, like Jon Gruden did in Oakland.  I still have the painful memories of October 2007, when Nebraska only scored 59 points in 4 games.  (And people around here were ready to run Shawn Watson out of Lincoln this October when Nebraska scored 64 points!)  I was reminded of Callahan's poor playcalling this afternoon as the Jets ran out the clock against the Chargers.  Four plays with solid power running, thanks to Bill Callahan's offensive line.  But what if Bill Callahan were actually calling the plays?  I'm pretty sure there would have been at least one and probably two passes thrown on that possession.  (Remember that 3rd and 4 against Texas in 2006, when Callahan threw the ball, giving Texas the ball in great position to kick the game winning field goal?)  Would it have worked?  Hard to say for sure, but I'm pretty sure that the Jets would be out of the playoffs by now if Callahan were calling the plays for them.  But that being said, the Jets are in position to return to the Super Bowl because Bill Callahan is coaching the Jets offensive line.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Orgeron's Final Act on Rocky Top

In hindsight, nobody should be all that surprised that USC brought back Lane Kiffin to replace Pete Carroll.  USC is where Kiffin got his big break, and it's the big stage.  It's easy to dismiss Kiffin's failure with the Raiders (two words:  "Al Davis"), and Kiffin's squad did show some progress this season in Knoxville.

But the NCAA probably won't be too pleased.  They're already on the verge of sanctioning the Trojans, not to mention that Kiffin's already racked up several violations at Tennessee.  Now here's where it gets even more distasteful:  Kiffin's chief recruiter, former Ole Miss coach Ed Orgeron, was trying to sway his Volunteer recruits to follow the party to Los Angeles as they prepared to depart.

Yep, the NCAA is going to have quite the field day with the Kiffin and the Trojan program before all is said and done.

Fresh off of his role in the Mike Leach scandal at Texas Tech, ESPN analyst Craig James is setting the stage to run for the United States Senate in 2012.  And judging from his interview with the Dallas Morning News, his political acumen is even muddier than his football commentary.  He does recite the Teabagger party line decrying health care reform and the financial stimulus package, even reciting long discredited arguments.  I guess he figures since he stands no chance of gaining any support in West Texas from Red Raider fans, he might be able to get enough support of Longhorn or Aggie alumns who also happen to be devotees of Glenn Beck.

UNO is making quite a push to draw a huge crowd to the February 5th hockey game against Ohio State.  Not just a huge crowd...a sellout crowd at the Qwest Center.  You can buy discount tickets online...or if you want to wait until overnight February 3rd, you can go on campus and buy tickets as cheap as $1 each.  Of course, that's if it's not sold out by then.  The first day's ticket sales were 460, leaving under 7,000 remaining.  Can they do it?  Up until last April, I would have doubted it.  But right now, I wouldn't put it past UNO to pull this off.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Final 2009 BlogPoll Ballot

I wasn't sure if they were going to do a season-ending BlogPoll, but the other Husker blogs are posting ' I'll join the fun.
Boise State
Ohio State
Virginia Tech
Penn State
Brigham Young
Georgia Tech
Miami (Florida)
Southern Cal
Texas Tech

Obviously, Alabama has been my #1 choice since September, so no change there.  I'm moving Texas up to #2 because if I still think that if Colt McCoy was healthy, they would have won.  Boise gets #3 for going undefeated.  Florida's dismantling of Cincy was enough to move them ahead of TCU, and enough to push Cincy down the ballot.

I've given the Big Ten a lot of grief in recent years, so I'm giving them credit for a fine bowl season.  I still like LSU despite another ugly loss on a sloppy field.  And yeah, Oklahoma is back in the top 20. 

Not sure if there actually will be a poll, but if there is, send me your corrections and comments and I'll adjust them as necessary.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Hudson, Bratwurst, and the Brief Respite from the Eternal Winter

Thanks to a horrific week of weather, I didn't get to check out the UNO hockey series against Alaska this weekend. The bitter wind chills made it unwise to take the kids out (especially when they are already battling winter coughs and colds), and Saturday, I wrenched my back digging out a 5 foot deep snowdrift on the back.  So I watched Friday night's game on TV, and followed along at home Saturday night.  The story of this weekend for UNO was my favorite Maverick:  Alex Hudson, who scored all three of UNO's goals.  I can't quite put my finger on it, but Hudson just seems to be a little bigger, stronger, and faster than most everybody else on the ice.

While I was sitting on my heating pad yesterday, I did get to check out the debut of Christian Standhardinger in a Husker uniform against Texas A&M.  The freshman from Germany finally became eligible...and just in the nick of time as Big XII play has begun.  And, oh, does this kid have game. I don't want to read too much into just one game, but if he continues to play at that level, Nebraska has a shot to be competitive in the middle of the Big XII.  Yes, Kansas, Texas, Kansas State, and Missouri are at the elite level in the conference.

The only surprise I had today was hearing the talking heads on television predicting New England to beat Baltimore this morning.  Oops.  Think that injury to Wes Welker didn't mean much now?

Finally, a quick salute to Travis Justice, who's signing off from local sports television. Didn't agree with him frequently, and he had a way of bloviating just about every subject, but you had to respect the effort he put in on local radio and television.  Not sure who'll replace him, because it'll probably take two or three guys to fill his shoes.  (And frankly, with the current economics of broadcasting the way they are, it's unlikely they'll do that...)

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Tuesday Night Beer: Blais'n a World Championship for the USA

Congratulations to UNO head coach Dean Blais, who lead Team USA to a 6-5 overtime victory over Canada at the World Junior Hockey Championship.  Here's the video of the game winner:
Maybe this accomplishment doesn't mean much to the casual sports fan in Nebraska, but north of the border, this is a big deal.  In Canada, this is as big as the college bowl games are in the United States.  And frankly, in hockey circles, this is huge for UNO as Dean Blais adds "World Champion head coach" to his resume along side "two-time national champion"... think that doesn't carry some weight as Blais talks to student-athletes choosing a college?

Now, it's back to Omaha for Blais.  Up next for UNO is Alaska, with Friday night's game broadcast on NET-HD for those who are frozen inside.

Tonight's Orange Bowl broadcast caps the end of the Fox era with the BCS..something that won't exactly be missed, other than the even sadder realization that next year, the games move completely to cable TV.  Not that Fox did a good job at anything other than cheerleader and band shots, but the idea that the games now are on pay television is a sad indictment of the future of sports on television.  At least we won't have to listen to Fox commentary anymore.

Fox News this weekend inflicted their own bizarre spin on the world into the world of sports in two seperate incidents.  First, Shepherd Smith became a sideline commentator at the Cotton Bowl...then Brit Hume embarked on a crusade to convert Tiger Woods to Christianity. 

Back to football, 1620 the Zone reported today that ESPN's college football bloggers think Nebraska will be ranked #9 to start the 2010 season.  First of all, there's the necessary disclaimer about ridiculous pre-season ratings.  Wasn't Oklahoma State and 'Ole Miss in similar positions in the preseason?  'Nuff said.  But these rankings are especially fragile when we don't know the status of Zac Lee's elbow, or even who all will be back?  Especially when a CBS Sports draft "expert" slots junior cornerback Prince Amukamara as a late first round draft pick in the upcoming NFL draft.  Now Amukamara hasn't said anything about leaving Nebraska early, but obviously, that would have to be tempting for Amukamara to skip his senior season.

But is Nebraska a potential top ten team next season?  Maybe, as the schedule seems somewhat friendly.  Steve Pederson dumbed down the non-conference schedule with only a road-trip to Washington to worry about.  A Colt McCoy-less Texas team comes to Lincoln, while a Zach Robinson-less Oklahoma State team would be the biggest road challenge.  Even so, Nebraska's offensive renaissance is a little too fragile to boost the Huskers into the Top Ten at this point.  Certainly they're worthy of being rated, but a top ten rating this early is rather premature at this point.

Friday, January 01, 2010

New Years Night Beer: FSN Failure

With only five bowl games today, I actually was looking more for hockey than football.  I expected Florida to blow out Cincinnati...and it was even worse than I expected.  So with the Gators trouncing the Bearcats, I switched over to FSN to watch UNO play Denver, only to be greeted by a rerun of "The Top 50 Emotional Moments in Sports"  Yep, that's right:  FSN televised the UNO-Denver game, but only to the Denver area, leaving Omaha to get filler broadcasts.  Turns out I didn't miss much, as the Pioneers shut out the Mavericks 7-0.  Still, I'm not sure what FSN's excuse could possibly be.

The other hockey game was everything I expected and more.  This year's NHL Winter Classic was at Fenway, with Boston playing Philadelphia.  Like the previous New Years' games, this game had the buzz the bowl games lack.  And when Boston tied it with 2 minutes left, it ranked up there with the LSU/Penn State soup bowl in terms of excitement.  (I'll pass on the Northwestern/Auburn bumblefest, thank you...)  The overtime was off the charts with the Flyers missing a great chance to win on a breakaway before the Bruins got the win.  Football is still America's game, and college football is perhaps the most passionate version of it, but the bowls seem to making a mockery of it.  Only 5 games?  New Years Day is becoming a shadow of it's former self --- and the NHL is taking full advantage of it. 

I had predicted Oregon to wipe the field with Ohio State, so I was surprised how much I was wrong there.  But maybe not; judging by Arizona's performance on Wednesday night and UCLA's struggle with Temple, perhaps the Pac-10 is the new overrated conference.  Or maybe it's the Big East, judging from Cincinnati and West Virginia.

I'm not sure what to make out about the whole Mike Leach saga down at Texas Tech.  Yes, I think Adam James had his share of problems, and daddy probably didn't help things either.  But let's not forget that Leach had his own issues with the administration at Texas Tech.  He almost got fired last spring; the idea that Craig James got Leach fired is rather simplistic.  If anything, I'd suggest that Craig James is wondering how this situation blew up far larger than he ever thought it would when he complained about Leach.  If anything, I think Craig James might be the only person involved in this who has any regret over what happened.  I don't think Mike Leach does, and I don't think the Texas Tech administration does either.  Not that I'm a fan of James; I remember some of the tripe he used to spew on ESPN GameDay in the early 90's before leaving for CBS.  If anything, he's continued a trend of not engaging his brain before opening his mouth.