Sunday, February 20, 2011

Sunday Night Dessert: What Does Big Husker Hoops Win Really Mean?

After tempting us and flirting with fans so many times in recent years with "oh-so-close, but not enough" performances in recent years, it was great to see Nebrasketball pull off the victory over Texas that every Husker fan desires. Sure, nearly every Husker fan would have preferred that the victory had come last October in football, but nobody is going to turn this one down either. It's certainly the biggest victory for a local basketball team since Creighton's double-overtime upset over Florida in the NCAA tournament nine years ago, and the biggest Husker basketball win since the improbable Big Eight championship run in 1994.

I missed much of the first half after a slow start, but picked up the game early in the second half as the Huskers tied the Longhorns, and the team looked like a team that was ready to exorcise the program's demons. The spirit of Bruce Chubick infested the team as the team picked up crucial rebound after rebound. Andre Almeida looked like the force that he was early in the season rather than the out-of-shape blob that he looked like at times earlier in conference play.

Throughout the second half, Nebraska seemed to dominate the Longhorns for the first eighteen minutes, but then yet another collapse at the end seemed to cement the program's reputation as a team that can't finish.  We've seen it time and time again as the Huskers let a big victory slip out of their hands at the very end.  This time, the collapse happened in the 59th minute instead of the 60th. In a matter of 35 seconds, an 11 point lead vaporized. Couldn't hit a free throw.  Failed to rebound.  Turned the ball over and put Longhorns at the free throw line unnecessarily.  Here we go again.  Except that the Huskers recovered in the final minute, made the plays they needed to, and got the win.

Great win, and it puts the Big Red into the mix for an NCAA tournament berth.  They'll need to pull off a few more victories against stout Kansas State and Missouri teams, but just being in contention is a sign of progress.  Some people question why Husker fans didn't sell out the Devaney Center for this game, but that's missing the point. A lot of fans around here are bandwagon, and attendance always lags success. Husker basketball had great attendance in the middle 90's, but it was preceded by pretty good teams in the late 80's and early 90's.  Creighton basketball attendance success came after the Bluejays completed their five year string of NCAA tournament berths. Some fans simply want to see results before they invest their money on tickets.

Speaking of teams on an NCAA tournament run, the Mavs salvaged a split up at Alaska-Anchorage this weekend, keeping the Mavs pretty much in the same position they were in a week ago. Friday night's 3-2 loss spoiled a great opportunity to move within a point of first place as the top three teams in the WCHA were upset on Friday. Up next is #3 Denver in a huge series for both teams.

The World-Herald's story about the UFL and the Omaha Nighthawks have to really raise the alarm level as to the long-term viability of the league. Frankly, I've felt that the league is only viable if the NFL invests in it as a developmental arrangement.  The NFL scuttled the old NFL Europe because they were losing a similar amount of money, but with the advent of the NFL Network and a financial arrangement where the NFL isn't shouldering the entire burden of operating the league, it might be viable. I get the feeling the UFL has only one path to survival, and that is the shutdown of the NFL this summer and fall. The UFL could get an infusion of attention and media dollars, and that could buy the league time.  Prove that it's quality football and a good development source, and the NFL might be willing to subsidize the league enough to make a franchise like Omaha viable in the long run.  Then they'll need to find other Omaha-like cities that love football and are willing to support the league. Right now, they  haven't found any.  And that's a problem.

Folks in Sarpy County should be casting a wary eye to the experience of Council Bluffs and the Mid-American Center, if they are counting on development around the Trailer Park at BFE to subsidize the new stadium. On Friday, a mostly-vacant shopping plaza at the Mid-America Center was auctioned off after the original developer defaulted on the mortgage. The MAC never proved to be enough of a draw to make this shopping center viable, and now the MAC also sits mostly unused with the Lancers moving back to Omaha. The parallels between the MAC and BFE were noted by Grow Omaha's Trenton Magid last week. Granted, the two situations are quite different, as the MAC is also surrounded by casinos and other development towards Lake Manawa, while BFE is surrounded by... cornfields... on three sides.

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