When Creighton lost twice last week, bird watchers immediately took stock of the damage.
What's the Jays' seed now?
Such is life in the hoop lane today. Conference races take a back seat to Bracketology. Don't argue. Go with it.
A mere two weeks ago, CU was being projected by national writers — and its own fans — as a top three or four seed in March.
Good luck with that now.
A couple of losses, including one to a very good Wichita State squad, isn't the issue. It's Creighton's nonconference schedule.
Coach Greg McDermott took a small gamble on this season of seasons. The Jays had Wisconsin and Arizona State in Vegas early, later a trip to Cal. Rather than load up on another big boy game, Mac secured a lineup of mid-major types that, on paper, looked solid enough.
Suddenly, not so much.
Remember all the bragging about North Texas? The Mean Green have let CU down, going 7-13 with an RPI of 256. The Jays also were depending on UAB (172), St. Joe's (89) and Akron (67) to help their cause. CU officials weren't thrilled with getting Boise State in the Mountain West challenge, but the Broncos (66) turned out to be one of Creighton's better opponents.
The Vegas trip gave CU quality wins over Wisconsin (47) and Arizona State (58) but games against Presbyterian (343) and Longwood (346) were a price to pay.
Right now, the Jays' best true road win is at Nebraska (73) followed by Cal (80). What are the chances those two finish in the top 100 RPI? Will Wisconsin stay in the top 50 in the rugged Big Ten? Thank goodness for Indiana State, a surprise at No. 50, one of two top 50 wins for the Jays.
Creighton's RPI is 30, with a strength of schedule at 91 and precious few chances on the remaining schedule to boost it. If CU gets a shot at No. 14 Belmont in a few weeks, this would be one year the BracketBusters could be a blessing.
The Jays (18-3) have 10 regular-season games left and, with the Valley tourney, have a shot at 30 wins by Selection Sunday. That would be an eye-grabber. But road wins, quality wins and SOS factor into the seeding process. Jerry Palm of cbssports.com has Creighton as a No. 6 seed. Suddenly, a No. 5 or 6 sounds about right. Just stay off lines seven and eight. That's never conducive to a deep March run.
Hindsight is always brilliant. Did the Jays put too much trust in their mid-major chums? Probably. Then again, it's a good thing Creighton didn't schedule Texas (140) or Florida State (69).
>> Derrin Hansen and the UNO Mavs had a nice week, winning at South Dakota and UMKC. One of the cool things about UNO going D-I is that you can look it up on the RPI now. The Mavs rank 292nd. Hey, it's a start.
>> President Obama recently revived the debate on the dangers of football. That's fine. But the focus is almost always on the wrong issues.
Football is not going away. It's too popular, too powerful, too ingrained in our society and lives. The dangers of the sport, the Junior Seau saga, need to be front and center. Your sons should know every detail, every danger.
I don't expect a generation of fathers to steer their sons away from the game, nor should they. But the next step in safety awareness, and preservation of the sport, should be putting the players on the sideline once they've had one hit too many.
Football is a macho game but it's the silence and peer pressures that destroy the game more than the vicious hits. When a kid's bell won't stop ringing, he needs to tell someone. And his coach, and parents, need to sit him down, for as long as it takes. In a sport of courage, that can be the bravest — and hardest — thing to do.
>> Decommits are part of the recruiting game, even late in the game. But one part of the game has changed. I don't have a problem with Bo Pelini telling a kid “good luck, you're going to need it.” But somebody else might. Social media has emboldened some high school players. They'll say anything on social media. And so there is very little “off the record” with kids anymore. Good luck with that, coaches. You're going to need it.
>> Ten conference games? Big Ten athletic directors apparently are going to consider it, along with a nine-game league schedule proposal. The latter might mean some schools couldn't have seven home games in the annual budget. But 10 league games apparently could ensure that. I like nine league games. If there were 10, that would mean one less nonconference game, and I would miss Arkansas State too much.
>> Tim Miles gets credit for being Mr. Twitter, but CU coach Greg McDermott sent something out last week that was more powerful than anything Miles has tweeted. The day after the loss to Drake, Mac tweeted: “1) The sun will come up today, 2) I love my team, 3) We will get better, 4) We won't point fingers, 5) Learn and move on.” A short, effective message. Then again, maybe he was hoping that would take the place of his booster lunch.
>> I was impressed with the attendance for the U.S. Figure Skating event at the CenturyLink Center last weekend. Let's be honest. There were no household names on the ice, and not many households follow figure skating. According to Omaha Sports Commission President Harold Cliff, Omaha has two figure skating clubs, with one in Lincoln. I like the idea that we're trying new events. It broadens our horizons and appeal. I also wonder how many dads ended up buying one of those $200 dresses for their girls.
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>> For all the stuff the Big Ten took in football, you could see two teams (Michigan and Indiana) in the Final Four, and possibly a third (Michigan State).
>> If there's one more floor-rushing upset left at the Devaney Center, it's going to be this Saturday against Ohio State or Feb. 16 against Michigan State. Penn State, Iowa and Minnesota don't qualify. Could happen.
>> Let the hype begin for the Feb. 9 hockey doubleheader at TD Ameritrade. My prediction is there will be a lot of fans waiting for a forecast before they buy tickets. The latest prediction for Feb. 9 from accuweather: 30 degrees and snow.
>> I'm not ashamed to admit it: I watched the Pro Bowl on Sunday night. I wasn't alone; 12.5 million viewers watched, more than games one through three of last year's World Series. It was actually entertaining. Loved seeing J.J. Watt trying to line up wide as a receiver, and also Jeff Saturday switch sides to get one more snap to his old friend Peyton Manning. It was like the players were trying. Maybe they want to keep that Hawaii gig.
>> One more Dave Hoppen story, from the cutting room floor, on choosing Nebraska over Notre Dame, Missouri and Kentucky.
“Digger Phelps just talked about how he was going to get me to the NBA and how much money I was going to make,” Hoppen said. “That's probably the biggest reason I didn't go there (Notre Dame). It just kind of turned me off.
“Norm Stewart (Missouri coach) said come on down and play with Steve Stipanovich (6-11). They had another guy who was 6-10. So that would have been 6-11, 6-11 and 6-10 on the front line. I didn't see it happening.
“Billy Tubbs said come on down to Oklahoma and win national championships. I liked Billy, he was a good guy. But with that Nebraska-Oklahoma rivalry back then, there was no way I could go to Oklahoma.”
>> One more and I'm outta here: A shout-out to the Papillion-La Vista boys basketball team for its win over Omaha Central. The high school hoops season just got interesting. Keep in mind, Central is good enough to make it boring again.
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