So which happens first — a new pope is elected or Creighton joins the Big East?
The answer to that and some other tidbits from a fun farewell (if that’s what it was) to St. Louis:
1. I’m going with the pope (of Vatican City, not Greenwich Village) over the Big East, for no reason other than the good cardinals have done this thing before. The seven presidents of the new Big East have never put together a new league, invited schools, etc.
There were all sorts of rumors in St. Louis. The announcement would be made on Tuesday (today). Fox Sports wants to make the announcement during the Big East tournament, which begins today. They wanted to wait for Creighton to finish its business with the Valley.
The Big East wants to make a splash at the Final Four.
Any of those could be true. But since it’s never done this before, it’s fruitless to try to guess. The one person in Omaha who knows what’s going on — Rev. Timothy Lannon — isn’t saying. And even he may be waiting for a phone call.
Or, a puff of smoke. If it’s white smoke, we have a new pope. If it’s blue and white, we have a new league.
That’s not my line. A writer from Peoria came up with that one. But I always say, if you’re going to steal a line, make it a good one.
2. I caught up with CBS college hoops analyst Bill Raftery as he was heading out of the Scottrade Center on Sunday. I asked the former Seton Hall head coach (1970-81) and longtime East Coast hoops aficionado if he thought Creighton would be a good fit in the Big East.
“I do,” Raftery said. “It’s just a question of philosophy, if that’s what they want. I’m sure they would be coveted by the Big East or the Catholic hoops or whatever they’re calling it. They’ve got a program now. They have backup people, (Will) Artino is going to be a good player. They’re fine. They’re as talented as anybody in the (Big East).
“I don’t know all the facilities and things like that. I hear they have a good practice facility. It would expand their recruiting base, people might be more attracted from other areas than they’re accustomed to dealing with.”
3. The contrast between last weekend and Nebraska’s exit from the Big 12 was striking. It had a melancholy feel, on both sides, no angst or bitterness. Lannon had his arm around Valley Commissioner Doug Elgin on the awards stand. CU coach Greg McDermott’s comments of praise and thanks to the Valley afterward were heartfelt and very cool. And, unlike Nebraska, CU got a title on the way out, but it wasn’t about vindication or revenge. It was bittersweet.
4. CBS pulling the plug on the final two minutes of the Valley game to go to the Indiana-Michigan game (it happened in Illinois, Indiana and other regions) is sad but also typical. That’s what CBS thinks of the Valley.
And yet, in two weeks, CBS will be promoting the wonder of the mid-major underdog and the magic it brings to the NCAA tournament. Makes sense, huh?
That’s not why Creighton would leave the Valley. But it’s an attitude the Jays wouldn’t mind getting away from.
» If Nebraska is still looking for an opponent for its first game in the Pinnacle Bank Arena (I’m nicknaming it “The Vault”) next fall, here’s an idea: Creighton, if the Jays are in the Big East.
That opener will already be must-see, but the addition of CU as a Big East opponent would add a major spark to the evening. What a terrific promotion of basketball for the state of Nebraska. I know, I know: NU will want the Pinnacle opener to be about Husker Hoops. I get that. I still like this idea. Yes, NU will be coming to Omaha next year. Play two games next season. Why not?
» I’m a man of few regrets (back-to-back Frank Solich columns in 2003), but one of them is missing the Tom Osborne tribute on Saturday night. For those fans who were getting their first glimpse of the terminally-fun Barry Switzer, imagine playing against that man every year. That’s why us Big Eight types tell boring stories of glory days.
Some friends who attended the tribute reported the line of the night from the Head Zinger himself, Coach Osborne. After Scott Frost playfully jabbed his coach by saying Osborne’s hands were shaking calling the play before the “Flea Kicker” at 1997 Mizzou, Osborne reportedly retorted, “I was shaking because I was calling a pass play for Scott.”
Can you please retire again next year, Tom, so I can go next time?
» Lots of headlines for spring football so far. Harlem Shake. Bo Pelini rips his defense. And now Ameer Abdullah tweaks knee. I hope he didn’t tweak it doing the dance.
I’m not concerned that Pelini jumped on his defense. I’d be concerned if he didn’t. People wanted high standards and accountability after the Big Ten championship game. There’s no way that defense will be ready for a Big Ten football game this spring. Then again, it doesn’t have to be.
» UNO men’s hoops went 1-7 against the four Summit League tourney teams: South Dakota State, North Dakota State, Fort Wayne and Western Illinois. The seven losses were all double-digit losses. That’s the goal for coach Derrin Hansen’s program: close that gap. Catch those teams. In years to come, UNO’s season will be about two things: surviving the money-making games on the front end, then getting in the Summit League tourney and winning two games and the league’s NCAA tournament bid.
» I was surprised to see that UNO’s hockey arena now hinges upon NU issuing $35 million in revenue bonds. Deal-breaker? Someone familiar with the ways of the Board of Regents told me this: If the regents weren’t going to approve the UNO hockey arena, it wouldn’t be on the agenda.
» Judith Burnfield looks like a good choice to run the new Nebraska Athletic Performance Lab in the east stadium. I believe she’ll hold a few interviews along the way. The lab is a worthwhile endeavor, especially in the search for answers with concussions. I think NU will be a leader in this search and national media will find their way to Lincoln to promote the cause.
» Congrats are in order for Husker Hoop seniors Dylan Talley (honorable mention All-Big Ten) and Brandon Ubel (Sportsmanship Award) for their Big Ten honors. They deserve all they can get for being a reliable and consistent bridge for Tim Miles’ program, a thankless task they handled with class. I think they still have another reward coming.
» One more and I’m outta here: Nebraska beats Purdue on Thursday in the Big Ten tournament. I know Matt Painter’s Boilers are hot, but NU should have/could have beaten them in Lincoln earlier this season. That was a sloppy game for both teams. Just a feeling, I think Nebraska plays one of its best games. That, and I need another night at Giordano’s.
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