Published Monday, December 16, 2013 at 9:42 pm / Updated at 12:09 am
FIRST DOWNS AND SECOND GUESSES
Shatel: Creighton needs a bigger bump from Big East
New Creighton book
Steven Pivovar's “Road to the Big Time” tells how Creighton's centurylong dream of big-time basketball led to the Big East. The 250-page book features hall of fame coaches and legendary Bluejay players such as Korver, along with the work of The World-Herald's award-winning photo staff.

The book is available for $29.95, plus shipping and handling, online at OWHstore.com or by phone at 402-444-1014.

Good news, Creightonians. You're headed for St. Louis for the NCAA tournament. Bad news: You're a No. 8 seed playing VCU, with Rick Pitino's Louisville sluggers on deck.

So says Joe Lunardi, the self-proclaimed NCAA tournament professor, who released his second NCAA Bracketology on Monday — he actually released one back on Nov. 7 — and gave the Jays an eight seed.

Lunardi watched CU win at St. Joseph's, and he must not have been too impressed, because he had the Jays as a No. 6 seed back on Nov. 7. Back before they played a game.

Of course, Lunardi does this because suckers like me love to write about it and hoop heads like you love to talk about it.

What makes it interesting now is that CU is in a new league with an expected bump in RPI juice and perception. The Jays were a No. 7 seed last year after winning the Missouri Valley. The hope was that the Big East would help the Jays get off the 7-8-9-10 lines that always dump North Carolina or Duke in their path.

The road starts two weeks from tonight, with Marquette in downtown Omaha on New Year's Eve. The Big East is in the top three in most websites that rank conferences. But the league has had some spotty results. Unbeaten Villanova leads the pack, but Xavier's best win is Cincinnati, Creighton's best win is Arizona State, and Marquette's best win is George Washington — which beat CU. Georgetown beat VCU, Butler took down Purdue.

Not a great start, and Lunardi concurs. He's got four Big East types — 'Nova, Georgetown, Creighton and Marquette — in his 68, and the Golden Eagles are in a play-in game.

If the Big East gets only four teams in the NCAAs, the East Coast media will declare it a disaster.

Last year, having four NCAA teams would have been the greatest Missouri Valley hoops season ever.

Welcome to your new world, Jays. Hey, Joe, did you know San Diego is one of the NCAA sites, too?

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Is it just me, or is the biggest game of this weekend UNO at Minnesota, live and in color on the Big Ten Network?

Derrin Hansen's club is on a five-game win streak, including Saturday's thrilling buzzer-beater at Nevada. Is there a bigger win for UNO hoops in recent years? Is there a bigger UNO game than Friday against the Golden Gophers, coached by Pitino's son? The Mavs, 8-3, are eligible to play in the CBI or CIT postseason tourneys this season. They'll probably need an attention-grabbing win. This week would do it. And it wouldn't be a huge upset.

I'm not a travel agent, and I don't play one in the paper. But I'll guarantee you my bonus miles if Nebraska were playing Oklahoma or Texas — in Mack Brown's last game — in Phoenix, Sun Devil Stadium would be painted Big Red. Husker fans saw Georgia last year, and Jacksonville is a tough flight connection and it's not cheap.

I'll bet you my window seat that there will be a nice “walk-up” of Husker fans driving in from all over the South, and many are waiting to buy tickets on the black market, online and outside the stadium on game day for less than they'd pay to get them out of the school allotment. That's how today's bowl fan does it, and the bowls should keep that in mind when they dole out required school allotments.

Loved what Kyle Korver had to say (in Steve Pivovar's terrific story in Monday's World-Herald) about no longer playing angry, with something to prove, playing for the joy of the game. That's a great lesson for today's youth. So is Korver's endless shooting touch. Do kids still spend hours practicing their jumpers after school? There's your reason.

I wonder if CU officials have ever thought about naming something after Korver. Of course, the NBA vet has enough money to buy his own practice facility. Has a school ever named a 3-point line after a player? The Kyle Korver 3-Point Line. It's got a nice ring to it.

It only seems like Ethan Wragge has been at Creighton since Korver left. But the senior is playing the best basketball of his career — so says his coach, Greg McDermott. In a Korveresque way, Wragge is making himself more well-rounded. In nine games, he's got 40 boards, a 4.4 average. The fifth-year senior is also playing more, averaging 24.8 minutes with two starts. Wragge's career bests before this season were 2.7 rebounds two years ago, and 16.2 minutes last year.

I wish Jack Hoffman would have been Sports Illustrated's “Sportsman of the Year.” That would have been, like, the greatest thing ever.

Not that Peyton Manning isn't deserving. But this season that feels like his last hurrah isn't over yet. I know some Chiefs fans who hope this is the ultimate SI jinx.

Is Jamaal Charles better at fantasy football or reality football?

“Youngstown Boys” is my favorite ESPN docu-movie besides the Marcus Dupree story. The raw honesty of it was just riveting. It made me wish I had gotten to know Maurice Clarett when he was with the Omaha Nighthawks. There was talk that Clarett would try to stay here and open a training facility. I wonder how many kids he impacted while he was here. He never had an NFL career, but what he's doing now is his Super Bowl, his Hall of Fame.

MECA got what it wanted with the 2015 NCAA women's volleyball championship, but it fell short again in bids for the NCAA wrestling championship or an NCAA hockey regional. The hockey is a curious thing. Not the Frozen Four; the NCAA long ago made NHL venues the preferred sites for Frozen Fours. Omaha, however, can't get a hockey regional. The regional bids for 2015 and 2016 went to Providence, R.I.; South Bend, Ind.; Fargo, N.D.; Manchester, N.H., Cincinnati; St. Paul, Minn.; Worcester, Mass.; and Albany, N.Y.

Meanwhile, the NCAA will hold the 2016 wrestling championships in Madison Square Garden and the 2017 Frozen Four at the United Center in Chicago. Don't know how those will go over, but it should be fun to find out.

Iowa State vs. Iowa last Friday was grand hoops theater. A Sweet 16/Elite Eight level game. Both of those teams look that good right now. Should be a fun winter across the border.

So how many Nebraska kids will be on Wyoming's roster in four years?

I'll remember Mack Brown for being on the other end of Frank Solich's best win: the 1999 Big 12 championship game. I'll never forget the press conferences the day before that one, when the Texas writers were talking about Brown going to the Houston Texans, and nobody paid any attention to Solich.

Brown almost provided Bo Pelini with his best win 10 years later, in the 2009 Big 12 title game. One second. If Nebraska wins, that clock mismanagement by Texas would have been a huge stain on Brown's record. And Coach Bo's record would have a different perception today. One second.

It takes a man to make Ndamukong Suh scoot over a seat. That's who's coming to Omaha on Jan. 9: 2013 Outland Trophy winner Aaron Donald, the defensive tackle from Pitt, who swept the Outland, Lombardi, Bednarik and Bronco Nagurski Awards last week. Donald was the first player to do that since Suh in 2009. In 12 games, Donald had 26.5 tackles for loss and 10 sacks. In 2009, Suh had 20.5 TFL and 12 sacks.

The Big Ten has been less than dominant so far in basketball. Good, not great. That's good — not great — news for Tim Miles' Huskers. Miles is already laying it on thick about how folks are going to pick his club to lose to Iowa, Ohio State, Michigan and Purdue out of the gate. Maybe. But look at the home schedule: Michigan, Ohio State, Minnesota, Indiana, Illinois, Penn State, Purdue, Northwestern and Wisconsin. Steal a win at Penn State, Northwestern or Purdue and I can see an improved Husker team eclipse last year's 5-13 league record.

Maybe that would be what it takes to wake up the crowds at Pinnacle Bank Arena.

The golf people I talk to haven't heard a thing about a Web.com Tour event in Omaha next year. That doesn't bode well. There's usually something on the grapevine.

This Sunday, I will rank the top sports/moments in Nebraska in 2013. I need your suggestions. Send them to me at tom.shatel@owh.com.

One more and I'm outta here: One of the things I looked forward to the most as a dad was being able to watch games with my kids. And, of course, buy them team gear.

It was a father-son rite as I grew up. I talked my dad into buying me a baseball hat or a pennant at every game we attended. I've got boxes in my basement to prove it.

Then I had three girls. Was the dream over?

Nope. My 12-year-old, Sarah, loves football. I told her that would get the attention of the boys in her class. Now I have to figure out what I was thinking.

Every kid picks a team. Sarah's team is the Denver Broncos, and her favorite player is No. 18. Last week, for her birthday, I took her out and bought her a Peyton Manning jersey.

It was like the moment where Kevin Costner plays catch with his dad in “Field of Dreams.” Sorry, I'm getting choked up.

Contact the writer: Tom Shatel

tom.shatel@owh.com    |   402-444-1025    |  

Tom Shatel is a sports columnist who covers the city, regional and state scene.

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