Many of you are familiar with our sister site, Off Tackle Empire, the blog that covers all things Big Ten. Jesse Collins, the Nebraska representative at OTE and I have been long time friends. When I say long time, I mean, we knew each other when we were in diapers. When it looked like this NCAA Tournament dream might be more than a fantasy, we said, we're going to do a Nebrasketball bonanza. We stayed true to that promise and holy smokes did we. We covered as bunch of ground and could have gone on a lot longer. Yesterday, part one of our conversation appeared over at OTE. Today, I bring you part 2. And yes, we did have to mention the birds to the east, sorry. That's where we pick things up:
I'm sorry to bring this up, but it's the elephant in the room with the potential for the two teams meeting up on Sunday. You're in Omaha, I'm in Lincoln but because I listen to a lot of Omaha sports talk radio and follow a lot of Omaha guys on twitter, I still hear quite a bit of talk about Creighton. Here in Lincoln, the Jays are kinda like a dirty word and frankly, if you stuck to just the Journal Star and Lincoln shows, you'd hear very little about them. Being in the Big O, what has the rise of Nebraska hoops done do the sports scene there?
So here's the thing. Creighton still runs Omaha. I know we've talked about this countless enough times, but even though Nebraska is the flagship, Creighton is that fun little sideshow that everyone wants to be a part of. And honestly, I can't blame people for supporting the hometeam here in Omaha. Heck, a good portion of Omaha is ran by Creighton alums who have given to that university - and UNL - substantially. I was at the St. John's game when Douggie hit the 3 to win at the end of the game. It was pretty awesome how great the product was, and I can't blame anyone for being down with the Jays.
Of course, that's until they start talking trash about Nebrasketball. I was raised a Nebraska Cornhusker. I listened to hours and hours of Kent Pavelka pleading with Nebraska to pull out wins against the old Big 8. I remember the times when Creighton-Nebraska was an olive branch to the Bluejays as they went through basketball hell. Heck, I was supposed to graduate a Husker. But things change, and if anyone thinks that Creighton has the far superior history and name, they forget history in general.
But that's all off subject. You ask how the rise of Nebraska has affected the Omaha sports scene. I'd like to say that it's bringing more Nebraska fans out of the woodwork, but I can't say that it is. The local papers have always tried to devote some time to both Nebraska and Creighton - while riding the hotter train to sales - and the local TV stations are generally the same. The biggest change has just been the banter between Nebraska and Creighton hardcore fans. I think we are seeing the official, "I've stuck through things you can't imagine," crowd. Now, again, I cannot speak for the whole city, but in general I think most people want both teams to do well. The interesting thing would be what would happen if Nebraska and Creighton end up squaring off for a Sweet 16 berth.
All that to say, I don't think I could care less how Creighton does at this point. If they're successful, that's good. I don't wish them as much ill-will as some of my fellow Husker fans. Conversely, if they do horrible, I'm not exactly torn up. The best part is that we're seeing two pretty good coaches figure out how to create a rivalry in a space that didn't have one for a very long time. That's definitely a plus.
Okay, so we're on the verge of 3000 words and haven't talked about ceilings, hopes, etc. Where do you see this team going? That could be this week, next month, the next five years. Whatever. Can we be more than a flash in the pan? Can we learn to win consistently both home and away? Will the crowds stay? So many questions out there about the future.
Yeah, that's about as much Jays talk as I can stomach today.
Confession time: When you said we'd put something together in the "2000 words range", I laughed audibly.
Anyway, hopes and dreams. Goodness, I could spill 2000 words on this alone. Alright, here we go: where do I see this team going, well, this week, I am expecting them to be focused and looking to, avenge is the wrong word, but take out the frustrations on Baylor. Scott Drew is somewhat noted for being a, how do I put this..., terrible in game coach. If this game is close with ten minutes to play, say within six points, I expect NU to win. Straight up. Miles should be able to coach circles around Drew. This team is trying to say all the right things, but this team desperately wants another shot at Creighton. If they get it, you'll see an unbelievable effort on Sunday. The rest of the country may not know about this rivalry, but it's about to be introduced to it...if both teams win on Friday and for the Huskers, that's not a given, not by a long shot, but I do think they have a good shot.
Moving forward, next season and beyond, I expect the athletic department to lock up Miles long term, he's about to get paid, ladies and gentlemen. Not sure they'll go this far, but I'd have no problem if they wanted to pay him among the top coaches in the country. The sky really is the limit for this program. Getting recruits to visit will always be a challenge, but if they keep winning, they'll get their attention. They've got everything necessary to be competitive in any league in the country. Miles has a plan. The two combined should make the Huskers a formidable foe in the Big Ten for the foreseeable future. As long as they stay competitive, the fans will stick around, no doubt about it.
Here's a challenge for you: name for me something Tim Miles can't do. Ready, go! If you can't do that, take us behind the OTE curtain, what have our fellow B1G brethren said about this Tim Miles fellow and Nebrasketball? Are the Spartans nervous? Is OSU constantly checking their rearview mirror (or should I say pressing the gas pedal since we did, you know, finish ahead of them this year even though they beat us twice, but those are just details.) Is Michigan or Wisconsin gearing up to keep us down?
At this point, there's not much I believe Tim Miles can't do. There are some things he hasn't done yet, but I feel like he is more than capable. I mean, from a coaching standpoint, he seems to have a vision and a plan worth following, and he is picking up recruiting more and more. It would be nice to get some lower four star guys on the roster to complement his system, but he's doing such a good job at this point, that I can't be more enamored with him. He deserves to ask for the Scrooge McDuck treatment from the administration, and I think he'll get it.
As for the OTE curtain (which is a phrase I feel like I need to incorporate from here on out), I think the B1G is taking notice. Mostly, they notice that Miles is one of the good ones. I highly doubt that fans feel too threatened of Nebraska taking their ‘spot' but it definitely isn't getting any easier in here. I mentioned this earlier in the season, but the coaching in this league is out of control. When there is an argument that Crean and Chambers are the worst two coaches in the league, and the closest coach to getting fired is Matt Painter - who isn't all that close - you've got some serious chops trying to kill each other. Adding Maryland - a traditional basketball school - isn't going to help.
They've got Mark Turgeon! Holy crap, this conference is loaded!
Exactly. On that note, let's say we tier the coaches in the B1G right now.
Izzo, Bo, Beilein, Matta
Miles, Fran, Pitino
Crean, Painter, Turgeon
Unknowns but not really:
Groce, Chambers, Collins,
Oh, and Rutgers...
Ridiculous amount of talent. Just absolutely absurd.
Hmmm...yeah, I think your top four have definitely proven to be the cream of the crop here. Fran's having trouble turning the corner on the court, he's got the talent on the roster. That team should probably should have been up with Michigan and Wisconsin.
I'm not sold on Pitino yet. Collins has a pretty impressive class coming in, so does Groce. Chambers just has a tough job. If he couldn't win with that back court, it might not happen there and his recruiting...oof...
Those Indiana coaches should be better than they have been, they've got the talent, but something didn't work right this year, they've earned enough, though, to get a chance to right the ship.
All I know of Turgeon is what he did at A&M and that was as impressive as what Miles has done here. Maryland fans are impatient, but he's good. I'll be very curious to see how he does in the Big Ten, because he's the real deal, IMO.
I'm going to give Fran a pass for a few reasons. Firstly, he's really kind of had some terrible breaks. Sure, his team has completely faltered down the stretch, but don't forget where Iowa was before Fran and where he's taken them. He has the horses to fight for a top spot, and I really do think he will. Of course, that's jst it, he needs to start fighting for the top spot. Only time will tell if that happens.
As for the rest of your thoughts, yeah. I'm totally with you on Turgeon as he has proven he knows the game inside and out. Maryland has disappointed its fans as of late, but they still have the recruiting - and now the cash - to be a major factor in the B1G race. I'm not sure of Pitino, Collins, or Groce - and for that matter the lasting power of Miles until proven - but just the fact that each came in and showed the chops to run above where people thought they would should scare every blueblood.
All that said, think about the end game. This season, even despite the imbalance, the powers still did what powers do. They won. A semi of Michigan, Michigan State, Wisconsin, and Ohio State? A Michigan-Michigan State final? Michigan State winning and getting praise as an early contender for Final Four/National Champion? Yeah, the more things change, the more they stay the same, and that's why I am at least holding back a little bit right now. Not on excitement, but on expectations.
The sky's the limit for where Nebraska could go, right? You had told me, "Why not us?" on multiple occasions, and I agree. However, it's not Tim Miles job to worry about the early short term losses so long as his team is on the path for long term gains. There's a strong chance Baylor beats Nebraska. While I believe Miles is such an incredible advantage in the coaching column, we would be naive to ignore the athleticism on the Bears team. If we lose, it doesn't undo any of the good he's done. Heck, it doesn't even mean the same thing as Nebraska losing in years past. Why? Because this team has potential to play the long game. I have no idea when the last time we had that.
Should the conference be scared of Nebraska? Yes. The B1G should not take this team lightly. We have world class facilities and an administration who thinks we can be competitive. However, before we get to the part where Nebraska is the big bad bully on the block (how's that for alliteration), remember that Nebraska is just a part of an incredible lineup of teams and will have to fight tooth and nail to retain this. We can't forget that just around every corner is an upset, upstart, or blueblood ready to take your spot.
So let's get this thing wrapped up. Even in two parts, we're most definitely overboard right now. Give me some closing thoughts on what we've talked about here and anything we've missed. Is there anything that could go wrong at this point? Are we completely crazy to think that this team could go on a little run? IS TIM MILES REALLY A WIZARD? Up to you. Take it away and get this thing finished!
Wrap it up? And I was just getting started...
No, it's not crazy. Crazy is getting in. Once you're there, all bets are off. This team is good enough to beat Baylor and they're good enough to beat Creighton. They're also not talented enough to show up and play poorly and not get their doors blown up. Neither would surprise me, though I'm not expecting the latter. Once you get past that point, it just depends on how much carnage there was on the other side of the bracket to know how far this team really can go. If it goes chalk I don't think the Huskers beat Wisconsin, much less Arizona. If neither of those teams makes it that far and Oregon or BYU or Oklahoma St. or the Sooners show up in Anaheim, well, then anything can happen. Nebraska can beat all of those teams. But that's so far down the line that it's kinda silly to even speculate. You're right to say that NU can (and probably should) get beat by Baylor and this whole carnival ride of a season will be over just like that. I hope that doesn't happen. I don't want it to end. This team has been so much fun.
I guess that's as good a place to end as any. Will anybody actually read this tome? I hope so. Either way, I enjoyed it. Let's do it again sometime, shall we?