Nebraska is a basketball state now. How do you know? Because the Huskers' medical staff measures the players' spleens.
At least that's one of the things I learned from Andy Katz's recent trend piece for NCAA.com on the state of basketball in the Cornhusker State.
Of course, like most high-major stops now, the food plans, academic tutoring facilities are all top notch. But the practice facility and locker room are littered with amenities, highlighted by a key pad at each locker, allowing the players to program their favorite music to listen to in the shower or on the practice court while getting shots up. There are more flat screens than you can count, even in the toilet. Each player is given an extensive baseline when they arrive medically, including measuring their spleen so if they were to get mono they would know the size of the spleen before the illness.
“It’s things like that, that sets us apart,’’ said [Tim] Miles.
I'm kidding, of course. The spleen-measuring is memorable but just part of the overall discussion about Nebraska's basketball amenities. Creighton's got 'em, too. Plus a bunch of wins and a recent run of success in the NBA Draft. As Bluejays head coach Greg McDermott notes in the story, Nebraska is also home to a program averaging 17,000-plus per game in attendance (his) and a program averaging 15,000-plus (Miles').
The best evidence for this argument, at least from the red corner, might be what all of those amenities, attendance figures and an early run to the NCAA Tournament under Miles have brought –– expectations. The pump seems to be primed for Nebraska (again) in 2018-19. There's excitement there. The Huskers look like a tournament team on paper and if they play like one from the opening tip in November it's going to be a uniquely fun winter in Lincoln, the kind that doesn't come around often enough for die-hard Nebraska hoops fans.
And if it doesn't? Well the amenities won't change and the attendance probably won't either, but Athletic Director Bill Moos might be faced with a tough choice. Unmet expectations eventually require action. That's real "basketball state" stuff.
Katz, of course, isn't actually making the argument that basketball is more important than anything else in Nebraska (perhaps the true "basketball state" definition). Football is still the thing that's synonymous with the state. Volleyball coaches at all levels throughout Nebraska have a great argument to make for their sport. The basketball-state story dropped during the couple of weeks Omaha is the center of the college baseball universe.
Based on the past you might put basketball behind all of those things, but Katz's larger point is simply that the sport's argument here is strong and perhaps getting stronger. Not that such distinctions are real, of course, but when you look at all of the potential arguments, not to mention the attendance numbers, and what you're really left with is this: Nebraska is a great college sports state.
Maybe the best one.
The Grab Bag
- Wake Forest has added a 28-year-old Army veteran to the roster to compete for its starting kicker position.
- Michigan is reporting that it will get $52 million from the Big Ten this year.
- Rutgers can play a little defense now, but can the Scarlet Knights score enough to be dangerous in 2018?
- Nebraska doesn't make the cut for the "25 best QB rooms" in the country, but Michigan, Northwestern and Iowa do.
Today's Song of Today