It's Friday! That means Ten Big stories in 10 little bites. We'll cover Kris Dunn and Steph Curry, Under Armour vs. Nike, Husker hoops and NFL QBs. But first, a battle of Jims.
We’re all used to the Michigan Man creating enemies. And it’s actually kinda fun, especially when those enemies hail from the Big Bad SEC. Harbaugh’s latest attempt to push the envelope? During Michigan’s spring break, he’s taking spring practice to the IMG Academy in Florida.
SEC folks don’t like it, of course, because the last thing they want is Jim Harbaugh invading their footprint in March. But there’s one more powerbroker Harbaugh might be poking.
Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany.
If you follow college athletics outside the playing field, you know that Delany has regularly emphasized the need for student-athletes to be regular students. To have more time away from the athletic complex. To study abroad and to earn offseason internships. He’s even gone so far to suggest locking athletic facilities in the summer.
SEC commissioner Greg Sankey engaged in a tiff with Harbaugh this week about the Spring Break trip.
"The Big Ten is going to recruit Florida. We fully understand that. They should. Other Big Ten schools, other Big 12 schools are going to recruit in the SEC's geographic footprint. That's perfectly fine. This is about saying we're not going to infringe further on the time demands of student-athletes — the free times and spring break in particular."
Sankey is right, of course. Harbaugh’s trip goes too far — and not just in a geographic sense. I’m sure a week of practice in Florida is preferable to a week in Ann Arbor. But spring break is supposed to be spent in South Padre or Cancun, not on the practice field.
You’re eliminating one of the four to six weeks of the year that football players can actually get away from football. You’ve violating the recommendations of the Big Ten commissioner.
Will Delany speak up? Will Harbaugh stand his ground? Those are two of college athletics’ most stubborn and powerful men. I’d love to hear the phone call between them.
* * *
>> One year ago, Nebraska basketball beat Michigan State on Jan. 24, lost two straight, beat a bad team at home (Northwestern) on Feb. 3, then didn’t win again.
It was a miserable experience for coaches, players and fans. It ultimately led to Tim Miles hitting “reset” on the roster.
This year, Nebraska basketball beat Michigan State on Jan. 20, lost three straight, then beat a bad team at home (Rutgers) on Feb. 6.
Is another season-ending slide on the way? Probably not. The remaining schedule isn’t nearly as bad as last February. But the Huskers are vulnerable if Shavon Shields can’t play — he's out again for Saturday's game against Penn State.
There just isn’t much firepower. Shields’ absence puts a great burden on guys like Glynn Watson, Jack McVeigh and Michael Jacobson.
Ideally, one year from now, those freshmen can look back on February 2016 and say, “That month was brutally tough, but it made us better in the long run.” The alternative? This stretch beats the confidence out of NU’s young guys.
Psychologically, I think it’s important to grab one or two wins. They won’t get any easier than Penn State.
>> Saturday afternoon at Oklahoma, the 8-3 Kansas Jayhawks battle the 8-3 Sooners. It’s a critical game for KU’s hopes of winning a 12th consecutive league title.
I got to thinking about Bill Self and whether he's the best college coach of this era. Let me give you the four top coaches post-2003. Who would you take?
John Calipari: 386-79
Bill Self: 372-82
Mike Krzyzewski: 373-88
Roy Williams: 350-105
NCAA Tournament wins:
Regular-season conference titles:
Who are you taking?
Calipari’s record in that span is hard to beat. But his record is inflated slightly because of weaker leagues (Conference USA and the SEC). If you’re a fan of regular-season success, Self is your man. If it’s all about national titles, Krzyzewski or Williams wins.
>> A kerfuffle over Under Armour’s game ball (used by Maryland) leads to Nigel Hayes’ criticism of the NCAA. Good stuff!
>> The best all-around point guard in college basketball? 538 makes a case for Kris Dunn.
>> I hope you took time to read ESPN's takedown of Roger Goodell and Stan Kroenke. Lot of behind-the-scenes detail of the Rams' move to L.A.
>> Three years ago, the week after Super Bowl XLVII, I posed this question to Twitter followers: You get one of these seven NFL quarterbacks for the next 10 years. Rank them.
Andrew Luck (age 23)
Robert Griffin (23)
Russell Wilson (24)
Colin Kaepernick (25)
Matt Ryan (27)
Joe Flacco (28)
Aaron Rodgers (29)
I received 50 votes. Here’s how the voting broke down (1 point for 1st-place vote, 2 points for 2nd-place vote, etc.):
Luck: 101 points. 23 first-place votes. Finished top-four on every ballot but one.
Rodgers: 126 points. 20 first-place votes, but also a few sixths and sevenths.
Wilson: 193 points. The most polarizing QB on the list. Check out this distribution of votes: 1st (3 votes), 2nd (12), 3rd (10), 4th (9), 5th (3), 6th (6), 7th (7).
Kaepernick: 202 points. 3 first-place votes, 2 last-place votes. Consistently in the middle on most ballots.
Flacco: 247 points. 1 first-place vote.
Griffin: 249 points.
Ryan: 282 points.
On my "ballot," I wrote this:
"To me, the only guys who don’t have a chance to be No. 1 in 10 years are Ryan and Flacco. If Rodgers ages as well as Tom Brady, he’s probably the safest choice. Griffin, due to his bad knees, is the wild card. OK, I’m stalling. Here’s my top 7:
1. Wilson; 2. Luck; 3. Rodgers; 4. Kaepernick; 5. Griffin; 6. Ryan; 7. Flacco
You may remember how I lobbied for RG3 to win Rookie of the Year over Wilson and Luck. I stand by that argument. Griffin had the best season. But Wilson, a blend of new-school and old-school quarterbacking, is the best long-term choice.
Pretty interesting exercise. Three years later, Wilson, Luck and Rodgers look like a strong 1-2-3. Kaepernick and Griffin are in danger of being total busts. Ryan and Flacco will likely end their careers quietly.
One footnote to that conversation — and again, this is verbatim from February 2016:
"A few followers tweeted me and said, 'Where’s Cam Newton on the ballot?' Hey, I only have 140 characters — I gotta cut it off somewhere."
Ha! I'm not so bright after all.
>> Finally, it's All-Star weekend in Toronto. Reader Garrett Rathke poses this question for Mad Chatter readers: Could the Golden State Warriors beat the Eastern Conference All-Stars?
My answer: Yes! But only on the condition that Ty Lue doesn't get time to practice with his team. I'll take team chemistry over team talent. Oh, and I'll take Steph Curry.
>> Thanks for reading. Have a great weekend.