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Husker Mike's Blasphemy

Omaha's longest running sports blog, covering local sports including the Nebraska Cornhuskers and the Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks.

Updated: 2018-03-29T09:00:00.244-05:00


The Myths and Reality of UNO Hockey's "Swoontober"


There's been no lack of animosity surrounding UNO hockey over the last year or so.  Some of it focused at me for my skepticism of Mike Gabinet, but mostly at former head coach Dean Blais. Much of the criticism of Blais focuses on the notion of "Swoontober", a phenomenon where UNO's hockey season fades away in the closing weeks of the season.  Ill-prepared for the modern college hockey game, Blais' coaching philosophies were at the core of UNO's failure to make it to Minneapolis to play in the WCHA's "Final Five" or NCHC's "Frozen Faceoff" semifinals.At least that's the narrative.And now that UNO hockey sits ever-so-slightly-above-.500 after New Years' Day, some proclaim that "Swoontober is Over!"  Yes, finally winning a game against (slumping) North Dakota at Baxter Arena proves that Gabinet was the answer.Well, maybe.  Or maybe not.  Let's look a little closer at the phenomenon known as "Swoontober" - specifically the schedule. You see, UNO is a member of the National Collegiate Hockey Conference which, quite frankly, is to college hockey what the SEC thinks they are to college football.  Pretty damn good.  How good?  Each of the last three years, two of the four NCAA Frozen Four teams have been NCHC teams.  UNO made it in 2015, North Dakota in 2015 and 2016, Denver in 2016 and 2017, and Minnesota-Duluth in 2017.And it's not just that the NCHC had two excellent teams; in 2016 and 2017, four NCHC teams earned bids to the 16 team NCAA tournament.  In 2015, six of the eight teams made it.  So one fact is blatantly clear:  UNO's conference schedule is about as tough as it gets.Here's another fact to keep in mind about "Swoontober":  UNO plays all of their nonconference games in the first half of the season.  So the schedule is, almost by definition, backloaded to be tougher at the end than at the beginning.  For comparison, look at Nebraska football in 2016:  the Huskers jumped out to a 7-0 start (and a Top Ten ranking under Mike Riley), thanks to a relatively weak schedule.  And then lost four out of the last six games as they played the best teams late in the year.Did the Huskers have a "swoon"? Nope.  Just a dose of reality combined with injuries to the best quarterback Mike Riley had throughout his three year tenure.  Nebraska wasn't as good as they looked when they arrived in Madison with a top ten ranking, nor nearly as bad as they looked against Iowa in that bloodbath.So let's look at UNO hockey over the last few years.  I've compared UNO's opponents Pairwise rankings in both the first half and the second half of each season, just to get a relative idea of the strength of the schedules.  It's eye opening.Pairwise RankingsFall 2015Winter 2016Fall 2016Winter 2017Fall 2017Winter 20181 - 101-11-111-33-11-12-40-411 - 202-00-02-2-20-04-24-221 - 303-0-10-20-00-01-13-0-131 - 606-22-28-1-13-0-12-1-10-0There's not a lot of difference between the seasons when looking at opponents ranked outside the top ten in the Pairwise...but that top line is eye-catching.  In the winter of 2016, UNO played 12 games against the top ten, winning just one.  Last winter, 14 games against the top ten, winning just three with a tie.This winter?  Just four games so far.  Two more this weekend against number 8 Minnesota-Duluth on the road, and if UNO wins those, you probably have a case to say that Swoontober is over.  If UNO gets swept, then the Mavs probably end up having to go back to Denver, the defending national champions.  That probably makes 0-8 against the top ten a very likely scenario...and Swoontober lives on.I used to think UNO's issue was with Baxter Arena, but this year's home record suddenly reversed that trend.  Digging into this further, I realized that UNO went 0-6 and 1-5 at home against top ten teams the last two seasons after Christmas.  This year?  The last top ten team to visit Baxter Arena was Duluth in December.And those home losses the last two seasons take a toll on the fan [...]

"Thoughts and Prayers" - A Tired Response to a Growing Problem


It's happened again in America. Mass shootings happen so frequently in this country that we're losing track of them all.   18 school shootings so far this year.

The story just keeps on repeating.  Heroes rush in, sometimes making the ultimate sacrifice.  A community is traumatized.  Doctors attempt to repair the mangled bodies of the survivors.  Heartbroken families bury those taken cruelly and violently away from us.

The gun lobby offers up "thoughts and prayers."

But what are they reflecting on?  What are they asking God for?

At one time, it probably was true to say that it was "too soon" to "politicize" a tragedy before the dead were buried and doctors had a chance to heal the wounded.  But this has been going on far too long now.

Now, each shooting is a reminder we still haven't done a damned thing in this country to do something about all of the previous ones.  Other countries found the idea of mass bloodshed so reprehensible,  government acted.  Not here.  At least, not when it comes to mass shootings.  Sure, at the airport, we now have to take our shoes off, get groped and not bring anything to drink.  But massacres in schools and at concerts?  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Las Vegas shooting site, three months later.
Last month, I was in Las Vegas and found out that my room overlooked the site of the concert shootings last October.  Which also happened to be right next to the airport.  It's all cleaned up now, but frankly, nothing has been done to stop it from happening again.

Just like nothing really changed after the Von Maur shootings ten years ago.

The excuse that "we should wait until we know all the facts" doesn't work any more. This nation hasn't done anything in response to the dozens of prior massacres in the country.

Why are some politicians more concerned about voter fraud (when we have scant evidence that it actually exists) than mass shootings?

It's beyond time to start solving this problem, which is uniquely American. You don't have to look far to find workable answers, and with every rerun of this awful tragedy, the likelihood that those solutions will come to this country keeps increasing.

Deep down, we all know what the answer is.  If you want something different, you are running out of time to get it in place.

We don't have any more kids to spare.

Why I Hate the New England Patriots


When Super Bowl LII kicks off next Sunday evening, I'm not sure I'll be actually rooting for the Philadelphia Eagles to win.

I will be cheering hard for the New England Patriots to lose.

It isn't because of any sort of jealousy or envy of the Patriots incredible run of success in the 21st century; the dislike actually started before they won their first Super Bowl. When Tom Brady's fumble in the snow against Oakland was overturned by an obscure football rule nobody had ever heard of before, the Patriots and Brady were forever tarnished in my mind. It's hard for mind to reconcile the fact that the winningest Super Bowl quarterback ever could never even be the clear-cut quarterback of his college team.

The Patriots reputation of playing fast and loose with the rules is well established with SpyGate and DeflateGate. And yes, the reactions of Tom Brady and the rest of the New England Patriots made it clear they were guilty; every parent can recognize the tacit admissions of guilt by Brady and company, even if the NFL's 2015 investigation was a bit clumsy in execution.  Maybe the evidence isn't admissable in court, but you know and everybody knows that Tom Brady and the New England Patriots cheated to get to that Super Bowl.

And that's the stuff we know about.

Add in the whole "Masshole" phenomonon, and frankly, the New England Patriots are simply unlikable. I had a small amount of sympathy for Boston fans in the 20th century; I liked Larry Bird, and sympathized with them over the Bill Buckner error in the World Series. (Besides, I hated those Stupid Mets...)  But that dissipated quickly once Matt Perrault started shoveling his dreck on KXSP ten years ago.  One of his famed predictions was that "no Manning would ever win a Super Bowl ring" - only to have the Manning brothers win the next two Super Bowls.

I get why he did that... he loved his Boston teams, but more importantly, loved to troll everyone else.  That's why he didn't last in Omaha, though he's apparently now has a national show.  Go figure.

New England and Boston:  Thoroughly unlikable and despicable. Go ahead, Philly...and give them the full Santa treatment.

Because even awful fans who hate Santa deserve a Super Bowl trophy more than the New England Patriots.

The Worst Week of the Year: Is It Perhaps the Last?


Even before Mike Riley was officially fired, the recruiting gurus sounded the alarms over the direction Nebraska seemed to be heading.

So this week, my Twitter mute function will be getting a workout. In recent years, I've ended up having to unfollow over three dozen writers.  Some of them never got a refollow in the weeks afterward.  I know I'm in the minority; I know from our stats at CornNation that recruiting coverage sells.  (I've even had to help pitch in when Brian wasn't available. Brian does a really thorough job with the coverage, which is good because it also means I don't have to wade into it.)

Hopefully there's a good hockey game on Wednesday night so I can avoid most of the rehashing.