Creighton vs. Northwestern Basketball Preview


Football? The hell is football? I don't know about no football. Nobody ever asked me to blog about no football. I don't even know what football is. (In all seriousness, football blogging, including recap of what I have coined "The Bielema Enema", will happen eventually.)

But for now, we turn our thoughts to tonight's matchup with Creighton on the hardwood. Sadly, I'm stuck here in New York - you know, the concrete jungle where dreams are made of - cutting off one more damn basketball game I won't get to see in my lifetime. Which sucks. Meh. On the plus side, I spent yesterday watching my beloved Knicks fall short against the Atlanta Hawks, and am able to report that at this point in time, preperations for NU's game at Madison Square Garden are well ahead of timeline compared to where Wrigley Field was a few weeks ahead of the Northwestern game, by which I mean there is a basketball court there and not a baseball field. (Good thing I wasn't going to a Rangers game.)

So. On to talking Blue Jay Bluejay basketball.

Are they good? Give me a quick program overview, bro: They're alright. You know Creighton: they're one of those mid-major-y programs that has a knack for popping up in the 12 spot on your bracket every March, and you're like, "Creighton/Drake/whatever? That's my upset pick!" And it comes through some of the time. A lot of that success came under coach Dana Altman, who led the Bluejays to seven NCAA tournaments in 16 years, accumulating a school record 327 wins, however, this past year, he took the money and ran to the University of Oregon, putting Greg McDermott, the former Northern Iowa coach who had been mediocre at best as the head coach of Iowa State, in charge. He took over a program that's in a bit of a middling era: the Bluejays haven't been to the NCAA's since 2007, their longest such drought of the decade, and although they made the semis of a postseason tournament last year, it was the CIT, a tournament for which I do not know the acronym.

Sick program overview, bro! Now tell me about the team this year, dammit: Wait, hold up. When did the guy asking me questions in my own basketball previews become capable of its own thought?

In the Arkansas-Pine Bluff post, where I accused you of being racist: Oh, yeah. I remember that. What were you asking again?

I was asking how Creighton was so far this year.: Oh, yeah. Creighton loses three of their top five scorers from last season, including Sippin' on Purple name favorite P'Allen Stinnett - which I alternately pronounce "pallin", "pee-allen" or "puh-allen" regardless of which one is actually correct -, who got kicked off the team last year but have been alright against pretty middling competition, the Bluejays have gone 4-1, but the one loss was tainted: playing against coach Greg McDermott's old school, Iowa State, Creighton lost 91-88 on a last-second three - but the game should have gone into overtime, as ample evidence suggests that Iowa State's shooter didn't get the shot off, but the game was untelevised, meaning there was no monitor on which the refs could review the play. The Bluejays have had two surprisingly close games - a five-point win over Louisiana-Lafayette, and four-point win over Northern Arizona - and two blowouts, including one over Kennesaw State, which makes Creighton transitive property better than Georgia Tech.

Who they got?: The preseason pick for best player in the Missouri Valley Conference was senior Kenny Lawson, Jr., the Bluejays' 6-foot-9 center who declared for the NBA Draft after averaging 13 and 7 last season before reconsidering, and leads active MVC players in blocks and rebounds. He's a good shotblocker with some shooting touch - he shot over 80 percent from the line and over 60 percent from downtown, which, yeah, small sample size, but he also went 4-for-10 against Iowa State and has attempted a three in every  game this season. After leading the team in scoring last year, he is third through five games, thanks to the addition of Doug McDermott, who, yes, you guessed it, is the coaches' son. But this isn't a John Lickliter situation - McDermott has kicked off his freshman campaign with five consecutive double digit efforts, including 16 and 18 in the team's last two games. There's also a guy named Antoine Young who dropped 21 on Alabama State, so he's feisty. Pretty much everybody on the team can shoot, which you can probably guess from the fact that the center takes a three very game and the fact that Demi Moore's brother-in-law Kaleb Korver is on the team (he doesn't play much) - the only reason they aren't shooting over 40 percent from downtown is because of Josh Jones, who is 0-10 from downtown on the year and has apparently shot his way out of the lineup.

Is Kaleb Korver as alarmingly good-looking as his brother?: No. He's kinda goofy-looking, but, to be honest, who is as disarmingly good-looking as Kyle Korver? That being said, sort of a weird question to ask in a basketball preview, though, boldface.

I am who I am.: Okay then.

Us and them: NU is purportedly 2-1 against the Bluejays, although there hasn't been a meeting between the teams since 1991, when the Cats blew out the Bluejays by 19 in a game randomly played in Arizona.

Difference between the amount of times they have been to the NCAA tournament and the amount of times we have been to the NCAA tournament:16,. Yeah. They go a lot, including four Sweet 16 appearances, although none since the tournament switched to the 64 team format. You may remember a 2002 shootout - and their most recent win - where Creighton advanced 83-82 over a Billy Donovan-led Florida team where somebody besides Kyle Korver hit a game-winning 3. Notable ex-Bluejays include Korver, the Bulls' beautiful 3-point specialist and eldest in a clan of K-named brothers including the aforementioned Kaleb, T-Wolves' center Anthony Tolliver, who got yammed on mighty hard by Amare Stoudemire last year, noted Seattle Supersonic Benoit Benjamin, and school record holder in points Rodney Buford, as well as eventual Cavs coach Paul Silas.

Any generalizations about the schoo/location/people?: Well, it's in Nebraska - Omaha, to be specific - which is a state I already deaded pretty hard when I welcomed Nebraska to the conference, so, corn, tractors, blah blah blah. Needless to say, Creighton basketball is one of the most interesting things in Omaha, seeing as the team fills up the 17,000 Qwest Center occasionally and had the 15th highest attendance in Division-I last year, people-wise. The school is technically the host of the College World Series, and Bob Gibson is an alumnus, so there's that. To be honest, more interesting people have coached at than graduated from Omaha - Willis Reed and Cubs' GM Jim Hendry have coached the basketball and baseball teams, respectively.

Good names?: Whither, P'Allen? There's not much of a crop here, although there is the just weirdly named Jahenns Manigat, a freshman guard, who, as you can tell by the name, is Canadian, and Kaleb Korver, whose parents clearly hated him and Kyle, as well as their other siblings Klayton Korver (who you may remember from his time at Drake) Kirk Korver (who plays at UMKC)

Anything to look for?: Creighton plays straight man-to-man if they're anything like McDermott's Iowa State team that NU played last year, but give up an alarming percentage of threes - over 40 percent on the year. Iowa State this year beat Creighton by shooting 50 percent from downtown, and Louisiana-Lafayette came close because something called a Randall Daigle went 7-for-13 from downtown. NU shouldn't try to challenge Kenny Lawson - against Craig Brackins last year, NU got virtually nothing down low, learn from that, especially with the relatively poor play thus far by the bigs. Work the perimeter, let whichever of Shurna/Crawford/Thompson feels like getting hot - probably Shurna. Conversely, they'll try to win from downtown - remember what I said about earlier about all five players being willing to shoot and relatively good at it with the exception of the one guy - maybe the 1-3-1 can take a day off.

Should NU win?: Yeah. In summary, Creighton's a mid-level mid-major. They won't win the MVC. They probably won't make the NCAA Tournament.. Therefore, it goes without saying that this is the type of team NU will need to put away without more than a modicum of difficulty if they want to make the NCAA Tournament. The Cats have been four or five steps above the first three teams on their schedule, so it wasn't hard to start off the year 3-0 - this is where they'll need to actually earn the win.

Game thread comin' up later. If anybody's got a stream, holler at a playa.

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