Creighton Cratering

Creighton was once one of the toasts of the mid-majors. The little team with the kind of scorer that could be extremely dangerous come Tournament time in Doug McDermott.

This was a team to be reckoned with. A team to watch out for. A team not to overlook.

Once upon a time, this Bluejays team was a sure-fire tournament team. That “once upon a time” was a mere two weeks ago. Creighton has lost three in a row in the Missouri Valley Conference and are experiencing a pure free fall.

It started last Saturday with a three-point loss at Northern Iowa (RPI No. 54). Then Creighton dropped a road game at Evansville (RPI No. 149) by eight. The bottom completely fell out Saturday as RPI No. 17 Wichita State came to Omaha and walked out with an 89-68 win.

It was a loss so bad that coach Greg McDermott was seen in a heated argument with his son on the sideline after the scoring phenom and Player of the Year candidate struggled in a 13-point, 5-for-14 performance. It was one of his worst scoring performances of the year.

To understand the free-fall, look at where Creighton was entering that game against Northern Iowa. The Bluejays were 13th in the AP poll and No. 29 in the RPI.

The Bluejays have fallen out of the human polls, but have actually risen to No. 27 in the RPI. That might change when the latest calculations come out. This, of course, represents one of the quirks in RPI. The teams Creighton has played have obviously done well.

The Bluejays have done well for themselves too. Wichita State may have shocked Creighton on the road with that blowout win this weekend, but Wichita State is also a top-25 RPI team. The Bluejays are still 18-3 against teams with an RPI of 51 or higher and 16-1 against teams with an RPI greater than 100.

Continue reading

Shocking the Nation

Wichita State's Carl Hall works for a shot against Creighton's Gregory Echenique

The Missouri Valley Conference has become somewhat of a darling for bracket connoisseurs come NCAA Tournament time in the last decade. In the past, the likes of Creighton, Southern Illinois, Bradley and Northern Iowa have all made runs in March that stunned pundits and fans.

Considered one of the best mid-major conferences in the country, the Missouri Valley also has Wichita State — another ghost of tourneys past.

Leading the conference by a full two games over RPI No. 27 Creighton, Wichita State is 22-4 overall and 13-2 in the Missouri Valley while securing the No. 16 slot in the RPI. Three of Wichita State’s four losses are completely excusable– Creighton, RPI No. 18 Temple and RPI No. 32 Alabama. The only true résumé blemish for Wichita State is a road, triple-overtime loss at RPI No. 132 Drake.

Continue reading

Who Is Leading The POY Race?

Yeah, sure, individual award races do not mean a whole lot. They are more statements about what voters value that specific year in basketball.

Do you give it to the post player who is the bedrock of a strong, highly ranked team? Do you go with the high-scoring guard from the mid-major school? How about the freakish athlete or the NBA dream prospect?

There are obviously a lot of those every year. One usually rises to the top. But that is not happening so far. It is already February, and it does not seem like a player has separated himself from the pack. That goes for the Player of the Year as much for the top pick in the NBA Draft (regardless of who stays or goes).

ESPN.com ran a poll of its writers trying to determine the front-runner for Player of the Year. The analysts at the “Worldwide Leader” have junior forward Thomas Robinson of Kansas as the early favorite. Creighton’s scoring machine, Doug McDermott, follows close behind. Preseason favorite Jared Sullinger of Ohio State is third followed by freshman sensation Anthony Davis of Kentucky.

Those seem to be the players that are in the conversation, almost to the exclusion of others.

Continue reading

Who Will BracketBusters Help The Most?

I do not know when ESPN started re-making the schedule midseason (it was 2003 according to Wikipedia) to highlight some of the mid-major teams fighting for tournament position. The matchups for a few weekends from now were announced this week.

Each game, especially the ones airing on the ESPN family of networks, represents a golden chance for these mid-major teams to get a marquee win to bolster those resumes. For a lot of these teams, conference wins do not do that on their own.

This is exactly what they contracted for when BracketBusters was created. The mid-major conferences wanted one last chance in late February to showcase their best teams against solid competition. And that is what more than a few teams will get in their BracketBusters matchup.

Most of these matchups do not amount to play-in games. It is far too early for that. But that last chance to score a big victory on national television has to be promising for many of these mid-major bubble teams.

These are still big games though. Very big games.

A lot of these teams have incomplete resumes and it can be a little difficult for the mid-major teams to bolster that resume solely in conference. That was the point of this whole BracketBusters experiment from ESPN.

There are several intriguing and key matchups that this weekend of basketball is going to provide.

The big one on the list is likely Long Beach State taking on Creighton. The Bluejays are expected to win the Missouri Valley Conference and seem about as locked into the Tournament as possible. This makes the game for the 49ers that much bigger.

Long Beach State is 16-6 and 9-0 in the Big West. It seems very likely that the team will win the conference and ensure itself at least a trip to the NIT. The Big West is not a conference that typically receives two bids to the tournament, and that would put a lot of pressure to win the tournament.

The 49ers’ trip to Omaha could prove very big.

Continue reading