It's that time again. The lines have been drawn. The blood has been bad for a while. It's time for the annual instate matchup of Creighton and Nebraska on the hardwood. This is the one Husker fans get geared up for and so do the Jays. Don't believe me?
With that being the case, we thought it would be a good idea to chat a bit with someone from the other side. Jacob Padilla, editor over at the Creightonian was kind enough to answer a few questions leading up to the game. (I also answered some questions for him. If you're interested in what I had to say, click here.)
Um, well... they really haven't yet. Echenique was an elite post defender, a great rim protector and overall a giant space-eater. The Jays have replaced him with 6-foot-11, 230-pound Will Artino. Artino played really well in limited minutes off the bench last year, but that hasn't translated to success this year in the starting line-up. In fact, Artino was benched against Long Beach State as 6-foot-7 3-point bomber Ethan Wragge started at the five. Artino responded with his best game of the season with 13 points off the bench, and head coach Greg McDermott was noncommittal about who would start against the Huskers.
In addition to Echenique's post defense (Creighton never had to worry about sending a double-team with Echenique in the post), they are missing his rim protection (guards aren't finding much resistance once they get to the rim) and rebounding (Austin Chatman and Devin Brooks, the team's two point guards, have been the best rebounders on the team). True freshman Zach Hanson has the size at 6-foot-9 and 245 pounds to bang down low, but he's still trying to adjust to the college game. And Sophomore 7-footer Geoff Groselle has been injury plagued his whole career and hasn't even seen the floor very much at Creighton.
Until one of those other guys can assert himself at the position, we're going to see plenty of McDermott-Wragge frontcourts and hope to trade two for three more or less.
Getting Gibbs back for a sixth year was a coup for Creighton. Talk about what he brings to the table for this team.
Gibbs brings a little of everything. Although Austin Chatman starts at the one and does a good job, Grant Gibbs is the de facto point guard in that when things are going well the offense is running through him. Gibbs is the master of the post entry pass and gets Doug McDermott a lot of easy buckets. He finds shooters when they are open. He's crafty in getting his own shot when he chooses to do so. He has good enough size to crash the glass and get in the passing lanes. Basically, he's as smart a college player as you're going to find. There's a reason all the national college basketball writers love him so much, and it isn't just his Twitter account.
Unfortunately, Gibbs took a nasty tumble before the Long Beach State game and is pretty banged up. He wouldn't sit out, but he clearly wasn't 100 percent against the 49ers. Hopefully he's had enough time to heal up, because the Jays need him.
It's probably too early to tell, but what does the move to the Big East mean for the program? Are there ways in which you've already seen it impact (good or bad) the Jays, both on the court and off, perception wise, even.
Actually, we have seen some effects already, particularly in recruiting. Junior college transfers Devin Brooks (a big spark off the bench) and James Milliken (redshirting this year) both told me the move to the Big East played a huge part in their commitment, and Creighton likely would have had no chance to pull in next year's class of two exciting four-star wings in Leon Gilmore III and Ronnie Harrell. Fans are loving the move with the Fox Sports 1 connection. The recent losses against Dan Diego State and George Washington would have been crushing in the Missouri Valley, but the Jays have plenty of time to make those games up in the conference season and still put together a solid resume. Overall, it's been a great thing for Creighton as a school and as an athletic department.
There's been a lot of banter about this whole "Jaysker" thing over the years. How much overlap is there really? There's not a ton of it in Lincoln, but I could understand how it would be present in Omaha.
It is pretty noticeable here in Omaha. Plenty of people, like myself, were born and raised on Husker football. But growing up in this city, I started going to occasional games when my mom got tickets from work. I fell in love with the program and now I go to school here. I'm a Husker football fan by birth and a Blujeay for everything else by choice, and I don't see anything wrong with that.
How do you see this shaking out?
Creighton has already had it's wake up call and are finally home after a long stay in California. I think they come out focused and ready to go. The Huskers have some athletic guards that could give Creighton fits, but I just don't see them scoring efficiently enough to keep up with the Jays. McDermott gets his, Wragge hits a couple bombs and I think Devin Brooks will come off the bench and have a good game for Creighton. I think it will be competitive throughout, but Creighton will win by double-digits. I'll go with 82-70 Creighton.
Well, that'll do it. Thanks to Jacob for joining us. It's shaping up to be an entertaining afternoon. Tip off is at 5:07 in Omaha and will be televised on Fox Sports 1.