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Creighton vs. Nebraska: Pregame Q+A

The Huskers head to Omaha this afternoon, and hope to knock off the Missouri Valley Conference's leading basketball team. The Jays are undefeated, and looking to make some noise in the post-season. Nebraska is looking to stay ahead of the curve before it enters league-play in the Big Ten. This really sucks for me, as I am actually in Omaha this weekend, but will have to depart shortly before game-time. Would have liked to see this game in person!

Omaha Sun, a regular on these boards and staff writer for the Creightonian, has graciously offered to provide some feedback on the Bluejay's season so far, and his thoughts on Nebraska's chances to win.

Jump back on later this afternoon for the Basketball/NFL/Open game thread!

CornNation: Creighton is being touted in the national media as the front-runner in the MVC this season. So far, they've lived up to that hype. Will this team be as good as the 2003 squad that spent most of it's season in the National polls?

Jacob: I think this team has the chance to accomplish more than even that team. That squad was very good and Kyle Korver is one of the best players in team history, but they only won one game in the Big Dance. I think the Jays will go even farther than that this season.

This is not your typical mid-major team. It has everything needed to advance in the NCAA tournament: size and talent in the frontcourt, hard workers and knock-down shooters on the wing, and a savvy senior point guard. Doug McDermott is really, really good and is the kind of player that can carry a team on a deep run. But what impresses me most about this team is its ball movement. Creighton is currently leading the country in assists, which is the root of all the other high offensive rankings. That kind of ball movement is difficult for any team to stop defensively. They still need to put in some work on the defensive end, though.

This team has not played against the same tough competition as the '03 one, and it still has a lot to prove, but I see the team winning at least one if not more games come March.

CornNation: How good will the McDermott boys end up being? Both coach-Greg, and son Doug?

Jacob: Coach Mac has been great, both as a fan and a quasi-media member. He has put together a staff that can really recruit (see two true freshmen making a big impact this season) and he knows how to win in the Valley. He's also very personable and honest with the media. I believe the team is in excellent hands now and moving forward.

As for Doug, what can I really say? He was CU's best player last year as a freshman, and as a sophomore is the best player in the conference IMO (sorry Kyle Weems). How often can you say your best player is also your most improved? That is certainly the case with Doug. He attributes his success to his natural feel for the game, which I completely agree with. He just knows where to be on the court at all times. He's the quietest 24 ppg scorer you'll ever see, simply because the majority of his points come from lay-ups and put-backs. That's not to say he can't do anything else, it's just that he doesn't have to. If he continues to improve at this rate, there's no telling how good he will be as a senior.

CornNation: The home team has traditionally won this intra-state game. Coincidence?

Jacob: Obviously a team usually plays better at home, so that likely has a lot to do with that record. This seems like it is a competitive game year in and year out, and it's usually a toss-up. The CenturyLink Center (formerly the Qwest Center) is a great venue and I know from going down to Lincoln last year that the fans really get up when Creighton comes to town. I'm just glad this one's at home.

CornNation: The Bluejays are averaging almost 90 points per game, while Nebraska continues it's defensive dominance - allowing just over 62 ppg. Which team gives in on Sunday?

Jacob: I really think Creighton will be able to crack that tough Husker defense. Gregory Echenique is a load inside at 265 lbs and could cause some problems for Diaz inside. Creighton's 2 best 3PT shooters are the PFs McDermott and Ethan Wragge, which makes them very tough for opposing bigs to cover. Antoine Young is very difficult to stop when he decides to take it into the paint. But the reason I think Creighton will be able to win this game is something I mentioned before: their ball movement. I don't think the Jays will score over 90, but 75 or 80 wouldn't surprise me at all.

CornNation: Creighton sure did smack the Iowa Hawkeyes a few weeks ago, and has won their last 11 home matchups versus BCS schools. How do you think the Bluejays would fit in a major conference for basketball? Is their success a result of playing in a mid-major conference?

Jacob: To be fair, Iowa is a terrible basketball team.

As far as fitting into a BCS conference, that is a subject that has been tossed around a lot recently. I believe Coach Mac was asked about CU possibly switching conferences, and the Valley commissioner Doug Elgin talked about it in a recent radio interview. It seems to be a very real possibility if the Big East were to be decimated by the realignment.

I think CU could hold it's own in the Big East. They obviously would not be able to compete with the likes of UCONN on a yearly basis, but I don't think they'd be a perennial doormat either. I could see the Jays being competitive most years in a new-look Big East.

CornNation: Which Bluejay players, besides Doug McDermott, should Husker fans be worried about in Sunday's game?

Jacob: Part of the reason this team has had so much success is the answer to that question is everyone. It seems like every game a different player steps up to help out Doug. Last game it was sharpshooting PF Ethan Wragge and senior PG Antoine Young. Freshman wing Avery Dingman has had some games where he lit it up from beyond the arc. Gregory Echenique has struggled somewhat this year, but he's still a force on the block. I could go on and on here. Coach told me before the season started that depth was going to be one of their biggest strengths, and so far that has been the case.

But perhaps the most important player for Creighton is the transfer from Gonzaga, Grant Gibbs. The effect he has had on this team is remarkable. his stats won't blow you away, but he does a little of everything and has really made the offense go. He leads the team in assists with 5.5 per game compared to just 1.2 turn overs per game. He also is averaging 4.8 rebounds per game, 1.3 steals per game and is shooting the 3 at a .400 clip. Grant Gibbs is the heart and soul of this team, and is its vocal leader. Stop him, and the offense might slow down.

CornNation: Better combo: - Dana Altman with Kyle Korver and Nate Funk, or Danny Nee with Eric Piatkowski and Tyronn Lue?

Jacob: I'm going to have to be a homer on this one and go with the Jays. Dana built this program into what it is now, Kyle Korver is currently one of the best shooters in the NBA, and Nate Funk was just so much fun to watch. To be honest, the only memories I have of Piatkowski are of him sitting on my Suns' bench.

Thanks again to Jacob for the interview, should be a good game! GBR!