After this weekend, I can officially say I’ve been invited to a wedding that got called off. In fact, it got called off with less than two weeks to the “I do” date. However, we were still stuck with our flights so went anyways and sat around in the over 100 degree heat at the beach and pool instead. Even saw a Husker fan or two. Did not introduce ourselves as she was part of an incredibly loud, drunk, and obnoxious group at the pool we were happy to see eventually get thrown out.
Being a bit salty now after that experience, I would make fun of the absurd fact Creighton is a member of a conference called the Big East, but then again West Virginia is in the Big XII, Rutgers and Maryland are in the B1G, and Missouri is in the eastern division of the SEC despite being further west than five schools in the SEC West division. With that geographical quagmire out of the way, let’s get onto the
Date: Saturday, December 7th @ 1:30 PM CT on FS1
Qwest, Century Link, CHI Health Center, Omaha, NE
2018-2019 Season Record: 20-15
2018-2019 Conference Record: 9-9 (four way tie for 3rd)
All-Time Series Record Against Nebraska: 26-26
Conference: Big East
Mascot: Bluejays (or Jayskers if you prefer)
Head Coach: Greg McDermott
Entering his 10th season as head coach with a career record at Creighton of 207–109 (.655) and Big East record of 56–52 (.519). Prior to Creighton, McDermott was the Iowa State coach for four years before resigning to move to Omaha, opening the position for Fred Hoiberg. His head coaching career started at Wayne State (the Nebraska one) for six seasons, then one season at North Dakota State, and five years at Northern Iowa after that, before moving to Ames.
Overall Creighton had about as successful of a season you can want last year while still missing the big dance. They were in a four way tie for 3rd place, but ended up with the 5th seed in the Big East tournament. The Bluejays advanced to the quarter-finals of the NIT with wins over Loyola-Chicago and Memphis before falling to TCU (I’m having nightmares as I type this remembering that just god-awful court the Huskers played on). Ironically, both teams had assistant coaches caught up in the ongoing FBI sting in early March, and so both were on administrative leave at the time of the game later that month.
They finished 62nd in RPI for the season and faced a tough schedule ranking 21st in SOS. Quality wins on the road included 30th ranked Marquette and in the Cayman Islands Classic over 48th ranked Georgia State and 60th ranked Clemson in the tournament’s championship game. Creighton also split the regular season series with 78th ranked Xavier, and they swept 164th DePaul.
Creighton loses a key cog of their team from last season in Martin Krampelj (13.5 ppg, 6.9 rpg) who left for the draft. Key returners include Ty-Shon Alexander (15.7 ppg, 4.0 rpg, in 32.9 minutes a game, All Big East Honorable Mention); Marcus Zegarowski (10.4 PPG, 3.4 assists a game, 40.6% from behind the arc); and Mitch Ballock (11.1 ppg with 42% shooting behind the arc). On the transfer front, Idaho St. grad transfer forward Kelvin Jones (10 ppg, top 100 in defensive rebounding and blocking percentage per KenPom) should help fill in down low. No word yet on whether Assistant Coach Murphy had lined up any other potential Brian Bowens’s that should worry fans about looming ineligibility or sanctions.
The Bluejays are a quality shooting team, but they will likely look to live and die with the three-ball (something the Italy trip for Nebrasketball suggests will be a similarity between the two teams). For a smaller squad oriented around guard play, they will need to cut down on turnovers, averaging one on 18.6% of possessions last year, placing them 183rd nationally. On nights they’re not hitting shots, it will be tough because it’s not clear they’ll improve any on defense to improve the abysmal 275th ranking they earned from KenPom in effective field goal defense. Having said that, their overall adjusted defense did rank 83rd per KenPom, offense was 47th, and they finished 55th overall. And it is not for naught they are projected in current bracketology as high as a seven seed in the Midwest. Their Australia trip this summer revealed some sloppy play in their first game and hot three point shooting in the second.
Don’t expect this to be a low scoring game or a quality display of defensive prowess for either team. I think you’ll find both sides do an effective job of getting points on the board, but at the buzzer it will be Hoiberg getting his first win in the rivalry game over that team up I-80. Let’s call the final 89-83. Nebrasketball stretches the streak to two in a row after letting the Bluejays tie the record of seven straight. GBR!