MVC Champs

February 28, 2009

Box Score

The Jays won today against Illinois St. and is MVC regular season co-champs with Northern Iowa after the Panthers survived against Evansville.  Though the Jays didn’t look the greatest as far as the stat sheet goes, they did what they needed to do and fought their way to victory and now takes a 10-game win streak into Arch Madness on Thursday.

Booker Woodfox led the Senior Day extraveganza with 20 points along with P’Allen Stinnett with 20 as well.  Woodfox still got his points even though the was draped all day by Illinois St.’s defense.  Stinnett got hot early in the 1st half  and then hit some free throws down the stretch on a day when the conference’s best free-throw shooting team only shot 16-26 from the free throw line.  Stinnett was 7 -10 from the charity stripe.

On the other hand Illinois St. was on fire from three today in the first half hitting 7-14, but then went only 3-10 in the 2nd half.  They finished with 5 players in double figures and still presents a matchup problem with the Jays in some sense.  The Jays were out-rebounded   by 18 and the Redbirds had 15 assists on their 25 baskets.

The key to this game today was the turnovers.  Illinois St. had 17 while the Jays only turned it over 8 times.  That turned into a 24-6 advantage by the Jays on points off of turnovers.

It was a question of whether Illinois St. wanted to win this game since it really didn’t mean anything for a conference or seeding standpoint, but we found out how bad they wanted this down the stretch as coach Jankovich was T’d up by the referees and the starters played for Illinois St. as much as they usually do.

Now as a result of Northern Iowa winning tonight and getting the number 1 seed in the MVC Tourney, the Jays are the 2nd seed and are on the same side of the bracket as Illinois St.  If things go as expected,  they could meet again in the semi-finals.   It appears the Jays will play the winner of Wichita St./Missouri St. in the quarterfinals on Friday in St. Louis and Illinois St. will play Evansville.

This should be an exciting MVC tournament.   I will be in St. Louis for Arch Madness giving some extra coverage for Rush the Court.  If you have any questions for the coaches and players for any of the teams or anything else you want to know about the MVC tourney that you might not have known about before, send me an e-mail or participate in some of the things that we will be doing during the MVC tourney.  More information to come soon as we get our plans together this week.  Stay tuned.

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Gametime Primer: Jays vs. Illinois St.

February 27, 2009

creighton Vs.  illinois_st

Saturday, February 28th, 1PM
“BLUE OUT”
Qwest Center Omaha

Radio: Big Sports 590 AM or Bigsports590.com
TV: ESPN2 (Cox Channel 30 in Omaha)

Creighton Game Notes | Illinois St. Game Notes

Audio to Listen To
Josh Dotzler Interview (BS 590)
Dustin Sitzmann Interview (BS 590)
Booker Woodfox Interview (BS 590)
Jay Bilas from ESPN (1620 the Zone)
Illinois St. Head Coach Tim Jankovich (BS 590)
Coach Dana Altman (BS 590)

Other Previews
Making Points Other Ways (OWH)
Woodfox Keys Creighton’s 9-game Win Streak (Pantagraph–via  OWH)

If you are reading this, it is very likely you know what is at stake for the Jays on Saturday.  They have the opportunity to at least tie, or even win outright the MVC Regular Season Championship by winning against Illinois St.

But then it is also Senior Day where Josh Dotzler, Booker Woodfox and Dustin Sitzmann will play what appears to be their last game at Qwest Center Omaha.  These three guys have contributed heavily to this team in their different ways.

josh

Josh Dotzler has been the vocal leader for this team and has contributed in ways that don’t necessarily show up in the stat line.  With his commitment to the Jays program as a sophomore in high school, it feels like Josh has been around for quite a long time.  His freshman year was on a great path to career greatness at Creighton, but then a freak knee injury at the hands of Bryan Mullins from Southern Illinois started a series injuries Josh fought through in his Sophomore and Junior years.  But this season has been different for Josh.  He leads the Valley in steals this season, a great assist to turnover ratio and seems a step quicker than the past couple of seasons.  His leadership to show the tradition of being a Bluejay is something that cannot be just made up.

Creighton Drake Basketball

Booker Woodfox in his short career at Creighton has become one of the all-time fan favorites.  After a shaky start last season, Booker has been the most consistent player on the team since the start of conference season last year.  As a fan, you almost feel like every time he puts up a shot that it will go in.  And when you shoot over 50% from three-point land, it probably does look like everything is going in.  Booker has the chance to leave Creighton with the all-time three-point shooting percentage in school history.  Though Booker is a somewhat mild mannered guy, he does have a great humorous side as was shown by NET last season:

sitzmann

Dustin Sitzmann is a crowd favorite.  The walk-on from LaMars, IA has gutted it out and stayed with the program his whole college career.  Though only playing for the most part when the Jays have a nice lead, the work ethic and determination to stick with it is something that cannot be ignored.   His knowledge of the Creighton program is something that he has been able to pass down to others and I understand he is a great motivator.  Plus, his fiance is a lucky person to get such a great marriage proposal.  Creighton fans will need to find another favorite player to chant for at the end of games.  Sitz, it was a great 4 years.

Now to the actual game.  It will be interesting to see how Illinois St. looks and whether they will be playing to be the spoiler or if they will lay down against the Jays.  After losing their last two games, a lot of wings have been clipped for the Redbirds.  However, the Jays have lost the last 4 meetings with Illinois St. and Coach Altman is looking for his first win against  Tim Jankovich.   In Dana Altman’s Senior Day games, the Jays are 12-2, but have not played Illinois St. on Senior Day.

Senior Day is usually full of emotion.  Unfortunately for the Valley teams so far, it hasn’t been very nice.  The Jays beat Missouri St. Tuesday night ruining their Senior Night.  Northern Iowa won at Illinois St. Tuesday night ruining theirs.  Southern Illinois won against Drake in Des Moines.  3 out of 5 Senior Days so far have resulted in the road team winning.

There will be a sellout crowd to give the Jays the energy they need to win this one.   A national TV audience to see the Jays make a final statement before the MVC Tourney.  The setting is almost too perfect, but one that was expected by everyone before the season started…the Jays winning the MVC regular season championship.   If the Jays win, the pressure is on Northern Iowa to respond.   The Redbirds are looking tired and I think they are out of gas.

Matt Perrault from Big Sports 590 is saying that in his interview with Tim Jankovich, that he is making it sound like the starters may not play as much or something….I’ll have to listen to it to know for sure what the tease is, but if Jankovich is playing not to win, then I think that he is taking a really big chance.  The plan could happen in two ways:  1)  If the starters don’t play as much and it is a close game, then there may be some confidence built up to get ready for St. Louis next week or 2)If it turns into an ugly blowout, then are the Redbirds mentally prepared to deal with that.  A college student in their late teens or early 20’s psyche is fragile and that might be going down a wrong road for this team that appears to be struggling right now.  But hey, what do I know.  Obviously, I don’t coach for a living.

Saturday’s game is also a “Blue Out.”  So wear your blue and cheer on the Jays.  It should be a good time either way.

Prediction:  Jays 80, Illinois St. 69


Bubble Schmubble

February 26, 2009

As the Jays get ready for their conference clinching game against Illinois St., there is talk about whether the Jays could get an At-Large bid if they needed it.  Many say just win in St. Louis, but everyone always has to have a backup plan.

As we get down to the final few weeks it seems like there are so many teams on the bubble.  But in reality it isn’t as many as some would think.    ESPN would lead you to believe there are 30 teams on the bubble right now for basically 10 spots.    However, if things go like they should, there should only be 13 teams in reality that are on the bubble at this point.  Or let me state this a little differently–In a perfect world, the teams you want to lose the rest of their games.  I’ll see if I can break it down a little bit.

Using ESPN’s Bubble watch from through games through February 25th. So the 34 at large spots break down like this:

Locks:  24
Should be in: 7
Equals 31

Breakdown:

  • ACC (5)
  • Big East (7)
  • Big 10 (3)
  • Big 12 (4)
  • Pac-10 (5)
  • SEC (1)
  • MWC (1)
  • Other (5)

Minus Conference Auto-bid (assuming it is one of the above from each conference and Other-Memphis, Butler, Xavier, Gonzaga wins their conference tourney) -11

At Large Spots available:  14

Now for the “Work to Do” teams, there are 30 teams on that theoretic bubble and would appear there are 30 teams fighting for the 14 spots.  Well let’s break it down a little more:

Siena, Utah St., Creighton, and Davidson could win their conference tournament, so then the bubble teams is down to 26.

So then let’s look at the reality for the Big 6 conference + MWC teams:

ACC

  • Miami
  • Boston College
  • Virginia Tech
  • Maryland

Miami and Boston College can pretty much write their tickets into the NCAA since they have a favorable schedule the rest of the way.   However, Virginia Tech and Maryland play 2 top ACC teams in each of their last 3 games.  2 losses for them and they should be out of consideration.  So in reality the ACC may get 2 more bids.  Down to 12 At-large

Big East

  • Cincinatti
  • Providence
  • Notre Dame

These three teams you want to all lose and have a good chance to since Cincinatti still has to play Syracuse and Providence and Notre Dame still have to play Villanova.   If those three teams cannot win those games against Syracuse and Villanova, then they should not be in talk anymore.  So no At-Large lost there

Big 10

  • Wisconsin
  • Minnesota
  • Ohio St.
  • Michigan
  • Penn St.

Penn St. is in a position to punch their ticket as they play Iowa, Illinois and Indiana in their last three.  But between Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan, they all have to play each other yet and can basically between the three of them eliminate each other.   And if Ohio St. can’t be Purdue, then they should just be sitting on the outside as well.  So from the Big 10 maybe 1-2 more bids.   So let’s say we are down to 10 At-Large at this point

Big 12

  • Oklahoma St.
  • Texas A&M

Texas A&M has the best chance to punch their ticket becuase they have Iowa St., Colorado and Missouri St.  on Senior Day.  But Oklahoma has the gauntlet of Texas, Kansas St. and Oklahoma.  1  more at-large likely gone.

Pac-10

  • USC

USC does have Stanford, Oregon and Oregon St. to end the season so they may look pretty good as an at large, so another one gone.  Down to 8.

SEC

  • Kentucky
  • Tennessee
  • Florida
  • South Carolina

Florida and South Carolina both have a shot at Tennessee and Florida also gets a shot at Kentucky yet.  South Carolina swept Kentucky so if everything goes right, the only ones that should be considered out of these would be Florida and South Carolina.  Down to 6

Mountain West

  • UNLV
  • BYU
  • New Mexico

I sort of have a feeling the Mountain West is going to have a year that the Missouri Valley did a few years ago.  Two of these three will get in, but you would like to see UNLV and New Mexico lose.  But let’s say they get 2.  At-Large is down to 4

The Rest:

  • Temple–With Dayton and St. Joes left, they keep losing and they are out
  • Rhode Island–Rhode Island has winable games at Duquense and UMass. Let’s say they are in
  • UAB–Lost to Memphis tonight, so really they are done
  • St. Mary’s–With the last two games against Pepperdine and Loyola Marymount, they are pretty much in.

In the end 2 at-large slots left.  So if Creighton were one of those that faultered, they would have a chance.  But of course this is all perfect world scenario.

So in reality with all of these bubble teams and games and after all this gibberish, here are the ones that you really want to see lose.

Virginia Tech
Maryland
Cincinatti
Providence
Notre Dame
Ohio St.
Michigan
Oklahoma St.
Tennessee
Kentucky
New Mexico
Temple
UAB

The rest of the so-called bubble teams sort of have things locked up if they do what they are supposed to.  As you can tell, I had a little free time tonight to come up with a bunch of nothing, but these above teams are the ones I’m going to pay attention to and if goes as plan there will be 2 spots left to fill and then the Jays would be one of those if needed if they faultered at the MVC tourney


The Bench: The Equalizer

February 24, 2009

Box Score

You could hear the air slowly leaking out of the Jays balloon as they came out really flat with no energy sporting an almost double digit deficit in the first half and then being down 13 early in the second.  Then the Jays turned on the pressure and you could see a little spark.

The Jays scratched a clawed their way back into the game and a stretch of 6 key plays were the catalyst to get the Jays enough to get over the hump and to get a victory against Missouri St. on their Senior Night–something that had not happened in 19 years.

First the Jays decide to start to press and Justin Carter gets a steal and the ball over to P’Allen Stinnett for his only 3-pointer of the night.  Then on a loose ball, Kaleb Korver dives on the floor and in a situation where most times than not they call a jump ball, they actually called a foul on Missouri St.  Korver hits those two free throws. Then it was the Cavel Witter/Casey Harriman duo that made three straight 3-point plays that gave the Jays their first lead of the night.  On a night where Josh Dotzler and Antoine Young did not have it, Cavel Witter took over the point and dribbled his way to 2 straight drive and kick outs to a waiting Harriman who drilled the 3-pointers.  Then Witter kept it himself and drove to the basket for a three point play.  Finally with just over a minute to go, Witter and Harriman ran the same play as before and Harriman hit his third 3-pointer of the night.

The obvious gameplan for the Bears was to play high pressure defense and to take Booker Woodfox out of the game.  They pretty much did that as Woodfox only had 7 points and very few opportunities.  For a good 30 minutes the Jays were definitely out of synch waiting for the good things to happen.   The Jays however forced turnovers and turned the 19 turnovers by Missouri St. in to 20 points.    The Jays had many unforced turnovers with 8 in the first half, but then held on to the ball better the second half with only 5.

But the story of the game is the bench.  The Jays bench scored 35 of the 65 points.  Witter had 11 points,  Harriman had 10 points and Kenton Walker had 8.  But the key stat for Witter was his 6 assists to only 1 turnover.  Creighton needed a guy to step up and Witter was that guy.  He has played hard all year even in the tough times trying to find his role.  It paid off tonight.

Again the double post of Kenton Walker and Kenny Lawson produced with a combined 16 points and 10 rebounds.  The biggest thing about those numbers is that the shots Walker and Lawson made were from about 15 feet out, they were not able to get inside to score, so those were gutty shots and key points for them.    P’Allen Stinnett had 11 points but was somewhat quiet.

As I sat scoreboard watching the UNI/Illinois St. game, it was back and forth and went to a first overtime, and then a 2nd overtime and looked like it was headed to a third overtime, but then the ESPN Gametracker all of a sudden changed the time back to 1 second and UNI’s Adam Koch scored off a Johnny Moran miss all in one second.  That had to be a heck of a game.  It was a shame that game wasn’t on TV.

The Jays now head into Saturday’s game against an ESPN2 audience with the opportunity to either tie or outright win the MVC regular season championship.  Northern Iowa dodged a bullet tonight as they got what must have been an amazing last second shot in the 2nd overtime as UNI snuck out of Normal with the win and still a chance for them to get the MVC championship as well.   The Jays can only control what they can and a Senior Day win against Illinois St. is what it will come down to.  Then their hope is that UNI loses on their own Senior Day in Cedar falls.

Saturday’s game is a BLUE OUT.  Make sure to wear your Blue.


Around the Rim–2/24/09

February 24, 2009

I haven’t had a chance to do this for a while, so I’ll do this while I have a quick moment.

  • Arkansas-Little Rock who the Jays lost to earlier this season has kicked off their  leading scorer Stephen Moore from the team.  He was suspended earlier in the season but then came back in time for the Creighton game.  Last week, Moore walked off the court during the first half of the Western Kentucky game and went to the locker room.  Then he came back out and sat in the stands for the rest of the half.    Then the second half he was put in during the last 5 minutes of the game.  Definitely a player/coach problem going on there.  Arkansas-LR has clinched the West division of the Sun Belt and has a chance to get to the NCAA tournament by winning their conference tournament.
  • Creighton students should be happy that they get to go to the games for free.  In a report on the BCS schools and the costs for students to go to their team’s home games, Oklahoma St. charges the most per student to go to the games.    Here is the nations most expensive schools for students to go to the games and here are the results from the rest of the teams in the large conferences.
  • Some people may think that the Valley is down this year, but look at this encouraging report.  If you sit back and see all that is coming back next year, the Valley could see some levels that got it some notoriety in 2005-06.
  • ESPN got their own special “Mock Selection” exercise from the NCAA this past weekend.  Some interesting views from Lunardi and Katz on this one.    Maybe a little biased in my opinion.  They sort of got who they wanted into their bracket.  Hopefully it isn’t a sign of things to come.
  • Speaking of March Madness, now is the time to sign up for March Madness on Demand to watch the out of market games so you don’t miss out on a chance to help make the nation’s most unproductive days productive for you.  But the best part is that it will be in higher quality picture this season .
  • When it comes down to matchups and seeding in this years tournament, I’ll be interested to see if location becomes a factor at all.  Earlier this season there were articles on how travel costs affecting the NCAA and even the NCAA mentioning the rising cost of travel and the economy could effect the way they do NCAA Championships.  But also the use of computers and finding ways to pinch pennies to analyze cost.  Now a report over the last couple of weeks said that cost will not play a larger role in putting together the bracket.    I guess we’ll have to see how it all turns out.
  • Sounds like Booker Woodfox is going to be in the three-point competition that occurs during Final Four weekend.  Good luck.  I will be interested to see who he goes up against.
  • An update on Anthony Tolliver–he had signed a 10-day contract with New Orleans at the end of January, but after that he returned to the NBA D-League and continues to play for Iowa.
  • Kyle Korver has a media admirer in his own apartment building.  He wishes he would get cookies all the time like Kyle does.
  • The Bracketeer posted a new bracket yesterday.  Just as a heads up to check back on the Bracketeer, there will be an update on 3/2, 3/6, 3/9, 3/13, and a final bracket on Selection Sunday an hour or two before the selection show.   The Bracketeer’s bracket is also a part of the Bracket Project collecting Bracketology predictions from across the web.
  • Finally, in a little self promotion, my weekly MVC and Big 12 posts for Rush the Court have been posted and I was planning on being in St. Louis for the MVC tourney anyway as a fan.  However,  I get an opportunity to have an even closer look at the MVC tourney thanks to Rush the Court and will be covering the tournament for them.  So there will be an opportunity to do some extra coverage of the MVC Tournament for both this blog and Rush the Court.  Stay tuned for that.

Gametime Primer: Jays @ Missouri St.

February 24, 2009

creightonmissouri-st

Tuesday, February 24, 7PM
JQH Arena

Radio: Big Sports 590 AM or Bigsports590.com
TV: KMTV (Cox Ch. 5 in Omaha)
Streaming Available

Creighton Game Notes | Missouri St. Game Notes

Audio to Listen To
Bluejay Coach Dana Altman (BS 590)

Other Previews
CollegeHoops.Net MVC Weekly Notebook
Woodfox Works and Wows them (OWH)
Last Hurrah for Seniors (Springfield News-Leader)

This game doesn’t need bullet points.  The Jays just need to keep winning. If there is not a win tonight for the Jays, it will sort of complicate things if they are still hoping for an MVC regular season championship.  This game is important enough that (though this was scheduled months ag0)  KMTV is pre-empting CBS programming and the first big address by new President Obama to show the Jays in Springfield tonight.  Because of this pre-emption, KMTV now has to fill time until 9:30 which may not be too hard because of Senior Night festivities for the Missouri St. Seniors, Chris Cooks, Wade Knapp and the Laurie brothers.

Tonight’s game at Missouri St. will be the first step in trying to get some MVC tourney seeding in place.   Missouri St.’s 10th seed is set in stone, but while Northern Iowa, Illinois St. and the Jays fight for the 1st-3rd seeds, and Bradley fights to not fall as far as 6th, the other 5 teams in the Valley are in positions that any of them could end up playing in the Thursday night play-in games in St. Louis.  There are 1024 different scenarios as far as seeding goes for the MVC tournament going into this week.  It just seems crazy that things are so much in the air yet, but will make for an exciting week.

One thing is for sure.  The Jays are not going to be able to coast tonight.  Missouri St. knocked off Drake on Senior night last year.  In fact, (though this fact has been beat to death) Missouri St. has won on Senior Day for almost 2 decades straight (19 years).  There will be a lot of emotions going on in the JQH Arena and the Jays will have to fight through that.   The first half of the game in Omaha shows that Missouri St. is a capable team and if they do that for a whole game, then the Jays are in trouble.

Kyle Weems is still the guy that the Jays need to key on tonight.  His jumper at the buzzer Saturday propelled Missouri State over UT Martin in Bracketbuster weekend.  He spent a lot of time in the game in Omaha staring down the Creighton bench in the first half before the Jays shut him down and he went cold as ice.

However, the Jays have been playing great team ball over this 8 game winning streak and it has been the play of Kenny Lawson and Kenton Walker that has really shown through.  These two guys have stepped it up to solifiy the inside and to give the Jays an inside threat as well as the perimeter threat.  Also, the two line change lineups have kept fresh guys in the game and has kept good continuity of players knowing each other.  You don’t have any really odd lineups lately and the same guys seem to be on the court together at the same time which has really kept a nice flow to the offense, defense and talking to each other.

If the Jays win tonight, they will be coming back to a frenzied packed house on Saturday against Illinois St. in front of a National TV audience for their opportunity to take the conference and to stake their claim to be in the conversation other than locking up an NIT bid.

But first it is Missouri St.  The average score for these teams since 1980 is 68-65 in favor of Creighton.   In the last 4 games @ Missouri St., the games have been in single digits.    This one will be close, but I think the streak for the Bears needs to end and the Jays have a goal that they will not let go of.

Prediction:  Jays 71, Missouri St. 65


Making their Case

February 22, 2009
P'Allen Stinnett was off tonight, but Booker Woodfox was En Fuego

P'Allen Stinnett was off tonight, but Booker Woodfox was En Fuego

Box Score

Creighton had an opportunity to showcase themselves to the nation tonight and they did just that.  A fired up crowd provided an extra bit of energy and the Jays played with a lot of confidence in their 76-63 win tonight against George Mason

Booker Woodfox showed everyone why he is the leading 3-point shooter in the nation hitting 5-6 and shooting 8-10 from the field to lead the Jays with 22 points.

Everyone was concerned with George Mason’s Darryl Monroe, but it was the play of Kenny Lawson and Kenton Walker that shut down Monroe for the most part.  There was no sign of that soft play that was talked about earlier in the season.  A couple massive dunks by K & K and a couple of great blocks got the alcohol induced crowd even more excited.  Though Woodfox was 5-6 from three, the team was only 8-20 from three. It was the inside game in shooting inside the arc that led the Jays to the win.

Other than being down early the first few minutes of the game, basically Creighton led the whole rest of the way.   Antoine Young doesn’t look like a freshman anymore again trying to take over the game early in the second half finishing 4-4 from the field and 13 points.  Everyone that got into the game for the Jays  (other than Chad Millard who only played 2 minutes) scored.  The two team rotation where 5 guys go out and 5 guys come in really causes problems for teams but yet keeps the cohesiveness the team needs.  It looks like George Mason was just worn out by the end of the game.

The crowd tonight was great and the student section finally showed up.  Maybe all home games should be played at 8:30 instead of the normal 7PM start time.  I still think it would be blast to have the MVC play in the 11PM slot on Big Monday that was vacated by the West Coast Conference.  In reality it would only be about 1-2 games per season for each team.  The later time definitely draws more people and they are a lot more fired up.

The Jays don’t have time to pat themselves on the back and now have to focus on finishing up Conference play this next week.  First up is a road trip to Missouri St. where the Bears have not lost on Senior Day in 19 years.  Though Missouri St. is last in the league this game is definitely not a gimme.  Then it is the showdown with Illinois St. next Saturday this is most likely for the MVC regular season championship–which will again be on the ESPN family of networks and another opportunity to make their case to the media and the NCAA selection committee.   Finishing their last ten 10-0 would be convincing.   Should be fun.