Monday, March 23rd, 6PM
Qwest Center Omaha
Radio: Big Sports 590 AM
Audio to Listen To
Nothing but Nylon with Nick Bahe (BS 590)
Bluejay Head Coach Dana Altman (BS 590)
Jerry Tipton from Lexington Herald-Leader (BS 590)
Coach Billy Gillespie and his Future at Kentucky (Kentuckysports.com)
Kentucky Head Coach Billy Gillespie (Kentuckysports.com)
Kentucky Wild for their Cats (OWH)
Jays face 1-2 punch of Meeks, Patterson (OWH)
Creighton gets another shot at SEC Rival (Kentuckysports.com)
Creighton gets rare visit against Goliath (Kentuckysports.com)
The Jays hit the court in a 2nd round NIT game this time hosting the Kentucky Wildcats. This is honestly a preview I thought I would never do. Admittedly, I was a Kentucky basketball fan growing up. Growing up in central Nebraska, I didn’t really like the Nebraska basketball team because they didn’t do anything special and really outside of Omaha, I don’t think at that time any news of Creighton ever got into the middle Nebraska newspapers so I was pretty ignorant about Creighton basketball. Kentucky was exciting because Rick Pitino helped implement the idea of shooting the three-pointer as a major component to the offense and their in-your-face defense was a lot of fun to watch. I still follow the team and get the ESPN Full Court Package every year just so I can make sure to see all of their games.
However, once I have grown up, actually moved to the Omaha area and had season tickets to Creighton, I have dove head first into support of the program and really enjoying it year after year. Now the questions that came from my young kids a few months back were, “Daddy, if Creighton and Kentucky ever played each other, which team would you choose?” Like I have said already, I never thought it would happen, much less the Wildcats coming into Omaha. So at the time they asked the question months ago, I told them if they ever played each other in Omaha, I would definitely cheer for the Jays.
Now that it is reality, I am so excited about the Jays getting the opportunity to play the program with the most historical wins and I am so in to Bluejay basketball now, that I really want to see the Jays win this game and to be able to help push the program along to the next level. I know this isn’t the same Kentucky team of years past, but it is still KENTUCKY! You will never see them in Omaha again to play the Jays, so this is seems to have a “Big Game” build up and people all over are talking about this game. In fact it has been since 1948 that these two teams have played and the Jays have a historical 2-1 record against Kentucky in the games in Omaha.
By now, most of the nation should be aware of Kentucky’s Patrick Patterson and Jodie Meeks. But outside of them, who do the Jays need to be on the lookout for. I say be on the lookout for Perry Stevenson. He has some major ups and can dunk and rebound pretty well. If the Jays have problems rebounding, it is because Stevenson is getting to the boards.
The one big weakness I have seen that Kentucky has is at point guard. That has sort of been a revolving position all year and Michael Porter is a capable player (reminds me at times of a Tyler McKinney and Nick Bahe combined), but the guy that was supposed to be running that spot was Derrick Jasper. However, he decided to transfer at the end of last season to be closer to home and ended up at UNLV. DeAndre Liggins (freshman) has tried as well as a couple other players that have had up and down years (Darius Miller-freshman and Kevin Galloway-juco transfer), but the achilles’ heal of Kentucky this season has been turnovers. If the Jays can play some great pressure defense and cause turnovers and hit their outside shots, this is a very winnable game.
The Jays on the other hand need to make sure to come out excited early and hit shots early. If they have a cold shooting start, then they will have an uphill battle. In some respects the team will have to be careful not to be awestruck, but instead the mentality that it is just another game.
As of Sunday afternoon, there were about 15000 tickets sold for the game and about 1200 student tickets reserved. So this should be an electric atmosphere. Kentucky fans are all over the nation so I wouldn’t necessarily expect a contingent directly from Lexington, but they will be represented. Myself, I know of about 10-20 people in the area that are Kentucky fans and made sure they would get tickets for this game. A note to those that ARE coming from Lexington or more than a few hours away–It will be a bit of a different atmosphere at the Qwest Center since there can be no intro music or video stuff that you would usually see during the regular season. Heck, we usually have live people sing the National Anthem and a color guard to bring the flag out. However, due to NIT rules, none of this stuff can happen. So it will be up to the fans in the stands to get the energy and to make some noise.
The only real connections to Kentucky that Creighton has is that Chad Millard played a few minutes in his freshman year against Kentucky as a member of Louisville’s basketball team. Johnny Mathies, who played for the Jays a few years ago was originally from Louisville. Then there were the Eddie Sutton Creighton years, that I have no knowledge of.
As much as I would like the Jays to win this game, there are two stats that stick out to me that will probably keep them from pulling this one out. Kentucky ranks 3rd in the country in blocked shots per game (6.7) and have only allowed an opponent to shoot better than 50% from the field once. A key to Creighton’s offense will be to establish an inside game and then their outside shots need to go down more than they have in the past 3-4 games. Those will be the key stats that will determine the game.
It is time for this Creighton program to take the next step in becoming a more nationally known program and the win in this game will build up some hype going into next season. ESPN will take notice and try to schedule with Creighton a “made for TV” game with a similar opponent for next season.
Prediction: Jays 73, Kentucky 65