Tuesday, December 15, 2009

JTG 11/30/09 - The Old Spice disaster

No, this isn't about a bad high school prom experience. From the Omaha CityWeekly.

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It is the downside of getting an opportunity. If you finally get the chance to shine on the big stage, and you blow it, your failure gets magnified.

Creighton couldn’t get out of Orlando fast enough, losing all three games in the Old Spice Classic and dropping the Bluejays to 2-4 on the season. Creighton hasn’t started a season this poorly since the 1993-94 season.

Things started so promisingly on Thanksgiving night against nationally-rated Michigan. The Bluejays played scrappy defense and hung around enough to take the game into overtime. They needed sophomore guard Antoine Young to channel his inner Tyus Edney and go coast-to-coast on the inbound pass with time expiring in regulation to send the game into extra time, but getting that kind of play seemed to bode well for things to come.

Creighton played valiantly, keeping the game close for the first two minutes of the extra period. But the Wolverines got themselves out to a six point lead and the Bluejays looked spent. Creighton’s offensive possessions after that lead were either ill-advised drives into heavy coverage or quick three-point shots out of rhythm and out of the offensive structure. Michigan held on for an 83-76 win that was probably more comfortable than the score indicated.

There were lots of positives to come out of that game, however. Clearly, Creighton is a better team with Justin Carter in the lineup. His presence on offense and defense makes things work better, and he seems to present problems for opposing defenses in spades. Young is starting to look more comfortable running the team, and looks like he has real potential as a point guard.

So, the Bluejays drop a heartbreaker to a nationally ranked team. Sure, there’s no moral victories, but that’s a moral victory. Creighton can pick themselves up, get a win or two in the tourney, and come home ready for more.

Oops. Creighton next gets to play the Xavier Musketeers (and please, no more comments about playing the Musketeers outside of Disney World), a team they’ve faced every year since about the Eisenhower administration. Creighton never had a lead in this game. They were down eight at the half and ended up losing 80-67, again with a score that probably flatters to deceive for the Bluejays.

Coming out flat after a disappointing overtime loss? Understandable, I suppose. Again, some positives to take out from the game. Most importantly, and surprising to me, was Creighton’s ability to rebound. Xavier is a much bigger team than Creighton, and yet only out-rebounded the Bluejays by one. Creighton’s new additions to the lineup have added some size and some rebounding prowess that will serve the Bluejays well as conference play arrives.

In many ways, after the Xavier loss you could already chalk up the trip to Orlando as a disappointment. Creighton missed their opportunity to get a resume-building win on their schedule, and was left playing the seventh-place game against Iona. No, not Iowa. The Iona Gaels. Surely the Bluejays could get at least one win, right?

Iona 63, Creighton 55.

It’s not even the loss that’s the most disturbing. Creighton center Kenny Lawson told the Omaha World-Herald that “[i]n a game this early, it comes down to who's going to bring the most energy. I don’t think our guys were dead, but we also weren’t as energetic as they were.”

That clicking sound you hear is the noise of Bluejay-colored panic buttons being repeatedly pressed. The Bluejays weren’t as energetic? Come on guys, this was game six of the season. If the Bluejays can’t find the energy to put on a solid performance against Iona in game six, what are they going to look like in Evansville, Indiana, on a cold February night?

There’s a lot of details that we could discuss about the Bluejays performance statistically, most alarmingly their poor free throw shooting and their propensity to turn the ball over. But from a big-picture perspective, it now comes down to the Missouri Valley. While Creighton has some at least solid road games upcoming (at George Mason, at New Mexico), the fact of the matter is their poor showing in Orlando likely means that Creighton will have to win the Valley in order to make the NCAA tournament.

Maybe that will be a positive, as they can look at the rest of the non-conference season with less pressure and find a way to integrate the new players. It’s not like things get simple. The Nebraska Cornhuskers come to town this Sunday. Nebraska has found its’ stride a little bit with a solid win over TCU earlier in the season and a road in Los Angeles over USC. Not that either of those schools is a force like Iona, but it’s still a good start for Doc Sadler’s crew.

The Qwest Center should be rocking for the Creighton-Nebraska game. If the Bluejays ever needed to come out flying, Sunday would be the time.

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