I don’t think you’ll find much of an argument from anyone that Creighton is the best mid-major program in the country this season.
They spent much of last year ranked, finishing second in a strong Missouri Valley Conference before winning the MVC tournament, advancing to the Round of 32 in the NCAA tournament and finishing the season with 29 wins. The better news is that the Bluejays return everyone except for Antoine Young, and that includes Player of the Year candidate Doug McDermott.
In other words, Creighton has a good chance to put together one of the best seasons in the history of the conference.
But the general consensus seems to be that the Bluejays won’t be able to put together a resume that’s strong enough to get seeded higher than a six or a seven seed come the NCAA tournament. Why? Because Greg McDermott’s unwillingness to pay guarantee games means that Creighton’s non-conference schedule is a long way from ideal.
It’s not all McDermott’s fault, however. Creighton did get saddled with Boise State as an opponent in the MVC-MWC challenge instead of San Diego State or UNLV. Or New Mexico. Or Colorado State. It begs the question: Why? Why did a preseason top 15 team get stuck with one of the MWC bottom-feeders when there are four teams that could end up making the NCAA tournament from that league? Jeff Eisenberg from The Dagger got to the bottom of it:
Why would the Valley waste an opportunity to showcase its top teams rather than pit them against the likes of NCAA tournament contenders UNLV, San Diego State, New Mexico or Colorado State? Well, it wasn’t entirely by choice. Instead it’s partially a result of the rigidity of the four-year agreement the league entered with the Mountain West.
Since no Valley team can play the same Mountain West opponent twice in a four-year cycle and every team needs two games at home and on the road, the options for what matchups the leagues could create this season were limited.
Creighton has previously met San Diego State and New Mexico and required a home game this year, taking UNLV and Colorado State out of the running. Wichita State already met San Diego State and UNLV and needed a road game, meaning that New Mexico wasn’t an option.
Well, isn’t that just awesome.
The MVC and the MWC deserve to be lauded for their efforts to make this series happen. It has been a success, and a handful of terrific games have come out of it. That includes Creighton beating SDSU last November in an 85-83 thriller that involved a wild, 17-point comeback and flurries of 3-pointers from both teams. And, frankly, it’s tough to criticize them, because four years ago — when the contracts were signed — it’s tough to imagine they envisioned this particular scenario.
That said, it’s frustrating that we miss out on yet another good game in November and December. How hard is it to follow in the footsteps of the ACC-Big Ten Challenge? Each and every year, we get the best matchups possible. The whole point of this event is to get exposure for the teams and leagues involved and, hopefully, help them earn a spot in the NCAA tournament.
How does this — sticking Creighton with Boise State — help anyone?
One more non-conference “scheduling mishap” and I’m going to snap. Like this guy.