11.30.2009 / From the Creighton Athletic Office, The Voice of Billy Bluejay
Ever since last year, Creighton fans have had Thanksgiving weekend circled on their calendars for the upcoming Old Spice Classic. We have heard the discussions many times about the difficulty that a team like the Jays has in scheduling top-shelf competition. No question this was made more urgent after Selection Sunday last year, when the NCAA Tournament committee sought to send a message about non-conference scheduling. For this season, however, these concerns are settled in this made-for-TV tournament event.
"When a team takes a step up in scheduling, it's important to obtain a reasonable number of wins out of these games, not just close losses."
The Old Spice Classic at Disney World is only four years old. However, with the backing and support of ESPN, they have been able to attract very strong slates of competitors throughout their short history. This season's field of Michigan/Creighton, Marquette/Xavier, Alabama/Baylor and Florida State/Iona is no different. The Jays are in a good position to get 2 or 3 games against highly regarded teams from the so-called BCS conferences.
Opening up at 11:00 AM CT on Thanksgiving Day against the #15th ranked Michigan Wolverines will be a very stern test for this team. Against UM, the task will be simple: look to slow down the production of senior forward DeShawn Sims and junior guard Manny Harris. In their first two games of the season against Northern Michigan and Houston Baptist, both Sims and Harris have picked up where they left off from last season averaging over 20 points and about 8-10 boards a game each. For a Creighton team that is undersized, it will be key to maintain maximum effort in the low post both defensively and on the glass to keep Michigan within reach and allow us to be able to get our shooters in rhythm and force the contest to be played to our tempo and style. Jays fans will certainly remember coach John Beilein and his trademark 1-3-1 zone from the 2005 NCAA tournament first round game with his West Virginia squad. In this vein, it's an important development that the Jays are starting to get players healthy. Chad Millard made his season debut on Sunday against Arkansas-Little Rock and Justin Carter has told the local media that he expects to be able to play in some capacity this weekend.
In the game on Friday, the Jays will get an opportunity to play one of the two Midwestern Jesuit schools that have cancelled on-going series on the hardwood. CU has played Xavier extensively over the past ten years, including an epic showdown in Cincinnati in 2003 between future NBA players Kyle Korver and David West, although XU has declined invitations to extend the series. Marquette and Creighton, of course, share many deep institutional connections that go well beyond basketball and were annual opponents in the days when Al McGuire and Red McManus roamed their respective sidelines. The two schools, however, haven't played each other since a 1998 NIT first round game and it has been 13 years since MU and CU have played in the regular season.
It's important to put these games in perspective. Certainly, when a team takes a step up in scheduling, it's important to obtain a reasonable number of wins out of these games, not just close losses. Also, for a program to overcome the so-called "mid major" label, the key is to take advantage of the opportunity to beat major conference competition whenever or wherever the opportunity arises. With the names that the Jays will see on the court this weekend and the bright lights of ESPN, it will be very important to acquit themselves well both for this year and for the future of the program.