For the second consecutive year, the Bearcats will have to wait an extra day to start its NCAA Tournament. And for the second year in a row they will have an afternoon tip. This time will be approximately 2:45, or 30 minutes following Duke being upset...for the second year in a row by a 15 seed. I sense a pattern.
Unlike last year, the Bearcats are not the higher seed in this matchup. That goes to the Creighton Blue Jays from the Missouri Valley Conference. Much like UC's season, it's been up and down for the Blue Jays. They rose as high as 10th in the Coaches' poll and 11th in the AP poll. But much like the Bearcats, Creighton fell on hard times and ultimately fell out of the polls. However, unlike the Bearcats, the Blue Jays were able to right the ship and bounce back to not only win the MVC regular season title outright, but they also claimed the MVC Tournament Championship.
The Blue Jays are led by All-American Junior Doug McDermott. The 6-8 forward leads Creighton in both scoring (a whopping 23.1 per game) and rebounding (7.5) and pretty much drives the Blue Jays. For UC to have any chance of winning this game, they will need to slow him down. They're not going to stop him, but containing him and not letting him get to the foul line (something else he does very well), is going to be crucial. He is a potential nightmare for UC to guard because he's not your typical 6-8 forward. He shoots threes at a 49.7% clip, 56% from the field, and 86% from the foul line. Whoever is guarding him is going to have their work cut out. My biggest fear is the officials calling the game tight and McDermott goes to the foul line 20 times, which is he is capable of doing.
The Blue Jays like to get up and down the court, which UC claims to like as well. But obviously we haven't seen much of UC's "high-powered" offense of late so we'll just have to see which pace better suits UC. My guess is they'll want to bang Creighton and see if they can make it a game about rebounding and defense - something UC excels at. Pretty much the only thing UC excels at.
UC will see a familiar face Friday. Senior center Greg Echenique transferred from Rutgers after the 2009-2010 season and is more of a scoring threat than Cheikh Mbodj or anyone else UC has on its front line. Echenique scores 9.6 points and grabs 6.6 rebounds. He also will block some shots (nearly 2 per game) and we all know how soft UC is around the rim. It could play a factor.
As usual, I'm not going to break Creighton down. I haven't seen them play much this season so I'm not qualified to give an accurate scouting report and others do this much better. But I do know UC is going to have to come ready to hit the glass and body up. Perhaps the Blue Jays, whose best win was over Wisconsin back in November, won't be ready for the physical style of play UC brings.
Should UC get past Creighton, they will have nearly the entire country rooting for them as they'd likely face Duke. Can't see Coach K's team losing to a 15 seed two years in a row. But, a boy can dream.