Sunday, November 30, 2008

Today In The Valley (Nov. 30)

Wichita State (3-2) vs. #5 Michigan State (3-1)
11:30 a.m.
The Milk House; Lake Buena Vista, Florida

The Shockers wrap up their Thanksgiving break trip to Disney with today’s fifth-place game in the Old Spice Classic. Friday they rallied to beat Siena 72-70, one day after they played nationally ranked Georgetown tough for most of the afternoon.

As Paul Suellentrop from the Wichita Eagle writes in his blog, Greggggggg Marshall considers today’s game a no-lose scenario. Whatever. I’m sure Raymar Morgan and the rest of the Spartans have other ideas, if their 94-79 romp over Oklahoma State on Friday is any indication. Morgan didn’t play well against Maryland in the opening-round loss, lost his starting spot against the Cowboys, and came off the bench to score 29 points in 23 minutes to lead Tom Izzo’s team.

Both teams are full of newcomers, and both squads are looking to gel a bit as the early season progresses. The Spartans are giving 14 points to the Shox, according to Vegas, but if the WSU guards can knock down some shots and play stifling perimeter defense, we could see a repeat of Thursday’s close game against Georgetown.

Or Wichita State will get rolled. Probably the second one.

~ Creighton Otter

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Illinois State (6-0) vs. UC-Santa Barbara (3-3)
3:30 p.m.
Redbird Arena; Normal, Illinois

Another ISU game, another instance of Champ Oguchi leading the Redbirds in scoring. That was the case in a rather boring 53-33 win against Winston-Salem on Saturday. The Redbirds played solid defense against an overmatched opponent, forcing Winston-Salem to shoot 27% from the field. Both teams struggled early, with the halftime score of 22-17 I’m sure giving the ISU faithful thoughts of a dramatic letdown.

In fact, Tim Jankovich told reporters after the win he is concerned his team won’t have much energy in the tank for today’s World Vision Classic championship game against the Gauchos. They’ll need to dig deep, though, as UC-Santa Barbara poses some tough matchups at multiple spots on the court.

One to watch will be Oguchi, the best player in the Valley early this season, squaring off against senior forward Chris Devine. He averages more than 13 points and 6 rebounds per game and is just outside the top 10 on the Gauchos’ all-time scoring list.

No matter how much they have left in the tank, ISU should win this game at home. I’m sure Osiris Eldridge and the rest of the Redbirds will make sure to continue one of the MVC’s only positive early-season storylines.

~ Creighton Otter

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Drake (2-2) vs. New Mexico (3-3)
7:15 p.m.
Moon Palace Resort; Cancun, Mexico

This morning’s headline in the Des Moines Register left little to the imagination regarding Drake’s early-season test against Vanderbilt: the Commodores humbled the Bulldogs in all ways possible. And that was even without an effective A.J. Ogilvy, who was plagued by foul problems in the first half. Vandy had four players score in double figures, while Drake countered with three in double figures.

In what could have been a solid opportunity to show his mettle against a BCS conference and NCAA tournament team, Josh Young made just 1 of 9 field goals (10 points total, thanks to 7-7 from the free throw line) and turned the ball over 4 times. His Bulldog buddy, Jonathon Cox, spent the night in foul trouble (only played 21 minutes) and scored 12 points and grabbed 7 rebounds.

New Mexico suffered one of their 3 losses at the Qwest Center against Creighton. Another defeat came yesterday at the hands of Virginia Commonwealth University, 67-55. It was a game of runs, according to Steve Alford.

They lost in part because their senior and veteran players suffered mightily in Mexico. Tony Dandridge, who gave the Jays fits all afternoon in the two teams’ matchup, had more fouls (5) than points (2) and recorded ZERO rebounds in 21 minutes. The younger Lobos fared better, with Phillip McDonald (14 points) and Nate Garth (12) leading the way.

This will be an interesting comparison game for Jays fans. Circumstances are different, of course, but seeing how Drake plays against an athletic Lobos team that gave Creighton fits will definitely give CU fans something to talk about with two games against Drake coming up in conference play.

~ Creighton Otter

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Gameday Pick ‘em #5: Nebraska (4-0)

The Pundits

“CU must rebound to beat Huskers” (OWH)
“ Doc says Bluejays like any other foe” (OWH)
“Jones loves game more than ever” (OHW)
“Jones still waiting on redshirt decision” (OWH)
“Huskers hope extra effort proves contagious” (Lincoln Journal Star)

The Picks

Husker head coach Doc Sadler says the Creighton game is just as important as any of NU’s other non-conference matchups. He and the rest of the Huskers don’t want to get involved in the hype surrounding this in-state matchup, much of it provided by fans and some select media sources.

But then Ryan Anderson, supposed sharpshooter for NU (shooting 22% on the season from 3-point range) busted out the BCS card:

… In response to an Internet writer's question about "people saying Creighton is so much better" and that Nebraska has a point to prove, Anderson paused and finally replied:"I'm not trying to be rude or anything, but we're in the Big 12. How much more can we prove?"

Nebraska might have a better team than the Jays; they have a better record. But pulling the BCS card is one of the things that gets Jays fans fired up (and players, too, I would imagine).

CU has won 8 of the last 11 meetings against the Big Red. And while most Husker fans are probably talking about the game yesterday involving another CU, NU raised ticket prices for the home game against Creighton and the Devaney Center will be near a sellout tonight.

I don’t know what he is a doctor of, but Sadler might want to tell the rest of the basketball fans in the state his theory about this being just another game. Regardless of how much it means to each team’s season, it is something to get pumped up about.

I’m sure the Bluejays will be, whether or not P’Allen joins them on the court in Lincoln tonight or not.

Enough of this nonsense. To the picks!

(Dance Cam Guy, Panon, my wife, and I will pick ‘em each and every game on this site. We’ll keep track of the winner each game, and at the end of the year you’ll be able to find one of us three buying a round or two of expensive Scottrade Center brews at Arch Madness.)

Leading Scorer

Creighton Otter: Justin Carter (14)
Dance Cam Guy: Kenny Lawson (22)
Panon: Lawson (16)
Mrs. Creighton Otter: Kaleb Korver (15)

Margin

Creighton Otter: Jays by 2
Dance Cam Guy: Jays by 9
Panon: Jays by 6
Mrs. Creighton Otter: Jays by 7

Note: Dance Cam Gal thinks Dustin Sitzmann will perform similarly against the Huskers this year as he did a few years ago. She picks the Human Victory Cigar to pour in 25 points.

Today In The Valley (Nov. 29)

Indiana State (0-3) at DePaul (3-0)
1:00 p.m.
Allstate Arena; Rosemont, Illinois

Indiana State will be looking to rebound after a disappointing loss to Murray State and are in search of their first win of the season as they will return to the road to take on the undefeated DePaul Blue Demons.

DePaul holds a 10-1 series lead against the Sycamores and are about 13-point favorites to make it 11-1. Creighton fans will be keeping an eye on this matchup as the Bluejays could very well be playing the Demons in Las Vegas on December 23rd. Allstate Arena can be a tough place to play as a visitor, but the Sycamores should (not) be used to playing in front of 17,000-plus fans.

~ Dance Cam Guy

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Evansville (3-0) at Butler (4-0)
1:00 p.m.
Hinkle Fieldhouse; Indianapolis, Indiana

Today features a great early-season test for the undefeated Purple Aces, as they travel to historic Hinkle Fieldhouse to play Butler for the 114th time. The Butler Bulldogs have won 9 of the last 10 games in the series, but Evansville still leads the all-time series 60-53.

Evansville will be stepping outside of Roberts Stadium for the first of two times in their non-conference schedule (the other being an away game at the Dean Dome against North Carolina). They have four players averaging double figures, and three of them are seniors. To no surprise Shy Ely (16.3) and Jason Holsinger (11.3) are two of the four. Stepping up in his senior season is Jason Gardner (11.7 points and team-best 7.7 rebounds). Freshman James Haarsma has been a nice addition, averaging 11.7 points and 7 rebounds.

Butler returns just one starter and starts three freshmen. The returning starter is last season’s Horizon League newcomer of the year, forward Matt Howard. The Bulldogs will employ a two-point guard lineup, one of their keys to success the last two years as David Woods from the Indianapolis Star points out. Adjusting well to his first year in college is versatile freshman Gordon Hayward. At 6-8, this guard/forward creates matchup problems around the perimeter.

~ Panon

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Northern Iowa (3-2) vs. Auburn (3-2)
4:30 p.m.
Sears Centre; Hoffman Estates, Illinois

The matchups in the Chicago Invitational were predetermined. And after yesterday’s games, this contest shapes up as the unofficial “consolation” game and battle for third place.

UNI is coming off a 73-43 defeat at the hands of Marquette. The Golden Eagles used a 20-0 run to turn a 12-8 ballgame into a 32-8 blowout in the first half. A swarming Marquette defense limited the Panthers to 35% shooting and just 3-21 from beyond the arc. In yesterday's preview it was mentioned that UNI have been out-rebounding opponents by 8.5 per game. Marquette was the team doing the dirty work yesterday, beating the Panthers on the boards by 12.

Auburn is coming into this game fresh off an overtime defeat against Dayton 60-59. Dayton did their best to keep Auburn in the game by going 0-24 from 3-point land. That broke a 13-year record for most attempts without a make (Canisius went 0-22). The Tigers weren't much better, going 7-31. Both teams combined to miss the first 29 attempts from beyond the arc. Auburn shot just 34.5% for the game.

Today’s game appears to be a low scoring, cold shooting affair. I'd like to think it's just taking the teams a game to get used to the new arena.

~ Panon

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Illinois State (5-0) vs. Winston Salem (0-4)
6:00 p.m.
Redbird Arena; Normal, Illinois

Illinois State will be focused on a 6-0 start as they continue to play host to the Word Vision Classic. The Redbirds will take on a Winston Salem State team looking for their first win of the season.

Illinois State should continue their success today against a much weaker opponent, and the scoring distribution should continue to impress as well. Osiris Eldridge put up some more impressive numbers last night with 24 point, marking his 12th game in a row scoring double figures. Look for tonight to be lucky 13.

~ Dance Cam Guy

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Bradley (3-2) vs. East Tennessee State (3-2)
7:00 p.m.
Carver Arena; Peoria, Illinois

Is it too early in the season to say that Bradley is having a roller coaster of a season? The Braves have shown bright spots in their first few games, but they have also shown many signs of weakness. Tonight BU will try to show the home crowd some positives as they take on the Buccaneers of East Tennessee State.

The Buccaneers have been a bit up and down this season as well. They struggled with in-state rival Tennessee Tech but showed some guts on the road and escaped with a 78-65 win. This game, unfortunately, should be close throughout.

It would be nice to see Bradley show the home crowd tonight that they want to get this season turned around. It may be too early to call it a roller coaster, but it is not too early to get things back on track.

~ Dance Cam Guy

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Drake (2-1) at Vanderbilt (3-1)
7:30 p.m.
Moon Palace Resort; Cancun, Mexico

The Bulldogs and Commodores meet south of the border as part of the Cancun Challenge. These games will mark the first trips out of each team’s home gyms, and their contest gives Drake the chance to test their mettle against a team that last year was ranked in the top 15 much of the season.

Both teams are trying to replace integral parts of their rosters. Drake’s Craig Stanley is trying to take over for Adam Alphabet (errr, Emmenecker). Many are gone from last year’s NCAA team for Vandy, but they replaced those folks with a five-player freshman class that many consider the greatest potential group in school history. They don’t have to replace A.J. Ogilvy, though, and he could make things difficult for the Bulldogs. The sophomore center is one of the best players in the SEC, and he averages 15 points and 7 rebounds per game.

Josh Young and the rest of the Bulldogs will need to fire at all cylinders to upset Vandy, although the neutral court should help.

~ Creighton Otter

Arkansas-Little Rock 71, Creighton 69

Turbulence

I’ll say this first and foremost: I didn’t take the Arkansas-Little Rock Trojans lightly as an opponent. If there is one thing Dana Altman’s Jays teams have shown in the past 5 or 6 years, it is panache for the dramatic on the road against non-conference opponents. Vegas agreed with me, making the Jays no more than a 3-point favorite before the game.

Jays fans who tuned into the Big Show on Big Sports 590 AM shortly before the pregame radio show got a boost of good news; Justin Carter, who went down hard after a foul in the Oral Roberts game, was cleared to play and even regain his spot in the starting lineup. Good news.

Bad news. One of his fellow starters wouldn’t be joining him. As I dialed up KM3 on my television and settled in for the night with some Sam & Louie’s Pizza and Old Style Light (I’m watching my figure), I saw Cavel Witter taking the floor instead of P’Allen Stinnett. That was the first sign of trouble; Witter is a solid player, a guy who adds instant offense and an increasingly affective defense mindset. No, it was the absence of the sometimes manic Stinnett that signaled a problem. Fans hadn’t heard anything about an injury, so many armchair coaches were left to fret about any number of problems P’Allen might have caused.



The size mismatches were a bit evident all night
(
photo from Omaha World-Herald)
Then the game started, and the good news picked right back up again. Kenny Lawson slammed home a dunk, got a layup to go, and popped a jump shot for his own little 6-point run, putting the Jays ahead 6-2 with 16-plus minutes to play in the first half. It looked like Lawson would be the focal point of the offense, despite the size advantage UALR had at almost every position.

He didn’t attempt another shot in the first half. That’s bad news.

Good news, though, seemed everywhere else other than in the paint. The sharpshooting Jays were out in full force, especially from long range. Of their 33 field goal attempts, 17 were from 3-point range. They made 7 3-pointers (half of their made field goals), led by Booker Woodfox (2-6 for the half) and Kaleb Korver (2-3). Bad news: Korver, effective in his 5 first-half minutes, wouldn’t see the floor in the second stanza.

P’Allen even got involved, although his efforts in the first half were mostly spent hoisting off-balanced shots. After not starting, he played 10 minutes.

The good news: CU went to the locker room with a 7-point lead. The bad news? They had a 16-point lead at the 5-minute mark. The Trojans recorded 7 steals in the first half. They also out-rebounded Creighton by 4.

The news didn’t get much better during the second half. From the 13:30 mark to the 8:30 mark in the half, Kenny Lawson was an offensive force yet again. During those 7 minutes Lawson scored all of Creighton’s 9 points. However, the Jays lost 1 point of their lead during that time and continued to accrue a negative number in the rebounding battle with Arkansas-Little Rock. Lawson finished with a team-high 15 points (on 7-9 shooting) but didn’t get to the free throw line more than one time and failed to get shots in clutch situations.



Lawson's offense was fine (15 points) but he only grabbed 4 boards
And in a scene reminiscent of so many Jays road games in the past few years, Creighton finally coughed up its double-digit lead as its opponent chipped away and chipped away until there was nothing more than a few points separating the two squads. With just under 3 minutes to play, Stinnett had the ball on the wing and the shot clock winding down. He made a nice move to juke his defender and had a clear path to the basket. He had a highlight-reel dunk in his sights, no doubt, but did what he does so often; he took off too early.

He missed the layup that would have given CU a 3-point lead with about 2 minutes to play. UALR got a few offensive rebounds on the other end following missed layups (CU lost the battle of the boards 46-26) and finally jumped ahead for the first time in a long time with a 1-point lead and 2 minutes to play.

You can guess how the rest of the game went. Jays went 2-4 from the free throw line (Witter and Josh Dotzler both made one and missed one on back-to-back trips). They failed to grab rebounds when they needed them most.

But Booker Woodfox saved the day, albeit temporarily, with yet another clutch 3-point basket. For as poorly as CU had played defensively and on the glass, Woodfox drained a shot coming off a down screen toward the top of the key to tie the game at 69-all with 40 seconds left.

The Jays needed a defensive stop. Good news is they got it. Bad news? They didn’t get the rebound, and they lost on an offensive put-back with 7 seconds to play. A Witter running jumper fell short as the buzzer rang, and the Jays left the court in Little Rock losers for the first time this season.

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After the game, Altman and the Jays rushed off the court and immediately started addressing the “bad news” aspects of that game (and the season, for that matter). When asked why P’Allen didn’t start, Altman told Steve Pivovar “he did not take care of some responsibilities that we asked him to do.”

Piv gave P’Allen the opportunity to share exactly what those requests were, but Stinnett said, “when he tells me what those are, then ... as you can tell, it's a touchy subject."

Forget touchy. This team doesn’t have time to be touchy. They need to be tough. Other than Southern Illinois and maybe Missouri State, no Valley team has as tough a non-conference schedule top to bottom that Creighton. Booker Woodfox recognized the need to get physical, telling Piv:

“We've got to toughen up. We all got to get on the same page. We've got guys going different ways, and everybody has to do just one thing, and that's win. We got to start hitting people out there, we have to be more physical. We have to start being animals out there, crushing people when they go to boards or we're not going to win many games."

A few days after the loss, the focus turned again to physicality and rebounding in practice. Altman met with each Bluejay individually, no doubt discussing what exactly their play has been like during this early stretch of the season.

Altman even took a page out of Tom Izzo’s playbook, filling the practice court with football helmets and pads on Thanksgiving evening as a closed practice was about to begin.

Here’s hoping Justin Carter, former football player at Compton College and a second-team all-area running back at Watkins Mill in Maryland, taught his teammates a thing or two about hitting people in the mouth and bringing a physical presence to the court.

They’ll need it in conference play, and they’ll need it during the next month of non-conference action. With all of the turbulence from Tuesday night, the good news is the Jays were still in the game and had multiple chances to win. But if they don't get tough soon, there might be more bad news than good news for the foreseeable future.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Today In The Valley (Nov. 28)

Wichita State (2-2) vs. Siena (2-1)
9:30 a.m.
The Milk House; Lake Buena Vista, Florida
ESPNU

The Shockers stayed in the game for the full 40 minutes against Georgetown on Thanksgiving, but they couldn’t get clutch shots to fall down the stretch and lost 58-50. It was a pretty ugly game offensively, with WSU shooting 28% from the field and the Hoyas only connecting on 42% of their shots.

Here’s a stat that will put fear into the heart of diehard Creighton Bluejays fans: Wichita State, arguably the best rebounding team in the MVC, out-boarded Georgetown (38-35). No wonder Dana Altman probably tapped new strength coach Andy Woodley (brother Joe played football for Iowa State) and longtime assistant Darren Devries (brother Jared Devries was an All-American for Iowa and plays in the NFL for the Detroit Lions) for a hard-hitting strategy to improve the Jays’ rebounding skills.

Click here for the Wichita Eagle’s Paul Suellentrop’s take on today’s WSU-Siena game; he’s in Orlando covering the games in his blog Shockwaves.

~ Creighton Otter

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Illinois State (4-0) vs. Nicholls State (1-1)
6:00 p.m.
Redbird Arena; Normal, Illinois

Illinois State play their first true home game tonight when they host Nicholls State at Redbird Arena. The Redbirds have not exactly been road kill these last few weeks, as they have completed their first 4-0 start in 12 years. ISU has shown that they are ready to be a real competitor in the Valley this year, something made clear by their cakewalk as champions of the SMU Tip-Off Classic.

After taking care of business on the road, the Redbirds return home to host their own tournament — the World Vision Invitation. The Redbirds will start things off by hosting the Colonels of Nicholls State. The Colonels are coming off a heartbreaking loss to Tulane, 72-70. With three players averaging in double figures, they will look to offset the potent ISU offense (25th best scoring offense in the nation at 84.3 points per game) and hand the Redbirds a home-opening loss.

That will be quite the tall order, as Champ Oguchi and Illinois State have been playing solid basketball lately. Plus, you can bet the home crowd will be jacked to finally see their team in person this season. Look for ISU to continue their fast pace and sharp shooting, and for Redbird Fans to make the short drive home happy.

~ Dance Cam Guy

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Missouri State (2-1) vs. Utah (3-1)
7:00 p.m.
JQH Arena; Springfield, Missouri

The Bears opened their new building with a 62-57 win against Arkansas and now look to go 2-0 in their new digs with the Runnin’ Utes running into town. Utah suffered a loss (more like unheard-of upset) to start the season against the Division II Southwest Baptist Bearcats, but since have reeled off 3 straight wins. That’s due in large part to center Luke Nevill, who Cuonzo Martin says is the biggest big man he’s coached or even played against in college.

Nevill will be a tall test (pun intended) for Wade Knapp and his fellow Bears post players. Nevill averages about 19 points and 11 rebounds per game, and adds more than 2 blocked shots per contest. At 7-2, 265 lbs., he’s a seasoned senior who can score in a bevy of ways.

Missouri State seeks to avenge a 66-54 loss to Utah in Salt Lake City last season. To do so, they’ll need outstanding guard play but even better defense as an entire team. They’re still hurting quite a bit, and there are really only 8 quality options on the roster right now, so staying out of foul trouble would seem to be a key to the contest. One of their hurt guards, Shane Laurie, won’t be headed back any time soon.

~ Creighton Otter

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Northern Iowa (3-1) vs. #15 Marquette (4-0)
7:30 p.m.
Sears Centre; Hoffman Estates, Illinois

These two teams bring contrasting styles of play to the nightcap of the 2008 Chicago Invitational. UNI has one of the bigger front courts in the Valley with Jordan Eglseder and Adam Koch. That height has helped them out-rebound opponents by 8.5 a game this year. But the big boys are getting some help from a number of guards, too.

Illinois product and true freshman Johnny Moran averages a team-best 15 points per game and did something no other Panther has done in school history: started his career with a double-double (14 points, 10 boards against Denver). Also, in his first game of the season earlier this week, Lucas O'Rear scored 9 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. That is from a player who averaged just over 2 points and 2 rebounds a game last season.

Marquette and first-year coach Buzz Williams (former D-I assistant and University of New Orleans head coach) feature a guard-heavy lineup. They have used that speed and quickness to average 96.5 points per game this year and twice score more than 100 points. In their last game, an 85-68 win over Texas Southern (a team UNI beat by 7), they used a late second half run to pull away. They have three players averaging over 19 points: Wesley Matthews (22.8), Lazar Hayward (20.8), and Jerel McNeal (19.8).

UNI will have to slow down the pace of this game if they want to contend. Otherwise, the Golden Eagles, one of the early favorites in the stacked Big East conference, will soar to a victory using their up-tempo offense.

~ Panon

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Today In The Valley (Nov. 27)

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wichita State (2-1) vs. #21 Georgetown (2-0)
1:30 p.m.
The Milk House; Lake Buena Vista, Florida
ESPN2

What is a Milk House? Where is Lake Buena Vista? These are important questions to ask oneself on a beautiful Thanksgiving morning. But a more burning question would be: which one of the following does not belong?

Tennessee; Siena; Gonzaga; Michigan State; Maryland; Oklahoma State; Georgetown; Wichita State.

you guessed the Shox, you’d be right. The Milk House is a 5,000-seat arena at Disney’s Wide World of Sports Complex. Lake Buena Vista is home to Disney, just south of Orlando. Greggggggg Marshall’s WSU team joins those other college hoops powerhouses (well, Siena’s not really a powerhouse, but they did make the NCAA tournament last season and beat Vanderbilt in the first round). Disney is hosting the Old Spice Classic, a tournament that begins today and pits some of the most intriguing college basketball programs against one.

Wichita State takes on a Hoyas team in the first round that features 5 players in double-figure scoring averages. Among them is blue chip freshman Greg Monroe (6-11, 250 lbs.), who leads GU in points (17 ppg), rebounds (8 rpg), and blocked shots (3 bpg). He is the heir apparent to Roy Hibbert and the rest of the NBA-bound big men produced near the nation’s capitol in the past couple of decades.

The Shox counter with their own freshman center, Garrett Stutz (7-0, 240 lbs.). He’s only playing 20 minutes per game so far, but he leads the team in scoring (13 ppg). He’s only grabbing 3 boards a game, but that’s probably because his teammate Ramon Clemente is pulling down 12 caroms per contest.

Stutz, Clemente, and the rest of the Shox will need to control the basketball and get some amazing defensive pressure if they want to defeat a more talented, better coached Georgetown team.

The winner takes on either Tennessee or Siena Friday, with the loser getting the other team tomorrow.

~ Creighton Otter

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Today In The Valley (Nov. 26)

Bradley (2-2) vs. Richmond (3-1)
4:00 p.m.
Alico Arena; Fort Meyers, Florida

Well, I guess it is like they say, a win is a win. Thanks in part to sophomore Will Egolf, Bradley was able to come back and barely escape the Florida-Gulf Coast Eagles last night. Theron Wilson and Sam Maniscalco each chipped in 13 points to tie with game-high honors.

The Braves look to carry this bit of momentum into tonight’s game against the Richmond Spiders, whose only loss is a 5-point setback at the Carrier Dome against CBE Classic champion Syracuse.

Bradley has not been able to establish much of an offensive rhythm so far this season. And let’s face it: offensive prowess and rebounding is what got Jim Les and the Braves by the past few seasons. Things are not looking good early for Bradley, or at least not like the fans in Peoria have become accustom to. A win today against a good Richmond team on a neutral court would change that outlook in a hurry.

The Spiders are a quick, veteran-laden team with the ability to spread the ball around, and they count on multiple contributors on offense. If the Braves can play the kind of tenacious defense they showed against Florida-Gulf Coast, they could have a shot at what I would call an upset.

~ Dance Cam Guy

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Indiana State (0-2) vs. Murray State (2-1)
6:00 p.m.
Hulman Center; Terre Haute, Indiana

The Sycamores hope to rebound from a disappointing 80-69 loss to North Texas. With the loss of Marico Stinson and the first-semester academic suspension of Harry Marshall, ISU fans had to think there would be some rough roads ahead to start the year. But the clock is ticking on this team to put a “1” in the win column soon.

Although the game against North Texas was close in the first half, the Sycamores were just unable to match North Texas’ offensive firepower. With an eye toward turning the early season schedule around, ISU looks for a victory tonight against the Racers from Murray State.

The Racers enter the game fresh off an impressive 89-61 win over Western Kentucky. Murray State seems to have a bit of an advantage in size and quickness, but both ISU and MSU will each have former Bluejays on their sides. Head coach Kevin McKenna will be looking for a way to shut down former Jay Isacc Miles as he makes his second trip to ISU (just not wearing “Creighton” across his chest). The sophomore transfer leads the Racers in minutes played this season and averages 9 points and 40% 3-point shooting in the backcourt.

As much as I would love to see the Sycamores start to turn things around, I think they may have their hands full with a talented Racers squad. Maybe they could check Face Book to see if there are any D-I basketball players looking for a new school.

~ Dance Cam Guy

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Southern Illinois (2-2) at Western Kentucky (1-2)
7:00 p.m.
E.A. Diddle Arena; Bowling Green, Kentucky

Southern Illinois is traveling once again. After two games at Madison Square Garden against Duke and UCLA, the Salukis take on the Hilltoppers in Bowling Green. In two games in NYC, SIU stayed close for 30 minutes in each game but faded during the last 10 minutes as two top-10 teams pulled away. SIU is a young team with an experienced point guard. Early in the season sophomore Carlton Fay is leading the team in scoring at 14.5 ppg and freshman Kevin Dillard is also in double figures at 11.8 ppg. The Salukis will be without center Nick Evans, who will be out 4-6 weeks with a broken wrist which he sustained against UCLA.

It has been a rough start to the season for the Hilltoppers. They are coming off a tough loss at Murray State (and Issac Miles), 89-61. Even though they play at home, they are going to have their work cut out for them. After SIU they play #3 Louisville in Nashville and then host Georgia. The Hilltoppers lost a lot of key players from last year’s Sweet 16 season, which included a win over Drake and the ESPY for "Best Finish." Look for SIU to play a full 40 minutes in this game.

~ Panon

Gameday Pick ‘em #4: Arkansas-Little Rock (3-0)

The Pundits

“Carter to practice Monday night” (OWH)
“Creighton backups step up” (OWH)
“Altman mostly mum about his day on the hill” (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette)
“Altman to make another pit stop” (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette)

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The Picks

Like it or not, tonight the Jays play their first road game of the season. But don’t confuse Arkansas-Little Rock with its brethren from Arkansas-Pine Bluff; the Trojans are no push over. And even though he’s coaching his first CU game in Arkansas tonight, as two of the articles above can attest to, coach Dana Altman is familiar with traveling to the state.

But Altman and the Jays have more to worry about than a smattering of boos that might rain down from the Jack Stephens Center crowd. UALR is fast, strong, and tall; a recipe that has caused Altman’s teams some problems no matter in what state the game is played.

Three Jays are scoring just about 15 points per game: Booker Woodfox (15.7 ppg), P’Allen Stinnett (15.7 ppg), and Cavel Witter (15.3 ppg). The Trojans counter with Matt Mouzy (15.7 ppg), Shane Edwards (15 ppg), and John Fowler (12.7 ppg). But with Justin Carter’s availability hazy right now following a hard foul suffered against Oral Roberts, Chad Millard and Casey Harriman and other Jays will need to step up to defend forwards Edwards and Fowler.

Carter’s possible absence also means a lot on the offensive side of the ball. He’s averaging just less than 10 points per game and has proven to be a difficult matchup for taller, slower forwards. He’s strong enough at 200 lbs. to guard larger forwards (he’s only 6-4), and if he’s out someone will need to step up in his place.

And if you thought the dude who slammed Carter to the ground on Saturday, Marcus Lewis, was big, get a load of Mike Smith. He’s a 6-7, 295 lbs. forward transfer from Ole’ Miss. Kenny Lawson and Kenton Walker will have their hands full trying to outrebound Smith and the rest of the Trojans.

Needless to say, Creighton will need to be clicking both offensively and defensively to win this early road game. According to Vegas, the Jays are about 3 or 3.5 point favorites in this away tilt.

Enough of this nonsense. To the picks!

(Dance Cam Guy, Panon, and I will pick ‘em each and every game on this site. We’ll keep track of the winner each game, and at the end of the year you’ll be able to find one of us three buying a round or two of expensive Scottrade Center brews at Arch Madness.)

Leading Scorer

Creighton Otter: Kenny Lawson (13)
Dance Cam Guy: Booker Woodfox (19)
Panon: Booker Woodfox (17)
Mrs. Creighton Otter: Cavel Witter (18)

Margin

Creighton Otter: Jays by 4
Dance Cam Guy: Jays by 7
Panon: Jays by 12
Mrs. Creighton Otter: Jays by 17

Today In The Valley (Nov. 25)

Bradley (1-2) vs. Florida Gulf Coast (1-2)
6:00 p.m.
Alico Arena; Fort Myers, Florida

The Braves lost their first game in Fort Myers, to Valley-killers Missouri-Kansas City. After disposing of Wichita State on the road, UMKC beat Bradley 73-61. BU was sloppy in the loss, committing 23 turnovers and recording just 11 assists.

A staple of previous Braves teams, the 3-point shot, seems to be missing this season so far. It was evident against the Kangaroos; BU went just 3-17 from long range.

Bradley's opponent tonight, the Eagles of Florida Gulf Coast, have an identical record and also lost their first game in Fort Myers (69-58 to Richmond). They also lost to Kansas by 40 points to start the season. The Eagles are led by transfer Kyle Marks, who has ties to one of Creighton's rivals: he spent the early part of his career as a Nebraska Cornhusker. He twice tore his knee up, the second time after the coaches rushed him back to the court too early (according to Marks).

And I thought they called him "Doc" because of his medical expertise.

~ Creighton Otter

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Northern Iowa (2-1) vs. Chicago State (2-1)
8:00 p.m.
McLeod Center; Cedar Falls, Iowa

The Panthers got a good test from Texas Southern in their last game. Even though they held a comfortable lead for most of the second half, the Tigers made a small run at the end of the contest. With a trip back to the Chicagoland area on the horizon for UNI, freshman Panther (and Algonquin native) Johnny Moran scored a career-high 21 points (including 6-8 from 3-point range). Adam Koch chipped in a season-high 18 points and Kwadzo Ahelegbe added a career-high 11.

After losing to Illinois-Chicago on the road, UNI returned home and returned to the win column. Tonight, Panther fans will welcome back Lucas O’Rear to the lineup. He has finished serving a 3-game suspension, sent forth by coach Ben Jacobsen, after being charged with 4th degree theft.

This will also mark the return for forward Lucas O'Rear. Where was he? Serving a Ben Jacobsen's time of a 3-game suspension after 4th degree theft charges.

Chicago State returns four starters from last year’s 11-17 team. This will be their last as an independent before joining the Great West Conference next season. The Cougars are lead by senior guard David Holston, who became the school’s all-time Division I scoring leader. They can put the ball in the bucket, scoring at least 84 points (which they did against Marquette) in each of their three games.

~ Panon

Monday, November 24, 2008

Creighton 87, Oral Roberts 65

Curses

As Panon, Dance Cam Guy, and I watched intently and yelled furiously following arguably the hardest non-Southern Illinois foul in Qwest Center history, plenty of thoughts raced through my mind. Chief among them, though, was “not again.”

Panon turned to me and said, “This is like the curse of the 4-spot.” Not only did I agree, but I could think of another kind of curse (other than the few I was dropping in the direction of the Oral Roberts bench) that the foul might add to.

Intentional foul? At the very least

With 17:30 left in the second half, and with the Jays storming back from a 35-33 halftime deficit to the Golden Eagles, Jays newcomer Justin Carter ran the floor following an ORU turnover and attempted a lay up in transition. He had scored 6 of the Jays’ 8 second half points and was headed for 2 more before 6-8, 265 lbs. Marcus Lewis intentionally fouled Carter as he went up for the shot. Lewis flung Carter to the floor (as you can see in the video below), Carter crashed hard to the court, and he didn’t return.


One of the hardest fouls I’ve seen in person

Bluejays players surrounded Carter; some got into the faces of Lewis and other ORU players. Kaleb Korver came on to take Carter’s free throw attempts; like a good Korver, he made them both. And in 10 minutes of game time Creighton went from up 2 to up 17. But the flurry of offense and the focus on defense came at a steep cost.

After the game, Dana Altman said this of his injury:

"His Achilles is intact, which is great because if it wasn't, he'd be done," Altman said. "He is awfully sore. It could be one of the long-time things. It's like a sprained ankle, maybe worse. We're just going to have to wait and see."

“One of the long-time things.”

Talk about putting a damper on an otherwise successful Saturday afternoon (click here for video highlights). Creighton temporarily reversed some of their rebounding woes, outboarding the Golden Eagles by 10. Cavel Witter had another outstanding game off the bench: 25 points (6-9 from the field; 4-5 from 3-point range; 9-10 from the free throw line), 2 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal, and just 1 turnover. Casey Harriman recorded a career-high 10 points and added 6 rebounds in 14 minutes. Everyone got plenty of minutes in the rotation, including freshman point guard Antoine Young. Dustin Sitzmann scored a basket for the second straight game.

But while the foul and injury to Carter got the team fired up, the mood sobered a bit as reality set in; Carter was just the latest in a long line of junior college transfers to incur immediate injury problems beginning his Creighton career.

Call it the Juco Curse.

Carter had been fairly impressive for a newcomer not used to playing within Altman’s structured offensive and defensive systems. He even started the first three games of the regular season, which isn’t something many newcomers do under Altman.

But chalk him up to the list of recent Jays who came to Creighton from junior college and suffered setbacks almost immediately. Ty Morrison and Brandon Sims, both highly regarded Juco players, left because of injury or illness before establishing themselves as options for Altman’s teams. Nick Porter came to Creighton in the fall of 2004 looking to establish himself as the player who, along side Nate Funk, would help take the Jays back to the NCAA tournament. But he shredded his knee and was forced to miss the 04-05 season as a medical redshirt.

I have no inside information, so I’m not going to speculate as to the severity of Carter’s injury. I do know two things, though. First, it was a dirty foul and a shame that Justin was on the receiving end of something that should have completely been avoided. Second, he’s a tough kid. For those who haven’t seen him, he’s a taller version of Ben Walker. He is a football player. He’ll put the time in to do whatever he can to get back on the court.

But those facts don’t change the predicament Altman faces now. Depending on how long Carter might miss, he has to find a forward who wants to do the dirty work. Two weeks into the season the Jays are in the top 40 nationwide in points per game (84). They are 270th in rebounds per game (35). Scoring isn’t going to be a big problem; rebounding might be. Carter’s 5 boards a game is tied with Kenny Lawson for tops on the team.

Who will step up while the promising junior is injured? With three of their next four games on the road, it is a question Altman and Carter’s teammates need to answer quickly and profoundly.

Today In The Valley (Nov. 24)

Bradley (1-1) vs. Missouri-Kansas City (1-3)
4:00 p.m.
Alico Arena; Fort Myers, Florida

The Braves, led by new-look senior forward Theron Wilson, seek to rebound from their blowout defeat at the hands of the Florida Gators last Sunday. They head down to Fort Myers, Florida, to continue the CBE Classic by playing three games in three days. Bradley’s first game pits them against the Shockers Slayers from Missouri-Kansas City.

UMKC enters the game with just one win (the aforementioned victory against Wichita State). They were unable to recreate their previous upset of Kansas and lost to the Jayhawks 71-56. Other losses include games against North Dakota and Florida Atlantic.

And as Bradley gets ready to spend their pre-Thanksgiving holiday week in Florida this year, Braves fans found out recently that their team will spend next Turkey Day in Las Vegas. What’s even more exciting? The Braves could play in-state rival Illinois in the tournament.

~ Dance Cam Guy

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Wichita State (1-1) vs. Centenary (1-3)
7:00 p.m.
Koch Arena; Wichita, Kansas

The Shockers look to rebound from their second straight loss to Missouri-Kansas City when they host the Gents from Centenary. To do so, their fortunes are closely tied to the rebounding prowess of forward Ramon Clemente. He tied a career high in rebounds against the Kangaroos (17 boards) and is the early leader in rebounds per game in the Missouri Valley Conference (14.5 rpg).

More importantly, as Paul Suellentrop points out, tonight’s game gives Gregggggggg Marshall’s team the chance to square off against another smallish squad that plays a 1-3-1 zone. Marshall points to patience as the key in tonight’s matchup, saying his players were a bit too intent to hit quick 3-pointers against the UMKC zone.

Stopping the Gents on defense starts by the Shox focusing on guard Nick Stallings. His 17.5 points and 7 rebounds per game lead Centenary in those categories. For an offense that gets much of its production from the guard spot, Stallings is the leader among three perimeter players that average double figures in points per game.

Even though the matchup with Centenary should produce a lot of opportunities for the bigger Shockers like Clemente, J.T. Turley, and even A.J. Hawkins, WSU can’t afford to look ahead to their Thanksgiving showdown with Georgetown. The Shox and Hoyas will play in the opening round of the Old Spice Classic in Orlando, with WSU getting a second-round game against either Tennessee or Siena. Other teams in the tourney include Panon’s Michigan State Spartans, Gonzaga, Oklahoma State, and cry baby Gary Williams’ Maryland Terps.

~ Creighton Otter

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Today In The Valley (Nov. 23)

Indiana State (0-1) vs. North Texas (2-1)
1:00 p.m.
Hulman Center; Terre Haute, Indiana

After a disappointing and sloppy season opener, the Sycamores look to correct rebounding and turnover issues at home against North Texas. They welcome the “Mean Green” to the Hulman Center, a squad fresh off a big win over Sam Houston (not the guy; the state university), snapping the Bearkats’ 45-game non-conference home winning streak. That streak was second only to Duke’s 58-game active stretch. The young ISU team will have its hands full with the Mean Green, as North Texas returns two of their top scorers from their 20-11 season last year, Josh White ( 13.9 points per game this season) and Collin Denis (13.6 ppg).

A win in this game is important for not only Indiana State, but also the Valley as a conference. North Texas is a serious contender in the Sun Belt conference again this year, and right now the MVC needs all of the RPI help it can get. But as we saw last weekend, this is still a very inexperienced Sycamores team that needs to find itself before they get too deep into the season. Newcomer Rashad Reed led the Sycs with 21 points in their season opener, one of four ISU players in double figures against Northern Illinois. Scoring points wasn’t the problem in their loss; they need to get stops and grab boards. Hopefully they can fill their new scoreboard with some rebounds and a W today.

~ Dance Cam Guy

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Drake (1-1) vs. South Dakota State (1-2)
2:00 p.m.
Knapp Center; Des Moines, Iowa

The Jackrabbits of SDSU head to Des Moines no doubt excited about the outcome of yesterday’s football showdown against North Dakota State. The Jacks look to make it a perfect weekend for SDSU athletics against Mark Phelp’s Drake Bulldogs. Or should I say Josh Young’s Bulldogs.

The sensational junior, named to the MVC preseason all-conference team, dropped 34 points in Drake’s win over Morehead State on Wednesday. Although we’re just two games into the season, Young’s averaging nearly 27 points per game. Phelps will need to develop more consistent scoring threats around Young as the season develops, but right now seems content to some degree to let Young control as much of the offense as possible.

In the season-opening loss to Butler, Young didn’t have much help from the floor scoring-wise, and Jonathon Cox needs to step up and start matching his award-wining production from last season (12.3 points, 8.3 rebounds per game). So far he is under those numbers after the first two games.

The Jackrabbits are led by sophomore Clint Sargent’s 17.3 points per game and 8.3 rebounds per contest. He dropped a career-high 20 points in their loss at Virginia Commonwealth. He gets help offensively from junior Garrett Callahan, who ranks second on the team with 16.3 points per game.

A key matchup will be Cox and Jacks forward Anthony Cordova, who leads SDSU with 11.7 rebounds per game and chips in 8.3 points per contest.

~ Creighton Otter

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Northern Iowa (1-1) vs. Texas Southern (0-2)
4:00 p.m.
McLeod Center; Cedar Falls, Iowa

Northern Iowa is coming off its first road game (at Illinois-Chicago), which also happened to be their first loss. They will be focused on a return trip to Chicago, though, when they start the Chicago Invitational Tournament today against the Texas Southern Tigers. The Panthers host the first two rounds on campus before traveling to take on Marquette and Auburn in the Chicago area later next week.

While Jordan Eglseder has been controlling the paint, UNI has plenty of fresh faces patrolling the perimeter. Junior college transfer Ali Farokhmanesh is averaging 16.5 points per game, including a 20 point night at UIC. True freshman point guard Johnny Moran, a native of Chicago suburb Algonquin (A-Town, home of our friend D.J.), will welcome the trip back to Illinois over the holiday. He had a double-double (14 points, 10 rebounds) in his first collegiate game.

Like fellow Southwest Athletic Conference member Arkansas-Pine Bluff, the Tigers are starting the year on the road. They have 12 games away from their home gym (aptly-named “Health and PE Arena.” Really?!) before their first home game on December 27. Michael Drewy scored 15 points and grabbed 15 rebounds in the season opener at UTEP. DeAndre Hall had a career high 29 points in a losing effort at Cincinnati. They will need more than two guys to step up if they want to steal a win in Cedar Falls. These road warriors will have to play a perfect 40 minutes to pick up a win, something a lot of teams, UNI included, have not done this year.

~ Panon

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Illinois State (3-0) at SMU (2-1)
7:30 p.m.
Moody Coliseum; Dallas Texas

Illinois State seems to be in a rather good mood as Tim Jankovich’s team heads into tonight’s game against the host of the SMU Tip-off Classic, the Southern Methodist Mustangs. The Redbirds are entering the contest after a very convincing win over a completely overwhelmed Houston Baptist team 107-70. Once again, a multitude of Redbirds recorded double figure scoring totals. Osiris Eldridge was only 1-7 from 3-point range, but he still managed to lead all ISU scorers with 16 points. Also joining Big O was Emmanuel Holloway (15 points), Landon Shipley (14), Brandon Sampay (12), and Champ Oguchi, Dinma Odiakosa, Lloyd Phillips, and Brandon Holtz (11 points each). The 107-point offensive clinic was the highest scoring total put up by Illinois State since they walked over South Alabama 107-82 on February 19, 1977.

SMU enters the game after winning an ugly game against Alabama State. Both teams turned the ball over 20 times or more. And while Matt Doherty might be an acclaimed recruiter, I do not believe that the Mustangs have enough fire power to win their own tournament; the Redbirds will leave Dallas with new hardware to hoist in the trophy room in Normal.

This tournament has been a great tool for Illinois State to gel offensively and give them some momentum as they get closer to conference play.

~ Dance Cam Guy

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Gameday Pick 'em #3: Oral Roberts (1-1)

The Pundits

“Jays hope to grab edge on boards” (OWH)
“Eagles face tough road” (Tulsa World)

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The Picks

The Golden Eagles are the second “golden” opponent of the week for Dana Altman’s Jays. Their play this season, much like that of the Arkansas-Pine Bluff Golden Lions, has left much to be desired by head coach Scott Sutton. You might remember that name; he’s the son of former CU coach Eddie Sutton. Oral Roberts lost to in-city rival Tulsa in their season opener, 50-43, and then beat someone named John Brown in their last game.

But this is the return game from last year’s ESPN BracketBusters thriller, and CU is 2-3 in these return games. Last year’s game was special. Kevin “The Prophet” Sarver and CU fans across the country knew who Altman would try to get the ball to for the last shot with the Jays trailing by 2 points with 35 seconds left. Coach called for a high screen for Booker Woodfox and he drained a 3-pointer that gave the Jays their final margin for the win.



The last 3 of Woodfox’s 15 points sealed the deal for the Jays

The Golden Eagles are coming off a trip to the NCAA tournament and return dynamic scorer Robert Jarvis and Marcus Lewis, their only returning starter. Sutton’s team is young, and Sutton himself hasn’t had much success with Oral Roberts in non-conference road games. This one points in favor of the Jays.

Enough of this nonsense. To the picks!

(Dance Cam Guy, Panon, and I will pick ‘em each and every game on this site. We’ll keep track of the winner each game, and at the end of the year you’ll be able to find one of us three buying a round or two of expensive Scottrade Center brews at Arch Madness.)

Leading Scorer

Creighton Otter: Cavel Witter (13)
Dance Cam Guy: Booker Woodfox (18)
Panon: Justin Carter (14)
Mrs. Creighton Otter: Kenny Lawson (15)

Margin

Creighton Otter: Jays win by 5
Dance Cam Guy: Jays win by 16
Panon: Jays win by 15
Mrs. Creighton Otter: Jays win by 6

Note: Dance Cam Baby’s correct pick of Cavel Witter leading the Jays in scoring last game was negated because of her lack of verbal expression. The judges ruled that since she made incoherent baby babble instead of stating “Cavel,” the pick was disallowed. She is currently appealing the ruling.

Today In The Valley (Nov. 22)

Illinois State (2-0) vs. Houston Baptist
5:00 p.m.
Moody Coliseum; Dallas, Texas

Illinois State looks to continue their winning ways today as they continue play in the SMU Classic in Dallas. Yesterday, ISU was able to avoid the sting of the Alabama State Hornets with a 77-71 victory. Osiris Eldridge and The People’s Champ, 6-6 guard Champ Oguchi, once again led the scoring for the Redbirds, dropping 16 points each. But Tim Jankovich’s team continued to share the rock and the Redbirds finished with four players in double figures.

After suffering their third straight loss to open the season to host SMU last night, the Huskies from Houston Baptist will be looking for their first win of the 2008-2009 season. They will have to bring their "A" game as they are still without standout post man (and former Auburn Tiger and USC Trojan) Emanuel Willis. They finally received a spark from Gordon Watt when he posted a double-double on Friday, but the Huskies will need big games from a lot of different guys if they want to pull off the upset today over ISU. The Huskies will be overmatched this afternoon, as the Redbirds have proved to be too quick and talented for their opponents thus far, and the historically bad Huskies don’t stand much of a chance.

~ Dance Cam Guy

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Evansville (2-0) vs. Buffalo (2-0)
7:00 p.m.
Roberts Stadium; Evansville, Indiana

The Purple Aces look to continue their winning ways at Roberts Stadium tonight when they host Turner Gill’s Buffalo Bulls. Evansville is coming off a 24-point win Tuesday against Oakland City. Never trailing in the game, they used a balanced attack to defeat the Mighty Oaks. Early in the year Shy Ely, Nate Gardner, and Jason Holsinger are leading the team in points, assists, and rebounds, respectively. That is exactly what you want out of your senior leaders. But that trio will face another set of three good players in the opposing jerseys tonight.

A three headed monster has done the bulk of the scoring for Buffalo in their two road wins to start the season. Rodney Pierce (21 point), Greg Gamble (19 points, 8 rebound, and 5 assists), and Calvin Betts (12 points and 13 rebounds) scored 52 of the 70 points in the Bulls' season opener at Youngstown State. Starting point guard Gamble does a lot for this Bulls team, averaging 15 points, 7 rebounds, and 6 assists per game. And Pierce drops 24 points per game as well. The trio also was in double figures individually in a win against Canisius.

Look for the Bulls to run with the Purple Aces in this game. Evansville is favored by 5.5 points, and the home crowd should make the difference in this one.

~ Panon

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Missouri State (1-1) vs. Arkansas (2-0)
7:00 p.m.
JQH Arena; Springfield, Missouri

The time has come. Today marks the first regular season home game for the Bears in their new building, the JQH Arena. Spencer Laurie, who has played in four different home arenas during his college career, says this one is best. I guess he’s an expert, so I’ll take his word for it.

Opening the building for the Bears? None other than next door neighbor’s state school, the Arkansas Razorbacks. I still hate typing that. These teams have met 9 times since 1980, with today’s game marking just the third visit by the Razorbacks to Springfield. In those 9 games, MSU has just one win (at home in 1986). The average margin of victory for Arkansas has been 12 points.

But one can only rely on the past so much without the reality of the present taking over. Arkansas went to overtime at home with Southeastern Louisiana in their season opener, and then only won by 9 at home versus UC Davis in their last game. In fact, even at 1-1, MSU is favored by the odds makers in Vegas; they’re giving the Hogs anywhere between 2.5 and 3 points.

In order to overcome those odds, junior post player Michael Washington will need to bring his 21 points and 10 rebounds per game to the new arena for the Razorbacks. The Bears aren’t very experienced in the post, so look for that matchup to cause problems for MSU.

Cuonzo Martin will need to counter with his experienced perimeter players, led by Chris Cooks (16 points, 6 rebounds per game) and the healthy Laurie brother, Spencer. Cardell McFarland, a freshman guard, might be the x factor for the Bears today if they want to post a solid home win against a BCS opponent. I’m not convinced they can do it, but I’m sure the polish and shine radiating off the new building will get the crowd pretty jacked up, which helps.

~ Creighton Otter

Friday, November 21, 2008

Creighton 82, Arkansas-Pine Bluff 50

“Rebound That Basketball!”

It is a simple command, heard far and wide in high school gyms across this country. Cheerleaders yell it with vigor. Student sections playfully take the pom squad’s lead and repeat the cheer in unison.

But you can imagine that Dana Altman, Brian Fish, Darren DeVries, and the other Creighton coaches are screaming it with a little different tone today at practice after last night’s 32-point win against the Golden Lions of Arkansas-Pine Bluff (click here for video highlights from the Omaha World-Herald Web site).

In getting beat on the board by 10 rebounds against a team they should have owned in that area of play, the Jays displayed about as much energy and passion for boxing out and boarding as the following cheerleader shows for her cheer. Which is to say, not much.


Could she be less excited about that cheer?

Creighton players must get sick of hearing about defense and rebounding. I’m sure the fans do. And I’m more than sure Altman gets sick about having to repeat himself constantly about the importance of controlling the things you can control in a game: effort, defensive execution, and effective rebounding.

But there he was after the game, talking to T. Scott Marr and Nick Bahe on the post-game radio show about how much further his team needs to go in order to adequately box out. Defensively, he was happy to some degree with the energy and effort Jays like Cavel Witter (career-high 4 steals), Kenton Walker (career-high 4 blocked shots), and Justin Carter brought to the court last night. Creighton forced 30 turnovers and tied a school record with 18 steals. They held UAPB to just 32% shooting (13% from 3-point range).

Check out this blog about legendary coach John Wooden’s keys to rebounding. Interesting stuff. To paraphrase, each offseason Wooden would pick one aspect of the game and conduct a research and development project about the subject. He crunched the data, analyzed the numbers, and found that the coaches of great rebounding teams taught three common techniques/ideas about boarding:

  • Assume every shot is missed
  • Get your hands up
  • Go get the ball

Is it that easy? I think the Jays will probably find out as they continue to practice that part of the game repeatedly during the season. As Bahe said just before signing off at the end of the post-game radio show, “the lack of rebounding is going to cost you a game. It isn’t a matter of if, it is a matter of when. Hopefully these guys can get it figured out quickly so it doesn’t come back to hurt them in one of these next few games.”

OK, enough of the doom and gloom. While the game was a bit slow to progress, given the frequent whistles and fouls, the Jays did some good things offensively (and as previously mentioned, defensively in spurts). Let’s take a quick look:

  • Coming off 30 point and 26 point nights, respectively, P’Allen Stinnett and Booker Woodfox were a bit cold from the field. They were a combined 3-15 from the floor, with all of Stinnett’s points coming from the free throw line (9-11 from the stripe).

    Others stepped up to pick up the slack. Cavel Witter had what Altman called “one of his best games ever,” scoring 15 points (5-7 from the field) and recording the aforementioned 4 steals.

  • Both members of the Kalifornia Konnection had solid offensive nights, too. Kenny Lawson got the start and recorded 10 points, 3 rebounds, and 2 steals. Kenton Walker poured in 10 points, too, and added 5 rebounds and his 4 blocked shots. So that’s 40 minutes, 20 points, 8 rebounds, 5 blocks, and 2 steals. Solid combination for the second game of the season.

  • Justin Carter looked much more comfortable on the court. He was 5-6 from the field and 3-4 from the free throw line, good for 13 points. He also pulled down 4 rebounds, dished 2 assists, and snagged a steal. It is only a matter of time before he takes over a game. I promise.

  • Antoine Young, the freshman point guard from Bellevue West, logged 22 minutes of action. In two games, he’s averaged 16 minutes of court time. That is invaluable as Young learns how to direct an offense he’ll be asked to know inside and out and execute at a high level as soon as next year. Physically, he’s as gifted as any point guard to play at Creighton since I can remember (mid-80s). Sure, he tries to do too much offensively, but what freshman doesn’t?

  • In fact, no Bluejay played more than 22 minutes last night. Chad Millard didn’t play because of the effects of the concussion he suffered on Sunday against New Mexico. And Josh Jones didn’t play because he is a redshirt candidate. But Dustin Sitzman even saw time (and his name in the scoring column) against the Golden Lions.
Altman rolled out a lot of different lineups, got everyone some minutes, and the overall outcome was what you would expect in for a CU-UAPB game (like here and here and here).

But the rebounding wasn’t. And that is concerning.

Today In The Valley (Nov. 21)

Southern Illinois vs. #4 UCLA
4:00 p.m.
Madison Square Garden; New York City
ESPN2

Coach K finally saw firsthand the defense intensity SIU plays with. Like every other Valley coach, player, fan, and cheerleader, he didn't like how they were doing it. Early in the game he was quoted as saying "That's how they want to play all game" after witnessing them "slow down" players driving and cutting in the lane.

SIU brought that defense intensity in the first half, causing 15 turnovers. The tide changed in the second half, but SIU hung tough and was down just 8 points with less than 10 minutes to go in a game that was much closer than the final score indicated (83-58). The referees caught on to what Coach K was saying, whistling SIU for 33 team fouls. The Blue Devils shot 47 free throws on the night. Carlton Fay once again led the Salukis with 17 points and picked up the slack inside after Tony Boyle and Nick Evans fouled out (three others had 4 fouls a piece).

As is typical in preseason tournament play, SIU will have a quick turnaround when they take on another top 10 team this afternoon in UCLA. They get their shot at the Bruins but not in the game they were hoping. Michigan upset Ben Howland’s Bruins in the nightcap yesterday evening in the Garden, 55-52. Both teams are young this year (UCLA lost Russell Westbrook and Kevin Love early to the NBA draft). SIU didn't get the upset last night but may have learned a thing or two that could help them pull off a stunner tonight.

~ Panon

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Illinois State (1-0) vs. Alabama State (0-1)
5:00 p.m.
Moody Coliseum; Dallas, Texas

The Illinois State Redbirds look to continue their 1-0 start Friday in the opening round of the SMU Tip-Off Classic in Dallas. ISU will be in good spirits this week after inking Missouri’s top shot blocker for the 2009-2010 season, and beating a solid opponent in Wright State. With five players contributing double-figure scoring, the Redbirds continue to make this season a team effort and a balanced attack. They will need that balance as they take on the Alabama State Hornets.

The Hornets are coming off a great 2007-2008 season, including winning the SWAC regular season championship (the Jays play SWAC teams Arkansas-Pine Bluff and Mississippi Valley State this season). ASU has two preseason all-SWAC players, including reigning SWAC player of the year Andrew Hayles, and 7-1, 265 lb. senior center Chief Kickingstallionsims, who’s greatest athletic accomplishment was being honored by Sports Illustrated with the best name in sports.

But in the midst of these promising returners and the chance to build on last year’s NIT berth, the Hornets continue to play with heavy hearts. In April, reserve guard Deshean Porchea died after a pick-up game at the university.

This game should feature a great match up of teams picked to finish toward the top of their respectful conferences. Look for ASU to try and take advantage of Chief’s size down low, but don’t expect this bruiser to be the first option for the Hornets. That would be Hayles, who much like Osiris Eldrige for ISU is the key to the offensive fortunes.

~ Dance Cam Guy

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Gameday Pick ‘em #2: Arkansas-Pine Bluff (0-2)

The Pundits

"Inside Creighton Hoops" preview
"Concussion fogs status of Millard" (OWH)
"Trio of Jays in question for next test"(OWH)
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The Picks

Creighton fans continually complain about the Jays’ non-conference schedule each and every year. Folks want to see Dana Altman’s teams take on the who’s who of college basketball. If only it were as simple as that. This is another discussion for a much different time.

But imagine if we could snag a couple of the non-con names that the Golden Lions schedule for our own purposes. UAPB started the year with two losses to Big 12 teams (Colorado, Texas A&M), play two more Big 12 teams (Nebraska, Missouri), and sprinkle the rest of the school’s schedule with opponents like Georgia Tech, Purdue, Nevada, San Diego State, and Creighton.

Did I mention all of those games are on the road? I probably didn’t have to. From November 14 to the end of the year, the Golden Lions will have played 11 straight road games. And while I applaud the efforts to bankroll the school’s other sports, you have to wonder what this does to the student-athlete’s other responsibilities.

Actually, I’m not really wondering about anything other than 1) how many ferocious dunks P’Allen can throw down tonight, 2) how many head-dizzying lineup changes Altman will sub in, and 3) whether or not Omaha freshman Josh Jones will see time on the court against UAPB.

(EDIT: Upon reading Piv's article in this morning's World-Herald, I can add two things to my "wonder" list: How effective with Josh Dotzler be after missing practice Wednesday, and will either Chad Millard or Casey Harriman play while they recover from a concussion and strep throat, respectively.)

Enough of this nonsense. To the picks!

(Dance Cam Guy, Panon, and I will pick ‘em each and every game on this site. We’ll keep track of the winner each game, and at the end of the year you’ll be able to find one of us three buying a round or two of expensive Scottrade Center brews at Arch Madness.)

Leading Scorer

Creighton Otter: Booker Woodfox (17)
Dance Cam Guy: Justin Carter (15)
Panon: Kenny Lawson (15)
Mrs. Creighton Otter: Kenton Walker (15)

Margin

Creighton Otter: Jays win by 30
Dance Cam Guy: Jays win by 44
Panon: Jays win by 26
Mrs. Creighton Otter: Jays win by 17

Note: Dance Cam Baby held up 3 fingers at the last game, obviously signaling her prediction that Cavel Witter would lead the Jays in scoring against Arkansas-Pine Bluff.

Today In The Valley (Nov. 20)

Southern Illinois (2-0) vs. #8 Duke (2-0)
6:00 p.m.
Madison Square Garden; New York City
ESPN2

Tonight, in the semifinals of the 2K Sports Classic, the Salukis get the game every Creighton fan wanted when the 2003 NCAA tournament was announced – a matchup against Duke. Central Michigan ruined a showdown between the #3 seed Blue Devils and #6 seed Bluejays on the day the U.S. military started the war on Iraq. The Chippewas also kept college basketball fans from seeing Kyle Korver and J.J. Redick square off, arguably two of the deadliest shooters in recent college basketball history.

Southern Illinois brings to the Garden a team similar to that of Creighton’s last year.

Both schools lost senior leaders from the season before (Nate Funk, Anthony Tolliver, and Nick Porter; Randal Falker and Matt Shaw).

Both teams returned a stable 4-year starter (Dane Watts; Bryan Mullins (what other player in the Valley rolls up his shorts like a volleyball player?).

Finally, both teams had a stock of newcomers ready (or not) to play quality minutes (P, Booker, Cavel, Millard, Harriman, Korver, Lawson, Walker; SIU has Kevin Dillard, Anthony Booker, Torres Roundtree, and others). SIU advanced to New York with an 80-73 come-from-behind win against UMass, during which sophomore Carlton Fay, the heir apparent to Shaw and Falker in the frontcourt, scored 17 points for the Salukis.

In typical Duke fashion, the Blue Devils have recorded three consecutive victories to start the season. The last one had the Cameron Crazies a little nervous, however, as Rhode Island lost another game down the stretch (just as they did to the Bluejays in the NIT last spring).

This game is being played in one of the most famous arenas in the country, Madison Square Garden (where SIU has not played since 1968 – a 78-54 loss to Duke). The game in ’68 was a rematch of sorts from the 1967 win the Salukis recorded against the Blue Devils (on SIU’s way to the NIT national championship).

What to watch for: Look to see if Bob Knight (yes, general Robert Montgomery Knight) and the folks at ESPN broadcasting the game pull out footage of the last time Duke and SIU squared off. It was the 1993 NCAA tournament. Duke destroyed the Salukis 105-70. Chris Lowery was the point guard.

~ Panon

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Today In The Valley (Nov. 19)

Northern Iowa (1-0) at Illinois-Chicago (0-1)
7:00 p.m.
UIC Pavilion; Chicago, Illinois
ESPN Full Court

UNI travels to "The Windy City" to take on the Flames in a return matchup from last year’s Bracketbuster game, which UIC won in Cedar Falls. It will be the Panthers’ first road test of the year. Last Saturday, UNI scored 42 points in the second half to defeat Denver 61-56. It appears the offense took its time to click, which is due in part to a young team learning to play together as well as Jordan Eglseder's (17 points) return to the lineup. He missed early season practices as well as two exhibition games. For one of the few times this year he will see eye to eye with his defender when he battles the Flames’ 7-footer Scott Vander Meer.

This will be the Flames' second contest against a Valley opponent in as many games. Last Friday, UIC traveled to Peoria to take on Bradley. They took an 8-point halftime lead against the Braves yet lost 67-61 (sound familiar, Jays fans?) Robo Kreps lit up the Braves for a game-high 24 points, including five 3-pointers (He doesn’t really look like a “Robo,” though, does he?). Vander Meer had a double-double (15 points, 11 rebounds).

This will be a tough game for UNI. As we have seen recently, the combination of wind and flames can be difficult to handle.

~ Panon

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Drake (0-1) vs. Morehead State (0-2)
7:00 p.m.
Knapp Center; Des Moines, Iowa

The Eagles of Morehead State squared off against Warhawks (Louisiana-Monroe) and Commodores (Vanderbilt) in their first two contests and soundly lost to their brethren of the sky. So, they’ll swoop into Des Moines for the school’s first meeting versus Drake in history. Actually, they lost by just 2 points at Monroe, but dropped the contest against Vandy by 26. They are led by guard Robert Murray (12 ppg) and forward Leon Buchanan (11 ppg; 4 rpg).

The Bulldogs look to fare a bit better than they did in their showdown with another set of Bulldogs, last weekend’s 58-48 loss to Butler. Maybe warmer temps and sunnier skies will light a fire beneath their offense. The game against the Eagles is the first for Drake in the 2008 Cancun Challenge, which will find the Bulldogs also hosting South Dakota State this weekend. Mark Phelps, Josh Young, and the rest of the Drake team will then head south of the border to take on Vanderbilt and then either Virginia Commonwealth or New Mexico. Young dropped 19 points on Butler, but he’ll need more help offensively than what he got in that game.

Matchup to watch: Jonathon Cox vs. Kenneth Faried. Faried, a sophomore forward, was picked to the preseason all-Ohio Valley Conference team. Cox is a versatile forward who can score inside or from long range. This will be an interesting battle to watch (but only if you are in Des Moines, as the game will be on Mediacom locally).

Pregame handshake/man hug to watch: Drake’s John Michael Hall (no, not the kid from “The Breakfast Club”) vs. Buchanan. They were teammates at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College in Tifton, Georgia, from 2005-2007. They led the Golden Stallions (um, really?!) to a #11 ranking in the National Junior College Athletic Association season-ending poll.

Seriously, the Golden Stallions?

~ Creighton Otter

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Wichita State (1-0) vs. Missouri-Kansas City (0-2)
7:00 p.m.
Koch Arena; Wichita, Kansas

You can bet that last year’s 3-point loss at the Kangaroos’ home court still vexes Gregggggggg Marshall. (Interesting note: former Jay-for-about-10-seconds Tim Blackwell scored 12 points in that UMKC win. So, even past and current Creighton players made Marshall’s first year at WSU a nightmare. Nice.) In fact, as Wichita Eagle Shox reporter Paul Suellentrop points out in one of his great blog postings, “Last season’s loss at UMKC was one of the low points. Marshall was so mad in the post-game interview he could not speak more than one sentence in reply to each question. If the Shockers are on the right track, this is a game they must win.”

Not only can I imagine that press conference vividly; I tend to agree with Suellentrop about the Shox need to win this game. This year is going to be a learning experience for all of the fresh faces decorating the Shocker bench, but enacting some retribution for one of last year’s worst losses would be a positive step in the right direction for a guy who didn’t have many positive steps at all last year (except maybe the ones he took leaving the court early during his team’s play-in night loss in St. Louis after getting the boot from the refs).

Look for the Kangaroos to try to win with 3-point shooting. In a 71-56 loss at Kansas a few nights ago (a game that was tied at halftime), UMKC launched 31 long-range bombs. The ‘Roos can win if senior small forward Dane Brumagin is on offensively. And that could very well be the case; we know WSU doesn’t do well against guys named “Dane.”

~ Creighton Otter

Now Playing: This Year's Tunnel Walk Videos

I know many of you won't make it to the Qwest Center for a game until later this season, and some of you might not catch a contest at the Q all year.

So, here are this year's player introduction / tunnelwalk / opening tip-off / and second-half start videos. Just turn your volume up, pretend you're sitting with 16,000 of your closest friends, and maybe it will feel familiar.

Let's open the curtain with the player intros, which stream about 10 minutes before the players take the court for warm-ups:



Then, the lights dim for the beginning of the tunnelwalk:



Right before tip-off, some dribbling technique to get all the Jays fans up to speed:



And just as everyone's hustling back to their cozy seats in The Phonebooth, our boys remind us the continuing legacy that's at stake with each and every game they play:

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