Monday, March 23, 2009

NIT Second Round Preview: #4 Kentucky (21-13)

The Pundits

“Jays look to have better fortunes against this year’s SEC foe” (OWH)
“Shatel: Jays have golden chance against storied Wildcats” (OWH)
“Kentucky wild for their cats” (OWH)
“Jays face 1-2 punch of Meeks, Patterson” (OWH)
“Jays relish battle with a big name” (OWH)
“Jays’ Woodfox works to shake shooting slump” (OWH)
“Morning News: Creighton Bluejays Edition” (A Sea of Blue)
“Gillispie says he ‘can’t control’ whether he’ll return to Cats” (Courier-Journal)
“Depth and range the Bluejay way” (Courier-Journal)

The Pick

Take a look at someone’s ticket stubs and you’re likely to catch at least a glimpse of what is important to a person. I stopped stuffing my stubs deep into my wallet years ago, but as a child and even into my teenage years my packrat behavior included savoring the little piece of history I received when walking through the turnstile at a game or concert and experiencing a fantastic event for a few hours.

During my formative Bluejay years, ticket stubs from various showdowns at the Civic would be strewn across my bedroom. In those days, the best of my memory, the Dynamic Duo and Ice and Matt Rock would have to hit the century mark in order to bestow free pizza pie piled high on the home fans. And even if my memory misrepresents that target score, it was much higher than 75. And while hitting a hondo happened a few times, more times than not I would just keep hold of the light blue and white stubs. They were the paper trail through my Creighton basketball seasons.

I have ticket stubs from the NCAA Tournament games in Chicago in March 2002. Numerous reminders from Arch Madness games (and championships). Not to mention stubs from some outrageous concerts and Cubs games. But if I’ve kept any, they are stored away in miscellaneous shoe boxes, sandwiches between yearbooks and old photos of high school proms.

At my work desk, I’ve even got some stuffed into my coffee-mug-turned-pen-holder, which over the past 5 years has been a refuge for random stubs rescued from my pants pockets a few days after the event. A ticket from former Mexican president Vicente Fox’s presentation at the Orpheum in November. A stub from last year’s Van Halen concert at the Qwest Center, a night with some musical legends whose heyday happened during those years of Harstad and Gallagher, too. A ticket from this year’s SIU home game and a stub from last year’s NIT win against Rhode Island, two examples of what can happen when a Jays team plays a full 40 minutes and doesn’t give up. There are a few throw-away stubs from some early games in the 2007-2008 season against the powerhouses Houston Baptist and Savannah State.

But tonight’s ticket might take the cake.

Take a picture, it will last longer.

As Piv noted in the World-Herald recently, Kentucky has played one true road game against a team from outside the “power” conferences in the past decade. As Panon pointed out yesterday at the bar, it was probably Memphis.

I’ve been struggling with how to weigh the importance of this game since the final buzzer rang against Bowling Green on Wednesday. And as much as I want to say ‘this is just another game’ or ‘anyone is beatable, we shouldn’t treat this any differently,’ I know it isn’t true. Truth is, this is Kentucky, a school that folks in Omaha could only think of seeing in person if they would have been placed in last year’s 1st and 2nd round games at The Phone Booth with Kansas and Wisconsin.

This is most likely a kind of stub I won’t see again in some time, and others in Omaha apparently feel the same way. There are 500 tickets left as of early Monday morning, and you can bet the ducats will have some added value as the clock creeps closer to 6 p.m. this evening. That’s when the biggest game in the Qwest Center’s relatively short history tips off, on national television, a showcase for Dana Altman’s program to take advantage of.

Whether they will or not is beside the point; all Jays fans have asked for is a shot at home against a team that for good reason would never think of making the trek from BCSLand to our humble home at The Phone Booth. It took some fortuitous bounces of the basketball these past few weeks to make it happen, and while I’m sure the Jays watched the Big Dance this weekend and wondered what might have been, this is the type of game that has eluded the Jays (both in the regular and post seasons) for the past few years.

And I, along with more than 17,000 fans, will have a stub to commemorate it. Win or lose, there’s something special about that.

Jays 68, Cats 65


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