Creighton had a good night Tuesday. A very good night.
Northern Iowa came into town, jumped on the Jays and challenged them physically. Creighton met that challenge and ran away in the second half, scoring 78 points — Doug McDermott got 31.
But the cherry on the sundae came an hour later in Bloomington, Ind., when Wisconsin finished off the second-ranked Hoosiers.
As good as Creighton has been most of the year, you couldn’t help but wonder about their competition. The Valley is mediocre. And the Jays’ non-con schedule was weak. Zero ranked teams. Only one game against a Top-40 team, according to RealTimeRPI. That was Boise State — and Creighton lost.
That’s why no matter how many consecutive games Creighton won, it had a ceiling in the polls — it wasn’t getting into the Top 5. And no matter what it accomplished, it probably wasn’t going to get higher than a No. 3 seed in the NCAA tournament.
In order to show voters and the selection committee that Creighton could still be Creighton (and Doug could still be Doug) against good competition, the Jays needed someone from the non-conference slate to step up and give them a benchmark win. Cal? Arizona State?
Turns out, it’s Wisconsin. At least it was Tuesday night.
The Badgers, who have now beaten IU an incredible 11 straight times, didn’t play like the seventh-best team in the Big Ten. They shackled the Hoosiers’ octane attack, holding them to 59 points at home. Creighton, remember, scored 84 on Wisconsin.
One game won’t change Creighton’s schedule strength — not much anyway. But it can change perception. If Wisconsin can hang around in the Big Ten race, it does wonders for Creighton’s credibility.
The Jays have other priorities right now. Like beating Wichita State Saturday.
>> Where might the Jays be ranked right now had they beaten Boise State? No one in college basketball is spotless. In fact, entering the week, the top eight teams in the country had exactly one loss — Creighton is 10th in the coaches poll and 12th in the AP.
My guess is voters would’ve put an unbeaten Creighton team No. 6, behind Louisville, IU, Duke, Kansas and Michigan. The Jays probably need two fewer losses to jump those teams.
>> Creighton is officially off to its best start in school history — 17-1. You know what other in-state program had just one loss 21 years ago this week? Nebraska.
The Huskers eventually received a No. 3 seed in the ’91 NCAA tournament — they lost in the first round, of course. That’s the best college team this state has ever produced, in my opinion. But over the next two months, Creighton may have something to say about that.
>> Seahawks defensive coordinator Gus Bradley is a hot name in the NFL. He already interviewed for Philly’s head coaching job, now he’s talking to Jacksonville. Who cares, right?
Well, Bradley is a former assistant at North Dakota State. And during his days in Fargo, he became good friends with Tim Miles. They used to have long conversations about program philosophy.
“You know who he really reminds me of?” Bradley told me last spring. “Coach Carroll.”
Bradley’s favorite memory of Miles came at a moment of disappointment. In 2002, NDSU was going through a head coaching search and Bradley, the Bison defensive coordinator, was a finalist for job. On Saturday night, the AD called him in and said they were hiring someone else.
That night, the Bison were hosting St. Cloud State in basketball. Just 40 minutes before the game, Bradley heard a knock at his office door. It was Miles wanting to know how his friend was doing.
They still stay in touch. How much does Bradley think of Miles? Last March, Bradley returned my call from Mexico, where his family was vacationing.
Last note on Bradley: You know who got the job NDSU job in 2002. Craig Bohl. Bradley may be an NFL head coach next year, but I’d say the Bison made the right call.
>> Athletic programs at Division I schools spend 12 times more per athlete than universities spend per student on academics. By far the widest gap is in the SEC, where schools spend a whopping $163,931 per athlete. The Big Ten is third at $116,667.
>> Yes, Lance Armstrong is a scoundrel. I never got into the Livestrong movement, nor did I consider Armstrong a hero. But his case is fascinating for this reason: By lying, didn’t he make the world a better place? Didn’t he inspire millions of people and raise millions of dollars for a good cause?
Does that make his actions — and his lies — worth it? The easy answer is no. Integrity matters. Truth matters. But of all the big steroid cases over the years — Ben Johnson, Mark McGwire, Roger Clemens — his is the most complicated.
>> Max Olson, a former World-Herald contributor, looks at Texas’ production of college quarterbacks. It’s pretty impressive.
>> According to a USC recruit, Lane Kiffin pulled his scholarship for this semester. The kid isn’t happy.
>> If that news isn’t bad enough, the L.A. Daily News reports a USC locker-room altercation following the Sun Bowl loss to Georgia Tech. “It was one of the worst things I’ve seen in a locker room,” said a player who did not wish to be identified.
>> This rap video, from the 1988 Arizona basketball team, is floating around the Internet this week. It’s high comedy. Those Wildcats, who lost to Oklahoma in the Final Four, were led by Sean Elliott. But in looking at the stats of that team, I found an incredible number.
In the 33-game regular season, Steve Kerr shot 61 percent from 3-point range in the regular season — roughly 3-for-5 per game. And in Pac-10 play, he was 65 percent! Get back in the gym, McDermott.
>> What’s it like to compete against Missy Franklin in a high school swim meet? Her opponents aren’t thrilled.
>> The Miami Heat are still going to make the Finals. But they’re sniping at each other again. Good reporting.
>> One more note on Creighton hoops. Statistical guru Ken Pomeroy ranks the Jays third nationally in offensive efficiency (points per possession, adjusted for strength of schedule). Last year, he had Creighton fifth.
>> The brilliance of Roger Federer defies words. By the way, Federer is two days older than me. Our career accomplishments are eerily similar, don’t ya think?
>> Rarely do I link World-Herald stories in the Chatter (I assume you’ll see them anyway), but since this is a “news” story, I’ll post it. The lesson: Don’t hit golf balls into your neighbor’s pool!
>> Bad lip reading in the NFL? Too funny.
>> Finally, Chip Kelly to the Eagles? Whoa. I think Alabama just won the 2013 national championship.