There’s no such thing as perfection on a basketball court. Too much time in a game, too many possessions, too many moving parts.
Some sports are textbook subjects like math. A baseball player knows where he’s going with the ball before the pitch. Almost every play, there’s a right answer and a wrong answer. Basketball is more free-flowing, like writing or art. Each possession has hundreds of potential scenarios, determined by instincts as much as decisions.
No, there’s no such thing as perfection. But Creighton’s first half Tuesday night at CenturyLink was about as close it gets. A (basketball) drug so pure that Walter White would’ve been proud — the blue stuff! At one point, the Jays scored on 14 straight possessions. In the final 12 1/2 minutes, they scored 41 points.
This isn’t the same Butler that came a few inches from a national championship. But the Bulldogs did take Oklahoma State and Villanova to the final seconds. They beat Vanderbilt and Purdue. They’re not terrible. Creighton ran ‘em out of the gym.
I’m not a Nebraska fan. I’m not a Creighton fan. I’m a basketball fan. And I don’t know how any basketball fan can’t love watching this team. The Jays were easy on the eyes the past two years when they won an NCAA tournament game. But this squad’s entertainment rating is off the charts.
Greg McDermott’s decision to start Ethan Wragge and Doug McDermott in the frontcourt should’ve exposed Creighton defensively. Instead, CU is mysteriously BETTER on defense than a year ago with Gregory Echenique. And offensively, my goodness, it’s not even fair surrounding him with four shooters, opening up everything inside the arc. McDermott had 24 before halftime, showing off a skill set so diverse he could’ve been John Wooden’s puppet.
Can Creighton keep it up? Can the Jays keep shooting like this? Can the defense hold firm down the stretch? At some point the undersized Jays have to get exposed, right? I don’t know. I don’t particularly care. This stretch of basketball — dating back to New Year’s Eve — is too much fun to watch for me to take my eye off the ball.
>> I can’t get over what a blessing the Big East move for Creighton. Especially now. Had it come in 2014-15, the Jays would’ve entered the new league without McDermott, without Wragge, without Gibbs. They would’ve spent all their best basketball in the Valley.
But Creighton is at the top of its game at the optimum time. And while scoring 90 points on Fox Sports 1 twice a week should be a huge boost for recruiting and national image, it’s also huge for McDermott. Had he averaged 25 points a game in the Valley, many would’ve shrugged it off and said, “Ehh, look at his competition.” The Big East isn’t the Big Ten or the ACC, but it’s good enough.
>> McDermott stands at 2,644 career points. The Jays have 13 Big East games left. Let’s assume they play two in the Big East tournament and get to the Sweet 16 of the NCAAs. I’d say those are manageable expectations.
If McDermott averages 20 points over those 18 games, he’d finish with 3,004 points. If he averages 25, he’d finish with 3,094 — fifth all-time. McDermott will have played more career games than almost everyone on the list, but still, 3,000 would be an incredible feat.
>> I could see four Big Ten teams potentially winning a conference regular-season title: Wisconsin, Michigan State, Ohio State and Iowa. The Badgers, I believe, should be favored. But I like Iowa in the No. 2 spot. Ohio State’s offensive inconsistency is still troubling.
>> A ton of good college basketball talk in Jason King’s weekly column, including nuggets on Creighton and Oregon. He leads, however, with a depressing year on Tobacco Road.
>> I had a feverish debate with a Husker hoops fan regarding this season and if it’s been “disappointing.” I’m on record saying Tim Miles was the best hire for Nebraska. He has the perfect personality and résumé to turn the Huskers around.
And I didn’t come into Year Two expecting an NCAA tournament — not even close. I anticipated pretty much the same record as last year — 15-18 overall, 5-13 in the league.
But I do think it’s been a bit of a disappointment so far. The Huskers are 8-8, lost two tight games in Charleston, got blown out by Creighton and have started 0-4 in the Big Ten (against a tough schedule). Say what you want about upgrading talent in the program — the cupboard was bare when Miles arrived — but at some point NU needs to get a good win.
My adversary’s take:
“UMass (32nd in Ken Pom rankings), UAB (117th Ken Pom), Creighton (9th in Ken Pom), Cincinnati (20th in Ken Pom), Iowa (5th in Ken Pom), Ohio St. (7th in Ken Pom), Michigan (21st in Ken Pom), Purdue (95th Ken Pom)
“That is a good group of teams, and 7 of those 8 losses were away from Lincoln. It’s a little early for people to be talking like suddenly Tim Miles isn’t going to get it done. Also, they have basically all new parts playing together this year. Most of the group will have 2 more years to grow together. In 2 years, their starting line-up will likely look like this:
PG – Webster
SG – Petteway
SF – Shields
PF – Pitchford
C – Hammond
“Usually when you see a coach come in and make a quick turnaround it’s because there was talent in the program, but the previous coach was doing a horrible job with that talent. Tim Miles came into a job where there was no talent last year. The coaching staff really didn’t know if they would win a game last year in the Big Ten. You can see they are better because guys that played last year aren’t seeing the floor this year, but that doesn’t necessarily translate to immediate W’s.”
I’ll take the last word: I still think Miles is the right guy for Nebraska. But Webster’s struggles, a roster that doesn’t mesh well and the lack of a top-flight recruit (NU will never have a better opportunity to sell a vision than right now) makes me slightly less optimistic than a year ago.
>> It is fascinating to watch programs like Alabama and Ohio State try not only to maintain their current standing in the college football hierarchy, but rise. Nick Saban and Urban Meyer each have upgraded their coaching staffs.
I’m especially intrigued by Larry Johnson’s potential impact at Ohio State. The D-line coach had been at Penn State 17 years! Now he’ll put his East Coast recruiting ties to work for the Buckeyes.
>> Berry Tramel of the Oklahoman examines how athletic directors rarely hire assistant coaches. Nebraska, of course, is one of the exceptions.
>> Charlie Strong isn’t messing around at Texas. His new rules — and way of doing things — is bound to ruffle feathers in Austin.
>> What makes Peyton and Brady so special? Liz Merrill, former World-Herald standout, talks to their centers. Great angle.
>> I love football stats. Here, Football Outsiders analyzes the value of field goals.
>> CNN takes a long look at reading scores among college athletes.
>> Of all the times for a basketball to get stuck on the rim.
>> The new teenage trend, emulating the Miami Heat flops, is quite hilarious.
>> On a recommendation of friend and colleague Josh Peterson, I post an epic Grantland story about a putter. He swears by it, but I haven’t had a chance to read it yet.
>> Finally, we’re gonna try something new called “Bracket Wednesday” in which we present a random tournament. Readers are free to chew on it and vote their opinions — firstname.lastname@example.org. If it flourishes, we may do it every week. If not — like all bad ideas — we’ll forget it ever happened.
Our first installment focuses on Husker football 2002-13. Which NU team wins this tournament — and how does your bracket play out? Vote.
No. 1 seed — 2009
No. 2 — 2011 v. No. 3 — 2004
No. 1 — 2012
No. 2 — 2003 v. No. 3 — 2007
No. 1 — 2010
No. 2 — 2005 v. No. 3 — 2002
No. 1 — 2006
No. 2 — 2013 v. No. 3 — 2008