How ‘bout this: Until Jan. 20, Creighton and Nebraska had never beaten ranked teams in the same day. Sunday they beat Top-10 teams by a combined 30 points.
Or this: For a few moments — just after 5 p.m. — #Nebrasketball was one of 10 terms trending nationally on Twitter. So was Nebraska. So was Creighton. So was Doug McDermott. Either the entire country had Internet failure or they were all talking about basketball in the state of Nebraska.
Still not impressed? OK, let this sink in: In a span of two hours, Nebraska won in Tom Izzo’s house and Doug McDermott passed Larry Bird on the NCAA career scoring chart.
Suddenly it’s not so crazy to envision an NCAA tournament with Creighton and Nebraska. The Huskers haven’t qualified in 16 years. The two haven’t made it together in 23 years.
With apologies to 1991, the state’s basketball fever Sunday night — and presumably over the next few days — puts that winter to shame.
Creighton hosted the second-biggest crowd in school history Sunday and would be a No. 2 or 3 seed if the NCAA tournament began today. When the Huskers host Penn State Thursday in Lincoln, Pinnacle Bank Arena will be packed with 15,000-plus.
It’s not just winning that makes it fun.
For Creighton, it’s an offensive style ripped from a coaching textbook. It’s 64 percent shooting and 101 points against an excellent defense. Most of all, it’s Doug McDermott, the best college offensive player since (at least) Steph Curry in 2009. McDermott builds on his legacy seemingly every game. He scores 10 points before he breaks a sweat. Sunday he went 13 of 17, showing every weapon in his arsenal, scoring inside and out, off the dribble and off the pass.
“He is as complete a player — and I do not use that term loosely — as complete a player with size as I’ve ever seen. At 6-8, 6-9, there’s nothing he can’t do,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said. “… He’s the best post player that we played against and he’s the best perimeter player and maybe one of the best passers.”
For Nebraska, the fun starts with a head coach who’s part-Urkel, part-Butkus. Tim Miles acts like your next-door neighbor, posing with fans after big wins, dancing with his team in the locker room, dropping one-liners on social media. But he landed a sophomore transfer, Terran Petteway, who’s as talented and tough as any Husker since Tyronn Lue. And the rest of NU’s roster is gaining experience and confidence by the week. It takes a lot of guts to rally from five straight losses with a 6-2 stretch.
After leaving the Breslin Center floor, Miles walked into the Husker locker room and dropped a line that may as well have come from Greg McDermott two hours later. It’s a statement on which even two blossoming basketball rivals (who don’t like each other very much) can agree. It goes like this:
“That’s what college basketball is supposed to feel like!”