When Creighton released it’s 2012-13 men’s basketball schedule on Thursday, there was only one surprise — the opening game against North Texas. Everything else, save for the date of the Akron game, had been previously announced by one media outlet or another, allowing us to compile a mostly-complete list on our Library page.
Creighton had been holding that last open date in hopes that a BCS school would get desperate for a game late in the process and reluctantly add them, as happened with Northwestern two years ago. They’d also warned that if nothing transpired, the two likely options were a game versus a D2 opponent or leaving the game unfilled. For late August, booking North Texas is actually kind of a coup — they’re a team that went 18-14 a year ago, returns their top six scorers, and features two top-flight players.
Guard Roger Franklin was the #43 recruit in the country when he committed to Oklahoma State out of high school, and in his first year after transferring to North Texas, he had four double-doubles while stretching defenses with his long 6’5″ frame. Forward Tony Mitchell played with Doug McDermott on the 2011 USA U19 team, and led that squad in rebounds (7.6 per game) and blocks (1.9 per game). He was the #12 recruit in the country coming out of high school and signed with Missouri before academic issues landed him closer to home at North Texas, and he declared for the NBA Draft this summer before opting to return to school. Combined with a stellar recruiting class, the Mean Green should be in the conversation for an NCAA Tournament berth.
After the Friday night opener, the Jays return to the court the following Wednesday to host UAB. A solid home-and-home series when it was signed — UAB was the defending C-USA champion the year before the series began — this is the return matchup of what turned into a disappointing series. They went 15-16 a year ago, fired coach Mike Davis in March, and figure to struggle again.
The next four games are all part of the Continental Tire Las Vegas Invitational, with the first two in Omaha against the Presbyterian Blue Hose and Longwood Lancers. We won’t spend any time discussing those two, because the games everyone cares about are in the Vegas portion of the tourney, where a matchup with Wisconsin looms, followed by a game against either Arkansas or Arizona State. The Badgers are a perennial Top 20 team, and their slow, deliberate pace figures to give the Jays fits, in much the same way Northern Iowa does. A matchup with Arkansas would be the opposite, as they prefer to play a high-octane style dubbed “The Fastest 40 Minutes In Basketball” under former Mizzou coach Mike Anderson.
After the Thanksgiving holiday, the Jays return home to take on Boise State in the final game of the current MVC/MWC Challenge contract. It’s easy to complain about the Broncos being the opponent this year, but the lackluster matchup is largely the result of contractual legalese. Teams can only play once in the four years of the contract, meaning BYU, New Mexico and San Diego State were not options (though BYU has since moved to the WCC, removing them from consideration regardless of contract language). And UNLV, the only other marquee name in the MWC, is also a designated “home” team this year preventing them from coming to Omaha. So Boise State and their 3-11 conference record of a year ago come to the CLink instead.
Three days later, Phil Martelli brings his St. Joseph’s Hawks to town in the continuation of an excellent series between the two Jesuit schools. On paper, this could be his best team since the Elite Eight squad with Jameer Nelson and Delonte West, and will be one of — if not the — favorite to win the A-10. Jays fans saw the explosive athleticism of this young team a year ago in Philadelphia when they put on a display of dunkatude against Creighton’s defense, and with another year of experience, this team will undoubtably be the highlight of the non-conference home schedule.
On December 6, Creighton finally plays a true road game when they travel down I-80 to take on in-state rival Nebraska. Tim Miles becomes the latest coach to attempt to make Nebrasketball relevant on a national stage, but while he tries to build towards that goal, he’ll field one of the worst teams in recent memory, making this game interesting only to fans of the two schools. The Jays return home that weekend to take on the Akron Zips in a return game from their BracketBusters matchup of two years ago. The Zips return nearly everyone from a team that finished 22-12 (13-3 in the MAC) a year ago, when they lost to Northwestern in the first round of the NIT.
Their first road game outside of their home state — and the only one on the entire non-conference schedule — doesn’t come until December 15 when they travel to Berkeley to take on the Cal Bears. A 10PM tilt reportedly slated for broadcast on the new PAC12 Network, Mike Montgomery’s team will provide one of the stiffest tests on the pre-MVC slate. The Bears went 24-10 (13-5 in the PAC12) a year ago, and even though that league was down overall the Bears have the talent to be in the NCAA Tournament conversation again.
Much like UAB, Tulsa is another game that looked a heckuva lot better when it was signed than it looks now, as Golden Hurricane are instead in rebuilding mode. The first game of the home-and-home series was one of Doug McDermott’s finer performances, when he made 16 baskets en route to scoring 35 points and “single-handedly breaking the spirit of my team,” according to Tulsa coach Doug Wojcik. He’ll get another chance to do that on December 19 when the Golden Hurricane come to Omaha to round out the non-conference slate.
Valley play starts ten days later — can anyone remember a longer break between games? — the same way last year’s schedule ended. Namely, against Colt Ryan and the Evansville Purple Aces. Let’s hope the Jays defense is closer to the one that defended him in Arch Madness and less like the one that “defended” him in Omaha. A road game against one of the league’s toughest teams, Illinois State, follows, with two home games against Indiana State and Drake next.
A brutal stretch looms after the Sycamore/Bulldog homestand — a trip to Springfield to take on Missouri State, a home game against Northern Iowa, and then a three-game road trip to Wichita State, Drake and Southern Illinois. It will be a long 15 days between home games for Jays fans, as after the UNI game on January 15th the team won’t return home until the 30th when they tangle with Missouri State.
Bradley opens the final month of the season with a game in Omaha on February 2, followed by a trip to Terre Haute and a rematch with the Sycamores. A home game with Illinois State is next, and then back-to-back road games against Northern Iowa and Evansville — easily the second-toughest stretch of the MVC slate. Following a Tuesday night game against SIU in Omaha, Creighton will go on the road for BracketBusters and (hopefully) play as tough a team as possible, given the neutered state of the event. They’ll stay on the road to take on Bradley before returning home for Senior Night, when the Wichita State Shockers come to town. If you don’t have tickets already for that March 2 game against the Shox, I’d buy them the minute they go on sale. It is not to be missed.
On the whole, it’s a reasonably demanding schedule with five non-conference games against teams that should be in the NCAA Tournament discussion (North Texas, Wisconsin, Arkansas, Cal, and St. Josephs) and should allow Creighton — if it takes care of business — to be in position for an at-large bid should they fail to win Arch Madness.