If you’re of the belief that the Jays have zero chance of earning an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament, then tonight their record re-boots to 0-0. Forget getting to 20 wins. Wipe your memory of November and the first three weeks of December. Those 11 games are of no significance; what happens over the next 18 is all that matters. The way I see it, with no hope of an at-large bid, the conference schedule becomes about earning a favorable seed in St. Louis: nothing more, nothing less. Get a top-three seed, thus avoiding the dreaded 4/5 game between teams of similar ilk, and they’ll have a fighting chance.
And if you’re of the belief that the Jays still have a slim chance of gaining entry by other means, please do a service to your fellow citizens and send me your address so I can have the men in white coats come pick you up. All the people at the zoo are very nice, penguin!
To get that top-three seed, the Jays probably need to win 12 games, which means winning all nine home contests and going 3-6 on the road. That’s eminently doable, and it starts tonight with perhaps the toughest of all the home games: preseason favorite Northern Iowa.
I didn’t understand certain legit media sources doubting the Panthers in November, and I really don’t understand their doubt now after they’ve started 9-1 against a decent schedule. I’ve heard people say that the Panthers aren’t very athletic, that they’re slow, that their mid-season 11-game winning streak last season was a fluke, and that they don’t pass the eye test when you watch them. Yeah, but they win. A lot. Isn’t that the point of playing the games? In the end, it doesn’t matter what it looks like or whether you’re impressed by their athleticism, does it?
Creighton won a whole bunch of games in the late-nineties and early 2000s with teams that weren’t overly athletic or full of highly-prized recruits. Be honest and think back…the same arguments people make against UNI today were made back then about the Jays. Both schools were frustrating opponents because nobody played harder, tougher or better as a team than them. Fans of teams with more talent disparaged the Jays then (and the Panthers now) because they couldn’t believe they were losing to them.
Sure, their lack of big-time talent probably puts a ceiling on where they can get to nationally, but you can win one helluva lot of games and give your fans one helluva ride before you reach that ceiling. Look at those Creighton teams of the late-nineties and early 2000s: the frustration came in losing in the NCAA’s, but they were there so often that losing in the first round became frustrating! Its not a bad problem to have, when you really think about it.
I’m of the opinion that a team who wins 11 straight games in conference is not a fluke. They went 8-1 in road games! Think about that: they lost ONE game on the road in the MVC. They’re the only team in the league to return all five starters. They have the ingredients you look for in a solid team: two post players, a good point guard and multiple shooters. They have the experience of having won both a regular season and a tournament championship. This year, they’ve already defeated Boston College, Iowa State and Siena, and ride an eight-game winning streak into tonight’s game. So yes, they’re not the most talented team in the league. But you’d be awfully foolish to bet against them.
One Big Paragraph with Lots O’Dots™: The Panthers average 67 points per game and shoot 45% from the floor, 40% from three-point range and 65% at the line. Meanwhile defensively, they allow just 58 points per game and allow their opponents to shoot just 42% … Seven-footer Jordan Eglseder has been a beast again this year, averaging over 11 points and 7 boards a game … Preseason All-Valley picks Adam Koch and Kwadzo Ahelegbe have not disappointed during the non-conference portion of their slate. Both players have almost identical 14 point/4 rebound average stat lines per game … Northern Iowa coach Ben Jacobson is no longer confused with the former Panther great of the same name. In his fourth year, he’s 67-39 in succeeding Greg McDermott, with a regular-season MVC title, conference tournament title and NCAA Tourney berth on his resume. Not too shabby … The last time the preseason Number 1 and Number 2 teams in the MVC have played in the conference opener was in 1990, when favorite Creighton lost on the road at Tulsa. Pretty unbelievable that its been 20 years since that happened, but its just one more reason to be excited for tonight’s game.
The Last Time They Played: Creighton won 77-71 in Cedar Falls last February after dropping the first matchup in Omaha, 69-66. The latter snapped a 12-game losing streak in Omaha for Northern Iowa.
The Series: Creighton leads all-time 26-12, with a staggering 16-3 edge in games played in Omaha. Despite UNI’s relative success the last five-plus seasons, the Jays have continued to have their number, winning 10 of the last 11 meetings and 21 of the last 25. As for the coaches, Dana Altman is 23-8 against UNI and 5-1 against Ben Jacobson. Did I mention Creighton has UNI’s number?
Gratuitous Linkage: I had never heard of this comic, but it sounds absolutely bad-ass, doesn’t it? Superman Vs Muhammad Ali has bad-ass written all over it. I know I’m not an expert on these things, which I freely admit, but how is this not the greatest comic book of all time? Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee, leap tall buildings with a single bound…yup, that’s good stuff. I’m buying it when it gets reprinted, absolutely.
Official Gametime Snack: My brother, three years my junior, is a Northern Iowa grad, and all of my glorious visits to the bars on The Hill in Cedar Falls always, ALWAYS ended with 2:30 AM pizza at the Stine. So partly because of that, but mostly because it just sounds good on a cold day, pizza is on the menu tonight. You bet.
The Totally Random Song I’d Play Right Now if I was Still a Radio DJ: I was going to pick the top song of 1999 in honor of the last year of the previous decade, since this is the last Primer of this decade. But it turns out Billboard’s top song was Cher’s “Believe”, which I did not remember nor anticipate. White & Blue Review is a Cher-Free-Zone, especially the creepy 90′s Cher, so I’m arbitrarily opting for something else from that year.
Lou Bega’s “Mambo No. 5″? Nope. Sugar Ray’s “Every Morning”? No chance. TLC’s “No Scrubs”? Ha. All Top 10 singles for the year, all not being played here.
How about the top rock song of 1999? Blink-182′s “What’s My Age Again?” is a solid, respectable choice. Except then I remembered that the video features the band members running through the streets naked. DAMN YOU 1999!
Alright, Lit’s “My Own Worst Enemy” it is. Great retro-style video, great song, and the title applies superbly to the Jays season so far. I take back what I said about you, 1999. You’re still the fifth, fourth and quite possibly even the third best year of the decade. Congratulations!
Prediction: Creighton 73, Northern Iowa 71. Some random guy will miss the putting game when the ball breaks left. Someone else will win the hidden bluejay game. A student will fail to make the halfcourt shot in the shootout. Dance Cam will make a surprise comeback (hey, I can hope!). And Wayne Runnels will prove difficult for UNI to defend.
Jays win one that will be close throughout.