Announcer: Good evening. And welcome again to "Pumping Up With Klaus & Mouse", the informative training program for the serious weightlifter.
Mouse: Hello! We're back!
Klaus: I am Klaus.
Mouse: And I am Mouse.
Together: And we just want to.. Pump.. [ clap ] ..you up!
Klaus: Alright. But before we can pump you up tonight, we have to answer a piece of viewer mail.
Mouse: Ya. Ya. This is a letter we received from a Max Univers. I'll only read an excerpt, so I don't go into his loser details. "Dear Klaus & Mouse: I have recently seen your.. mo-.. mo-"
Mouse: "...Your moronic show, and have wondered why you don't open your own gym to train basketball players. Maybe you are too stupid." [ crumples letter ] You know, maybe you thought this letter would make us angry; but it only makes us sad.
Klaus: Really, ya. We are sad, you know, because anyone who calls us "stupid" is really just jealous. Because their coach looks at us, then looks at his players, and realzies his team is full of little girly-men!
Mouse: Ya. Ya, girly-men. Hear me now and believe me later - but don't think about it ever, because, if you try to think, you might cause a flabalanche!
Mouse: Poor little girly-men, alone in their hilltop girly-gym!
Klaus: Sorry, Mr. Girly-Man, but here's a treat for your fans!
[ Klaus & Mouse flex their muscles egotistically ]
Mouse: Oh, and thank you so much for the letter. [ puts crumpled letter in his mouth and swallows ]
Klaus: Ya! Ya, don't think for a minute he's not eating it, because believe me he is!
Mouse: That was one delicious piece of girly-man.
Klaus: Ya! You know, but we're not here to eat. We're here to...
Together: Pump.. [ clap ] ..you up!
(Based on an original script from Saturday Night Live)
Rumors that junior guard Cavel Witter would be leaving the Jays at the end of the season have been rampant for weeks. Now that those rumors have been corroborated by actual sources contacted by actual reporters, and Witter has in fact made it official that he will transfer for his senior season, its no longer mere speculation, so lets examine it a bit further.
Witter transfered into Creighton from the Kansas City area, a juco player in the same recruiting class as Booker Woodfox -- although Witter played just one season in juco. Lost in all of the Booker talk was the fact that, before this past season, if you had to pick a player to have a breakout season, you'd have likely tabbed Witter over Woodfox. I know I would have. Their 2007-08 campaigns showed Woodfox to be a solid if unspectacular player, and Witter to be an explosive if inconsistent player.
Unfortunately, we know how the story ends: Woodfox became the MVC Player of the Year and an All-American, while Witter became buried on the bench and will not even finish his eligibility at Creighton.
He was never a fabulous defender, and his style of point guard play was a change-up from the standard pass-first style Dana Altman traditionally recruits, but man, could Witter score when he was hot! For a player who was never a regular starter, his ability to score played a huge role in three of the biggest wins of his two seasons at Creighton.
So, apparently Kenneth Kenny "Doc" Sadler is taking some heat over his comments about how playing Creighton does them no good. No less a source than Kenneth himself told the media that he's received emails and calls from "tons of folks" upset at both his tone and his words. He sat down with KETV to elaborate, and presumably, have the chance to backtrack.
But this being Kenneth, he offered no apologies, instead expanding his comments and digging an even deeper hole for himself with both Bluejay fans and, apparently, level-headed Huskers too.
You can watch the interview here, and you should, because the circuitous route he takes in explaining himself is fascinating. I'm not sure what he means by saying the Huskers would be better off playing Duke than Creighton, because that's a horrible analogy. Given their pedigree, pretty much everyone would be better off playing Duke. But Duke isn't gonna play Nebraska any more than they're going to play Creighton -- or pretty much any team is either of their conferences, for that matter.
Be sure not to miss his little white lie at the very beginning where he changes his story to claim the entire conversation started after a question about playing TWICE A YEAR. If that's actually true, than either the reporter (and every media outlet in Nebraska) is lying, or Kenneth has changed his story to paint himself in a better light. I don't know which and I won't speculate. But someone is not being truthful here.
Oh, and I've heard Dana Altman say on multiple occasions, both in person and in print, that he'd like to play twice, so for Kenneth to claim Dana has told him otherwise in private is insulting, disingenuous and wrong.
I did have a good laugh towards the end, though, as he tries so valiantly to pitch himself as a philanthropist, playing Creighton out of the kindness of his heart. That's gold.
If you're an honorable mention All-American, do you still list yourself as an All-American on your resume? I mean, most news outlets only list the First and Second Teams, and the players mentioned honorably are covered only in their hometown papers and blogs.
I say "Hell Yes". There are roughly 4,000 players in Division 1 Basketball, and around 50 of them are named All-Americans by the Associated Press. That's just over 1%.
Booker Woodfox, the Jays' guard from Lewisville, Texas, was named an All-American on Monday, placing him among the Top 1% of players in Division 1 hoops. I'd say that's cause for celebration, even if it is "just" an honorable mention. There's a litany of players considered among the Bluejay Bouguoise who weren't All-Americans (at least, not as named by the Associated Press, which is the only one that really matters, despite the litany of lesser awards listed in the media guide).
Sir Rodney Buford was. Kyle Korver was.
But Nate Funk and Anthony Tolliver were not. Ben Walker and Ryan Sears were not. Chad Gallagher and Bob Harstad were not.
Booker Woodfox is, and forever will be, an All-American.
Monday at the Kentucky game, I commented at one point to my buddy Rob that I hoped there was a recruit visiting. The atmosphere was that amazing, the crowd that awesome, that I wondered if any recruit -- no matter the caliber -- could leave without signing.
Turns out there was indeed a recruit visiting, and my hunch was correct: he signed before leaving. He's a helluva get, too, and exactly the type of player they need: an athletic 6'6" power forward who is a rebounding machine and is ready to step in and play right away.
From the Omaha World-Herald (emphasis mine):
Runnels sat beside Ethan Wragge, a 6-7 Minnesotan who signed with the Bluejays in the fall.
"We had a great time together," he said. "We both really got into that game. At first, we were just watching but by the end of the game, we were standing up and cheering and really getting into it. Right then, I felt like I was family and that I had to come to Creighton. That was the best atmosphere I've ever been at. I was getting goose bumps seeing the love the fans showed the players. It was amazing, and it made me want to suit up right then."
Runnels has some good size to him, a 6'6", 215 lb player who like Justin Carter (and Ben Walker before him) was recruited to play Division 1 football but chose basketball instead. I love those kind of guys; they generally tend to play tougher, don't shy away from contact and play bigger than their size would ordinarily indicate. Look at Walker, a guard who was often the team's leading rebounder. Or Carter, who was a BEAST against Kentucky, pulling down FOURTEEN rebounds in a game that was the zenith of a stretch-run where he was the Jays toughest player and toughest matchup.
With Runnels in the fold, imagine this lineup:
Lawson/Walker at the 5
Runnels/Millard at the 4
Carter/Korver/Harriman at the 3
Stinnett/Witter/Jones at the 2
Young/Bock/Witter at the 1
I like that a LOT. I'll have a lot more on the returning group as the summer goes on, but my basic thoughts are that Lawson and Walker are going to be the best post duo in the Valley the next two years. Unlike a lot of fans, I really really like Millard's game off the bench, especially at the 4 (and not out of position at the 5). Runnels getting substantial minutes at the 4 means Carter can slide down to the 3, where he'll be a nightmare matchup for pretty much every team in the conference, and many outside the conference too. And guard play is not, and has not been, a concern, nor will it be next year.
This is a HUGE addition. Welcome to Creighton, Wayne!
You can imagine my surprise and trepidation when I logged onto the Bluejay Cafe message board tonight and saw my handle as the title of a thread on the front page:
Sad Day for All, Especially Polyfro
Needless to say, I immediately clicked on this thread, curious to see what I was supposed to be sad about. It had been a good day, I'd thought: I'd supervised a commercial shoot that day, and after getting home, managed to make pancakes in a frying pan without burning them. Don't laugh. This is a tougher task than you imagine it to be. Without a griddle, pancakes are damn hard to cook.
I wouldn't classify it as a great day, but it certainly wasn't a sad day. I wondered what the writer of the thread, a loyal reader who goes by the handle "Jayball", knew about my day that I didn't. There's three things someone can do to piss me off post haste:
Spill my beer, steal my mini-donuts, and disrespect either Creighton or the Minnesota Twins. Do any of those three, and we're going to have trouble with a capital T, as a country western star once sang.
Add a temporary fourth item to that list.
Edward Anderson, inventor of the Lil' Orbits automatic donut machine and the man who perfected the batter that went with it, died at the age of 78. The inventor of the mini-donut, dead!
As I wrote on the message board:
"A loss to Creighton hurts us. A win over Creighton, the only thing it does is make our fans happy. It doesn't help you come Selection Sunday. That's just the way it is."
Those words from Kenneth Kenny "Doc" Sadler, head coach of Nebraska, just the latest in a slew of pot-stirring comments about Creighton from the Head Red. Or at least, that's the version that the Omaha World-Herald printed in a front-page story today. Since Day One, Sadler has taken opportunity after opportunity to take shots at the team down the road. An interesting tact to take, considering the fans he's speaking to tend to believe that school is irrelevant and the inferior program (despite ample facts to the contrary).
Having not grown up in this area, I don't have the deep-seated hatred of Nebraska that native Creightonians do. My attitude is more of indifference; the only reason I pay any more attention to them than, say, Iowa State or Missouri is because the Jays play them every year. I don't care for Sadler, but that's got nothing to do with Nebraska, per se. I didn't like Steve Alford or Bruce Weber, either. Its funny, all three coaches had something in common:
All three made no secret of their hatred for Creighton.
All I ask for as a fan, as a Jaybacker, and as an alum is for the team to play as hard as they possibly can for 40 minutes, leaving their guts, their heart, their soul, and everything they have on the court. If that's not enough to win the game, so be it. There is nothing to be ashamed of. If you do those things and come up short, I will do what I did at the conclusion of tonight's loss: stand and applaud each and every member of the team for an outstanding effort, because dammit, that sort of play is deserving of such recognition.
That was a whale of an effort, particularly defensively. I'm not sure what it looked like on TV, but in person, I can't ever remember witnessing a better off-ball defensive effort than the Jays executed on the All-American Jodie Meeks tonight. That was an absolute clinic. P'Allen Stinnett, Antoine Young and Josh Dotzler didn't just guard Meeks, they were in his face nearly every second he was on the court, and denied him from even catching the ball. It was simply extraordinary. When he did have open looks, he almost always nailed the shot, giving you a glimpse of what he might do against a worse defensive effort. That it happened so infrequently tonight is a credit to the men who stopped it from happening more often. You bet.
Furthermore, Kenny Lawson was a MAN tonight. Against the most talented big man he's likely ever faced in Patrick Patterson, he didn't just hold his own, he played toe to toe with him. In fact, you wouldn't be crazy if you made the argument Lawson outplayed him. Combined with the efforts of Kenton Walker, the Jays primary post players had 19 points, 8 rebounds, 3 blocked shots and were 8-14 from the field. Did I mention their defensive effort on Patterson was outstanding?
Everyone who got into the game had something to look back on and be proud of. Everyone.
Around Omaha, the buzz for tonight's game is palpable. Indeed, its been awhile since I've had so many random people ask me my opinion on the Jays game. I'll give you three examples. On Friday, I was at dinner and happened to have a Jays polo on and the waiter, the hostess, and two random patrons asked what I thought would happen on Monday night. On Saturday, I was at Target and had on a Creighton ballcap. The security guy at the door asked me about the game, as did the clerk who rang up my merchandise. And in the days since the matchup was finalized, I've gotten more emails from readers than at any time since the days leading up to the Jays-Salukis game in 2007.
So yeah, people are kinda excited. And it is a big game, make no mistake about it. Kentucky has played one true road game -- ONE -- against a team outside of the power-six conferences in the last decade. And they haven't played a road game in this part of the country, period, in at least 20 years (I got bored with the research when I got that far back and stopped). They may be downtrodden and in the midst of their worst season in two decades, but they're still Kentucky.
They're one of college basketball's glamour programs, second only to UCLA in championships won and second to no one in total victories. They have one of, if not the, most rabid fanbases in college sports. They have fans all over the country; those from nearby states are excited at the chance to see Kentucky play within driving distance and have been snatching up any and all available tickets to the game.
All of that said, it really sticks in my craw to hear people call this "Creighton's Super Bowl." No, it is not. Please, I beg you, stop saying that. It only goes to prove to the Jay Bilas' of the world that teams of Creighton's ilk deserve the second-class citizen treatment they receive. Don't believe me? Here's an email I got from a Kentucky fan on Saturday:
"I'm excited to see how Kentucky fares in this game. I have always been dubious of Doug Gottlieb and others when they claim that Southern Illinois, St. Mary's, and Creighton, among others, are as good as teams from the BCS leagues. They're not. Fact: you guys would struggle to finish .500 in the SEC or any other BCS league. But the argument that truly elite BCS programs never travel to play you on your courts is something I cannot refute. We don't. And it gives you mid-majors something to hold over us in an argument.
That's why Monday is an important litmus test for me. If Creighton is really as good as the guys on ESPN say they are, combined with the advantage of home court, they should win by 20 points. I mean, it should be a blowout. Kentucky is having the worst season in the 30 years I've followed them, and yet I really honestly believe they are still 10-15 points better than even the best of the aptly-named mid-major teams. So I look forward to your team proving my point, one way or the other."
Calling this Creighton's Super Bowl plays right into their hands, don't you see? Is it a big game? Sure it is. Am I marvelously excited for it? Absolutely. But truth be told, I was way more excited when Oklahoma State came here in 1998, or when Iowa came here in 1999, because both teams were ranked at the time of their visits.
It is NOT the biggest game in program history, nor will a victorious outcome somehow "validate" the program. Unfortunately, I feel I'm losing the battle here, and that most fans really do believe this is the biggest game ever. For that, I am sad, and I will shed a single tear into my Diet Pepsi that the NCAA is forcing me to drink at the game because of their Gameday Prohibition laws. Bastards.
Ah, Kentucky. The winningest program in the history of college basketball with 1,987 victories. Seven National Championships. 43 conference titles. 47 All-Americans. Too many NBA lottery picks to mention.
Its because of the facts in the paragraph above that the prevailing opinion seems to be that the Jays have to play their absolute best game to have a chance to win. That's unequivocally, absolutely, positively the most absurd thing I've heard all week. Yes, Jodie Meeks and Patrick Patterson are wonderful players, NBA lottery picks both. But the players who surround them are very average. The team finished fourth in an extraordinarily weak SEC. The Wildcats are seeded #4 in the NIT for a reason. They're a good team, not a great team. They're beatable. Notice I didn't say the Jays WILL win -- I merely said they CAN win. To think otherwise is simply untrue.
The 'Cats were three-buzzer beater losses to LSU, Louisville and South Carolina away from being a 7 or 8 seed in the "other" tournament. But the last I checked, a 7 or 8 seed is never deemed "unbeatable" in that tournament. If the Jays had made the "other" tournament and drew a 7 or 8 seed with Kentucky's talent but a different name on their jersey, would people be claiming the Jays would have to play their absolute best to even have a chance? I'm guessing no.
Kentucky is still Kentucky, because of all of the reasons outlined in the lead paragraph. But people seem to believe that the talent and success of previous Wildcat teams somehow has any bearing whatsoever on Monday's game. Guess what: it doesn't. None of those players will be suiting up for the game. The jersey will still say KENTUCKY across the front, but the players occupying those jerseys are not the unbeatable juggernaut of years past.
The Jays can win this game, and they don't have to play their absolute best game ever to do so. After the jump, we'll analyze how they can accomplish that.