23 December 2011


The game went about as expected in the world as seen through kenpom's eyes.  Due to highly efficient performances from both offenses the score was a bit higher than expected, but the post-game rankings for both teams and #21/23 Creighton's 72% win probability if the two teams laced 'em up again tonight in Omaha remain largely unchanged from pre-game expectations.

So if the game in fact went largely according to plan then why do NU fans suddenly feel so sure that NU doesn't have what it takes to make the NCAAs?  Were there irrational expectations prior to last night's game?  Maybe, but we think it's mostly typical post-game "the sky is falling" reaction to a loss from fans.  In our view we have a hard time watching this game and concluding that the NCAAs dream is once again dead.  To the contrary once time passes and the dust settles we are confident that we will be able to look back at this game as evidence that NU is very much in the mix for the NCAAs.

Here's why.  Despite some questionable foul calls that we shrug off as typical home court bias and despite Creighton gaining nine points on NU over 5+ minutes while an unconscious Drew Crawford (34 points, 13-17, 3-4) was forced to sit with four fouls, the game hung in the balance with 8 minutes and the score knotted at 58.  In a game played on the road against a ranked opponent in a very hostile environment that is a sign of a team that belongs.

Creighton managed to put the game on ice with a 20-10 run over the next five minutes.  This run was partly a result of their figuring out the 1-3-1 but also from some fortunate Creighton bounces.  The run started with a misguided three point shot that drew iron and bounced high off the glass to ultimately fall through the hoop.  This was the second such lucky bounce for the BJs on a three pointer.  Creighton then extended the lead to seven points when another BJ rattled home a three and got a freebie when the ref fell for the good old shooter flop and whistled Cobb for being in the proximity.

The ultimate dagger occurred around the 4 minute mark when NU failed to corral a rebound as Sobo and Mirk fought each other for the ball and knocked it out of bounds (can somebody please yell SAME!!!!????).  NU had a chance to make amends by grabbing the ensuing rebound, but once again fate would have the ball bounce long and directly to a BJ).  On the third opportunity Creighton got the ball down low to McDermott who laid the ball in for a 78-68 lead.

There is no denying that the BJs played well last night.  But so did NU.  If it were not for some questionable refereeing and some unfortunate bounces NU was positioned to sneak out of O-town with a top 25 roadie scalp.  It was not meant to be, but NU will live on to fight for the NCAAs in conference.  Conventional wisdom says 9-9 is the bar, and this team has it in them.

Next up is NU's first conference game at Columbus to take on #2/2 Ohio State.  This game will undoubtedly be a huge challenge, but as with all challenges there comes opportunity.  NU showed last year that it could hang with the Buckeyes in E-town and down in Indianapolis.  We are penciling in a L but would not be surprised if NU hangs around to make the end of this game interesting.