Jays-WSU: Early March Madness - Omaha.com
Published Saturday, March 2, 2013 at 1:00 am / Updated at 3:24 pm
Jays-WSU: Early March Madness
Winner is Missouri Valley regular-season champion and top seed in MVC tournament.

When: 1:05 p.m. Saturday
Where: CenturyLink Center
Records: WSU 24-6, 12-5 Valley; CU 23-7, 12-5
Radio: 590 AM KXSP

WICHITA STATE (24-6, 12-5)
F Carl Hall, 6-8, Sr., 12.3
C Ehimen Orukpe, 7-0, Sr., 3.1
G M. Armstead, 6-0, Sr., 10.0
G Demetric Williams, 6-2, Sr., 8.5
G Tekele Cotton, 6-2, So., 6.1

CREIGHTON (23-7, 12-5)
F Doug McDermott, 6-8, Jr., 22.8
C G. Echenique, 6-9, Sr., 9.6
G Austin Chatman, 6-0, So., 7.6
G Grant Gibbs, 6-5, Sr., 8.6
G Jahenns Manigat, 6-1, Jr., 6.1

>> Wichita State teams also were involved the last two times the Valley season came down to a winner-take-all final matchup. The Shockers lost to Tulsa in 1985, and Missouri State beat Wichita State to close the 2010-11 conference season.
>> Creighton leads the series 53-45, but the Shockers have won six out of nine meetings, including the past two in Omaha.
>> Ethan Wragge needs two 3-pointers to pass Rodney Buford and move into third place on CU's all-time chart. Buford had 212 3-point baskets in his career.
>> A win would give the Bluejays their 15th Valley title (eight outright, seven shared) and tie Oklahoma State for the most regular-season championships.
>> Saturday's game will be Creighton's seventh against a team with a top 50 RPI ranking. The Bluejays have split the first six games.

Creighton and Wichita State find themselves staring at a basketball opportunity of a lifetime.

The winner of the 1 p.m. game walks out of the CenturyLink Center a champion.

“You can go a whole career as a coach and as a player and not have an opportunity like this,'' Creighton coach Greg McDermott said. “I've been doing this for 20-some years, and this is the first time as a coach that I've been playing for a conference championship.

“I've been part of teams that have had it decided by then, and I've been a part of teams that have come up short with a couple games to go. That's what makes Saturday's game so meaningful and special.”

Creighton and Wichita State come into the game tied for the Missouri Valley Conference lead with 12-5 records. Saturday's game marks the third time in the past 30 years that two teams tied for first place will face each other to end the regular season with an outright title on the line.

The Bluejays have won seven outright championships, and never have faced the winner-takes-all scenario in their regular-season finale.

“It's Wichita, it's Senior Night and we're also playing for a championship,” Creighton center Gregory Echenique said. “This one is going to be big.”

Add to Saturday's intrigue is that this might be the last regular-season game between the longtime rivals. According to media reports, Creighton is emerging as a leading candidate for a spot in the new league being started by seven Catholic schools that have left the Big East.

The league will begin play next season, meaning this 99th meeting between the Bluejays and Shockers could be the last regularly-scheduled matchup. Significant but hardly impactful, given so many other high stakes associated with Saturday's game.

“Nothing we do really affects what is going to happen,” Creighton guard Grant Gibbs said. “It's not like if we win this game, we're going to be in (the new conference). Our attention is focused on what's at stake. That stuff is going to work itself out.”

Join the conversation on the Bluejays Today Facebook page.

The teams reached this point because of what has transpired in the first 17 Valley games. Creighton and Wichita State got off to fast conference starts, with the Bluejays unbeaten in Valley play heading into the Jan. 19 meeting in Wichita.

The Shockers, who had lost early in league play to Evansville, posted a 67-64 win that day. A three-game skid dropped Wichita State a game behind the Bluejays, but Creighton had its three-game slide to slip a game behind in the standings with four games to play.

The teams went into Wednesday's action with Creighton needing a win at Bradley to assure itself of playing for a share of the title, while Wichita State could have clinched the championship with a home win against Evansville. The Bluejays got their win but the Purple Aces pulled out a 59-56 victory to leave the teams tied.

Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall is uncertain how the loss will impact his team Saturday.

“We'll find out at 1, how we start out in that game,” Marshall said. “We can't dwell on that last game. We've had some success against them of late, and the guys can recall that.

“They're probably thinking more of our game here this year in Wichita more than they are the Evansville game. Last time we were in Omaha, it was really a nice outcome for us. We've got enough guys that walked out of there feeling that feeling. It's going to be difficult, but every road game is difficult.”

The Shockers posted an 89-68 win in Omaha last season. In this season's earlier meeting, Wichita State struggled to make shots but a 23-5 edge in second-chance point that grew out of 22 offensive rebounds helped swing the day the Shockers' way.

“If we rebound better than we did the first time we played them and take care of the basketball, we can put ourselves in a position to win,” Creighton forward Doug McDermott said. “We can't let the emotions get to us.

“They're a really good team and it's going to be a tough battle, but this is just what we want.”

The emotions of the day might provide some extra juice for the normally staid atmosphere of the CenturyLink. Creighton hasn't won an outright Valley championship since 2001. The thought of pulling off the feat against its biggest rival on the last day of the regular season should have pulse rates soaring.

The Shockers know what they are in for with this visit.

“It's their Senior Night and they're going to play hard,” forward Carl Hall said. “I don't think their gym is as loud as ours, but there's a lot more people. It could be (as loud) if they get going.”

The Shockers' precision performance in Omaha a season ago quieted a record turnout of 18,735. Their 21-point margin of victory represents Creighton's most lopsided loss in three seasons on Greg McDermott's watch.

He downplays that, saying he has trouble remembering what happened yesterday, let alone more than a year ago. Gibbs said the Bluejays might be able to use that outcome for some added motivation Saturday.

“It's not something I've thought about a ton,” he said. “Obviously, we're two different teams but it still sticks in the back of our minds.”

Contact the writer:

402-679-2298, steve.pivovar@owh.com, twitter.com/PivOWH

Contact the writer: Steven Pivovar

stevepivovar@hotmail.com    |   402-679-2298    |  

Steven Pivovar is a staff writer for The Omaha World-Herald and primarily covers Creighton athletics and the College World Series.

A voice of experience: Ex-gang member has helped lead fight against Omaha violence
The thrill of the skill: Omaha hosts statewide contest for students of the trades
Intoxicated man with pellet gun climbs billboard's scaffold; is arrested
Last day of 2014 Legislature: Praise, passage of a last few bills and more on mountain lions
'The war is not over,' Chambers says, but legislative session about is
A recap of what got done — and what didn't — in the 2014 legislative session
PAC funded by Senate candidate Ben Sasse's great-uncle releases Shane Osborn attack ad
Teen killed at Gallagher Park was shot in head as he sat in SUV, friend who was wounded says
When judge asks, Nikko Jenkins says ‘I killed them’
New UNO center strengthens ties between campus, community
Threat found in Millard West bathroom deemed 'not credible'
New public employee pay data: Douglas, Lancaster, Sarpy Counties, plus utilities
Nebrasks health officials to advertise jobs via drive-thru
Coral Walker named Omaha police officer of the year
Sarah Palin, Mike Lee coming to Nebraska for Ben Sasse rally
Prescription drug drop-off is April 26
Database: How much did Medicare pay your doctor?
Rather than doing $250K in repairs, owner who lives in lot behind 94-year-old house in Dundee razes it
NB 30th Street lane closed
State Patrol, Omaha police conduct vehicle inspections
Bernie Kanger formally promoted to Omaha fire chief
U.S. House incumbents have deeper pockets than their challengers
Nancy's Almanac, April 17, 2014: Trees save money
Ex-Iowan behind landmark free speech case recounts story in Bellevue
Gov. Heineman signs water bill; sponsor calls it 'landmark legislation'
< >
Breaking Brad: At least my kid never got stuck inside a claw machine
We need a new rule in Lincoln. If your kid is discovered inside the claw machine at a bowling alley, you are forever barred from being nominated for "Mother of the Year."
Breaking Brad: How many MECA board members can we put in a luxury suite?
As a stunt at the Blue Man Group show, MECA board members are going to see how many people they can stuff into one luxury suite.
Kelly: Creighton's McDermotts put good faces on an Omaha tradition
A comical roast Wednesday night in Omaha brought fans of Creighton basketball laughter by the bucketful. This time it was McJokes, not McBuckets, that entertained the Bluejay crowd.
Kelly: New $24M UNO center embodies spirit of newlywed crash victim
Jessica Lutton Bedient was killed by a drunken driver at age 26 in 2010. Thursday, the widowed husband and other family members will gather with others at the University of Nebraska at Omaha to dedicate a permanent memorial to Jessica.
Breaking Brad: How much would you pay for a corn dog?
The Arizona Diamondbacks have a new concession item: a $25 corn dog. For that kind of money, it should be stuffed with Bitcoin.
Deadline Deal thumbnail
The Jaipur in Rockbrook Village
Half Off Fine Indian Cuisine & Drinks! $15 for Dinner, or $7 for Lunch
Buy Now
< >
Omaha World-Herald Contests
Enter for a chance to win great prizes.
OWH Store: Buy photos, books and articles
Buy photos, books and articles
Travel Snaps Photo
Going on Vacation? Take the Omaha World-Herald with you and you could the next Travel Snaps winner.
Click here to donate to Goodfellows
The 2011 Goodfellows fund drive provided holiday meals to nearly 5,000 families and their children, and raised more than $500,000 to help families in crisis year round.
Want to get World-Herald stories sent directly to your home or work computer? Sign up for Omaha.com's News Alerts and you will receive e-mails with the day's top stories.
Can't find what you need? Click here for site map »