PHILADELPHIA — The winner of Friday’s NCAA tournament game between Creighton and Cincinnati is expected to advance to a third-round game Sunday against Duke.
Of course, Albany could have something to say about that, especially if the Great Danes could channel their inner Lehigh in Friday’s game at the Wells Fargo Center.
Duke is a No. 2 seed for the second straight year but the Blue Devils are hoping to stick around a little longer than they did last year. Lehigh became the sixth No. 15 seed in tournament history to knock off a No. 2 when the Mountain Hawks stunned Duke 75-70 at Greensboro, N.C.
The Great Danes want to become the seventh No. 15 seed to make some history, although the America East champions know that tall order was made even tougher based on what happened to Mike Krzyzewski’s Blue Devils last March.
“I read somewhere that he said no one was going to sneak up on them this year,” Albany guard Jacob Iati said. “That makes the challenge tougher, but we’re ready for it.”
When Krzyzewski met with reporters on Thursday, he downplayed using what happened a year ago as motivation for Friday’s game.
“There’s no need to go back to good or bad experiences because not all these guys were involved in that,” Krzyzewski said. “We’re not reminding the seniors that they won a national championship when they were freshmen. We’re not talking about what we did last year because it’s a totally different team.
“My feeling is to stay in the moment. Whatever happened in the past, good or bad, has happened in the past.”
Duke’s Mason Plumlee agreed.
“We have a lot more motivation than that,” he said, referring to last year’s upset. “We have different players, we have guys that weren’t a part of that team. Our team’s motivation is something bigger than the way last year’s season ended.”
No word from Doug
Creighton forward Doug McDermott endured another round of questions about whether he’ll return for his senior season or head off for professional basketball.
That line of questioning heated up before Creighton played its last regular-season home game on March 2. It was a hot topic at the Missouri Valley tournament in St. Louis, and McDermott got peppered with it again during Thursday’s session with the media.
As he has done previously, McDermott declined to provide any hint as to which way he might be leaning. He has said he will sit down with his father, Creighton coach Greg McDermott, after the season to weigh the options before making a decision.
“Either way, I’ve had a great experience at Creighton,” he said. “I obviously dreamed of playing in the NBA someday but that’s not what I’m focused on now. I’m just going to focus on tomorrow’s game, and everything else will take care of itself.”
Like father, like son
Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin appreciates how the McDermotts have made the father-son, player-coach relationship work the past three seasons.
In high school, Cronin played for his father, Harold, who won more than 400 games during his coaching career.
Not that Cronin ever achieved the level of success that Doug has while playing for his father.
“Greg lets his son shoot a lot more than my dad let me shoot,” Cronin said. “For obvious reasons.”
Parity alive in tourney
The deep runs that teams such as Butler and Virginia Commonwealth have made in recent tournaments have reinforced to Georgetown coach John Thompson III that parity has truly become a part of the college game.
“We categorize teams — this is a power-six team, this is a mid-major team, this is a low-major team,” Thompson said. “We walk in with these labels.
“But when you take away the label and you take away the names on the jerseys and you put 10 bodies on the court, it’s close. I mean, everybody is pretty much the same.”
Creighton is about to trade one label for another as the Bluejays next season will move from the mid-major Missouri Valley to the high-major Big East. That won’t diminish the respect the Bluejays have for the teams from their soon-to-be former league.
“Going up night in and night out against the teams in our conference, you gain that respect and you understand why Butler and VCU can make those deep runs,” Creighton guard Grant Gibbs said. “They play in conferences that have really well-coached teams and are battle-tested in their own way.”
Bluejay center Gregory Echenique started his career at the high-major old Big East before transferring to Creighton.
“Sometimes I feel like people buy into big names too much,” he said. “Then they get surprised when teams that are underrated do the things they do.
“This is the NCAA tournament. Each team should have some respect because they worked just as hard as any other team to get here.”
Teams approach Thursday’s 40-minute public practice at the game venue in different ways. For a couple, it was more of a glorified shooting drill. Creighton’s players actually worked up a pretty good sweat during their workout.
Sophomore center Will Artino, who sprained his ankle nine days ago, participated in his fourth straight practice. He appeared to be moving close to full speed.