Creighton's Pink-Out game provides a gauge of just how far its basketball program has come in the past 12 months.
A year ago, the Bluejays' Pink-Out opponent was Missouri Valley rival Bradley. An Omaha television station broadcast the game locally.
Saturday night, Creighton will square off in a Big East game against Georgetown, one of college basketball's truly elite programs. The 7 p.m. contest will be carried nationally by Fox Sports 1.
“It's pretty cool to have Georgetown coming to town,” Creighton forward Doug McDermott said. “There are probably not a lot of fans that thought this day would ever be here. It's pretty special.
“We're kind of caught in the midst of it right now but when it's all over, I think we'll look back and be pretty proud of it.”
Creighton fans started drooling about the prospect of playing a program such as Georgetown since the second it was announced the Bluejays were going to be a part of the reconfigured Big East.
The Bluejays have had rare opportunities to play college basketball bluebloods in the past, but those meetings were usually one-shot deals, such as Kentucky's visit to the CenturyLink Center for the 2009 National Invitation Tournament or NCAA tournament games against Kansas, Duke or North Carolina.
Now, Creighton will face a program that owns one national championship and five appearances in the Final Four twice a season every season on national television.
In a strange twist, many of the casual fans around the country who might tune in for the game won't be doing so to check out the Hoyas. They are struggling, having lost three straight Big East games and four of their past five. They are in sixth place in the league with a 3-4 record and 11-7 overall.
Instead, it's Creighton that has emerged as a team to watch after its astounding shooting performance in Monday night's 28-point rout of fourth-ranked Villanova. The Bluejays, ranked 24th in this week's coaches' poll, made their first nine 3-pointers en route to knocking down a school-record 21 in the 96-68 victory.
“I've never seen anything like that,” said Big East TV analyst Bill Raftery, who has been involved in college basketball for a half century as a player, coach and broadcaster. “And what was lost in all of that was the unselfishness.”
Raftery said just about everyone he's talked to since Monday's game, including Rollie Massimino, who won a national title with Villanova, also couldn't believe what they saw.
“I asked him if he had ever seen anything like that,” Raftery said. “He said, 'Never.' It was almost a cultural shock. The way Creighton plays is enjoyable to watch.
“They do so many nice things on the offensive end, which makes everyone forget that they do guard OK, too. But if you can't score, you can't play with them.”
And that could provide a key to Saturday's matchup against the Hoyas. Georgetown ranks next-to-last in the 10-team Big East in scoring, with its average a full 10 points lower than Creighton's conference-leading 82.6 points per game.
The Hoyas average a league-worst 65.1 points in their seven Big East games. Georgetown has played its last four games without its third- and fourth-leading scorers, Joshua Smith and Jabril Trawick.
The Hoyas will be without Smith the rest of the season. Coach John Thompson III announced Friday that he is sidelined by academic issues. Trawick, the team's best perimeter defender, remains out indefinitely with a broken jaw.
“Any time you have that kind of personnel problems and you have to piece-meal it together, it's not easy,” Creighton coach Greg McDermott said. “They still are a very capable basketball team, so we're going to have to be ready to defend.
“On the other end, Georgetown has always been known for playing hard-nosed defense. Easy baskets are going to be hard to come by.”
Still, it could be argued that the Hoyas are playing more like Bradley than the powerhouse program they have been in the past. The loss of Smith and Trawick has shortened the rotation and left Georgetown without a consistent inside scoring threat.
That's put added pressure on guards Markel Starks and D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera, who have combined to account for 46.3 percent of the team's scoring this season.
“This program was not built to feel sorry for itself,” Thompson said. “We have to go back and we have to fight. We have to figure out a way to have better communication on defense. I think that's the main thing.”
It also wouldn't hurt if the Hoyas could learn how to finish games. Georgetown held a 17-point lead on Xavier in the second half, then allowed the Musketeers to close an 80-67 win with a 16-0 run.
The Hoyas squandered a 10-point second-half lead against Seton Hall by failing to make a field goal in the final 9:44 of a 67-57 loss. On Monday, Georgetown led Marquette by three points with four seconds to play but wound up losing in overtime 80-72.
Thompson said after that game his team is not ready to panic.
“We are seven games into an 18-game (conference) season,” he said. “There is a lot of season to be played. Are we in a funk right now? Absolutely.
“We have to start making the right plays at the right time. That's what we have not been doing.”
Notes: This will be Georgetown's first trip to the state of Nebraska. Creighton and the Hoyas have played just once previously, with the Bluejays winning the meeting in 1970 at the Gold Coast Classic in Florida. ... This will be Creighton's third Pink-Out game to raise cancer awareness. A jersey auction raised $48,247, more than the $45,044 raised the first two years by similar auctions. Doug McDermott's No. 3 jersey brought $11,603 this year, while the No. 10 worn by Grant Gibbs brought $7,600 and Ethan Wragge's No. 34 jersey had a winning bid of $5,100. ... Doug McDermott needs 28 points to reach 500 for the fourth straight season. He'll also start Saturday's game 22nd on the NCAA's all-time scoring list with 2,688 points. If he scores his average of 24.8, he would move into the 19th spot.
WASHINGTON (AP) — Georgetown starting center Joshua Smith is academically ineligible and will miss the remainder of the season.
Smith was third in scoring at 11.5 points for the Hoyas (11-7, 3-3 Big East), despite missing five games because of grades. He shot 65 percent from the field in his first season after transferring from UCLA.
The 6-foot-10, 350-pound Smith averaged 3.4 rebounds in 13 games.
Though foul trouble and conditioning limited Smith to 20 minutes per game, he provided Georgetown with interior scoring. The Hoyas, who play at Creighton on Saturday night, have lost three straight and are 1-4 without Smith.
After playing two seasons with UCLA, Smith left the Bruins six games into the 2012-13 season and joined the Hoyas in January 2013. Shortly before the 2013-14 season, the NCAA ruled him eligible to play for Georgetown.
The Hoyas also are without starting guard Jabril Trawick (broken jaw), who has missed the last four games.
“Now here in the middle of the season, between (Joshua) and Jabril, you lose two starters. You have to reshuffle everything,” coach John Thompson III said. “But this is Georgetown. We have a set of standards here. Everyone has a responsibility above and beyond what goes on those doors right there.”
Thompson said Smith would practice with the team in the hope of becoming eligible for the 2014-15 season.