Ethan Wragge admits he doesn't know what to make of the fake beards, foam axes and plaid shirts that will be part of the scene at Friday night's Creighton-DePaul basketball game.
It's Lumberjack Night in honor of the Bluejays' bearded Minnesotan with the knack for knocking down 3s.
“It will be fun, and I'm not sure what to expect,” Wragge said. “I can't tell if they're making fun of me or if they're laughing with me.”
So, will the Bluejays' lumberjack don a plaid warm-up suit for pregame activities?
“I don't know yet,” he said, chuckling. “I don't know if I'm allowed to or what the circumstances will be. We'll see.”
Wragge knows what will take place in the stands at the CenturyLink Center will be all in good fun but he, along with his teammates, also are aware that there is some serious business that requires their attention on the court.
The 12th-ranked Bluejays, who have not played since Jan. 28, are beginning the second half of their first season of Big East play. They emerged from the first half in a first-place tie with Villanova, with each team posting 8-1 records in league play.
As one of three schools that joined the so-called Catholic Seven to form the new Big East, Creighton took advantage of its first time through the conference.
Uniqueness on offense — a starting center (Wragge) who spends most of his time on the perimeter, the spectacular individual skills of Doug McDermott and no shortage of shooters — boggled opponents getting their first look at the Bluejays.
That could be less of an edge for Creighton the second time through the league.
“I think it's going to be a lot more difficult in all facets,” Creighton guard Grant Gibbs said. “Before, teams hadn't played us. Now, they're going to be seeing us for a second time. Plus we're positioned near the top of the league, so that's going to make games tougher.
“A lot is riding on it, and it's going to be very difficult from game to game.”
At the same time, knowing what's coming and actually stopping it will continue to create a dilemma for opponents.
“We have a lot more tape on them and we have played them once,” DePaul coach Oliver Purnell said. “But they were excellent then, and they're excellent now. The thing about them is that they're so different.
“They are different than most teams in terms of their offensive approach, which makes perfect sense with their personnel. They have the ability to spread you and shoot the 3, but they score inside more than a lot of people think. And everything they do is anchored by a great player.”
That player is McDermott, who comes into Friday's game needing 29 points — four more than his season's scoring average — to move into 17th place on the NCAA's all-time scoring chart. McDermott stands at 2,741 points, with former Duke star J.J. Redick holding the 17th spot on the chart with 2,769 points.
McDermott scored 19 points in Creighton's 81-62 win over DePaul a month ago, but was hindered by a shoulder injury late in the first half. Gibbs also was injured against the Blue Demons, and he has not played since because of a dislocated right kneecap.
Gibbs has practiced the past three days. Barring complications, it appears the Bluejays will try to at least get him back on the court Friday.
“I think we'll be able to give it a go for a little while,” Gibbs said before Thursday's practice. “Probably not extended minutes. We'll just have to see where we're at before the game tomorrow.”
Creighton brings an 18-3 record into its first February game. The Bluejays entered February last year with a 19-3 record. Two seasons ago, they came out of January 20-2.
After winning the first game in February in each of the past two seasons, Creighton proceeded to lose three straight. The Jays ended up getting things straightened out and finished each season in the NCAA tournament, but they haven't forgotten about those rough patches.
“If you look around the country, I think every team has had a spell where they haven't played great,” Creighton coach Greg McDermott said. “We've been able to avoid that for the most part, and hopefully we can get through this month and play good basketball.
“The reality is there are no easy games in this conference. We've stayed relatively healthy with the exception of Grant's injury. We lost a key component to our team, and we went 5-1 without him. Hopefully, getting him back makes us stronger and better equipped for this run in February.”
Wragge hopes so. He grew a beard last season but shaved it off after his team lost those three February games. He started growing this season's beard in November, and he would like it to see the end of the season.
“There was a reason I shaved last year,” Wragge said, “and I don't want to have to do that again.”
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Video: Gibbs, Wragge and Greg McDermott preview the DePaul game