Head Coach: Doug McDermott
Location: Omaha, NE
Conference: Big East
Mascot: Billy the Bluejay
Last time out: Lost to MVC replacement Loyola
Drink not to order: $11 bloody mary garnished with a Jack LInks beef stick and a Clausen pickle spear
Year in Div 1: 3rd
Player to watch: Cole Huff
Huff leads the team in minutes, scoring, shot attempts, and is the one 3pt hucker (Zierden, Hegner) who will also drive to the hoop. On Sunday Huff injured his right shoulder, hasn't practiced since, and is a game time decision. His absence from the lineup means you have to play a lot more James Milliken, TOBY Hegner, and Zach Hansen than Creighton might want to see. If he does play, it's possible you see a main offensive cog with little touch from long range. It could be the edge in what should be a close game.
Player to watch: Mo Watson
The other Div 1 transfer has picked up where he left off at Boston U, an assist machine who can also score. At his best, Waston will pick apart the Huskers when he isn't driving to the lane. At his worst, he'll erratically force passes and jack up 16 ft jumpers. How tightly will the Huskers play him?
With some apologizes to UNO, welcome to the 2015 edition of the Creighton - Nebraska rivalry. While UNO might one day work themselves into Wichita St. levels in the state of Nebraska, they're still just that team that plays in the Summit league that neither team, especially Creighton, wants to play. The Jays used to be that team until they made the jump to the Big East, which like it or not, is a big boy conference. The Jays - Huskers matchup is no longer a little-big brother matchup...it's a matchup of peers.
It's possible that the Jays never make the jump from the MVC into the Big East without Doug McDermott and his departure has left a void that Creighton has had trouble filling. After a promising start last year, a loss at North Texas started a 9 game skid that eventually saw Creighton with its first losing season since 1996. Greg McDermott has reloaded this year with Div 1 transfers Mo Watson and Cole Huff with mixed results. Are the Jays building a bridge to the future or are they applying band-aids? Time will tell.
The Jays make 3s and they don't foul, the worst type of matchup for Miles' previous FT dependent teams, defensive teams. This year marks the start of the infusion of talent thanks to the 2014 NCAA tournament run and this is a squad that can now make 3s, not be befuddled by zone defenses, and is deep enough to rotate cold players out. The Huskers are 0-3 against top 50 teams and 6-0 in other games. The next two against Creighton and Rhode Island should give a clearer view of how good of a Nebraska team we have this year.
It's going to be hard for the Huskers to outshoot Creighton at home so turnovers and rebounds will be crucial for extra possessions. Will the crowd fluster the Huskers into easy baskets the other way? Can the Huskers take advantage of the smaller Creighton guards on those long rebounds? Can the Huskers stay out of foul trouble?
If the Huskers can weather the crowd and the inevitable Jays run(s), the pressure starts to shift from a Nebraska team who's been overwhelmed by Creighton to a Jay's team that has lost gut-punch after gut-punch game in the last two years. The Jays have they home court advantage, but I'll take the team with the best player.
Prediction: Nebraska 72 - Creighton 70