At 2:05 pm EST, the Creighton Bluejays will face the Wichita State Shockers for the Missouri Valley Conference Championship. Here’s what you need to know:
I almost ended the Creighton preview right there, because Doug McDermott (“I really have to drop a deuce” face notwithstanding) is Creighton basketball. The junior Player of the Year candidate has won MVC Player of the Year two years running and was named first team All-American last season. McDermott, a forward and son of Creighton’s head coach Greg, averages 23.4 PPG and 7.6 RPG, and most interestingly when considering this matchup, McDermott went off for 41 points against Wichita State just last week, and despite his big man status, he’s a great shooter from beyond the arc as well as inside and at the free throw line. Perhaps you might call him the complete package.
McDermott was also part of the 2011 FIBA U-19 team that went to Latvia, where (if you believe Matt’s tennis posts and Latvia’s official website), he probably enjoyed lampreys, sweet and sour bread, caraway cheese and beer. Creighton has other players, too. One is named Gregory Echenique, but you’ll never remember that or the fact that he averages 9.6 PPG and 6.5 RPG. That’s perfectly all right. It’s the Doug McDermott show all the way.
Here’s the main thing I’ve learned about Wichita State thus far: it’s Wichita, not Witchita. I just had to make a whole lots of corrections, but I have no doubt that you faithful commenters would have kindly helped me out in the comments section. I have issues with Gillispie (not Gillespie?!) too, but that’s another story.
Second in the MVC, Wichita State has had a very respectable season and has even dabbled in the rankings this year (then again, who hasn’t?). At 26-7 overall and 12-6 in the MVC, the Shockers (I hate that word) started the season very strong at 19-2 before dropping three straight and two of their last four. They don’t really have any signature wins on their resume, so a MVC win over McDermott would go a long way for seeding in the NCAA tournament (which they seem to be comfortably in). En route to today’s finals, they beat Missouri State and Illinois State by double digits. Easy peasy.
Who’s their guy? Cleanthony Early, a man whose parents I assume had a romance akin to that of Cleopatra and Marc Antony. It’s the only explanation. Early, a junior forward, averages 14 PPG and 5.2 RPG but has been held to single digits in the MVC tournament thus far. Keep an eye on senior forward Carl Hall as well- averaging 12.8 PPG and 7.2 RPG, he’s picked up Early’s slack in the last few games of the season by going for 16, 18, and 15 points in his last three games.
In the MVC Tournament thus far, Creighton (the top seed) has rolled through Drake and Indiana State without breaking a sweat. During the regular conference play, the two teams split the series with each winning at home. In early January, Wichita beat Creighton 67-64, despite shooting 4-23 from three point range and 9-19 from the free throw line. It was the kind of ugly, gritty win in which a home environment may make all the difference. Hall had a strong double-double in that game with 17 points and 13 rebounds, while Creighton clanked free throws down the stretch and McDermott’s 25 points weren’t enough to carry the Bluejays through.
However, the Bluejays and Shockers last met just over a week ago, and McDermott and his clique enjoyed an easy Senior Day 91-79 win, with fans chanting “ONE MORE YEAR!” for McDermott. To borrow from Not Jerry Tipton, this does not bode well for Wichita State. Witchita State can’t match Creighton when their hittin’ their Dougie (I’m the first writer to ever crack that joke, right?), and Creighton should have their way with Wichita. I’m betting on Creighton by a dime.