I've long had mixed feelings about Creighton basketball. I like Dana Altman; he's a great coach who produces great results for the Bluejays. His teams are consistent winners in their conference, and he's always a class act.
Some of their fans are another matter entirely. The bandwagon for Creighton hoops has gotten extremely large, and they've picked up a lot of fans that think Creighton basketball is something that it isn't. Fed in large matter by a lowly rated sports talk show host, the "BrieJay" fan considers their team to be a major power, held back only by the "BCS" conference schools that conspire to keep schools like Creighton down. ("BrieJay" fan refers to the trash-talking bandwagon fan who has no idea who Rick Johnson was, and doesn't apply to long standing CU fans who have supported their program for years.)
Last week's indignation over missing the NCAA tournament gave way to euphoria at the idea of Kentucky playing in Omaha last night. So despite tornadoes and hail storms rampaging through the Omaha area at tipoff, Creighton's fans filled the Qwest Center for their eagerly awaited opportunity for revenge against a "BCS" conference foe. Namely, the winningest team in college basketball history.
But failure to convert free throws down the stretch let the Wildcats retake the lead late, and when a Bluejay three point shot clanked off the rim at the buzzer, the Bluejays season ended in the NIT. Exciting game, to be sure. (I admit; I missed most of the game after getting caught in the tail part of the storm. So I'm taking the words of others as to the quality of the game.)
But it was the reaction afterwards that struck me. Kentucky finished their season tied with Vanderbilt for 4th in their division. Fans are so unhappy with coach Billy Gillespie that they're ready to send him packing after just two years. They weren't even close to getting an NCAA tournament berth; getting seeded 3rd in the NIT.
Listening to the Brie on the Hilltop, the Wildcats are once again the superpower they were in the past, stocked with NBA first round draft picks. It took Creighton's best game of the season to compete with Kentucky, and even that wasn't enough against the juggernaut that is Kentucky basketball.
Nevermind that Creighton was the higher seed...at home...of course...
In doing so, the BrieJay fan finally admitted the fraud that is BrieJay fan. They weren't deserving of an NCAA tournament bid. They admit that their program, while the finest in the Missouri Valley conference, isn't able to compete with average teams in the big conferences without an exceptional effort.
Claiming that losing by two points to Kentucky in 2008 is some sort of "badge of honor" is downright silly. Nebraska played the defending national champions to within 6 back in January, and they're in the Sweet 16. Nobody is claiming that the Huskers belonged in the NCAA tournament. The idiocy of "autowin" and the "best program in the state" was finally exposed last night.
Creighton and Dana Altman have a great record of success in the Missouri Valley conference. Bluejay fans should be proud of what Creighton has done over the last ten years. But last night, the BrieJay fan finally admitted the truth about what that means in the larger picture. Whether they'll remember that truth when it comes time to embellish the merits of their program next season remains to be seen.