Creighton provides road test for ninth-ranked Wisconsin
Contrasting styles of play will be on display Tuesday when ninth-ranked Wisconsin visits No. 22 Creighton in one of the Gavitt Tipoff Games.
While the Badgers favor a disciplined, halfcourt type of game, the Bluejays like to get out and run, forcing teams to try to keep up with them in transition.
Wisconsin's philosophy has worked well, even last season when Greg Gard stepped in as head coach at midseason and led the Badgers to their fifth trip to the Sweet 16 in the past six years.
The Badgers return all five starters from that team, including preseason Big Ten player of the year Nigel Hayes. Wisconsin (1-0) blew out Central Arkansas 79-47 in its opener.
The Tipoff Games are an annual series between Big Ten and Big East conference teams and are named in honor Dave Gavitt, the founder of the Big East. This is the second year of an eight-year run for the event that is played during the first full week of the regular season.
That level of success Wisconsin has enjoyed this decade is a standard the Bluejays are trying to reach. Creighton has missed the NCAA tournament the past two seasons and has not made it past the second round since 1974 when the Bluejays lost to Kansas in a regional semifinal.
Junior guard Maurice Watson said this is the kind of game Creighton has been preparing for, to show this is the season the Bluejays can get past the round of 32.
“Basically it's just us testing our will and proving that we're an elite team,” Watson said. “That we can hang with the teams that are in the top 10, top 15 in the country. It's about us going out there to prove to ourselves and our fans that we can hang at this level.”
Freshman center Justin Patton also is confident Creighton will be able to play a faster pace than Wisconsin prefers and get one of those coveted wins against a top 10 team.
“I just hope that as a team we can keep our composure and execute down the stretch,” Patton said. “If we just stay to our game plan, it will work out. Probably not early in the game, but late in the second half, things are going to start going our way. We're going to wear them down.”
Patton and Watson agree with Bluejays coach Greg McDermott that CenturyLink Center, the building that Creighton has turned into a formidable home court, will be the place to be in Omaha Tuesday night.
McDermott can see the pros and cons of playing a game of this magnitude so early in the season.
“I think part of me would like a little more time to get ready for a test like this,” McDermott said. “On the other side of the coin, when you play good teams, and especially experienced teams, your weaknesses are exposed, so you have a chance to fix them early in the season.
“To play a team the quality of Wisconsin, with their experience and their veteran leadership, it's great for our program and great for our fan base. This place will be rockin' tomorrow.”
Watson is hopeful that the noise levels will rise because things are going Creighton's way.
“They run their offense all the way through,” Watson said. “Everything moves at pace, they're calculated. They kind of run through their bigs. They don't want to run like us.
“All we can do is play our game, and playing our game is going to make a lot of teams uncomfortable.”
Creighton (1-0) got past UMKC 89-82 in its opener.