Saturday, December 17, 2011

The First Semester and Finals have concluded; Back to College Basketball for Creighton and Iowa

The first semester of the 2011-12 College Basketball season has concluded for Creighton University and the University of Iowa. Both teams have opened 2011-12 in opposite directions. Both teams are lead by second year coaches, in Omaha and Iowa City, respectively. Greg McDermott has the Bluejays headed in a positive direction. Fran McCaffery has a Top 25 recruiting class signed for next season, but year two on the court has been ugly, so far.

The Creighton Bluejays opened the 2011-12 season with seven straight wins and a Top 25 ranking. However, last weekend was a rough weekend for Creighton sports. The men's soccer team lost a semi-final game in the College Cup, while the Bluejays' men's basketball team fell for the first time at St. Joseph's, 80-71.

On the flip side, the Iowa Hawkeyes are off to a rough start in 2011-12, with a 5-5 record. Two key players have opened the season out of sync. Sophomore forward Melsahn Basabe started the season out very slow. He has played better of late, but not to the level he played as true freshman last season. Senior point guard Bryce Cartwright's woes appear to be fueled by a groin injury. Cartwright has missed time on the court lately and his health is extremely important, as Iowa's only true point guard.

Creighton returns home to CenturyLink Center Omaha on Saturday night, when they host Houston Baptist (4-6) for a 7 p.m. tip-off. The Jays have won 14 straight at home, since last season. The Bluejays need to improve on the little things, especially defense and rebounding, as they get ready for two big games next week, at Tulsa on Monday night, followed by a rematch (last year's game, in Evanston) vs. Northwestern on Thursday night; before opening Missouri Valley Conference play, after Christmas.

Creighton forward Doug McDermott has lived up to the preseason expectations of all-MVC and All-America hype. He leads the MVC in scoring (24.0) and rebounding (9.1) this year, and is the first Bluejay since Rodney Buford (in 1997) with seven straight games of 20 or more points.

Senior guard Antoine Young (11.1 ppg., 4.5 apg.) and junior center Gregory Echenique (8.1 ppg., 5.3 rpg., 1.1 bpg.), are honorable-mention preseason all-Valley selections as well. The Bluejays are expected to be a strong program in The Valley, as well as a team to watch in the Field of 68 for the 2012 NCAA Tournament.

Like Creighton, the University of Iowa returns to action, after finals week on Saturday night. The Hawkeyes tip-off on the Big Ten Network at 8 p.m., with a game vs. in-state Drake (6-3).

Iowa is coming off back to back road losses at UNI and at Iowa State, before finals week.

Two of Iowa's underclassmen -- sophomores Roy Devyn Marble and Melsahn Basabe -- had their best games of the season at Iowa State on December 9Th. Marble had career highs in points (21) and assists (five), while Basabe made 7-of-12 shot attempts en route to 18 points to go along with nine rebounds.

"We want to try to get better. Defensively, we haven't been as good as
we need to be. We want to execute a little better, we had been executing better,
but it's not good enough
." - Iowa coach Fran McCaffery
Like the Bluejays, the Hawkeyes will play two additional non-conference games, before opening conference play, after Christmas. The Hawkeyes will play Drake on Saturday night at home, as they begin a four game home swing, including the Big Ten opener on December 28Th vs. Purdue.

It should be an entertaining Holiday season with College Basketball and the bowl season in College Football, which kicked off on Saturday. Plenty of excitement awaits in College Basketball, as Christmas approaches next weekend.

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