I have been following Creighton basketball ever since our friend Dave Begley, with the help of a very nice man in the athletic department, gave me a tour of the school’s basketball facility. That was in November 2015.
Earlier this month, Creighton suspended its outstanding coach Greg McDermott. He had told his players, after a tough loss: “Guys, we got to stick together. We need both feet in. I need everybody to stay on the plantation. I can’t have anybody leave the plantation.”
It was an unfortunate comment that bothered at least some team members. However, as I wrote here, the players backed their coach. They know he isn’t a racist.
Creighton lifted the suspension before the Big East tournament (yes, the Omaha school plays in the Big East). The players responded with 31 point victory over Butler. They followed this up by defeating a very good Connecticut team, 59-56, to reach the Big East Final.
In that game, though, Georgetown blew Creighton out, 73-48. Still, Creighton had made it to the conference tournament final and was rewarded for its excellent season with a #5 seed in the NCAA tourney.
However, the basketball punditry took Creighton’s loss to Georgetown as evidence that the Bluejays were in turmoil and disarray after McDermott’s “plantation” remark. On several tournament preview shows, I heard “experts” identify Creighton as primed for an early exit because something was wrong with the program.
This analysis struck me as lame. The best evidence of the state of Creighton basketball was (1) the players’ support of their coach after his “plantation” comment and (2) the way they played in McDermott’s first game back from suspension.
The blowout loss to Georgetown had to be considered, of course. But good teams sometimes get blown out. We’ve seen it happen in the early rounds of this year’s tournament, including to Georgetown. In fact, I was present when a mediocre Georgetown team blew out a good Creighton squad a few years ago in Washington, D.C.
Now, Creighton has advanced to the Sweet Sixteen. The Blue Jays rode their luck in a tight first round game to avoid an upset against UC Santa Barbara and then easily handled Ohio, which had upset #4 seed Virginia.
In the Sweet Sixteen, Creighton will face Gonzaga, the #1 rated team in the nation. It would take a brave man to pick the Bluejays. I’m not that man.
Still, Creighton has advanced to the Sweet Sixteen for the first time since 1974, when it took only one win to make it that far. So, this is the first time ever that Creighton has won two games in the NCAA tournament. The players and their coach are to be congratulated.
I can’t prove that the hoops pundits who pegged Creighton for an early exit due to “disarray” reached their erroneous conclusion due to political correctness. And, to be fair, their prediction could easily have come true if the ball had bounced differently in Creighton’s opening game.
Nonetheless, it’s my belief that politics did skew the way some analysts evaluated Creighton. Why else conclude that a team that had just made their conference final by defeating a team that received a #7 seed in the NCAA tournament was in turmoil? The blowout loss to Georgetown wasn’t a sufficient basis.
Political correctness has distorted the way many view the world. The pundits’ evaluation of Creighton looks like a small example of this sad phenomenon.