Seeing how this could be Creighton’s final trip to Koch Arena, and seeing how the Bluejays have been a Missouri Valley Conference companion to Wichita State for many years, how ’bout we give them a nice ovation today before the start of the game at Koch Arena?
Yeah, didn’t think you’d go for that. It was naïve of me to even suggest, given the heated nature of this rivalry over the years.
Outside of Tulsa-Wichita State, I can’t think of a rivalry that has produced more hate. And I mean “hate” in the most loving way possible.
Shocker fans, imagine a Missouri Valley Conference without Creighton. I wonder if you can. Frankly, I’m having a hard time with it, and I suspect that if you’re honest with yourself, so are you.
Sure, it’s fun to revile the Bluejays. They’re a pain in the you-know-what.
But that’s because Creighton is always good, as 16 consecutive seasons of double-digit wins in the Valley attests. This season, the Bluejays are more than good; they’re ranked No. 12 with a 16-1 record.
Wichita State is good, too. And that hasn’t always been the case in this series. There were years and years and years when it was a mismatch.
But when Mark Turgeon arrived in 2000, the Shockers started to hold their own. And in the past four seasons under Gregg Marshall, WSU has a seven-game edge in regular-season Valley record: 47-13 to 40-20. The Shockers have finished above Creighton in the Valley standings three straight seasons.
Oh, Creighton, you want to talk about the Valley tournament? Really now?
OK, the Bluejays have won 11 of those, eight since the tournament was moved to St. Louis in 1991; Wichita State has won two and, um, zero.
You think you’re pretty tough, huh, Creighton?
Well, actually, you are. Which is why a true Shocker fan would get down on his or her hands and knees and beg you not to leave for that work-in-progress parochial league being formed by the seven grumpy Big East schools.
Little is being said about the progress in the formation of that conference, but it’s expected to ultimately include at least 10, and perhaps 12 schools. Creighton has a perfect demographic: Catholic, metropolitan area, nice and fancy arena, tradition, coach, yada, yada, yada.
Wichita State has all of that, minus the Catholicism and a couple yadas. It’s normal to feel a little jealous of Creighton, which could be headed off to high-falutin’ new digs while the Shockers are stuck here with Drake. Yippee.
Except you know what? The Valley isn’t such a bad place. In fact, I don’t know of anyone in the Valley who doesn’t kind of like it here. There’s a brotherhood in the MVC, where basketball is the king of the road. Even the folks at Creighton, from university president Rev. Timothy Lannon to athletic director Bruce Rasmussen to men’s basketball coach Greg McDermott, are struggling with this potential move.
It looks like a no-brainer. Leave the Valley and trips to places like Terre Haute and Carbondale, and join a new conference with outposts in Milwaukee (Marquette), Chicago (DePaul), Philadelphia (Villanova), Washington, D.C. (Georgetown) and New York (St. John’s).
There’s money to be made, most likely. There’s prestige to be gained.
But there is also risk to be taken. What if Creighton leaves the Valley, where it’s a pretty big deal, and becomes Harvey Keitel in the cast of “Pulp Fiction?” Still a star, but not like John Travolta or Samuel L. Jackson.
Will Creighton ultimately leave if given the opportunity?
Probably. Imagine if Wichita State had a chance to play in a conference like the one that is forming. Fans would be incapable of speech; none would be clamoring to stay in the Valley.
It’s not fans, though, who make these decisions. They can influence them, and undoubtedly Creighton fans are thrilled with the prospects of a new league and the new challenges that come along.
But would those challenges be insurmountable? Would Creighton get lost in the shuffle of such a jam-packed power conference that might also include Butler, Dayton, Saint Louis and others?
Interesting times in the Valley, for sure. No one can dispute the Bluejays’ place in the MVC. They’re the kingpin.
Wichita State, though, has made inroads. The Shockers have Creighton’s full attention and will make the Bluejays play their best basketball to escape Koch Arena with a victory Saturday.
If this is, indeed, Creighton’s final trip to Wichita for a Valley game, we might as well make it a doozy. Shocker fans will be wearing their black. Creighton will be in their customary blue.
Black and blue.