Around 7:30 eastern Monday night, Tony Kornheiser called his ESPN sidekick and delivered a message: Turn it to Creighton-Villanova. “You gotta get on this game right now!”
“By the time you called me, it was a 30-point Creighton lead!” Michael Wilbon said during Tuesday's edition of “Pardon the Interruption.”
“With seven minutes to go in the half, it was 44-17 at No. 4 Villanova!” Kornheiser said.
The Bluejays recorded (by far) the most impressive performance of the college basketball season Monday. In a 21st century media world, that comes with rewards. By the time they landed in Omaha at 12:30 Tuesday morning, the Jays were already darlings of the hoops world, receiving exposure you can't plan — or buy. Here's a sampling:
“We're not gonna lie to ya,” anchor Steve Levy said, opening the show. “The Villanova-Creighton game was not supposed to be the first highlight in the show. And then something odd happened on the way to the studio.”
“Yeah, the odd thing happened on Villanova's home court,” Stuart Scott said. “Yes, the same Villanova that's ranked four and came into this game, their record was 16-1. Was being the key word. Because Creighton came out Africa hot in this game.”
» Greg McDermott gave interviews Tuesday on two of the biggest sports radio shows in the country, Jim Rome and Tim Brando.
» The Jays' offense was the subject of a Deadspin analysis titled “How Creighton Created The Craziest, Deadliest Offense In The Country.” This is the same Deadspin known for revealing Manti Te'o's girlfriend hoax and publicizing Bo Pelini's audiotape.
|CHARTING CU'S 3s|
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» For more than a minute Tuesday afternoon, Kornheiser and Wilbon talked Creighton hoops.
“They were amazing. They were amazing last night,” Kornheiser said. “That was a cool game to watch.”
This all came after a deluge of tweets during Monday's game lavishing praise on the Jays.
From ESPN's Scott Van Pelt (606,000 Twitter followers): “I have never seen a top 5 team down 30 at home to an unranked team. Or to an NBA team. Creighton is hotter than can be explained.”
From Yahoo Sports (238,000 followers): “STOP WHAT YOU ARE DOING. No. 4 #Villanova trails unranked #Creighton by FORTY points, 90-50, w/ 6:22 left in the game”
From ESPN (8.7 million followers): “A summary of Creighton's win over Nova: 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3.”
How did this happen? How did Creighton — for a stretch of almost 24 hours — become a water-cooler topic from coast to coast? It's the kind of overnight fascination that usually doesn't come until March, when Cinderella knocks off a high seed.
It's reminiscent of Ndamukong Suh's breakout performance during a Missouri downpour in 2009.
The Bluejays found their own perfect storm. They played their best game against their best opponent. In a big media market on national TV. On a night when only two other games featured ranked teams (Ohio State, victim to an upset in Lincoln, was one of them). There's no way Creighton gets the same media love if it makes 21 3-pointers at Indiana State, for instance.
The Jays are maximizing their Big East platform. Gaining exposure they couldn't have imagined when Kyle Korver was bombing away in 2003. But this isn't just about a better cable channel or a fortuitous spot on the schedule.
Creighton gave strangers like Kornheiser something they rarely see anymore: offense so pure it feels like something out of the Loyola Marymount/UNLV/Oklahoma days in the late '80s or early '90s. The Jays are sweet medicine for all the old saps sitting in their La-Z-Boys lamenting the lack of skill in today's game.
ESPN blogger Eamonn Brennan nailed it with these paragraphs:
“What Creighton's offense did to No. 4 Villanova in Monday night's 96-68 win in Philadelphia was so comprehensive and ruthless and beautiful, even those intimately familiar with the best offensive team in the country — one led by the best offensive college basketball player in recent memory — were forced to stop and rub their eyes. Even for those unfortunate hoops nerds with dozens of Creighton's games on the DVR, Monday was a lucid dream you fight to occupy. It was basketball nirvana. ...
“Is this the best this Creighton team will ever play? Yes — but that is no more an insult than saying 'Smells Like Teen Spirit' was Nirvana's best song. For three years, Creighton has been working toward an offensive ideal, a perfect attack — every screen a productive one, every flare crisp, every pass on point, every shot in rhythm. Most teams never get there. The few that do rarely last more than a few minutes.
“Whatever happens in the months ahead, we'll always have Monday — when Greg McDermott and his incredible son and the incredible bearded sharpshooter and the incredible offense got there. Two days after a dreary loss, Creighton unveiled its masterpiece.”
Tuesday I spoke to Ken Pomeroy, one of the most respected analytical minds in college basketball. According to his advanced statistical formulas, Creighton's adjusted offensive efficiency (the estimated points per offensive possession CU would score against the average Division I defense) is 1.28.
Since 2003, when Pomeroy started recording his numbers, no team has had a higher offensive efficiency than 1.24 (Wake Forest 2004-05). Averages are slightly better this year because of tighter officiating, but Creighton is easily No. 1 in the country — Duke is second at 1.22.
Best offensive season since '03? It's too early to make those projections, Pomeroy said. But considering the opponent (Villanova's defense was top-20 in the country) and the venue (teams don't generally shoot as well on the road), Creighton's showcase belongs with any offensive performance in the past decade.
“Hopefully, Creighton fans don't expect that night in and night out,” Pomeroy said. “Even though they have a great offense, they're not likely to see anything like that again.”
I think I can speak for Kornheiser and Wilbon here. We can't wait to see the Bluejays try.
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Video: Creighton-Villanova highlights:
Video: Ethan Wragge discusses Monday's 3-point barrage: