December 10, 2008 11:44 am ET by Kyle Whelliston
Dayton at Creighton
Qwest Center - Omaha, NE
8:05 PM EST
Even though they rarely play each other, Dayton and Creighton just go great together. Not only do they rhyme, they're both small schools in non-power conferences that have the kind of remarkable infrastructure, organization and long-term vision that make them basketball powerhouses year after year. Both have great arenas, and devoted, rabid fanbases that travel well and drink heavily. And both have fine young coaches that are good at making wins happen.
Right now, Dayton has a perfect 8-0 record (with wins over Marquette and Auburn) and stands a good chance to upending in-state rival Xavier for the Atlantic 14 crown... or at the very least making it back to the Big Dance after four years off. After an 8-8 conference crash last year riddled with injuries, the Flyers are healthy and ready for a run. Chris Wright is fully recovered from the ankle injury that ruined his freshman year, and he's doing things like leading the team in scoring (13.6) and rebounding (7.3 rpg), and making many exciting two-point dunk shots. But Dayton's dimensionality is its amazing depth, and Brian Gregory has successfully sold the concept of big defense, small stats and a long bench.
Creighton is an intriguing study. Currently at 5-2, the overwhelming Valley favorites have a deep bench of their own as well as a talented if not random-minded star in P'Allen Stinnett (15.6 ppg). After a couple of losses to UALR and Nebraska, teams that the Bluejays usually beat, coach Dana Altman called the squad out on its toughness. Creighton responded with a strong 69-58 win at the Palestra over Saint Joe's. So this game will be a good measure of the Jays' momentum, as well as a litmus test on how one of the top A-14 teams stacks up against one of the best in the Valley. Enjoy.
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