The NCAA men‘s basketball tournament has long been over for Creighton and the other 48 teams that didn’t make it through its first weekend. But for one well-known former Creighton player, the basketball season continues this weekend in the NBA playoffs.
Kyle Korver is moving closer to winning the team championship that the Bluejays have never come close to achieving on the collegiate level.
There were plenty of good times at Civic Auditorium when it stood in downtown Omaha.
Former Bluejays coach Dana Altman, in his 16 years at Creighton, guided the program through its transition from the auditorium to its present home at CenturyLink.
During the Kyle Korver years at Creighton, from 2000 to ‘03, the Bluejays went to the NCAA tournament in three straight seasons. They pulled off a huge upset in Korver’s junior year, knocking off No. 2 seed Florida. But even with all of Creighton’s success through the years, the Bluejays have never advanced beyond the first weekend.
Altman reached the Final Four for the first time this season. But with Oregon. He said he couldn’t turn down the opportunity seven years ago. “It was just that time,” said Altman from Glendale, Ariz., before the Ducks’ national semifinal game against North Carolina. “It was an opportunity that I thought we could build something and it’s worked out okay, so I hope we can continue to build and even get better.”
Kevin McKenna, one of Altman’s Oregon assistants, is another former Bluejay who played in the NBA. He was a member of the 1982 Los Angeles Lakers NBA championship team. McKenna foresees the day when Creighton wins two tournament games and advances to the Sweet 16. “They’ll get there,” said McKenna. “It’s just a matter of time and getting the right group of guys in there that really play together and play hard.”
On Senior Night in 2014, the Bluejays fans saluted Doug McDermott, who became the fifth-leading scorer in NCAA history with more than 3,000 points. With a second place finish the first year the Bluejays competed in the Big East, Creighton earned a No. 3 seed going into the NCAA tournament. But even then, the Bluejays couldn’t get past their second opponent after a season-ending loss to Baylor. To this day, McDermott finds it hard to believe.
“It’s crazy,” said McDermott this week from the Oklahoma City Thunder locker room. “I think our time is coming though. I think we’ve got a lot of momentum.”
McDermott’s season ended this week with the Thunder’s first-round playoff loss to the Houston Rockets. The momentum that McDermott spoke of built up early this season when the Blue Jays got off to their best start since the World War II years.
But the season’s prospects crumbled when point guard Maurice Watson Jr. was injured and got himself in trouble off the court. The Blue Jays lost their first-round NCAA tournament game to Rhode Island.
Meanshile, Korver finds himself on the team that won the NBA championship last year and the Cleveland Cavaliers, led by LeBron James, are attempting to repeat, which would be a first for Korver. He knows he’s in a good situation.
“The bulk of this team was playing in a Game 7 last year and won a championship,” said Korver after the regular season concluded. “So I think there’s confidence from that. The line is you don’t want to be arrogant. You want to be confident, but not arrogant.”
But Korver will have to wait until next year to see if his alma mater can also go deep into the post-season.