Two of the hottest teams in the country meet today in NCAA second-round action at the Huntsman Center.
Seton Hall has won nine of its last 10 games including the Big East Championship, while Creighton has won 16 of its last 17, including the Missouri Valley Conference Championship.Something has to give when the Pirates and the Bluejays tip it off at approximately 2:45 p.m. (30 minutes after the conclusion of the Arizona-BYU game).
Although your average fan might not know where Seton Hall and Creighton are even located (Orange, N.J. and Omaha, Neb., respectively), the Pirates are well-known in college basketball circles. Two years ago they were also sent to the West Regional and advanced all the way to the NCAA championship game.
Creighton, on the other hand hadn't even won an NCAA game since 1974 until it defeated New Mexico State 64-56 Thursday afternoon.
"It's a thrill just to get to play a Big East team like Seton Hall," said Creighton Coach Tony Barone. "We're obviously concerned about their strength inside and their excellent size at the guard spot.
"But I don't think we'll be intimidated by them. We're legitimately looking forward to playing them."
Creighton (24-7) is led by its inside men 6-10 Chad Gallagher and 6-6 forward Bob Harstad. Gallagher averages 19.5 points and 8.7 rebounds, slightly better than Harstad's 18.0 and 8.6 marks.
But the Bluejays also have some outside firepower led by point guard Duan Cole, who shoots 47 percent from 3-point range and averages 14 points per game. Darin Plautz and Matt Petty are also threats from 3-point range.
"They remind me a little bit of us in terms of having an inside-outside combination," said Seton Hall Coach P.J. Carlesimo. "They shoot the three-point shot very well. They play very hard and play well together."
Seton Hall (23-8) has a balanced attack led by sophomore guard Terry Dehere, who averages 19.4 points per game. Anthony Avent, a 6-10 senior center, averages 18.1 points and an impressive 10.1 rebounds per game.
Other starters are 6-0 guard Oliver Taylor, the hero of the Big East Tournament with two last-second baskets, forward Gordon Winchester and forward Arturas Karnishovas, a freshman from Lithuania.
Carlesimo and Barone happen to be good friends. After Carlesimo said it's hard to coach against a good friend, Barone replied, "We'll accept a forfeit, no problem."
Actually Barone agreed, saying, "When you do play a friend, it's a difficult situation. I hope we have a good friendly war tomorrow and are still friends after."
"I think you'll see two pretty good teams getting after it tomorrow," said Carlesimo.
The winner goes on to Seattle to play the winner of the Arizona-BYU game. Down the road for the winner could be a meeting with No. 1-ranked UNLV.