Just because Creighton's spot in the NCAA tournament was safe long before the Bluejays won Arch Madness doesn't mean Sunday's 83-79 overtime title game victory over Illinois State wasn't significant.
They all but guaranteed they'll avoid the dreaded eight-nine NCAA tournament game and a potential second-round game with a No. 1 seed. They also restored the confidence they may have lost during a month-long shooting slump in February that ultimately cost them the Missouri Valley Conference regular season crown.
A three-game mid-February losing streak and several ensuing narrow wins suggested that Creighton might be fading to the finish line, but the Bluejays showed more signs of promise this weekend. They shot a sizzling 60.4 percent from the field and 52.2 percent from behind the arc in a 99-71 semifinal rout of Evansville and followed that up with another decent offensive night in a tense back-and-forth game against Illinois State.
[ Related: The latest NCAA tournament field of 68 projection ]
Creighton's defense is seldom better than passable because it lacks shot-blocking in the paint or lateral quickness on the perimeter, so it's vital for the Bluejays (28-5) to score efficiently the way they were most of the regular season. If they can do that in the NCAA tournament while mixing in a few timely stops, a run to the second weekend is certainly an attainable goal.
That was the formula Creighton used Sunday to survive Illinois State's upset bid. They overcame a lengthy scoring drought at the end of the first half thanks to 33 points from Doug McDermott, 20 from Grant Gibbs and a brilliant overtime from Antoine Young, who had eight of his 14 points in the extra session.
Creighton's win surely earned the Bluejays some temporary fans in cities like Evanston, Austin and Tampa Bay.
Had Illinois State sprung the upset, the Redbirds would have joined Creighton and Wichita State in the NCAA tournament and stolen a bid from a bubble team. Instead the Missouri Valley will put just two in the field of 68 ... but it's a twosome with a good chance to do some real damage.
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