The hype train leaves the station. everything is ready.
Conductor Guy Bellas will collect your ticket.
“Creighton is a Final Four caliber team,” Bellas told the audience at the Omaha Creighton Prep earlier this week.
And no one in the audience gasped when Bellas said it. There was no laughter.
This season is unlike any other in Creighton’s men’s basketball history. It depends on a seemingly unparalleled team.
CU sophomore Ryan Nimbard said, “We’re trying to go all the way and win it all. I have no doubt we can do that.”
First guard Trey Alexander echoed this, saying, “Our target this year is, without a doubt, a national championship.”
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This is a school that has never won a National Premier League title in any sport. The basketball program that has been for the Sweet 16 once (2021) since 1974.
so what? So go for it, Jays.
You can’t expect a Final Four or an NCAA title. It is very difficult. Too many things have to fall into place.
But it’s a lot easier if you have the dream.
“I’d like to win a national championship, too,” said Creighton men’s basketball coach Greg McDermott.
“I like their way of thinking. But we have a lot of work to do before we get to this point.
“You want them to have goals. You want them to have dreams. And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. You have to support that. If you’re going to talk, you better put the work into it.”
Mac knows CU may start in the top five or higher. He knows the experts are always on the lookout for a sharp season pick for the Final Four to make them look smart and might take Jays.
Moreover, the coach knows that he got the team this year.
When a coach allows his players to speak out about their lofty goals, it means he knows they are good enough to support the talk.
There was consistency with Bellas’ appearance on Monday’s prep sports night. Hours earlier in Omaha, Creighton had its first official practice.
You could accuse ESPN’s college hoops analyst of playing the crowd. But after the event, Bellas reiterated his confidence in Jeez.
“After a lot of guys came back from a team I thought deserved an Elite Eight last year – I think they’re of Final Four caliber,” Bellas said.
“With (Baylor) Sherman coming in, it’s adding a new dimension to them. Ryan Nymbard is a fantastic goalkeeper. And Arthur Caluma will be a star.
“They have a lot of good players. It’s really hard to protect them because all of their players are very skilled. They can all shoot and they are smart passersby.
“Insulting them is a joy to watch. The teams I like to watch attacking the most are Gonzaga and Creighton. They are next-level stuff.”
Bellas have no problem with the Jays thinking they are ready for the next level. Embrace the moment, he says.
“I am one of those people who think how to achieve this if you do not believe it?” Bilas said. “Maybe if you say it enough you start to believe it.
“It’s not like a fairy tale. They can. With that in mind…it’s really hard to win a national championship.
“But I’m not a big believer (by saying) ‘Let’s see what happens, we’ll do our best. You’ve probably heard the countless times where the Final Four will get to sign up for their locker room, “Destination Houston” or something. It’s no different.
“I like this position.”
Winning at this higher level is a more complex proposition. Ask Gonzaga.
It helps to get high seed, favorable comparisons, hit your shots and stay healthy. CU has struggled to do the latter over the years.
This year’s team could be different. She has an abundance of talent and depth.
And a schedule that might help prepare everything.
CU’s non-conference schedule should provide enough challenges to keep Jays sharp and interested until he plays the Big East.
After starting with four games at home, Creighton travels to Maui for a three-game tournament loaded with top teams, including Arkansas, Arizona, Texas Tech and Ohio.
Jays later plays for Texas and then BYU and Arizona State in Las Vegas. But it’s the Maui trip that could put Jays in place in March.
All of these games could mean the difference between seeded #1 and #2 or #3. Especially if the Arkansas Jays meet in Maui.
“I don’t think losing a game hurts you, but winning a game in that environment really helps,” said Bellas, who will work for the Maui Invitational.
“These gains hold up over time and have really been amplified over time. You look back at the history of the Maui Championships, and the teams that have won are the Final Four teams and the National Championship teams.
“It’s the ultimate test in November. It’s a great gauge wherever you are. And Creighton shouldn’t go to that tournament hoping to win. They can win it.”
Before that, there is a team rotation to improve it and assign a rotation. And a few team meetings where the coach can set pre-season rules.
“As we approach Big Media Day in the East, and today, I’m going to talk to them about the finer points of dealing with people in the media,” McDermott said.
It’s best to be careful with Bellas’ colleague, the coach. He’s driving the noise train.
“Greg McDermott has done a great job here,” Biellas said. “He’s taking Creighton to levels I couldn’t have imagined when he took office.”
Mac has made Creighton a place where you can dream of winning it all. Can they do it? One thing is for sure about the hype train.
It will be an interesting trip.