It's February so you know all the cliche's and the one-liners are out in full force this time of year. One you'll probably hear the most is "You never forget your first love." Boo! I hate you Valentine's Day. I also hate Creighton (as suggested by the t-shirt I just bought at Pinch the other day.)
Seriously though, I'll never forget my first Creighton game. The SIU/Creighton game to me is like a right of passage for every SIU fan and you really never forget your first. And really how could I forget? It was my first time sitting in the Dawg Pound with the most outrageous student section in the Missouri Valley Conference. And I was by myself, so I'll be honest I was a bit worried because the people I usually went to SIU games with weren't with me. One of my friends was out of town, at work while my roommate had gone home to the Chicagoland area for some girl....something I still give him shit for. C'mon how do you miss the biggest game in town for some girl....I'll never do it! Maybe that explains my situation...but this isn't about that, this is about SIU/Creighton. SIU won that game, and it was a great feeling. A feeling I hope to feel again tonight.
SIU/Creighton is an intense rivalry in the mold of Duke/Carolina without Dick Vitale yelling hysterically. It's pure basketball with genuine dislike between students, players and fans alike of both universities. Creighton plays the role of Duke. The private school that always get the love from the media and are usually picked to win the conference in the pre-season and coach Dana Altman is like Duke's Coach K, the longest serving coach in the MVC. SIU is more like Carolina, the public university with a rich tradition of its own that always finds a way to keep winning. SIU coach Chris Lowery is like Roy Williams. Okay, that's a stretch, but C-Lo, like Coach Roy has come back to his alma mater and has lead his teams to consecutive NCAA berths.
Today's game is for more than just bragging rights, it's for conference supremacy. The winner of today's ballgame has a leg up in winning the MVC outright and the top seed in the MVC tourney in St. Louis. SIU won the first game in a one-point thriller when Bryan Mullins banked one in with 4.1 seconds left and Creighton guard Nate Funk's desperation three rimmed out as time expired.
My only concern as a Saluki fan is that Jamaal Tatum, SIU's leading scorer, may not play in the game because of a deep thigh bruise that limited him to 6 minutes and 3 points in Wednesday's 60-50 win against Bradley.
With that said, don't sleep on the Salukis. Unless you want to get bitten by a dawg!