–Kenny Rice
It’s 1400 miles from Orlando to Omaha. But for the two teams from these cities playing tonight in the semi-final of the College Basketball Invitational presented by Zebra Pen it’s like looking in a mirror.
The similarities of UCF and Creighton are many. Both have 21 wins; each with veteran coaches in their first year at their respective schools; both making late season runs to make the postseason; and each led by a young player who grew up in a basketball family.
Blue Jays’ coach Greg McDermott came up with one of the recruiting prizes when he took over at the Omaha school,after leaving Iowa State, by simply looking across the breakfast table. His son, 6’7 freshman Doug, is the first rookie to make the All Missouri Valley Conference team since 1952. He could be the best freshman in the country who is not a one-and-done player. He leads Creighton in scoring and rebounding.
UCF coach Donnie Jones, who left Marshall after a 20 win campaign to come to Orlando, has Marcus Jordan, 6’3 sophomore, who leads the Knights in scoring, assists and has set a school record for free throws made in a season. With that surname you probably already know he is the son of the legendary Michael.
They are the leaders of their teams, making the transition to new schools easier for both their coaches. And both are surrounded by complimentary players who are capable in their own right of taking over a game. Creighton has 6′ junior guard Antoine Young who leads in assists and UCF counters with sparkplug 5’9 junior A.J. Rompza who is already one of UCF’s all time assist leaders.
Both teams have big men who are solid and can break open the inside game. Creighton with Gregory Echenique, 6’9 junior,  the team leader in blocks, UCF with Keith Clanton, 6’8 sophomore, who does the same in this category for the Knights.
Home court has been key in the CBI, both Creighton and UCF are 2-0 on friendly hardwood. The road test has made the guys in Vegas  give a slight lean (-3 1/2) to the home standing Blue Jays.
Creighton is coming off a CBI record 102-92 win over Davidson in a game straight out of the old ABA days. McDermott is coming off his best game yet, 31 points, the first freshman to hit that mark in 16 years at Creighton. UCF is coming off first ever home victories in the postseason.
Creighton wears blue and white, UCF black and gold. But when they look at across court tonight they will see a lot of themselves in each other. Tip off on HDNet is 8 PM ET, followed by Boise State at Oregon in the other semi final.

Copyright © 2020 AXS TV - All Rights Reserved.