Dec. 29, 2013
By Sean Brennan
At a little after 10 p.m. Eastern Time on New Year's Eve, as Creighton and Marquette prepare to tip off their seasons, a dream will finally be fulfilled for the Bluejays' basketball program as it begins play in its first-ever BIG EAST contest.
"It's something that our fans have yearned for, for a long time," Creighton head coach Greg McDermott said. "The excitement level on our campus and in our community is off the charts. I think our fans are so thrilled that we are part of this league and we're honored to be part of this league. There's no question about that. The fact that we are part of the BIG EAST now raises our profile nationally and hopefully we'll add value to the BIG EAST over time."
New Year's Eve's tipoff of the BIG EAST season will also mark the conference debuts of Butler and Xavier as well.
With FOX Sports 1 providing a national television audience, the country will get an opportunity to witness one of the nation's premier players in Doug McDermott - yes, the coach's son - who is not only second in the nation in scoring at 24.8 points a game but is already Creighton's all-time leading scorer. It will also be a chance to get a look at one of the best kept secrets in college basketball, that being the rabid Bluejay fan base and raucous environment that will be on hand at the CenturyLink Center to welcome Marquette.
"I think Creighton fans will put their best foot forward that night and provide an environment that will be incredible for our team," Greg McDermott said. "It will give the rest of the country a chance to see the special thing we have here. We're one of the top five or six teams in the country in attendance. I'm not sure everyone knows that story, but on New Year's Eve that story will be told."
So how does McDermott anticipate feeling as he walks on the court for his first BIG EAST encounter as head coach?
"Obviously walking onto the court for your first BIG EAST game, it's an historic event," McDermott said. "There's only a certain amount of times in your life you have an opportunity to be part of something that's a first. It's going to be quite a celebration that night."
"But," McDermott added, "I'd feel a little better if we weren't playing such a good team as Marquette."
Butler head coach Brandon Miller will be experiencing many of the same emotions as McDermott as he prepares his Bulldogs for their first foray into BIG EAST play as they welcome No. 8 Villanova to Hinkle Fieldhouse.
"We're are so proud to be part of an historic day in the BIG EAST," Miller said. "There's excitement here because it's the first BIG EAST game that our program is going to play in. And for it to be in a sold out Hinkle is the main thing for us."
It will not only be Butler's first conference game as a member of the BIG EAST, but it will also be just the 13th game in Miller's tenure as the Bulldogs' head coach. Miller took over the reins of the Butler program back in July when former coach Brad Stevens left for the Boston Celtics head coaching position.
"There's a buzz around the Butler basketball program for joining the BIG EAST," Miller said. "And for (Villanova) to be our first game there is an added excitement. I'm sure there will be some more butterflies than usual that night."
Xavier gets to start the BIG EAST marathon when it hosts St. John's at noon. Head coach Chris Mack knows it will be a special day on his campus.
"Our team and our fans are very excited about our first BIG EAST game at the Cintas Center," said Mack. "I think No. 1, it's exciting and No. 2, it's a huge challenge. I think it's what you work for as a player, what you want as a player, to play on the highest possible stage against really, really good teams. The fact that everyone plays each other home and away allows the BIG EAST to crown a true champion."
That road to the BIG EAST championship starts Dec. 31.