OMAHA, Neb. (AP) Creighton coach Greg McDermott believes the NCAA tournament selection committee let the potential for an intriguing story line trump a fair seeding for the Bluejays.Creighton (28-5) is No. 8 in the Midwest Regional for its first NCAA tournament appearance since 2007 and will play No. 9 Alabama (21-11) in Greensboro, N.C., on Friday. The winner will likely face top-seeded North Carolina (29-5).
A Creighton-Carolina matchup would pit stars Doug McDermott of the Bluejays against Harrison Barnes of the Tar Heels. The two were teammates on the Ames (Iowa) High School team that won 53 straight games and made national headlines when Barnes was the top recruit in the country in 2010.
"I'm not thrilled about the seed," Greg McDermott said, drawing cheers and applause from the 2,000 fans who attended a campus rally Sunday. "The reality of it is, I think, unfortunately sometimes people are after a story. I think we all know what the story is to some extent.
"The reality of it is we have to leave home to get where we want to get anyway. So we'll take 'em down one at a time."
The Bluejays won the Missouri Valley Conference tournament for the league's automatic NCAA bid after they finished second to Wichita State in the regular season. They've won seven straight since a string of three losses in early February.
McDermott pointed out that the Bluejays split two games with Wichita State, and the Shockers received a No. 5 seed. He also noted that the Bluejays won a road game against San Diego State, and the Aztecs are a No. 6.
"There's a part of me that knows the NCAA tournament is a great thing, but they also look for a story once in a while," the coach told reporters. "Harrison and Doug in the same regional is quite a national story. I'm thrilled to be back in the NCAA tournament, but I really think these guys earned more than an eight seed. ...
"There really wasn't a lot of difference as you look on paper at what could have been a five seed and a possible eight seed. You're really splitting hairs to figure it out."
The Bluejays are looking for their first NCAA tournament win since 2002, when as a No. 12 seed they stunned Florida 83-82 in double overtime in the first round in Chicago on Terrell Taylor's 3-pointer with 0.2 seconds left. They lost to Illinois in the second round that year, then dropped openers to Central Michigan in 2003, West Virginia in 2005 and Nevada in 2007.
Before the February swoon, which ended with an embarrassing 21-point home loss to Wichita State, Creighton was widely touted as a mid-major with the potential to make a deep tournament run.
The Bluejays still might, if they commit to playing some defense and their offense stays true to form. Creighton is first in field-goal accuracy, third in 3-point shooting and assists and sixth in scoring.
Doug McDermott, the coach's son, said he was "shocked" when he saw Creighton was a No. 8 seed, but he's excited about the possibility of playing against Barnes.
"It's going to be a good chance to see him again," he said. "I haven't seen him in a while. I talk to him quite a bit. It'll be fun to watch him play and hopefully match up with him."
McDermott, the Missouri Valley player of the year, averages 23.2 points a game to rank third nationally and is shooting 61 percent from the floor. Barnes, an All-Atlantic Coast Conference first-team pick, is scoring 17.2 points a game but had been in a mini slump before scoring 23 in a loss to Florida State in the conference tournament championship game.
Creighton's Grant Gibbs said he expected a No. 7 or 8 seed because of the three losses in February. But he didn't dismiss his coach's theory that the possibility of a McDermott-Barnes show played a role in where the Bluejays wound up.
"Definitely food for thought, I guess," Gibbs said. "I don't know if that's a conversation they have on the committee, `Hey, we should match them up.' That's funny how it worked out. It's good television."