What will take place in the stands at Saturday's Creighton-Bradley game rivals the importance of what will happen on the court as far as Greg McDermott is concerned.
The Creighton coach obviously will be focused on trying to keep his team at the top of the Missouri Valley standings.
But on a day when Creighton and hundreds of schools try to heighten cancer awareness, McDermott hopes he sees a sea of pink when he emerges from the CenturyLink Center tunnel.
He hopes that the fans will be as generous with donations to local cancer research as they were to the auction of the special-edition jerseys the Bluejays will wear during the game. That auction raised $20,600.
And he would hope that Saturday's turnout, which should approach or exceed a sellout, will take away an important message from the game.
"Absolutely, we'd like to raise some funds for research to put an end to this darn disease at some point in time," McDermott said. "But hopefully, the message will be just do what you're supposed to do because early detection is so key in the treatment of cancer."
McDermott speaks from experience. His wife, Theresa, was diagnosed with breast cancer six years ago. Now cancer free, she'll be at the game to watch her husband coach and her son play.
Like his father, Doug McDermott sees Saturday's game carrying a greater significance than just another chance to play the game he loves.
"This means a lot to the cancer survivors and the people that have to deal with it," the younger McDermott said. "It's a terrible disease, and I had to experience it when I was in the eighth grade and my mom went through it.
"I was a little younger and not as mature, but it was rough. It definitely means a lot to be taking part in this and hopefully, 17,000 people will be wearing pink."
As part of the nationwide Coaches vs. Cancer promotion, Creighton is encouraging fans to wear pink to Saturday's game. The school will distribute T-shirts to the first 12,000 people through the doors and a special poster will be handed out at the end of the game.
Nike has provided Creighton with special uniforms, shooting shirts and shoes for the game. The coaches will wear pink Nike shoes, and the Bradley team will be wearing pink shooting tops and have pink laces in their shoes.
"We appreciate Nike's willingness to get involved with this cause," Greg McDermott said. "I've got some great friends there, and I appreciate that we're one of the few schools in the country that they've reached out to and allowed us to do this."
As far as the game, Creighton will risk its 19-2 record and No. 15 national ranking against a Bradley team that is struggling under first-year coach Geno Ford. The Braves are 6-16 and last in the Valley at 1-9.
The Bluejays posted a 92-83 win Jan. 7 in Peoria, Ill., but Doug McDermott remembers his team had trouble shaking the Braves despite his career-high, 44-point performance.
"I'm sure Bradley will be all over me, and I think some of our other guys will step up in this game," he said. "It's a big game for us. We can't overlook them because we saw what they did to us. They made it a close game over there, and we have to be ready for them."
It's a big game for a couple of reasons. First, it will be the last one Creighton will play before ESPN makes its final decision Sunday as to which team the Bluejays will draw for the BracketBusters series. An upset could cast Creighton is a much different light with the network executives.
The Bluejays also are in a tight chase with Wichita State for the Valley lead. The teams are tied with 9-1 records and, if neither one blinks, could be headed for a big-time showdown in Omaha on Feb. 11.
"I think that makes it really fun," Doug McDermott said. "I think that's what the fans want and that's what we want.
"It's a good competition with Wichita, and we just have to continue to take this one day at a time to get where we want to get."
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