PHILADELPHIA — Gregory Echenique has heard the question for years.
Why would a player leave the Big East for a team in the Missouri Valley Conference?
Well, for starters, he was fleeing lowly Rutgers, a team that hasn't made the NCAA tournament since 1991.
And, he was headed to Creighton. He finally silenced the doubters for good when the Bluejays beat Cincinnati 67-63 on Friday night to advance to the third round in the Midwest Regional.
Echenique was a big reason why. He used his beefy 6-foot-9, 260-pound frame to establish position inside and finished with 13 points and seven rebounds.
"It's good to prove to people why I did what I did and how special of a team we've got," he said. "That definitely means a lot to me."
Echenique started seven games his sophomore season for Rutgers before it ended because of detached retina. He still wears protective goggles.
He's proved that Creighton is more than All-American Doug McDermott and a rest of unknowns.
"We play in the Big East, so we see real players all the time," Bearcats coach Mick Cronin said. "He can play anywhere for anybody. I thought he was the difference."
Echenique was the first Bluejay to ever be named to the MVC All-Defensive team for three straight seasons. He blocked 59 shots entering the tournament and added one against Cincinnati.
You'll have to forgive Rutgers fans if they don't really recognize him. Yes, it's been a few years. But he also dropped 40 pounds since arriving at Creighton, according to his bio. He boasts only 7 percent body fat. On Friday, that was 1 percent for every rebound.
Echenique will try to take the Bluejays into round of 16 with a win over Duke on Sunday.
"Most mid-major teams don't have the body that he has," coach Greg McDermott said. "He'll have to be huge again. He played a great game against Carolina and I know he'll be excited and ready to go on Sunday."
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