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Big East Preview: #8 Creighton

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Life with out Dougie is going to be rough

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Last Year: 27-8 (14-4) NCAA Tournament Round of 32

Key Losses: Doug McDermott 26.7pts , Eathan Wragge 10.4pts , Grant Gibbs 7.2pts , Jahenns Manigat 7.0 pts

Key Returnees: Austin Chatman 6'0" SR PG 8.1pts, Will Artino 6'10" SR PF/C 5.5pts, Devin Brooks 6'2" SR SG 6.5pts, Isaiah Zierdan 6'2" SO SG 3.2pts, Avery Dingman 6'6" SR SF 3.2pts, Zach Hanson 6'9 SO PF 2.8pts, Geoff Groselle 7'0 JR C, 1.5 pts

Key Incoming Players: Ronnie Harrell 6'7" Forward #72 RSCI, Leon Gilmore III 6'7" Forward NR, James Milliken 6'2" SG (RS JUCO Transfer),  Toby Hegner 6'9" PF (RS Freshman) NR, Ricky Kreklow 6'6" SR SF (Transfer from Cal), Tyler Clement 6'1" Guard (RS Freshman) NR

Breakdown: The last time Creighton lost a player to the NBA was after the 2003 season with Kyle Korver. With Korver the team was 29-5, #33 in the Kenpom rankings, and made the NCAA tournament. The next year Creighton went 20-9, #78 in Kenpom rankings, and failed to make the NCAA tournament. Now 20-9 isn't a terrible record, but it was also against the 149th toughest schedule and the 272nd toughest OOC schedule. They only beat 1 top 50 team all year and 5 top 100 teams. Whereas the team with Korver beat 7 top 100 teams, 2 top 50 teams, and played the 157th toughest schedule, but 163rd toughest OOC schedule.

After the team lost Anthony Tolliver to the NBA, the Jays record didn't change between his senior year and the first year without him. Both teams went 22-11, but the team with Tolliver went to the NCAA tournament, was ranked 26th by Kenpom, and played the 26th toughest schedule, and 76th OOC schedule.  The team without Tolliver failed to make the NCAAs, was ranked 76th by Kenpom, and only played the 78th ranked schedule 227th OOC.

So clearly both teams were markedly worse without their NBA talent despite playing easier opposition than the year before. Now of course both those teams were under Dana Altman and not Greg McDermott, but McDermott doesn't have track record at Creighton without his NBA talent son, so we don't have much to go on.  Despite a strong showing at Northern Iowa (Georgetown Defeated McDermott's last N.Iowa team in JT3's first NCAA tournament), McDermott flamed out at Iowa State.

Creighton lost 3 senior starters in addition to McDermott. You cannot lose that kind of production and not take a hit. You just can't. It's clear that the last two times Creighton lost a player that was an NBA talent that they were markedly worse the next year, and that was 1) playing in a weak conference and 2) after losing players that weren't as good as Doug McDermott.  Nor were those teams as dependent on Korver or Toliver as the McDermott teams were on his son. Korver played 79.3% of the minutes and used 23.0% of the possession and had a shot % of 25.2. Tolliver played 78.8% of the minutes and used 24.8% of the possession and had a shot % of 23.8. Doug McDermott meanwhile played 84.4% of the minutes and used 32.9% of the possession and had a shot % of 38.6.  It's easy to see why people expect them to slip next year.

Creighton's offense was predicated on ball movement and three pointers. Creighton's 4 seniors all shot over 40% from 3 last year. Outside of Chatman's 38.9% the returning Bluejays shot: 32.7%, 28.1%, and 25.6%. What worked last year simply won't work this year. With all that out of the way, let's look at what Creighton does have.

Austin Chatman will lead the way for the Bluejays and he's one of the better PGs in the BE, but he'll have less offensive options to pass it to this year. Devin Brooks will join him in the backcourt. Brooks is a crafty driver who can get to the rim with ease, but as evidenced by his 28.1% from 3 really doesn't put the shoot in shooting guard. Isiah Zierdan and redshirted JUCO transfer James Milliken will provide relief in the back court. Zierdan's freshman campaign was cut short by injury but he had some promising moments including a decent 32.7% from 3. Milliken redshirted to avoid a crowded back court last year, but he could be a big help to Creighton this year as he shot 42.2% in his last year at Cowley County Community College.

At SF Greg McDermott will likely turn to senior Avery Dingman who subbed in for Grant Gibbs when he went down from injury. Dingman struggled with his shot last year connecting on just 25.6% of 3's after shooting 41.9% as a Freshman, and 39.8% as a sophomore. If he can bounce back to his normal shooting numbers it will certainly provide a lift. Dingman will be backed up by Cal transfer Ricky Kreklow. Both players are known for their defense and were not good shooters from deep last year, but at least Dingman has been a threat in the past while Kreklow never has been.

Up front Will Artino leads the way. He's a highly mobile big man, but doesn't have the size to bang with some of the bigger Big East players. Groselle is a 7 footer who has been too injured his first two season to contribute. Hanson saw very little time as a freshman, but should see his playing time increase with McDermott, and Wragge out of the picture, he should slide into a starting role. There's lots of potential depth here with top 100 recruit Ronnie Harrell, and 2 unheralded forwards in Hegner and Gilmore. One may end up redshirting and it's impossible to know what to expect from anyone in the front court outside of Artino. Lots of youth, but there are at least multiple options.

Ultimately Creighton has just lost too much to overcome and reach the NCAA tournament. In theory there is improved athleticism, but will they be able to improve their defense when so much of that athleticism is young? And will that improved defense be enough to make up for what's sure to be a drop in offensive efficiency and production? McDermott seems like a very good coach willing to try lots of different tactics as shown by Georgetown's victory over Creighton in the Verizon Center when he threw every junk defense he could come up with including a triangle and two in order to try and slow the Hoyas down, and he'll have to use every trick in the book and be willing to rework Creighton's offensive schemes to make use of his current crop of players if he hopes to have success this year.