Team Preview: 2014 Creighton Blue Jays
By: Ben Lewis
2012-2013 Record: 28-8 (13-5 Missouri Valley Conference)
Coach: Greg McDermott
Strongside: What reward do you get when you’re a team that has historically torn apart lesser competition in the Missouri Valley Conference for decades? Well, it’s an invite to the Big East, where the real competition resides.
Welcome to the major leagues, Creighton; you’re all grown up now.
Ultimately, this team is now more ready to go than ever. They have a high-octane offense of superior shooters, distributers and the best scorer in the country, Doug McDermott. Coach McDermott has one heck of a son, and he must know it. Doug is the quarterback of the offense and the unquestioned leader of this Bluejays franchise. His shooting is relentless and sharp from all parts of the floor. He has the inside skills and post moves and can weave past big men with his versatility and 6’8” 225-pound frame. The three-point shot is the best in the country: McDermott has averaged over 48 percent from behind the arc in three consecutive seasons. Right now in their 2013-2014 campaign, he’s averaging 2.8 three-pointers per game. As Detroit Pistons forward Andre Drummond eloquently put it, “He can shoot the shit out of the basketball.”
Doug is fortunate to actually have a decent supporting cast around him, so this Creighton team is well equipped. If the Bluejays do one thing better than any other team in the country, it might be ball movement. They will make the extra pass, and the selflessness from the group is evident: this roster wants to get Doug the ball every possession they can. The Jays are averaging 20.3 assists per game, second highest in the country, and the passes are coming from everybody: Grant Gibbs is an intelligent senior, leading the way with 5.2 a game, while junior Austin Chatman adds 4.7 and the wiry Devin Brooks contributes 3.5. With the ball movement, the Bluejays can turn up the court in transition and put up points at an astounding clip. They also tend to live and die by the three ball, and it’s worked so far, as they’ve connected on 71-152 treys this season.
This is a talented team with excellent shooting ability, but if they’re vulnerable anywhere, it’s defensively. McDermott leads his team on the rebounding block with seven a game, and beyond that, they are forced into tough spots when they encounter more physical teams. They’re unlikely to win low-scoring affairs, as they fail to draw many turnovers and have no shot blockers. This team proved they belonged last season when they pulled out an opening round victory over Cincinnati before falling to Duke; can they make the next step now?
This is likely the best position the Creighton Bluejays have been in for years to make a legitimate run in the Big Dance. They graced the top 25 in week three and opened their season 5-0 before falling to a tough San Diego State Aztecs squad. That loss made everyone wonder whether they can stay with more physical and athletic teams. How will Creighton compete when they’re matched up with a Kansas, Arizona or a Michigan State?
Since 1977, the Bluejays captured 12 Missouri Valley Conference titles, but they’ve only won 11 NCAA tournament games overall. Moving to the Big East and facing stiffer competition should serve to better prepare the squad come March.
Ben Lewis is a sports radio broadcaster and journalist for CK750 in Melfort, Saskatchewan and has hosted and produced two sports shows for the Northeastern Saskatchewan airwaves in his first year there. As a graduate of the Sports Journalism program at Centennial College, he has done work for the CTV Olympics, TSN Radio, Canadian Baseball Network and the Prince Albert Daily Herald. He’s also an avid tennis player, a mediocre player of Jimi Hendrix tunes on the electric guitar, and an eater of chocolate chip pancakes every Sunday morning. For a daily dose of his sports rantings and ravings, you can find him on Twitter: @BenLewisCK750.