Editor, Dave Klinger (Photo: Marquette Athletics)
College basketball season is quickly approaching. In an effort to preview it, we spoke with ten bloggers or writers, each covering a different Big East men’s basketball team. Today, we have a conversation with the White and Blue Review, a blog covering Creighton hoops, among other Bluejays sports. Get to know your enemy by reading their answers below. Lastly, we asked them to rank the Big East.
2015-16 Record: 20-15 overall, 9-9 conference
Postseason: 4-seed in NIT, lost in quarterfinals to BYU
Why will Creighton win?
WBR: Creighton will win because of all the potential scoring weapons they will have on the court. Fans are really excited about the backcourt of Maurice Watson, Jr., and Kansas State transfer Marcus Foster. Watson was dynamic at the point guard position for the Bluejays and at times could take over games. The biggest advantage he has this year is the addition of Foster, who can score anywhere on the court and spent the transfer year working on his game. They could be considered one of the best backcourts in the nation.
Then you have senior Cole Huff. He came on down the stretch for Creighton with his scoring including a 35 point performance against Seton Hall in the Big East Tournament. He was also instrumental in Creighton’s success in last year’s NIT. Justin Patton was a top 50 player coming into Creighton last season and redshirted. A year later, Patton has gained some weight, refined his skills a little more and even grown to 7’0″. He is an X-factor, someone who could play inside or outside and make a big impact. With his wide wingspan he will definitely block some shots, too.
If everything goes to plan, the Bluejays could be 10 or 11 players deep. Davion Mintz is a freshman combo guard who will backup Watson and Foster. Khyri Thomas started as a freshman last season, while fifth-year senior Isaiah Zierden was another starter that may come off the bench this year. Toby Hegner is a former starter who will back up Huff. Senior Zach Hanson played extensive minutes last season behind Geoffrey Groselle. Freshman Kobe Paras is a highly regarded recruit and was a late addition when UCLA mysteriously didn’t accept him into the school.
With experience and a new breed of players entering the program, this team has high potential.
Why will Creighton lose?
WBR: Recovery from injuries is the key to Creighton’s success and could also have an impact on their depth going into the season. Huff played with a knee injury for a good part of last season. He had offseason surgery, and a little more was found than expected. His recovery has taken longer, but he is expected to be ready for the season. Zierden, after missing a good part of the previous two seasons with knee injuries, injured his shoulder towards the end of last season and required offseason surgery. He is still recovering and hasn’t been cleared to start shooting again. Hanson injured himself earlier this summer and had to have surgery, keeping him out 10-12 weeks and pushing his recovery date closer to the start of the season. Martin Krampelj injured his knee early into last season and has been recovering ever since. He would be another option in the frontcourt. Three of these four players are veterans, and that is a lot of experience that will be needed. Add in any other injuries, and this becomes a lot more of a mess to fight through.
At times Creighton will live and die by the three-point shot. Their downfall in a few games last season was strictly because of outside shooting. However, that is an essential part of their run-and-gun style of offense and is needed to be successful.
What is Creighton’s ceiling and floor?
WBR: Villanova and Xavier are really tough. There is no denying that. It will be a tall order for the Bluejays to break into the top two. But I can comfortably see them finishing as high as third and wouldn’t be surprised if they were even second in the Big East.
The great thing about the Big East heading into 2016-17 is that the conference is really deep. However, the teams at the bottom still have some work to do. Even if the injuries catch up to the Bluejays they should only finish as low as sixth. After getting through the first of the post-Doug McDermott years, Creighton has so much talent that it already has an advantage over a handful of conference opponents.
Who should I be afraid of…and why?
WBR: You should be afraid of Maurice Watson, Jr. He has said since day one that this is his team and that he would lead them to the next level. It has been fun to see his progression from the start of last season to the end.
What no one talks about enough is the fact that the 5-second closely guarded rule going away has helped players like Watson. His game is big on the dribble. He is small enough at 5’10” that he can dribble through, around and under opponents and draw them to him. His 229 assists last season was very impressive, meaning he found several players to score off his passing. Being able to dribble around at will whether players are guarding him closely or playing farther off, he is always looking for the pass first. At the same time, he can take it to the rack and find a way to get the ball in the hoop–even with 4 players on defense converging on him.
Rank the Big East.
5. Seton Hall
8. St. John’s
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