NCAA countdown: No. 19 Creighton
by Scott Gleeson, USA TODAY Sports
The first word: If there were ever a season to transition from a mid-major league to a power conference, Creighton couldn’t have timed it any more perfectly.
The Bluejays bring back their nucleus from a 28-win club, including two-time All-American Doug McDermott, who opted to return for his senior season and put the NBA on the back burner. Then, the NCAA granted an extra year of eligibility to “glue” player Grant Gibbs, a Gonzaga transfer who led the Missouri Valley Conference in assists the past two seasons.
On paper, Creighton has the pieces to enter 2013-14 as a front-runner in the reshaped Big East’s inaugural season. Still, there’s plenty of doubt hovering over a program that reached the NCAA tournament nine of the past 15 seasons and was a better team in the regular season than eventual Final Four finisher Wichita State last season, fending off the Shockers to win the MVC season and tournament titles.
Creighton coach Greg McDermott, who underwent a similar transition taking over as head coach at Iowa State after previously coaching at Northern Iowa, is well accustomed to the challenge for his team entering a power conference. The Valley might be an underrated mid-major league with high-capacity venues, but the difference between playing Evansville and Georgetown on a night-to-night basis will be huge.
One stat to debunk the skepticism: Aside from season-ending losses to superior ACC teams — North Carolina (2012) and Duke (2013) — in the NCAA tournament, Creighton has generally fared well against power schools. That’s in large part because of the 25.0 points and 8.6 rebounds McDermott has averaged in 11 games against major foes. If that’s not hefty enough: McDermott is the only active Division I player with more than 1,700 points.
2012-13 in review: 28-8 overall (13-5 Missouri Valley Conference), lost in third round of NCAA tournament to Duke.
Tournament projection: No. 5 seed, at-large bid.
Coach’s corner: “We know there are a lot of good teams from top to bottom, but I’d be disappointed if we’re not competing for the (Big East) championship. The exciting thing for us is … [For more on College basketball countdown: No. 19 Creighton, click here.]