Team: Creighton Bluejays
2015-16 Record: 20-15 (9-9 Big East)
2015-16 Big East Finish: 6th
Final 2015-16 KenPom Ranking: #37
Postseason? Yup, lost to BYU in the third round of the NIT
Key Departures: Geoffrey Groselle (11.2 points, 6.1 rebounds, 1.3 blocks) and James Milliken (9.7 points, 2.1 rebounds, 1.7 assists)
Key Returners: Maurice Watson, Jr. (14.1 points, 3.4 rebounds, 6.5 assists), Cole Huff (11.3 points, 5.1 rebounds), Isaiah Zierden (10.2 points, 3.3 rebounds, 2.2 assists)
Key Additions: Justin Patton (redshirt freshman center, 2015 247 Sports Composite #87)
Coach: Greg McDermott, in his fourth season (419-266 overall, 140-71 at Creighton)
Outlook: Say what you want to about Greg McDermott as a coach, but you have to admit this: after one speed bump of a season following the departure of all-everything (and coach’s son) Doug McDermott, the Bluejays are right back in the thick of things as a prominent team in the Big East. They bounced back from a 14-19 season in the first year post-Doug with a 20-15 final record in year two, which included a couple of postseason wins in the NIT. That’s pretty decent, and let’s be honest: Marquette fans would have to mark the “jealous” box on the inventory form.
After a brief flirtation with heading to the NBA Draft, star point guard Maurice Watson, Jr., will return to Omaha for his senior season. That’s good news for the Jays, as Watson finished with the 12th best assist rate in the country. He’s not a stellar shooter (only 30% on threes last season), but his dynamic play elsewhere on the court provided with a lot of space for everyone else out there with him. I’d say he’ll be asked to carry a little bit more of the load for Creighton next season, but can you really ask him to have a usage rate higher than this past season’s 27.3%, which was #134 in the country?
Creighton will need people to step up. Cole Huff obviously is the #1 guy to look at there, and hopefully Isaiah Zierden can stay healthy in 2016-17. He missed four of the final five games of last season with a shoulder injury after missing the final 13 games of the 2014-15 season. Zierden is a career 38% three point shooter for CU, and even with those missed games, he still led Creighton in attempts last year. They’ll still need more than that, though, and that’s where you start looking at guys like Ronnie Harrell and Khyri Thomas, who will be entering their sophomore season. Redshirt freshman center Justin Patton will be asked to carry a bit of a load, too. Yes, there’s still Toby Hegner on the roster, but with 122 three point attempts, it’s clear that he’s a bit more of a shooter than a legitimate center.