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2018-19 Big East Men’s Basketball Summer Check-in: Creighton Bluejays

Foster and Thomas are just too difficult to replace quickly.

NCAA Basketball: Nebraska at Creighton Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

Team: Creighton Bluejays

2017-18 Record: 21-12, 10-8 Big East

2017-18 Big East Finish: Tied for third with Seton Hall and Providence

Final 2017-18 Kenpom Ranking: #30

Postseason? Yes, the Bluejays made the Tournament as the 8 seed but were knocked out by Kansas State in the first round 69-59.

Key Departures: Seniors Marcus Foster (19.8 points, 3.9 rebounds, 2.7 assists) and Toby Hegner (8.4/3.1/0.8), Junior Khyri Thomas (NBA Draft, 15.1/4.4/1.8)

Key Returners: Ronnie Harrell Jr. (7.0 points, 6.3 rebounds, 2.6 assists), Martin Krampelj (11.9/8.1/1.2), Mitch Ballock (7.3/2.9/1.9)

UPDATE: Thanks to @dogonthefield, we have realized that Ronnie Harrell transferred to Denver. We were bound to miss at least one transfer whilst doing these check-ins.

Key Additions: Grad transfer from Rice Connor Cashaw (15.5 points, 7.1 rebounds, and 3.2 assists with the Owls last season, will be eligible to play this year); 247 Sports’ #40 recruiting class, #4 in the Big East, including Marcus Zegarowski (6’1” combo guard, #107 in the country) and Sam Froling (6’11” power forward, #139 in the country)

Coach: Greg McDermott. He’s in his 9th season at Creighton and 26th overall. McDermott has a 187-94 at Creighton and 466-288 overall. He led the Bluejays to a 21-12 record last season. McDermott has made the tournament 4 times with 3 coming while in the Big East.

Outlook: How good can you really expect a team to be when they lose their two stars of the program? Marcus Foster and Khyri Thomas both entered the NBA Draft, with Thomas electing to forego his final season of eligibility. Thomas is now a Detroit Piston and will play alongside Marquette alumni Henry Ellenson while Foster went undrafted. They also lost Toby Hegner who was the #3 guy all season. It seems like the Bluejays will try to rebuild around forward Martin Krampelj who was injured for half of last season but dominated in Big East play.

It will be difficult to play at the same level they did last year considering the Big East is going to be a lot tighter with St. John’s and Georgetown projected to be much improved. Combine that with Marquette’s stacked roster full of potential and ‘Nova’s quick reload and you’re probably going to see a lot of close games in the Big East. I’m not so sure Creighton will be a contender this year. Realistically, they have one returning player they can count on in Krampelj, and that’s presuming he’s 100% healthy. Other than that, the Bluejays will hope that Harrell and Ballock can step up but they have yet to be relied on in their time at Creighton. Rice grad transfer Cashaw looks promising but who knows how much impact he’ll have in a much more difficult conference. Cashaw will definitely be leaned on heavily as he will try to replace the production of Foster and Thomas. Good luck with that.

There’s too many IF’s with the Bluejays team next year for me to be comfortable labeling them as a Tournament team in July. However, I have no doubt that McDermott will have them competing hard all season. I think there’s a chance they can make some noise if their unproven players... well.... prove themselves. But as it stands, I like Villanova, Marquette, and St. John’s to be at the top of the Big East next year with Butler and Georgetown not too far behind. Yes, I believe the Hoyas are finally going to get themselves out of the cellar of the Big East. I may be asking too much of them but we’ll see. Teams like Xavier and Providence won’t be as strong after losing some key players so there’s space for teams like Georgetown and St. John’s to play themselves into the top 5.

I just don’t know where the Bluejays fit in right now. They could finish anywhere from 5-8 in the Big East. It all depends on three things:

  1. Can their young players can step up?
  2. Can they win close games?
  3. Can Cashaw have a major impact this season?

If all these check out, then you might see Creighton in the Tournament again. Let me be clear: they probably need to answer all three with a resounding yes. If not, then they won’t be anywhere close to the bubble on selection Sunday.