Written by Paul Banks of the Washington Times, David Kay and Peter Christian of the The Sports Bank. Send Paul an e-mail here: paulb05 AT hotmail DOT com.
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Creighton Bluejays (Last Year: 29-6, 5-13 in Missouri Valley)
2012-13 Projected Depth Chart:
C: Gregory Echenique (Sr)/Will Artino (So)/Geoffery Goeselle (Fr)
F: Doug McDermott (Jr)/Ethan Wragge (Jr)
G/F: Grant Gibbs (Sr)/Josh Jones (Sr)/Nevin Johnson (Fr)
SG: Jahenns Manigat (Jr)/Avery Dingman (So)/Isaiah Zierden (Fr)
PG: Austin Chapman (So)/Andre Yates (Fr)
PG-Antoine Young, G-Ross Ferrarini
Behind a breakout sophomore campaign from All-American Doug McDermott, the Creighton Bluejays burst back onto the national scene in 2011 behind one of the most potent offenses in college basketball. With most of their roster intact from a year ago, more of the same is expected this season.
Creighton finished seventh in nation in scoring and also boasted the highest field percentage and third-best three-point percentage among all D-I teams. McDermott led the way, ending up as the third-highest scorer after averaging 23.2 points per night and boasting a blistering 60.1 FG%. Talk about an efficient season. He can clearly stroke it from deep but also has a solid back to the basket game thanks to his size and variety of moves on the block.
Second-leading scorer Antoine Young is gone, but the Bluejays do return plenty of talent to surround McDermott. Grant Gibbs is an all-around threat who is expected to split the point guard duties with developing sophomore Austin Chapman. Gibbs can also play effectively off the ball and guard several positions on the defensive end, while Chapman is more of a driver and distributor like Young was capable of doing.
A pair of more than capable shooters will flank them on the wing with returning starter Jahenns Manigat and key reserve Josh Jones. Ethan Wragge and Avery Dingman each shot above 40% from beyond the arc a year ago and will play key roles off the bench. Freshmen Isaiah Zierden, Andre Yates, and Nevin Johnson will find minutes hard to come by.
Up front, the physical Gregory Echenique brings the muscle down low. He plays his role well as a rebounder and rim protector, but can also score on the block. 6-11 Will Artino played sparingly a year ago and brings some size off the bench along with seven-foot freshman Geoffrey Goeselle. Greg McDermott won't be afraid to use a smaller lineup of five shooters with his son, Doug and Wragge being used as an undersized frontcourt.
It's almost sickening at how dangerous this team is shooting the ball from distance. While Creighton can put on a show offensively, becoming more of a lockdown team on the defensive end will help the Bluejays reach their full potential this year. There is no question though that they are the team to beat in the Missouri Valley Conference.
Player to Watch: Grant Gibbs, G/F
McDermott is clearly the guy here but I wanted to mix it up and give someone else some love. The Gonzaga transfer led the Bluejays in assists and steals, finished third in rebounds and fourth in scoring, which led to him being runnerup for the MVC Newcomer of the Year.
Key Non-Conference Games:
11/9 vs. North Texas
11/14 vs. UAB
11/23 vs. Wisconsin (Las Vegas Invitational)
11/24 vs. Arkansas/Arizona State (Las Vegas Invitational)
12/1 vs. St. Joseph's
12/6 at Nebraska
12/15 at California
12/19 vs. Tulsa
Predicted MVC Finish: 1st
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