TEAM OUTLOOK Creighton's tradition consists of numerous good seasons, but the Bluejays have struggled in March. But this is a team that could change that. Creighton is the heavy favorite in the MVC and should be a factor nationally. Not since 2003, when Kyle Korver led the Bluejays to 29 wins, have expectations been so high in Omaha. Though Creighton is a wonderful offensive team, led by All-America forward Doug McDermott, making a run in March depends on improving the defense.
BREAKING DOWN THE STARTING FIVE McDermott averaged 22.9 points and made 60.1 percent from the field and 48.6 percent from three-point range last season. If the Bluejays, who ranked seventh in the MVC in field goal defense (.441) and three-point defense (.361) are to excel this season, McDermott needs to lead the way on defense. Senior center Gregory Echenique, a 270-pound roadblock in the lane, blocked 57 shots last season and should help defensively, while sophomore Will Artino and redshirt freshman Geoff Groselle, give Creighton more quality depth than any other Valley team at center.
Creighton's lone loss is significant. Antoine Young ran the team for three seasons, played tough defense and rarely turned the ball over. Sophomore Austin Chatman, who played in all 35 games last season, will take over Young's spot. He is jet-quick and more likely to pass than shoot. Chatman won't be without experienced help. Grant Gibbs is one of the MVC's best passers, and he can run the offense as a big guard or small forward. Junior Jahenns Manigat and senior Josh Jones aren't point guards, but they are experienced. Manigat, who started every game, made 49.2 percent of his threes in MVC games, while Jones averaged 5.2 points and made 42.3 percent from the arc.
NEWCOMERS Forward Nevin Johnson, who redshirted last season, could add quickness and defense, assets Creighton lacked. Center Geoff Groselle, another redshirt, makes the Bluejays one of the MVC's biggest teams. Andre Yates is expected to be a key reserve at point guard, while guard Isaiah Zierden is an excellent outside shooter, but there doesn't appear to be a spot in the rotation for him this season.
FINAL ANALYSIS With nine of its top 10 players back, the Bluejays are certainly worthy of national attention. They defeated Alabama in first round the NCAA tournament last season before falling to North Carolina. This season won't be a success without playing into the second weekend. Creighton should navigate the MVC's 18-game schedule easily with its depth and experience and the team's offense should set a pace that is tough to match. If defense grows into more of a priority, the Bluejays are capable of going much deeper into March.
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