Creighton Barrels Into NCAAs After Edging Wichita State For Valley Double
As the Creighton Bluejays strolled off the floor at Saint Mary's McKeon Pavilion on BracketBusters Saturday, they were edging dangerously toward "Could we miss the NCAAs altogether??!" territory. That thought had seemed impossible a couple weeks earlier, but that defeat to the Gaels was Creighton's fourth in six games, they had dropped behind Wichita State in the Valley standings, and closer examination of their resume was finding it thinner than anyone in Omaha liked.
Five games later, the Bluejays are double champs in the Valley, first having swiped the league crown from the Shockers with a final-day head-to-head win at home, and then staving them off at the end of Sunday's title game to win 68-65.
The recovery, along with pair of title belts, will hopefully help Creighton get treated better in seeding than they were last year, when they were given a really surprising 8-seed and were taken out in the Round of 32 by 1-seed North Carolina. This is a better version of that team, and with seeding more in the 5- or 6-seed range, they have a chance to make the second weekend.
The positive takeaway from Sunday's win was Creighton won with a balanced attack on a day when Doug McDermott was far from his dominating best. Ethan Wragge came off the bench to pop five threes in just 16 minutes on the floor. I don't know that last season's team would have been gritty enough to win this kind of game in this kind of spot with such a pedestrian game from McDermott.
There's a continued word of caution, though. Creighton once again was hurt by a "scoring lead guard," with Wichita State's Malcolm Armstead going for 28 points (along with nine rebounds). The Bluejays have been hurt repeatedly by this type of player this season, so check their matchups in the bracket before you fully buy in. That's a problem for the next time the Bluejays play, though, which is not for another 11 or 12 days. And as Creighton has proven this season, a lot can change in a short period of time.