One day into its new Big East existence, Creighton received some excellent news regarding one of its key players.
Guard Grant Gibbs, who applied for a sixth-year of eligibility this offseason -- claiming that the season he sat out after transferring from Gonzaga while recovering from a knee injury should be tacked on to the end of his eligibility clock -- was granted his wish.
Teammate Doug McDermott tweeted his approval Tuesday afternoon, which was followed up by the above video capturing coach Greg McDermott’s official “welcome back” embrace.
Maybe the most interesting part about Gibbs' return is what it means for McDermott. Because the Bluejays have exhausted all 13 of their available scholarships, Creighton was forced to squeeze one of its current players out of his grant-in-aid agreement. The solution? Making McDermott, one of the preseason frontrunners for National Player of the Year, a walk-on. That's right: In 2013, Creighton's bona fide star and floor leader will play under the label traditionally heaped upon low-minutes bench warmers.
Of course, McDermott's official status doesn't negate the most important development of the day. Gibbs is back, and Creighton is much better off as a result. Moving to the new Big East this offseason was going to be a major step-up in competition whether Gibbs got his sixth-year of eligibility or not. That he will join the Bluejays for their maiden year in their new conference digs should help make the transition that much easier.
Quantifying the immense on-court benefits Gibbs’ return promises is difficult, but his 119.1 offensive rating, 58.0 effective field goal percentage and 34.3 percent assist rate (a top-50 figure nationally) are all good places to start (all numbers from KenPom.com). His creative intuition facilitates everything the Bluejays do on offense, from McDermott’s perimeter penetration to Ethan Wragge’s sterling three-point marksmanship and on down the line. Gibbs' return means, save for departed center Greg Echenique, the Bluejays bring back all of last season’s Missouri Valley regular-season and conference tournament championship lineup. The Big East will likely remain one of the nation’s four or five best leagues in its transformed, 10-team version, and Creighton, with Gibbs back in the fold, might just have the firepower to win the league outright in its first year in the conference.