I’m sure the players and coaches of the Creighton Bluejays are tired of hearing it:
“How will you survive without the Doug McDermott, one of the top scorers in college basketball history?”
Well now they shouldn’t have to answer it; at least not as often.
Creighton defeated the number 18 ranked Oklahoma Sooners 65 to 63 on Wednesday after a huge second half surge. The Bluejays fell behind by as many as 18 early in the second half, which made the comeback all the more exciting. However, this game has much more significance than a nice, home win against a quality opponent to start the season. Greg McDermott and company’s win carried a ton of weight for both Creighton and the Big East’s perception to the college basketball community.
The amount of suspicion given to Creighton and the Big East going into the season has been remarkably paralleled. Both have become afterthoughts, the Big East nationally and Creighton within the Big East. What were the traditional Power Six conferences was reduced to the Power Five, and the Big East “joined” the American Athletic Conference, Atlantic 10, and the Mountain West as the second tier of college basketball. Fair or unfair, the Big East did nothing to prove its case a season ago with zero teams making the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament.
The other big problem with the national perception is the conference did very little in November and December in 2013 to prove it’s still can be a force in the college game. Outside of the Villanova Wildcats’ impressive showing in the Battle 4 Atlantis, no other teams got that premium notch under their belt early in the season to impress the seeding committee, the media, or the casual basketball fan.
Creighton, meanwhile, did go to the NCAA Tournament behind the aforementioned Doug McDermott before bowing out in the third round to the Baylor Bears in a 30 point thumping. McDermott graduated along with other starters Ethan Wragge, Grant Gibbs, and Jahenns Manigat.
This left Creighton with an unproven cast that the general public assumed would fade into playing a lower level of basketball. Sounds a little bit like the Big East, huh?
That’s what makes Creighton the perfect team to start the long journey in returning the Big East towards the Power Six reputation. Lon Kruger’s Sooners are going to be a very, very good basketball team this year. People have even picked them to challenge for the championship of the mighty Big 12. Quite a notch in the belt of the team still transitioning to life after McDermott (A.(Mc)D).
Austin Chatman, the new senior leader on this team, delivered with 17 points, 11 rebounds, and 6 blocks for the Bluejays. Sophomore Isaiah Zierden and freshman Toby Hegner each contributed 11 points in the upset. They may not be the national player of the year candidates, but they sure can play winning basketball for the guy who can still coach pretty darn well even without his son, Greg McDermott.
Now it is the rest of the Big East’s job to follow suit and compete at a high level against the nation’s elite. Sure it will take some time to change the perception, but maybe people shouldn’t jump to such conclusions to judge. Creighton is not only going to survive post-McDermott, but they are going to be a much better team than the lowly ninth that they were touted as in the Big East’s preseason poll.