Team Name: Creighton Bluejays
2013-14 Record: 27-8 (14-4 Big East), Lost NCAA Tournament 3rd Round
Creighton's first season as a member of the Big East would also serve as the final season of star forward Doug McDermott's illustrious collegiate career.
Led by the NCAA's fifth all-time leading scorer and Big East Player of the Year, the Bluejays spent much of the season in the nation's top 25 and near the top of the Big East standings. After a shaky 5-2 start to the season, Creighton would find their stride and go on to win 14 out of their next 15 games, including an out-of-this-world performance at then-fourth ranked Villanova, in which they hit a Big East record 21 3-pointers en route to a dominant victory.
After finishing second in the conference during the regular season, they would advance to the finals of the Big East Tournament before falling to a hungry Providence team on the bubble.
Their NCAA Tournament run likely ended much faster than many had expected, as they were crushed by an athletic Baylor team in the tournament's 3rd round.
F Doug McDermott (26.7 PPG, 7.0 RPG), F Ethan Wragge (10.4 PPG, 47% 3P%), Jahenns Manigat (7.0 PPG, 2.9 APG), Grant Gibbs (7.2 PPG, 3.9 APG)
It's hard to put into words just how much Creighton will miss McDermott, arguably one of the best players in NCAA history, but it's also important to note the other major losses that the Bluejays suffered this offseason.
Gone is their second leading scorer and honorable mention first team All-Big East selection, Ethan Wragge. Also gone are their fourth and fifth leading scorers, Grant Gibbs and Jahenns Manigat. In total, Creighton lost around 65 percent of last season's scoring output, a tall order for any team to have to replace.
Key Recruits: F Ronnie Harrell (Denver, CO), F Leon Gilmore (Manvel, TX), G Rick Kreklow (Transfer-California)
In the wake of his son's departure from the program, head coach Greg McDermott did an outstanding job of recruiting this offseason, pulling in two impact recruits along with snagging three transfers for the future.
Also coming to the program this season will be Ricky Kreklow, a transfer from California who averaged 5.5 points and 2.6 rebound for the Golden Bears last year.
Former Boston University guard Maurice Watts and former Nevada forward Cole Huff also transferred to Creighton, and they'll each be eligible for the 2015-16 season.
Key Players Returning:
G Austin Chatman (8.1 PPG, 4.4 APG), G Devin Brooks (6.5 PPG, 3.5 RPG), C Will Artino (5.5 PPG, 3.3 RPG), G Avery Dingman (3.2 PPG, 2.3 RPG)
The Bluejays top returning scorer will be guard Austin Chatman, who averaged just over eight points per game last season. He did undergo offseason surgery on his thumb in July, but nonetheless he'll be expected to play a major role as a senior leader this season.
Guard Devin Brooks played the role of backup scorer nicely in 2013-14, averaging 6.5 points in just over 16 minutes per game. He will be a crucial part of Creighton's offense going forward.
While last season's team utilized their exceptional shooting abilities to pull away from opponents, this year's team will likely have to rely on the size of players like 6'11" center Will Artino and 6'9" forward Zach Hanson to get the job done in the paint, along with some scoring from Avery Dingman and others.
Returning Minutes/ Points/ Rebounds
Key Non-Conference Opponents:
Oklahoma (11/19), Ole Miss (11/28), Middle Tennessee State/Cincinnati (11/29), @Nebraska (12/7)
In just their third game of the season, Creighton will play host to a tough Oklahoma team that made an appearance in last year's NCAA Tournament. Oklahoma is expected to remain strong despite losses, and that should be a good early test for the Bluejays.
Creighton will also take part in the Emerald Coast Classic in Florida, where a semifinal matchup with Ole Miss awaits them along with a possible showdown with Cincinnati in the finals.
Towards the end of non-conference play will be an interesting rivalry matchup at emerging Nebraska in December.
Most Intriguing Conference Matchup:
@Providence (12/31) (Big East Opener)
Providence was one of the few teams in the Big East last season who actually gave Creighton any sort of trouble in their three meetings, taking two of them from the Bluejays including the Big East Championship.
It's fitting that Creighton will get a chance in this season's Big East opener to avenge that defeat right away. It should be interesting to see how the new-look Bluejays fare in their first conference game against the Friars, who return much of the length that handled the Bluejays last season.
Projected Big East Finish: 9th
Projected Overall Finish: No Postseason
The loss of McDermott alone was likely enough to knock this team out of any sort of postseason contention for this season. Combine that with the losses of Wragge, Gibbs, and Manigat, and it becomes tough for anyone to see this team remaining competitive without some surprise names emerging.
There are a few bright spots left, such as Chatman, Brooks, and the two strong recruits, and the team has size. But for the moment that simply doesn't look like enough to carry this team. Who knows, maybe in a few months the Bluejays will be right back in the top 25, but for now that doesn't look all that likely.