A week ago, the Creighton Bluejays were ranked No. 20 in the nation in the Associated Press poll and No. 18 in the USA Today Coaches' Poll. A week later, they stand on the outside looking in, dropping all the way down to 35th in the AP Poll and No. 33 in the USA Today poll.
What caused such a dramatic pitfall?
For starters, let's get the obvious out of the way: Creighton suffered back-to-back losses in the Wooden Legacy Tournament Semifinal and Consolation Rounds. The San Diego St. Aztecs, now ranked No. 24 in the AP Poll, handed the Bluejays their first loss of the season. Two nights later, Creighton was stifled all game by the surprising George Washington Colonials, in their worst offensive performance of the season.
As of last Wednesday, prior to their appearance in the Wooden Legacy Tournament, the Bluejays were second in the nation in Adjusted Offensive Efficiency, a measurement that tracks how many points a team scores per 100 possessions. As of Dec. 1, the Bluejays now rank fifth in the category at 117.5 points per 100 possessions. Gonzaga, Kentucky, Oklahoma St., and Duke are the only teams better than Creighton in this metric. It's clear that the Bluejays are still one of the top teams in this category, but it is also clear that there was a drop, given that previously they were scoring 119 points per 100 possessions.
Another reason for the struggles that the Bluejays had were the drops and rises that they had in many of Ken Pomeroy's Four Factors. Unfortunately for Creighton, many of these declines came in areas that they did not want. In their win against Arizona St., the Bluejays had an Effective FG% of 63.8 percent and a Turnover Percentage of 13.3. In their losses to San Diego St. and George Washington, however, their Effective FG% fell to 58.9 and 40.2, and their Turnover Percentage rose to 17.4 and 20.6 respectively.
In terms of looking at how the players are performing, there are some growing concerns. One specifically is the play of Will Artino. Artino had a tough weekend in southern California, scoring an average of 3.33 points per game in the three games that the Bluejays played. He only collected three rebounds in the three games played, and that included his night against San Diego St. when he did not sky for one single rebound the entire night. That simply has to change. Artino is nearly 7'0" tall and if he is not doing a good job down low of getting rebounds to gain more chances for the Bluejays, and this happens consistently, then he will continue to lose more and more playing time.
For reference, the sophomore center only played nine minutes against George Washington.
The bench simply has to do better as well. While the numbers say that they have done a good job of outscoring teams, a lot of times it comes from just one or two other players. For instance, against George Washington, just two players who came off the bench were able to score two points or more, and one of them, in Ethan Wragge, scored a game-high 16. For a while against San Diego St., the Bluejays bench was rendered scoreless, and did not get cooking until Devin Brooks started to get loose.
The bench, and the rest of Creighton's role player shave to account for situations like one that occurred on Sunday evening as well. Doug McDermott, arguably the best player in college basketball, had an unspectacular night from the field, scoring just seven points and was just 2-of-12 on his field goals. Doug is going to face tougher defensive matchups this season in the BIG EAST conference, and the other four around him in the starting line up, and whomever comes off the bench simply has to make the most of their contributions.
There have been a lot of instances this season where the guards are doing a great ob of distributing and picking up rebounds, while the sharpshooters that the Bluejays possess are doing a good ob from the perimeter and all over the floor. That is fantastic, but there simply has to be a lot more done. This was only a 3-game sample size and involved three games in four nights, so it might be unfair to zero in 100 percent.
But, this was a glimpse into situations that might very well occur a few more times this season. Four weeks into the season, Creighton appears to be ill prepared.