Week 11 Progress Report: Creighton Bluejays

Eric Francis

Now 20th in the Associated Press poll, the Creighton Bluejays are hitting their stride.

The transition to a new conference has been nothing short of seamless for the Creighton Bluejays.

Expected to finish at the podium, the Bluejays now find themselves gunning for the top spot int he conference. With their victory over the Xavier Musketeers Sunday afternoon, Creighton earned a share of first place in the Big East. At 14-2, with a 4-0 record in conference, they are tied with the Villanova Wildcats at the top of the conference.

But conference standings is not the only place that Creighton has been recognized in, either.

Thanks to their recent string of successes, the Bluejays are moving forward in both the Associated Press and USA TODAY Coaches' Polls. They are now ranked 20th in the AP Poll, and 19th in the Coaches' Poll. This is up from their previous mark of 23rd in the USA TODAY poll, and Creighton was unranked last week in the AP Poll.

The last time that the Bluejays were ranked this season, they took two consecutive losses to George Washington and San Diego St. The latter has quickly become a "quality loss," as the Aztecs have recently shot up the polls, and are arguably one of the top 10 or 15 teams in the nation at this juncture.

Projecting a loss for Creighton going forward could be increasingly difficult. This is mostly because the Bluejays have been playing terrific basketball since they began the conference season on New Year's Eve. With impressive victories over Marquette and Seton Hall, Creighton took aim against the DePaul and Xavier this past week. The latter especially was going to be a tough test for Creighton, as the Musketeers have been one of the most surprising teams in the entire conference.

But, a week later, Creighton stands unscathed. Creighton pasted DePaul 81-62 on Tuesday, Jan. 7 and survived a tough test against Xavier, winning by the score of 95-89.

You do not need to go very far to understand why Creighton is having this much success. Their superstar, and perhaps the National Player of the Year Doug McDermott has been sensational in his final season as a Bluejay. With a 19 and 35-point performance against DePaul and Xavier respectively, the senior forward has rounded up his average points per game to 25.0. The case for McDermott to be National Player of the Year has been made, and if he keeps continuing these efforts, it will be difficult to vote against him.

Looking ahead, we could find out a lot about the role players that Creighton possesses. Grant Gibbs sustained a knee injury that will keep him out of action for 4-6 weeks. If the past two games are any indication however, the Bluejays could be just fine. Avery Dingman was inserted into the lineup and he responded with flying colors. Although he only scored four points in Creighton's meeting with Xavier, he exploded for 16 points against the DePaul Blue Demons. Dingman also played solid enough defense to get by in Sunday's contest.

Additionally, the Bluejays were boosted by a terrific performance from their other role players. Ethan Wragge has once again found his stroke. Austin Chatman and Jahenns Manigat have been playing considerably better offensively as the season has progressed, and Devin Brooks is slowly but surely transitioning to the new conference, too.

Creighton's season is far from over. But, at this point, the Bluejays are trending upwards, and only getting better. That could strike fear throughout the nation if their offense is as spectacular as it has been as of late.

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