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Big East Season Preview: Creighton Bluejays

The two-time defending Missouri Valley Conference Champions have flocked to the newly formed Big East Conference. What lies ahead for Doug McDermott & company? Only time will tell.

Rob Carr

2012-13 in Review: 28-8 (13-5), Missouri Valley Conference Regular Season and Tournament Champions; Lost to Duke in 3rd Round of NCAA Tournament

Departures: Gregory Echenique (Graduated; 9.7 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 1.7 BPG, .657 FG%) and Andre Yates (Transfered to Cleveland State 1.1 PPG, 0.6 APG, .250 FG%)

Arrivals: Tyler Clement (NR), Darian Harris (NR), John Burns (NR), Eric Roberts (NR), Devin Brooks (NR), James Milliken (NR), Toby Hegner (3*; Berlin, WI), and Zach Hanson (NR)

Returnees: Doug McDermott (23.2 PPG, 7.7 RPG, 1.6 APG, .548 FG%), Grant Gibbs (8.5 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 5.8 APG, .531 FG%), Jahenns Manigat (5.9 PPG, 2.1 RPG, 2.3 APG, .406 FG%), Austin Chatman (7.4 PPG, 4.2 APG, 2.6 RPG, .386 FG%), Ethan Wragge (7.7 PPG, 2.6 RPG, 0.4 APG, .449 FG%), and Avery Dingman (3.7 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 0.6 APG, .404 FG%)

2013-14 Projected Starting Lineup: PG Austin Chatman, SG Jahenns Manigat, SF Grant Gibbs, PF Doug McDermott, C Will Artino

A New Home:

Welcome to the show, Creighton.

After stringing together a record 15 regular season championships and 12 conference tournament champions in their stay in the Missouri Valley Conference, the Creighton Bluejays have soared away and now find themselves in unfamiliar territory. They stand with some of college basketball’s most consistent programs of the last few years, as Georgetown, Villanova, Marquette, Butler, and Xavier, along with Providence, St. John’s, Seton Hall, and DePaul are Creighton’s new conference foes. No longer amongst the mid-majors, the Bluejays are playing with the big boys.

Old Faces in the Same Places:

A majority of the roster that won 28 games in the 2012-13 campaign returns for the Bluejays’ first season in the Big East Conference. In his fourth season as their head coach, Greg McDermott looks to build off of a litany of success he has found in Omaha. He is 80-30 in his last three seasons and went 37-17 against Missouri Valley opponents so far in his tenure. Additionally, the Blue Jays in their last two NCAA Tournament appearances have made it to the round of 32.

Perhaps the biggest story of the offseason for the Creighton Bluejays was that star forward Doug McDermott and small forward Grant Gibbs would both be returning. In unusual circumstances, McDermott is a walk-on in what will be his final season, and the NCAA granted Gibbs his sixth year of eligibility over the summer. McDermott is a bona fide Naismith College Player of the Year candidate and looks to join Patrick Ewing and Wayman Tisdale as the only three-time consensus All-Americans in the history of college basketball.

Gibbs meanwhile is Creighton’s leading returning scorer and distributor (8.5 PPG, 5.8 APG) and all signs point to the former Gonzaga Bulldog being an x-factor in the 2013-14 season. Alongside Gibbs is senior guard Jahenns Manigat and junior guard Austin Chatman, whose veteran presence should help ease their transition into the Big East. Junior Will Artino and sophomore Geoffrey Groselle will split time at center, although Artino is expected to see more playing time.

The Non-Conference Appetizers:

The Bluejays’ non-conference schedule has a few bumps in the road, but all in all, the Bluejays will not be too battle-tested before conference play begins on New Year’s Eve. The highlights are a trip to Anaheim for the Wooden Legacy Tournament, a meeting against California in Omaha on Nov. 22, and a trip to Philadelphia to take on St. Joseph’s on Nov. 16.

The first-round matchup against Arizona State in the Wooden Legacy Tournament could lead to playing San Diego State in the next round, and Creighton might find themselves playing against the Miami Hurricanes or have an early get-together with their new Big East brethren in Marquette. The meeting against California and the matchup against St. Joseph’s being so early in the season could provide a scare for the Jays. In all though, the Jays should suffer minimal blows before the big tests arrive.

Playing With the Big Boys:

It will not be easy for Creighton to get adjusted into the new Big East. Right from the get go, the Bluejays host the preseason favorite to win the conference in the Marquette Golden Eagles on New Year’s Eve. From there, they travel to Newark and Rosemont for meetings against Seton Hall and DePaul respectively, and then they welcome the Xavier Musketeers and the Butler Bulldogs to CenturyLink Center Omaha.

Don’t look past the trip to the Dunkin Donuts Center when Providence welcomes Creighton on January 18, either.

Down the stretch, the Bluejays will have to bruise through trips to Hinkle Fieldhouse and the Bradley Center. A month later, it’s off to the Cintas Center for a matchup with the Musketeers, and then Georgetown on March 4 at the Verizon Center. They close their first season in the Big East hosting Providence on March 8 in Omaha.

The Outlook:

Creighton has a tough test ahead of them this season in conference play, but the talent on this team should more than make up for it. While Greg McDermott had troubles in Ames when he was coaching the Iowa State Cyclones, suspecting that he will fare much better with this Bluejays team would be a good bet. Doug McDermott is a senior superstar, and a favorite to win the Naismith Award. There is no denying that the chemistry of this team should help them enormously as they go through the growing pains, and there might be plenty this season.

Projected Record: 23-7 (12-6 in Big East Conference Play)