Teams: Creighton (0-0) vs. Alcorn State (0-0)
Day: Friday, Nov. 8
Time: 8:00 PM ET
Location: CenturyLink Center Omaha; Omaha, Nebraska
TV: Fox Sports Net
Radio: 1620 KZON-AM
Doug McDermott enters his final season as a Creighton Bluejay with enormous hype following. On Monday, McDermott made the Associated Press’ Preseason All-America team for the second consecutive season, and was also named to the 15-man Oscar Robertson Award Watch List on Tuesday. He is looking to follow up a spectacular 2012-13 season, in which the forward averaged 23.2 points per game and 7.7 rebounds per game. Chances are he will get a lot of looks against Alcorn State on Friday, so the Braves will have to do their best to stave him off as much as possible.
Although it was just an exhibition game, the concerns over the Bluejay backcourt have to be carrying over from last week. Junior guard Austin Chatman and senior guard Jahenns Manigat combined for just one point and four assists in 36 minutes of action against Northern State. Last season, Manigat averaged 5.9 points per game at 40.6 percent from the floor, and Chatman averaged 7.4 points per game at a meager 38.6 percent from the floor faring marginally better. Backcourt efficiency is something Creighton desperately needs if they want to be successful. In a conference featuring the likes of Bryce Cotton, D'Angelo Harrison, Semaj Christon, Markel Starks and Fuquan Edwin, the guard play needs to get off to a hot start. Lucky for the Bluejays, they may have an ace in the hole with junior college transfer Devin Brooks, who has had a very good series of performances, albeit exhibition.
Alcorn State Storylines
For the Alcorn State Braves, the 2012-13 season was one to forget. The Braves may have finished tied for fifth in the Southwestern Athletic Conference, but stumbled to an 8-10 conference record, on their way to a 10-24 season. Alcorn not only struggled in the win-loss column, but also statistically. They ranked 313th in the nation in points per game (60.4), 259th in rebounds per game (32.6), 344th in assists per game (9.1) and 338th in field goal percentage (.385). Simply put, the Braves are glad that they can open a new chapter.
The departure of leading scorer Marquiz Baker means the Bluejays may see a lot more of LeAntwan Luckett. As a freshman, Luckett scored 13.4 points per game and picked up four rebounds per game while shooting 37.5 percent from the floor. Now a sophomore, the Ridgeland, Mississippi native is no doubt the Braves' best player. With the top leading scorer in 2012-13 in Baker, and the Braves' third leading scorer, Anthony Nieves, both departing in the offseason, the sophomore guard should get a bevy of opportunities to shoot the basketball.
For the Bluejays, the frontcourt play should dictate the pace and the play of this game. While Creighton's weak backcourt has the chance to be exploited against Luckett and the Braves, their frontcourt can just as easily find a weakness for the Braves. Behind seniors Josh Nicholas and Stephen Raquil lies youth and, subsequently, inexperience. Will Artino, Zach Hanson and Doug McDermott could each have big nights on the floor if they can work Nicholas and Raquil respectively into foul trouble, and perhaps force Alcorn State to turn to their inexperienced bigs.
For the Braves, the X-Factor is a duo. Guards Anthony Evans and Devante Hampton are Alcorn State's second- and third-leading returning scorers from a season ago and have the chance to log minutes and make things interesting for Creighton's weak backcourt. Evans and Hampton both scored 5.4 points per game, and Hampton was a threat on the glass a year ago, too. The 6-foot-1 sophomore collected 2.8 rebounds per game in the 2012-13 season. Hampton additionally was the better shooter of the two, shooting 40.5 percent from the field and 40 percent from the perimeter to Evans' 32 percent from the field and 25.9 percent from the arc.
Creighton's first test of the season is passable. McDermott should be enough for the Bluejays to get it done in Omaha, as he can overmatch just about any player that the Braves have on the floor. McDermott's buddy, Grant Gibbs, could also play a decisive role in this one as Creighton's main distributor if Manigat and Chatman struggle. Alcorn State could make this interesting for the opening minutes, but in the end, this one should go to the Bluejays.
Creighton 89 Alcorn State 52