Things looked somewhat grim for the Creighton Bluejays after their humbling defeat at the hands of the Providence Friars on Saturday, Jan. 18. It looked as if Creighton's weaknesses were being shown in full effect, and with a trip to Philadelphia in their future to take on the Villanova Wildcats, it appeared as if the challenge would only increase for the Bluejays as the BIG EAST season wore on.
One week later, it looks as if those questions were answered, and the challenge was accepted and bested.
A week after arguably their worst performance of the 2013-14 season, Creighton rounded out the week with two impressive victories against two powers of the "old" BIG EAST Conference, and impressive may be putting it mildly. They pasted the Villanova Wildcats in a record-breaking performance inside the Wells Fargo Center on Monday night, connecting with a BIG EAST hoops record 21 3-pointers. What's more is that their Effective FG% on the night against No 4 team in the country was a mystifying 75.0 percent, the highest mark for the Bluejays all season.
Then, five nights later, the Bluejays rebounded with a victory over the Georgetown Hoyas. While it was not as glamours and spectacular as their win over Villanova, Creighton still managed to dig deep and find ways to win on an off-shooting night. They were aided by five different Bluejay scorers totaling more than 10 points, including the phenomenal Doug McDermott, Ethan Wragge, Jahenns Manigat, Will Artino and Devin Brooks.
McDermott has been a huge reason as to why this team has been so successful this season. It goes without saying that he is no doubt the impact player on this team, and if you ask this writer, he is the National Player of the Year at this point in the season. On an average 31.7 minutes per night, McDermott is scoring 24.7 points per game on 49.4 percent shooting from the field. With any luck, McDermott could enter the exclusive 50-40-90 club if his FG% and FT% take minuscule steps forward. For what it's worth, his FT% is at 89.7 percent, and his 3PT% is already over the 40.0 percent threshold, currently standing at 43.0 percent.
The talk of the team might be Doug McDermott, but Ethan Wragge was who everybody was talking about in the wake of Creighton's bombastic performance in Philadelphia. Even though Wragge has taken only 21.1 percent of shots, and accounting for just 15.4 percent of possessions, he is making the most of his time camped out along the perimeter. He still maintains an even 50.0 percent mark from the 3-point line on his 154 attempts from deep, and is scoring 12.5 points per game. Creighton's sharpshooting specialist has been just about automatic this season from deep, and has not shown any signs of slowing down.
What might be another reason for Creighton's improved play has bee what Creighton has gotten out of Jahenns Manigat as of late. As discussed in the preview for the game against Georgetown, Manigat's play has been much improved since the BIG EAST season started. There is probably no correlational analysis to be taken from this, as the idea of elevating your game to one portion of the season does not necessarily draw a great feel. In any event, Manigat's play has returned to the level he was at during his sophomore season in Omaha.
This season, Manigat's points per game, FG%, and 2-PT% have taken dramatic increases. The latter has mostly been attributed to a recent leap in attacking the basket. Via hoop-math.com, this season 22.7 percent of Manigat's 119 FGA have been at the rim. Last season, this mark was only at 18.3 percent, and two seasons ago, this mark was at a meager 12.9 percent. And the senior guard from Ottawa is making the most of these opportunities, make no mistake about it, as his FG% at the rim is an outstanding 66.7 percent.
As a whole, it is tough to argue that Creighton's not amongst the elite in regards to offense in the nation. As of today, they stand in 1st place in Adjusted Offensive Efficiency (127.3 points per 100 possessions), Effective FG% (59.1 percent), and 3PT FG% (43.3 percent). In fact, Creighton's lead in Adjusted Offensive Efficiency is quite large. They are 4.0 points better than the second place team in the country in this category, the Duke Blue Devils, and the fourth-ranked team in this category, the Iowa Hawkeyes, are 7.0 points behind the Bluejays.
With this remarkable offensive display, the National Player of the Year, and role players that are only getting better, Creighton continues to climb the ladder not only in the BIG EAST Conference, but perhaps the entire country, as well.