It's hard to argue against the fact that the Creighton Bluejays' first year in the Big East Conference went as well as it could have been. Sure, they could have won the Big East regular season title, and alright, they could have won the Big East Tournament, and maybe they should have gone further than the 3rd round of the 2014 NCAA Tournament. But aside from all of that, the Bluejays were phenomenal. They posted a 27-8 record, were one of the most prolific and efficient teams in the nation and, in case you forgot, they had one of the greatest scorers in NCAA history on their team.
Now that I've got your attention, it's time to tell you all that 2014 is not going to go like 2013 did. At all.
Creighton will not be finishing in the upper-third of the conference; Creighton might not make it past the second round of the Big East Tournament; and who knows if the Jays are even going to make the 2015 NCAA Tournament? The Big East Conference was lucky to get four teams into the Big Dance last year, and even that might have been a bit of a stretch. And the conference's outlook, as it compares to the rest of the country, is not exactly great.
Here are three reasons why fans in Omaha might be better served grasping at the fact that Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning sometimes uses the city's name as a cadence.
1. A Depleted Starting Lineup
Doug McDermott has turned in his blue and white jersey and Great Plains lifestyle for pastures far different from those that he has gotten used to in the last few years. Instead of corn fields, the man affectionately known as "Dougie McBuckets" will be hooping in The Second City -- Chicago, Illinois as a member of the Bulls.
But the loss of McDermott -- and let's be real: it's a humongous loss -- is not the only thing to worry about for this team. It's the fact that head coach Greg McDermott -- Doug's father, in case you didn't know -- will have to replace a staggering 80 percent of his lineup.
Sure, some coaches out there have grown used to this kind of roster turnover because of the "one and done" culture that has enveloped college basketball. But here's the difference with the Creighton Bluejays: last year's starting lineup was incredibly senior-laden, including Mr. McDermott. Jahenns Manigat, Grant Gibbs, and Ethan Wragge? All seniors, and all have since departed.
For the folks who enjoy numbers, here are some to consider. Creighton is losing 63.6 percent of their points, 48.4 percent of their rebounds, 47.4 percent of their assists, and 55.4 percent of their minutes from the 2013-14 campaign.
2. A Work-in-Progress Front Court
If you watched Creighton like I did last year, you may have noticed that they were not particularly great in the rebounding department. In fact, they were one of the worst teams in the country in Offensive Rebounding %. Their OR% of 27.7 ranked 289th in America, and only Seton Hall had a worse OR% amongst Creighton's conference companions.
One big reason for that? Lack of size down low. McDermott was a do-it-all forward, but even he could not compensate for what was put to task. Will Artino got his shot in the starting lineup, and after just seven games, sharpshooter Ethan Wragge replaced him for the rest of the way. Zach Hanson showed some growth towards the end of the year, but he wound up playing in fewer than 10 percent of the team's minutes. 8.7 to be exact.
Hanson, now a sophomore, will certainly get his chances, as well as the senior in Artino. But the threat of another small lineup in a conference with towering foes should be imposing for the Bluejays and their fanbase. Expect them to get beaten from the pillar to the post again in 2014 if Hanson and Artino do not shape up.
3. A Dreadful, Dreadful Stretch
If you haven't checked out Creighton's schedule, you may not have noticed a brutal path that lies ahead. From January 21 to February 7, 2015, the Bluejays will hit the road four times to some of the most historic and intimidating environments in the country. It starts with a trek up to Hinkle Fieldhouse against a Butler Bulldogs team that could be much improved. Then, as opposed to their journey to the Wells Fargo Center last year, Creighton takes in the intimate Pavilion on the campus of Villanova, where the Wildcats will be hungry to avenge their disparaging efforts against them a season ago.
Then, Creighton hosts the St. John's Red Storm and Georgetown Hoyas, both of whom claimed victories against the Jays a year ago, and the Bluejays will then head up to the Cintas Center to take on the Xavier Musketeers, and then will face the Johnnies again. But this time, it will be inside The World's Most Famous Arena: Madison Square Garden.
Agree or disagree on our pessimism? Want to deliver more reasons to be pessimistic about the Creighton Bluejays? Discuss in the comments section below!