On Sunday, March 23, the curtains dropped on an historic era in Creighton Bluejays basketball.
In the midst of a devastating loss to the Baylor Bears in the 3rd Round of the 2014 NCAA Tournament, Bluejay fans waved goodbye to an outstanding quartet of seniors. Jahenns Manigat, Ethan Wragge, Grant Gibbs and the incomparable Doug McDermott took their final bows inside AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas, leaving a bittersweet taste in the mouths of fans watching in The Lone Star State and in the city of Omaha, Nebraska.
It's clear that under the direction of head coach Greg McDermott, the Bluejays rose to new heights in the 2013-14 season. Last summer, the big story was the voyage to the historic Big East Conference. While the "new" Big East certainly was not what it used to be, it represented an historic leap for a program that resided in the Missouri Valley Conference for many years.
And then, the question of how Creighton would adjust to the new conference came about. The Bluejays were picked to finish near the top of the conference, but its previous powers seemed ready to continue to rule over the domain. But behind the play of the best player in the country, Creighton pulverized most of its opponents, including those very mainstays who were selected to finish ahead once the season was over.
If you don't believe me, just ask Jay Wright and the Villanova Wildcats, who Doug and the Jays demolished. Twice.
Even with all of that said, evaluating Creighton's first season in the conference is tough to truly come to a decision upon. It is true that they adjusted better than just about anyone could have imagined, and it is also true that Creighton's offensive prowess was positively prodigious, the facts are that Creighton was a runner-up not just once, but twice.
Creighton built a first-place lead over the Villanova Wildcats during conference play, and even held the head-to-head tiebreakers over them. Yet, Creighton let it slip by with a loss at Xavier and an even uglier loss to the eventual NIT-bound Georgetown Hoyas. The Bluejays finished the season off on a high note against the Providence Friars, but eventually, Ed Cooley's team got the last laugh.
Again, in the Big East Conference Tournament, it was somewhat of a microcosm of the Jays' season. They started off hot, powering through DePaul and Xavier with a terrific offensive display. But in the grand finale, under the bright lights of Madison Square Garden, Creighton went cold and Bryce Cotton and the Friars took home their first Big East Conference Tournament Title in two decades.
A runner up in the regular season, and a runner up in the conference tournament. A tough pill to swallow, for sure.
The NCAA Tournament welcomed Creighton as a three-seed in the West Region. Creighton blew by Louisiana Lafayette, but fell into trouble against Baylor. The weaknesses of the team reared each of their ugly heads, as the lack of perimeter defense, size in the paint and their live-or-die offense were shown nationwide. A gut punch was delivered by Turner color analyst and NBA champion Steve Kerr, who likened the matchup of Baylor versus Creighton to be "Varsity versus JV."
In short, Creighton accomplished a lot this past season. To be so divisive offensively is nothing short of spectacular. And The Era of Doug McDermott will surely be remembered forever. But in all, a sour taste has to be left in the mouths of many Creighton fans for how this one ended.
And it's a shame.