Both the Creighton Bluejays and Oklahoma Sooners are coming off of early exits from the 2014 NCAA Tournament and, based on their current rosters, are projected to have a down season. This matchup could help one of these teams build a resume for March.
The Sooners last year were always known as a team that could score as they averaged 82.2 points per game, the 7th best mark in the nation. With Buddy Hield, Ryan Spangler and Isaiah Cousins all coming back, the offensive prowess of this team should stay intact. Oklahoma is, however, without Cameron Clark who was the team’s second-leading scorer and top defender. For that reason, the team is likely to take a step back this season. Last year’s Sooners had most of their success at home, but did have a 5-4 record on the road, which is where they will be in this clash with Creighton at the CenturyLink Center in Omaha.
In the matchup itself, the Bluejays are really going to miss Chicago Bulls forward and Creighton graduate Doug McDermott because of his ability to score at will against any opponent in the country. They ran their entire offense through him last year and without McDermott, it is tough to see where the Bluejays will get their offense in this game. This will likely be the theme of this upcoming season for the Jays and cause them to struggle in non-conference play.
An Achilles heel for the Sooners, which really cost them in their NCAA Tournament loss to the North Dakota State Bison, is the fact that they cannot make stops on defense when they have to win games. There were times throughout last year’s campaign when they would struggle offensively and not have enough on defense to play a balanced style to win games. This "all or nothing" type of mentality could provide the Bluejays some relief in this matchup. If Oklahoma struggles with their shooting in this game and players like Devin Brooks and Austin Chatman for Creighton are playing well then the Jays could win this game.
Another factor that is in Creighton’s favor is the fact that this game is at home. Last year, they had a stellar record of 16-0 at home while having one of the best home courts in college hoops. This will provide a jolt for the players and some support that the team will certainly need for this game.
A difference maker in this game will be the scoring of Oklahoma’s guard Hield and his ability to put a team on his back in order to lead them to victories. He will not need to in this game and should get plenty of support from his teammates on both ends.
The major benefactor in this game will never play in college again. McDermott is one of, if not the greatest player in Creighton sports history and without him the Bluejays will likely fail to be contenders to win the conference let alone be favored in this game.
After playing in the Missouri Valley Conference, Creighton joined the Big East Conference last year and one of the goals of that move was to get better non-conference games. Last season that started to change and it will continue to get tougher. It will be up to the younger players in the program to step in order to make this transition a smoother one. Without a star like McDermott, however, it may be a long season for the program in addition to this tough matchup against the Sooners.