A relatively unfamiliar feeling is settling into Creighton Bluejays fans as conference play begins. After averaging two losses before the beginning of league play, whether it was the Missouri Valley Conference or their first year in the Big East, the Bluejays had four before entering the Dunkin Donuts Center on New Year's Eve. And eleven months after being handed one of their worst losses of the season, the Friars did it yet again, pummeling the Bluejays 65-53 in a game that never seemed all that close.
To better understand what went right and -- more importantly -- what went wrong, let's dive head first here. We'll analyze and discuss, to the best of our abilities, what caused this all to occur and why Creighton hit the five-loss mark at the earliest point in the season since the 2009-10 campaign where they finished 18-16.
The Four Factors
Dean Oliver's four factors have been expressed on this site in the past, but if you are in need of a refresher, we have you covered right here. Moving on, let's examine what happened in these four categories on Wednesday night in Providence.
|Effective FG%||Turnover%||Off. Rebounding%||FTRate|
Neither team did particularly well at getting to the line, as both clubs finished under 30.0 percent. To put these numbers in perspective, the current Division 1 average for free throw rate is 37.3 percent. Providence has been a slightly above average team in this regard all season, ranking 145th in the category amongst their peers, while the Bluejays are slightly below average with a mark of 36.9 percent. That's good for 176th in the country. It shouldn't particularly surprise anyone that these teams didn't have bountiful successes in getting to the line, and to make things even more intriguing, each team missed on just nine total freebies.
With OR%, Creighton's only "victory" amongst these four factors, being the only thing weighing towards the Jays, the turnover margin and especially the eFG% is where we find our biggest difference. The margin of victory here in this category for PC was 9.5 percent. The last time Creighton went into the Dunkin Donuts Center, they didn't shoot nearly as poorly or as effectively, posting an eFG% of 52.8 percent and scored 1.11 points per possession. This time around, shots were not falling for Creighton and they scored just 0.84 points per possession, 0.27 points off their mark from January 2014.
When looking back at the box score of that game, it's easy to see that the biggest factor for the dip in efficiency was likely the absence of Doug McDermott. With his absence out of their hands, taking a look at the numbers, Geoffrey Groselle's ORtg is the only one that stands out at 105. Toby Hegner had one of 300, but he took just two shots in the game and didn't register a free throw or a 2-point attempt. Everyone else fell under the 105 mark that Groselle posted, and when you factor in that only three players had an ORtg of 80 or higher, while Providence had four including two with 113+, it's a very glaring blemish.
We give the victory here to PC by the score of 3-1.
+ Hats off to Geoffrey Groselle. The 7-foot junior, who had delivered earlier in the season against Eastern Illinois and has posted an ORtg of 105 or better in his last three games, tallied up 14 points whilst shooting 6-for-9 on his 2-point attempts. He became an integral piece to Creighton's comeback attempt deep into the first half, scoring six straight points from the 6:29 mark to 4:35, with two layups and a dunk coming off an assist from Austin Chatman to give the Bluejays the lead. Unfortunately, He picked up a foul on the ensuing position, and after Ben Bentil's layup to tie the game, Creighton relinquished the lead back to the Friars and would never get it back.
+ Say what you will about missed opportunities from the 3-point line but Creighton made the most of their gimmes. On the evening, Creighton shot 10-for-14 from the free throw line, good for a FT% of 71.4 percent. This kept pace with their stellar free throw mark on the season, which currently stands at 74.6 percent. That's the 28th best FT% in the nation, and well above the D1 average of 68.4 percent. While that D1 average is down from last year's -- 69.9 percent -- credit should be given where credit is due.
- Defensively, Creighton was leveled by PC's LaDontae Henton. Coming into the game, Henton was the conference's leading scorer, averaging 20 points per game, the senior forward scored 35 points which was just three points off his season-high 38 against Notre Dame on November 23. CU couldn't stop him inside, as he shot 9-for-14 on his 2-point attempts. And they could not contain him along the perimeter either, as he knocked down 3-of-7 attempts from deep. Henton made them pay at the free throw line, too, as he knocked down all but one of his attempts from the line. With eight rebounds, one block, a steal and no turnovers, it's safe to say LaDontae's Inferno was burning bright on Wednesday night, and there was not a damn thing the Bluejays could do.
- Austin Chatman might have been second best in terms of points scored (11) and while he did have three assists and three rebounds on the defensive end, but his four turnovers and three personal fouls were rather glaring. Chatman's TO Rate has been one of the best in the country this season and has improved dramatically in that category each year. He's been skittish lately however, posting 10 turnovers in his last four games including the four against the Friars. This will have to be cut down as he is CU's primary ball handler.
- Although they limited him to just six points, Kris Dunn made an impact about everywhere that he could. Though he, much like Chatman, committed four turnovers and three personal fouls, Dunn dished out 12 assists, which marks the third time in a row the guard has reached double digits in the category. He is tops in the nation in assist rate so this mark should come as no surprise, but the Bluejays could not counteract him while he had the ball. Dunn was diversified in his ways as well, shelling out assists to five different Friars throughout the game. He made sure to mix it up, and Creighton simply didn't have an answer for him on New Year's Eve.
- Devin Brooks has been paying the price lately for some poor performances. After a five point, four turnover night against North Texas, Brooks sat to begin the game and in 22 minutes, he scored just three points against the Friars. It is worth noting though that Brooks did, and continues to be an effective rebounder, coming away with six at The Dunk while adding an assist to his repertoire. That said, it was another meager night for him to say the least.
- As we've noted before, 3-point shooting is not going to be a hallmark for this team like it was just a year ago. Creighton is badly missing sharpshooters Ethan Wragge and, of course, Mr. McDermott and that was evident yet again on New Year's Eve. The Jays shot 5-for-21 against the Friars from downtown, good enough for a 23.8 percent tally. In games away from Omaha this year, including two neutral site affairs with Ole Miss and Middle Tennessee, Creighton is shooting 32.4 percent from the 3-point line.
What lies ahead
The Bluejays will be heading to Washington, D.C. where a talented Georgetown Hoyas team is ready to meet them. Last season, the Hoyas were able to defeat the Bluejays in a late-season matchup that was part of Georgetown's spirited attempt at making a run into the NCAA Tournament (As we know, DePaul eventually happened, and the Hoyas were thrust aside to the NIT). The Hoyas are coming off of a nightmarish performance of their own against the Xavier Musketeers, and will no doubt be looking to immediately right the ship. A matchup to watch for is how Creighton defends Georgetown from the perimeter. CU has done a poor job as of late in defending the 3-point shot and Georgetown is an above average team from deep. If the Hoyas hit their 3-point shots effectively and in spurts, this could be another long afternoon.
For now, at a glance, this game in Providence was nothing short of an ugly start to the conference season. Whether or not it's a sign of things to come is unknown, but at 9-5, things don't appear to be looking up for the Jays at this juncture.