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Big East Season Recap: Creighton Exit Interview

The second team in our ten-part series is the Creighton Bluejays. In addition to recapping a tough 2014-2015, we'll look ahead to 2015-2016.

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Obviously it wasn't going to be easy for the Bluejays to replace four starters, including Doug McDermott, but following their nonconference success, did you expect the downfall to be quite this extreme?

Derek Rayment: Honestly, sort of. I didn't expect a nine game losing streak though. I knew going into the season it was going to be tough sledding so it certainly wasn't a surprise to see us lose so many games. I knew the Oklahoma win was going to be an anomaly after it happened. That win over the Sooners gave many Bluejay fans and others false hope about the team in my opinion. But as a lifelong Creighton fan, defeating Nebraska in Lincoln during what was meant to be their special season, made my year. I thought Creighton would struggle to get out of the bottom four in the Big East and that's what happened. They had many, many close games so they could have easily had more wins had just a couple of shots by Sterling Gibbs and Matt Carlino bounced a different way.

Pierce Roberson: Creighton's season went as I predicted it would. The drop off was bound to be steep after the loss of Doug McDermott, and even though they scored a signature win over Oklahoma early in the season, they proved to be a cellar-dwelling team. They showed a lot of fight, coming up short in a number of close games. While 2015 wasn't so kind to Bluejays fans, I don't expect Greg McDermott to churn in consecutive disappointing campaigns.

Christopher Novak: Pretty much, yeah. The game against Oklahoma in hindsight was a mirage and the expected downfall that comes with losing 80 percent of your starting lineup hit the Jays hard last season. It's hard enough to replace one of the greatest scorers in NCAA history. To have that happen, and be compounded by the fact that they lost three other starters too? Creighton was going to be in the dumps.

Who would you consider Creighton's MVP this season and why?

Derek Rayment: It was Rick Kreklow for me. He carried the team during tough stretches and made the play of the season against Marquette at home. He was exciting to watch and an absolute instant legend for turning down a scholarship from Nebraska to walk-on at Creighton instead. A close second would be James Milliken. He really lit it up the last quarter of the season despite his early troubles on and off the court. And then I just don't think Austin Chatman performed well enough to get player of the season. He struggled for large stretches and really forced things. He was a good player overall for Creighton but his sophomore and junior campaigns were better one might say.

Pierce Roberson: I'll go with Derek and say Kreklow. For a point in the year he was their go-to guy. James Milliken came on strong at the end of the year and would've been my MVP if not for his suspension. Kreklow upped his averages during his one year in Omaha and put the team on his back in big wins at Xavier in double OT and over Marquette.

Christopher Novak: Usage Rate might tell you that Devin Brooks was heavily depended upon and didn't draw up too much. He had a great assist rate, but his shooting numbers were very inefficient. Chatman, too, was rather inefficient this past season. A 44.1 percent eFG% is nothing to laud for. To be honest, I'll go with my partners here and say Kreklow. I didn't really expect much out of him but he proved me wrong and posted the highest eFG% and TS% of anybody on the team [that had a large sample of attempts].

Creighton will look quite different next year with a few new recruits and Mo Watson and Cole Huff coming in as transfers. Is there any worry that it might take some time for the new guys to "click"?

Derek Rayment: Many Creighton fans expect instant success with the additions for Watson and Huff. While I think they'll be great players for us eventually, I just think it will take some time for them to gel in real games. Hopefully their off-season trip to Italy as a team will help build team chemistry. The most talented incoming freshman is Omaha native Justin Patton, who really developed well at Omaha North High School. But I do think the expectations are just too high for him right now. He won't be the next Kevin Durant come this winter, so fans will have to be patient with him. I could see this team not reaching their full potential until January or February.

Christopher Novak: There's always anxiousness to see how well players will fit in a system. Despite that, I think there should be some early gelling here. Creighton's system is very kind to transfer players [see: Devin Brooks' junior season, Ricky Kreklow last year, etc] and Huff and Mo Watson should prove to be great additions. The big thing I want to see is how five-star big man Justin Patton plays. Patton's a much-needed talent for CU that will provide a presence down low that they've been in need of for a while. He's going to be stellar, I think.

Who do you think is the next breakout star for the Bluejays?

Derek Rayment: For next season? Maurice Watson. For the future? Marcus Foster, who will have to sit out this next season after transferring from Kansas State. But for next season, Watson will be the catalyst for this team. He can finish at the rim better than Chatman and while he is smaller, he can really play. He had one of the best assist to turnover ratios in the nation while playing for the Boston Terriers and he can continue that success in McDermott's style of offense. Huff will also be a great addition. He can score from all over the floor and is expected to play the forward positions. If you're looking for an off the radar guy who could become great, I would have to go with incoming freshman Khyri Thomas. He led the state of Nebraska in scoring while playing for Omaha Benson High School and went to a prep school in Virginia after graduating from Benson. So he's a year older than most freshmen and has the length and work ethic to become pretty good. Although, with a plethora of guards next season, Thomas may either redshirt or not see as much playing time. And who can forget James Milliken? The guy can really light it up when he's on. He could very well be Creighton's top scorer next year despite the hype surrounding Watson and Huff.

Christopher Novak: Have to agree with Derek. Mo Watson is a very easy choice to ‘break out.' The former BU Terrier is a very talented guard who shouldn't have any trouble at all running the offense next season. As for candidates on the team, I think Isaiah Zierden can ascend a little bit from what we saw last season.

Early prediction for next season?

Derek Rayment: Creighton has a pretty decent nonconference slate scheduled for them this upcoming season. They will play at Oklahoma as well as Indiana. They will also see games against Nebraska, Arizona State and Rutgers. The game against Rutgers is part of a Las Vegas tournament they'll participate in. That field also includes UMass and Clemson or Georgia. Other known games include matchups with Howard and/or Central Arkansas, North Texas and possibly Loyola-Chicago, a team they must return a game against after playing the Ramblers in the old Bracketbusters set up by ESPN close to five years ago. Interestingly enough, Loyola-Chicago took Creighton's place in the Missouri Valley conference after the Jays left for the Big East. Creighton could end nonconference play somewhere around .500 and it would not surprise me. If that happens, many fans might be pretty down on the team. But I think they'll really show their worth come conference season and finish somewhere around 6th place. An NIT bid or a run at the NCAA Tournament field should not be out of the question.

Christopher Novak: They won't finish near the bottom of the pile. Now that we've got that out of the way, the nonconference portion of the schedule has quite a few challenges. Discounting something absurd, a long night at Assembly Hall in Bloomington might be in their future with how good the Indiana Hoosiers look going into the upcoming season. I suspect somewhere near the 5-7 range in the Big East could be likely if things pan out well for them. They've got some talent at their disposal, if nothing else.


There you have it. Be sure to check back next week where we'll be looking at DePaul and Georgetown.