Two seasons ago, Creighton head coach Greg McDermott, and former Bluejay and current Chicago Bull Doug McDermott, walked through the halls of the CenturyLink Center Omaha and inspired the Bluejays towards their third straight NCAA tournament appearance. One year later, the energy remained, but the wins did not. With the latter of the father-son duo having graduated, Creighton struggled through conference play in a season where their total wins (14) were equal to their amount of losses in conference. Lacking the true star that McDermott was able to add, someone needs to step up to rejuvenate and energize Omaha once again. But who will even be starting?
Point Guard: Maurice "Mo" Watson Jr.
For a team that only had one player who scored more than ten points per game last season, Watson can be the solution to their offensive dilemma. A junior transfer from Boston University who was forced to sit out last year, Watson averaged an impressive 13 points as a freshman in the Patriot League. Losing their lead assist man in Austin Chatman, Watson can fill that void immediately. In just 31 minutes, Watson dished out 7.1 assists per game, first in the Patriot League for that year. In a conference tournament game, Watson overwhelmed Army’s defense with 17 assists. Offensively gifted, Watson is as close to a pure point guard as one can find.
In an offense with James Milliken, Isaiah Zierden, and Toby Hegner, Watson most likely won't need to score as much as he did his first year, but that does not necessarily mean that he is not capable of scoring at a high rate. His eFG%, per KenPom.com, was 53.1%, one of the highest in the country. Along with his potency on the offensive end, the transfer from the Northeast is a force on the defensive end.
No doubt who leader of group is. Maurice Watson always talking, helping and encouraging mates but not afraid to criticize constructively— Steve Pivovar (@PivOWH) July 2, 2015
Watson has the possibility to be the next star at Creighton. His offensive and defensive capabilities are undoubtedly going to change Creighton basketball for the better. With Kansas State's Marcus Foster entering the fold in 2016, Creighton's backcourt looks set for the next few years.
SG: Isaiah Zierden
Assuming that he returns from his second injury in his right knee in a matter of years, Zierden showed during non-conference play last year that he has the potential to be a go-to scorer, averaging 12.2 points per game. Although, the arrival of conference foes meant a dry spell for the 6-foot-2 guard from Minnesota. Zierden never reached double digits in the scoring column after the new year, and ended his season on the trainer's table after a mid-season knee injury. His touch from deep and willingness to launch were evident throughout his collegiate career - his 40% from beyond the arc was higher than any other Bluejay last year. With an injury riddled past in the rear view mirror, Zierden is ready to take on the challenge of lead scorer for Creighton.
SF: James Milliken
Oh how a few months can change a reputation. Last December, the junior transfer from North Carolina violated an undisclosed team rule and was suspended indefinitely. With no timetable to how long Milliken would be sidelined, it became reasonable to ask whether Milliken would ever suit up in a blue and white uniform again. Two games later, McDermott reinstated the 6-foot-2 wing and eventually his playing time increased. After Zierden went down in late January, Milliken took over as the primary scorer. He ended the season on a tear, scoring over ten points in all but 4 games after January 15th. With Zierden back and a true point guard leading the attack, Milliken may shine even brighter with the spotlight not beaming on him.
PF: Cole Huff
A transfer from Nevada University, Cole Huff may add what Creighton has lacked since the departure of Doug McDermott - a quality scoring forward. Milliken and Zierden, as good as they were/are, are not tall or big enough to be considered a forward. Playing both at the same time is probably within the lines of "small ball." With Huff in the fold, the elder McDermott has a quality player of whom he can play in the high post or out on the wing if necessary. Even though he played mainly the small forward position at Nevada, Huff has the height and the ability to play a stretch 4.
C: Toby Hegner
Hunger may not be one of the five most talented players for Creighton, but for a team containing a dearth of height, Hegner is a quality option at center. A sweet shooting sophomore from Wisconsin, he played just over 19 minutes as a freshman last year. He gives McDermott a quality option to stretch the floor at the five and has the capability to play the "pick and pop" with Watson on the outside. Even though out-muscling defenders may not be his strong suit, Hegner makes his way as a center from the outside.