Creighton looks to bounce back after an unusual season in which they finished under .500 for the first time in many Bluejay fans' memory.
Much wasn't expected about the Bluejays heading into last season, which gave head coach Greg McDermott some leeway. However, this season will see McDermott's team play under some added pressure as the Jays hope to improve upon last season, with fans will finally getting the chance to see transfers Maurice Watson, Jr. and Cole Huff become eligible and local products such as Khyri Thomas and Justin Patton, who may get their chance to show what they can do.
There isn't a whole lot of returning players to this year's team, which may not be a bad thing. Creighton adds 10 new competitors to their team, which will warrant a whole separate article.
However, key returning players are James Milliken, Toby Hegner, Geoffrey Groselle and the fragile Isaiah Zierden.
Creighton will have a couple games to get their legs underneath them. However, after a couple gimmes, the Bluejays have to hope their new players are ready for some hostile road environments.
Let's take a look at Creighton's 2015-16 nonconference schedule:
Friday, Nov. 6 vs. Upper Iowa (Ex.)
This exhibition will give fans the chance to see the newcomers in action for the first time. Besides summer league or practices, most fans have never seen Cole Huff slam home a Watson alley-oop. Well, when the Jays take on UIU at the CenturyLink Center on the 6th of November, they may get their opportunity. The Peacocks are a Division II squad out of Fayette, Iowa, and shouldn't pose much threat to embarrass the Jays.
Saturday, Nov. 14 vs. Texas Southern
The official opening night will see Creighton face off against an NCAA Tournament team from last season. Coached by former Hoosier head man Mike Davis, the Tigers are one of the better SWAC members. One interesting tidbit, Texas Southern boasts flashy guard Deverell Biggs, an Omahan and former Nebraska Husker. This one might make some fans anxious in their seats at TSU is certainly a capable team. The game is also part of the MGM Grand Main Event tournament, an event that will see Creighton play TSU and UTSA at home and Rutgers and either UMASS or Clemson in Las Vegas.
Tuesday, Nov. 17 vs. UTSA
Creighton's second game takes place just a few days later when the Roadrunners come to Omaha. The Conference USA squad last made the NCAA Tournament in 2010-11 and is coached by Brooks Thompson, who is in his eighth season at the San Antonio school. Last year, UTSA finished 14-16 and lost six of their last seven games. This one might be easier than the previous one.
Thursday, Nov. 19 at Indiana
Things get real for Creighton when they travel to Assembly Hall for their matchup with the Hoosiers as part of the Gavitt Tip-Off Games. It'll be CU's third game in a week and a huge road test for what will be a pretty unproven team. The Hoosiers will feature plenty of talented players including senior Yogi Ferrell, who likes to shoot and score from anywhere. Tom Crean's squad will also be facing their first test in this one as their previous two games are against Austin Peay and Eastern Illinois. Creighton could catch IU by surprise. But the Jays will have to display some calm and collected play similar to what they did at Xavier last season. The matchup of Watson and Ferrell will be juicy. All Big East fans should have an eye on this one.
Monday, Nov. 23 vs. Rutgers
One current Big East member faces an old one in Las Vegas. The Scarlet Knights will be Creighton's second game in a row against a Big Ten team and it won't be their last as CU still takes on rival Nebraska in December. Rutgers finished almost dead last in the entire country in scoring last season. They'll have to do better than that against Creighton, who usually doesn't boast a good defense. However, Las Vegas is usually good to the Jays. Expect that to continue here against a team that lost their last 15 games last year.
Wednesday, Nov. 25 vs. UMass/Clemson
Depending on whether or not Creighton beats Rutgers, the Jays will face either UMass or Clemson, neither of which Creighton is at all familiar with. The Tigers don't return much scoring but can get after it on the glass, which might pose an interesting matchup should they face Creighton. The Bluejays historically struggle with teams that heave it and retrieve it. A game against UMass might pose an easier matchup as both teams are similar to one another but the Minutemen are well balanced in scoring and defense. A potential title game against UMass or Clemson should see Creighton have the edge in terms of fan support as fans from Omaha travel well to neutral site tournaments. Especially since free rooms are being offered to Creighton fans thanks to one alum who operates a casino in Sin City.
Saturday, Nov. 28 vs. Western Illinois
Creighton doesn't get much of a break as they return home to play the Leathernecks of Western Illinois. Creighton usually sees one Summit League opponent per season and this year isn't any different. Should Creighton win the Vegas tournament, don't expect WIU to be a trap game. The Leathernecks finished at the bottom of the Summit League last season and might not be much better this year. WIU does return their top scorer, however.
Wednesday, Dec. 2 vs. Arizona State
By now, Creighton fans should be acclimated to the Sun Devils as Creighton has beaten them on a couple of occasions since McDermott took charge. This game is part of a scheduled series and should be a nice home game for Creighton. Both teams were disappointing last season and this midweek matchup could be some nice viewing on a Wednesday night. It'll be ASU's first true road game of the season, which probably doesn't bode well when they'll be playing in front of what will assuredly be a good crowd of roughly 17,000. The game is scheduled to be on CBS Sports Network at 8 p.m. EST.
Saturday, Dec. 5 at Loyola-Chicago
The day has come. Creighton must fulfill their obligation of returning the 2010 Bracketbuster game against the Ramblers. There's so much interesting little nuggets in this one it's hard to know where to begin.
For those of you reading this who are perennial Big East fans and have no idea what the Bracketbusters is or was, don't fret. It was a silly, ESPN-run tournament that pitted random schools against each other very late in the season. The idea was to provide a meaningful nonconference game for programs looking to boost their resume heading into Selection Sunday.
Well, the game against the Ramblers was pretty much pointless because it came during a season in which neither team was going to make the NCAA Tournament. Creighton won the game handily in Dana Altman's last season in charge and that was that. However, as part of the Bracketbusters contract, Creighton had to return the favor and play at Loyola-Chicago sometime in the next few seasons. It has since been delayed but now Creighton must face the music. The disbanded event that most Creighton fans despise returns to haunt them.
That's just the start of the weirdness surrounding this game. When Creighton left the Missouri Valley Conference for the Big East, guessed who replaced them? Yep, Loyola-Chicago. And who coaches them? Oh, just former Bluejay, Porter Moser. This is a very, very dangerous game for Creighton as there's not only tons of intrigue behind this game but also the Ramblers pose a serious threat on the court. They won the CBI tournament last season and can really score.
Wednesday, Dec. 9 vs. Nebraska
The pressure continues when the Bluejays return home to face hated rival, The University of Nebraska. The two rivals usually face each other on the weekend, but this odd mid-week affair will see buddies Tim Miles and Greg McDermott play on a Wednesday evening.
Creighton won last season in Lincoln, where Nebraska was expected to beat Creighton for the first time under Tim Miles. However, that wasn't to be as Creighton shocked the Huskers at Pinnacle Bank Arena. Creighton is usually pretty jacked for this game and I wouldn't expect anything different here. All non-Creighton and Nebraska fans should pay attention to this one as it's an underrated Midwest rivalry. If there's one game either fanbases want to win the most, it's probably this one. Creighton has not lost to Nebraska since Doug McDermott's freshman season.
Saturday, Dec. 12 vs. IUPUI
Yet another Summit League opponent comes to Omaha when the Jaguars visit the CenturyLink Center on December 12. It'll again be the Bluejays' third game within a week and it might not be a walk in the park. The Jays hope to avoid a potential trap game in this one.
Saturday, Dec. 19 at Oklahoma
Creighton gets a week off in preparation for a tough road game at Oklahoma. If you remember, Creighton defeated a ranked Sooner squad early last season in Omaha. Creighton's new team should have time to gel before this one. However, that may not matter as the Sooners return much of their talent from last season including Buddy Hield, Isaiah Cousins, Ryan Spangler and Jordan Woodard.
Monday, Dec. 21 vs. North Texas
Creighton finishes up their scheduled series with the Mean Green as they host UNT on Dec. 21. The Bluejays lost dramatically last season in Denton, Texas, when the Jays had three chances at the end to win the game after coming back from a nearly 30 point deficit. The team is probably ready to get revenge.
Monday, Dec. 28 vs. Coppin State
The Bluejays wrap up their nonconference slate when they host Coppin State, a MEAC member. This game will be known mostly for Bluejay fans getting a chance to sport their newest Creighton gear they got as gifts for the Holidays.
An optimistic point of view might give the Jays a 11-2 record by looking at that schedule. It's a surprisingly underrated nonconference schedule and stacks up well with other Big East schools. However, road games at Indiana, Oklahoma and Loyola-Chicago will be tough tasks. They could also slip up in games against Arizona State or in Las Vegas. A more realistic projection might be nine wins. Just don't be surprised if Creighton looks a lot better at the end of the nonconference season than it does at the beginning given the team will have had time to build chemistry.