A season that started with minimal expectations, turned into a season of what might have been. The Bluejays lost National Player of the Year Doug McDermott and seniors Ethan Wragge, Grant Gibbs and Jahenns Manigat. Left having to replace that scoring output were a core of seniors, led by point guard Austin Chatman. The season started promising but soon turned into a nightmare before finishing on a high note. Here's a recap of Creighton's 2014-15 season.
The Bluejays' nonconference schedule was fairly middle of the road. They tested themselves with contests against Oklahoma, Ole Miss, St. Mary's and Nebraska. The Bluejays began the season 5-0 and ranked in the Top 25 after an improbable victory over a highly-ranked Oklahoma Sooners squad. Creighton's hero in that game was sophomore guard Isaiah Zierden, who drilled a late three in the second half to give the Bluejays the lead after trailing by nearly 20 points. Creighton dropped their first game of the Emerald Coast Classic to Ole Miss before winning at rival Nebraska on Dec. 7. The Bluejays then lost a heartbreaker at home to St. Mary's in overtime before losing a shocker at North Texas, a game that began a nine game losing streak for the Bluejays.
Creighton began on the road, losing to NCAA Tournament teams Providence and Georgetown. The Bluejays dropped a surprising game at home to DePaul, a team they would go on to beat twice later, before losing one point games to Seton Hall and Marquette. To add more salt in the wound, the Bluejays led late at Butler before losing that one, 64-61. In that span, Creighton lost second leading scorer Isaiah Zierden. The sophomore guard from Minnesota also had his 2013-14 season end early due to a knee injury. The 'Jays entered the Jan. 28 contest at home to St. John's seeking their first conference win. They would get that win, improving to 1-8. Creighton would exchange wins and losses throughout the middle portion of their schedule, improving their overall play and morale of the fanbase. During their 77-70 win over Marquette, senior Rick Kreklow produced the Big East play of the season. Kreklow dove out of bounds to save an errant pass from Devin Brooks, got up off the ground and came back into play to nail a three-pointer all in one smooth motion.
The Bluejays ended conference play 4-14 and 14-19 overall. Their numerous close losses were too many to count. Heartbreaker after heartbreaker had coach Greg McDermott wondering what he had done to anger the basketball gods. In total, the 'Jays lost 10 games by five points or less. Creighton ended their season with a Big East Tournament opening round victory over DePaul before losing another close game to Georgetown, a game the Bluejays controlled and nearly won.
Player of the Year
Senior Austin Chatman came into the season with a heavy burden on his shoulders. He began the yearly well, much like his team, but as the season progressed he hit a long rough patch. The team faltered along with Chatman's overall play. His turnaround came towards the end of the season as he scored 17 points at home in a close loss to Butler. Chatman posted double-digit point totals from there on out, giving the Bluejays a much needed boost. Chatman finished his Creighton career with just over 1,000 points. He was a three-year starter and led the Bluejays to two consecutive NCAA Tournaments in years 2012-13 and 2013-14. Chatman led the Bluejays in scoring in 2014-15, averaging 11.5 points per game.
The Bluejays will add much needed talent to their roster in 2015-16. Creighton will see transfers Maurice Watson Jr. and Cole Huff suit up this season along with talented freshman Ronnie Harrell. They also add a top recruit in Justin Patton, a raw but talented center out of Omaha North High School. Joining Patton will be another Omaha native in Khyri Thomas, a lengthy guard who spent one year at a prep school. The 'Jays also add Slovenian Martin Krampelj and Marlon Stewart. Creighton has one scholarship spot left to fill for the 2015-16 season after freshman Leon Gilmore III left the program this month in search of more playing time.
Creighton will return scorer James Milliken. The guard from North Carolina lit up the score sheet in the later half of the season. Look for Milliken to combine with Huff and Watson and lead the Bluejays to an improved 2015-16 season.