by John Fanta, @John_Fanta
Entering the season, there was a level of unknown with the Creighton Bluejays.
After losing Justin Patton to the NBA Draft, how would the Bluejays find frontcourt play? Who would fill the void at point guard? Could Creighton find a third scoring option beyond Marcus Foster and Khyri Thomas?
Head coach Greg McDermott’s preseason response to those questions was that the Bluejays had several options that could be the answer for Creighton. It’s safe to say that the eighth-year head coach was right.
Notching a pair of Top-25 wins in the first two weeks of the season alone, Creighton looks the part of an NCAA Tournament contender. It all starts on the offensive end with the Bluejays, who are averaging 90.4 points per game in McDermott’s up-tempo system.
The biggest reason why Creighton’s been able to answer the bell is the Jays’ freshman class. Mitch Ballock powered CU with 22 points, including four three’s, in Monday’s 100-89 win over No. 23 UCLA. Point guard Ty-Shon Alexander, who won BIG EAST Freshman of the Week on Monday, has run the offense effectively at point guard. This is all while the rookie’s averaged over nine points per game and shot 15/31 (48%) on the season.
Down low, while Creighton’s lost senior Toby Hegner to an ankle injury for 3-5 weeks, sophomore Martin Krampelj has stepped up. McDermott’s spoken about Krampelj’s maturation, and it’s showed on the court. The 6-foot-9 sophomore forward presents a match-up problem for teams, and has been the team’s third-leading scorer with 11 points per game to go with 7.4 boards per contest.
The Jays also have a Swiss Army knife. Junior Ronnie Harrell Jr. has gone from playing point guard in the NCAA Tournament last season to adding a presence on the glass for Creighton. His 7.4 boards per game have been massive for Creighton to hang in with lengthy teams.
After all of that, we haven’t even gotten to the Bluejays’ wings, who are two of the best in the country.
Khyri “Tazz” Thomas has been known for his stellar defense, but the junior has been a nightmare to guard as well. Averaging 16.8 points per game, what stands out even more is that the Omaha native is shooting 30/55 (54.5%) from the field. Explosive, yet efficient.
All-BIG EAST Preseason First Team selection Marcus Foster has continued to lead the way with 18.6 points per game. Foster’s game is perfect for a Creighton team that loves to run, and his free trigger gives the Jays the confident edge that they’ve used to start the season so strongly.
The thought was that the BIG EAST had three great teams in Villanova, Xavier, and Seton Hall and then there was a bit of a drop-off in the middle. Creighton didn’t hear that at all. The Bluejays have reached two BIG EAST Tournament Finals in their four years in the league, and if this fast start has shown anything, it’s that they’ll play a factor in March once again.