As the title implies we will be taking a look at our Big East opponents and what they will be looking like heading into the coming season.
The Bluejays ripped through their non-conference schedule with their only losses coming on the road to Michigan and on a neutral court against San Diego State. An overtime win over Texas Tech and wins against Oklahoma and Arizona State helped bolster their resume before Big East play began. Creighton stumbled out of the gates of conference play to a 2-3 start but closed on an 11-2 stretch to clinch 1⁄3 of a Big East title.
Creighton’s success last season came from a variety of offensive threats. Overall, the Bluejays were the 2nd most efficient offense in the country and shot 38.7% from 3 and 53% from inside the arc. Ty-Shon Alexander, Mitch Ballock and Marcus Zegarowski were at the center of the offense but Christian Bishop, Denzel Mahoney and Damien Jefferson all contributed to a loaded offensive machine.
Ty-Shon Alexander decided to leave and declare for the NBA Draft after a season where he averaged 17 points per game and played some excellent defense. Kelvin Jones graduated after a season where he didn’t play much but provided height and rebounding when needed.
Creighton returns a freightening level of talent from last season. Marcus Zegarowski (16.1/3.8/5.0) made a jump in output last season and showed that he has the ability to take a game over. Mitch Ballock (11.9/5.3/3.1) will also return and presumably continue to chuck 3s. Denzel Mahoney (12.0/3.1/.7) came on strong late in the season and hit some big shots during Creighton’s push to the title and won Sixth Man of the Year. Damien Jefferson (9.4/5.5/1.4) provides Creighton with a different offensive player since he primarily slashes and finishes at the rim. Christian Bishop (8.6/5.3/1.3) is the final returner and primarily scores in pick and roll situations while also rebounding against bigger “bigs”.
The biggest incoming player is Duke transfer Alex O’Connell but he will not be eligible to play this season. Creighton also welcomes Rati Andronikashvili from Gerogia (the other one) who is a good playmaking point guard but isn’t a great outside shooter. This could also move Zegarowski off the ball and into a bigger scoring role. Ryan Kalkbrenner also joins and provides genuine height and good shot blocking. The 6’11” freshman has very good touch on the interior but will need to get up to speed with Big East physicality. Modestas Kancleris comes in from Lithuania with a load of top-level experience after playing for European powerhouse, BC Zalgiris. Standing at 6’9” he will provide additional height and a decently refined offensive game.
Greg McDermott is one of the best coaches in the country and routinely produces a well-balanced, efficient offense. The added height and playmaking in this recruiting class will add to a loaded offense and also make up for the defensive shortcomings from last season. The returning players clearly have the offense down and will look to compete for the Big East title yet again.