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Preseason Preview: Creighton

Howard

(Photo by Ryan Messier/Paint Touches)

The first official practices of the 18-19 college basketball season are in the books and Paint Touches is celebrating by counting down every Marquette opponent from worst to first. Each preview will contain a look at how the opponent did last season, who they lose, who they gain, reasonable expectations for their season, and our own prediction of how their matchup(s) with Marquette will go. This series will start with the most under of underdogs and progress all the way up to most unbeatable of opponents. We will be releasing one a day ending the day before Marquette’s exhibition with Carroll. That’s right, when this series ends, Marquette basketball will finally be here.

Team: Creighton Blue Jays
17-18 Record: 21-12 (10-8 Big East)
Postseason?: Earned an eight seed and lost in their first game in the NCAAs to eventual Elite Eight participant Kansas State
17-18 KenPom: 30
Date: January 9, 2019 and March 3, 2019
Location: CenturyLink Center (Omaha, NE) & Fiserv Forum
Coach: Greg McDermott (9th season)
Projected KenPom Range: 40-90
Projected Conference Finish: 7/10 in the Big East

Departures from 17-18
Khyri Thomas: Starting PG: 31.7 mpg, 15.1 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 2.8 apg, 1.7 spg, 0.2 bpg, 1.8 tpg, .538 FG%, .411 3P% (declared for draft, taken 38th overall by Philadelphia, then traded to Detroit)
Marcus Foster: Starting SG: 31.6 mpg, 19.8 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 2.7 apg, 1.0 spg, 0.1 bpg, 2.2 tpg, .483 FG%, .413 3P% (Graduated)
Ronnie Harrell: Starting SF: 25.4 mpg, 7.0 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 2.6 apg, 0.6 spg, 0.3 bpg, 1.3 tpg, .465 FG%, .333 3P% (Grad transferred to the University of Denver)
Toby Hegner: Starting C: 22.5 mpg, 8.4 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 0.9 apg, 0.2 spg, 0.5 bpg, 0.7 tpg, .497 FG%, .379 3P% (Graduated)
Tyler Clement: 4th Man off the Bench: 8.3 mpg, 2.8 ppg, 1.0 rpg, 1.0 apg, 0.1 spg, 0.1 bpg, 0.3 tpg, .455 FG%, .382 3P% (Graduated)
Manny Suarez: 5th Man off the Bench: 7.5 mpg, 3.0 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 0.4 apg, 0.0 spg, 0.5 bpg, .0.5 tpg, .446 FG%, .250 3P% (Graduated)
63% of scoring, 53% of rebounding, 54% of assists, 63% of steals, 57% of blocks, 67% of 3PM

Arrivals:
Jacob Epperson: Backup C, redshirted the first 21 games of the season
Connor Cashaw: Grad transfer SG from Rice
Marcus Zegarowski: 4-star PG, ranked #110 by 247 Composite
Damien Jefferson: Transfer SF from New Mexico
Sam Froling: 3-star PF, ranked #143 by 247 Composite
Christian Bishop: 3-star SF, ranked #163 by 247 Composite
Jett Canfield: Walk-on PG

Probable Starters:
PG: Davion Mintz: 6’3” 185 lb JR: 21.1 mpg, 6.1 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 3.1 apg, 0.4 spg, 0.1 bpg, 1.1 tpg, .404 FG%, .352 3P%
SG: Ty-Shon Alexander: 6’4” 195 lb SO: 17.7 mpg, 5.5 ppg, 2.1 rpg, 1.8 apg, 0.3 spg, 0.1 bpg, 1.2 tpg, .418 FG%, .333 3P%
SF: Mitch Ballock: 6’5” 205 lb SO: 21.4 mpg, 7.3 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 1.9 apg, 0.7 spg, 0.2 bpg, 1.2 tpg, .421 FG%, .326 3P%
PF: Martin Krampelj: 6’9” 235 lb RSJR: 23.2 mpg, 11.9 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 1.2 apg, 0.8 spg, 0.7 bpg, 1.3 tpg, .671 FG%, .261 3P% (Only appeared in 19 games due to injury)
C: Jacob Epperson: 6’11” 225 lb SO: 14.0 mpg, 6.3 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 0.3 apg, 0.2 spg, 0.9 bpg, 0.5 tpg, .694 FG%, 1.00 3P% (Only appeared in 12 games due to redshirt)

Probable Bench:
Connor Cashaw: 6’5” 200 lb SR SG
Marcus Zegarowski: 6’2” 180 lb PG
Kaleb Joseph: 6’3” 185 lb RSSR PG
Damien Jefferson: 6’5” 200 lb RSSO SF
Sam Froling: 7’0” 230 lb FR PF

Probable Benchwarmers:
Christian Bishop: 6’7” 205 lb FR SF
Jordan Scurry: 6’2” 200 lb JR SG
Jett Canfield: 5’10” 155 lb FR PG
Denzel Mahoney: 6’5” 225 lb JR SF (Redshirtting due to NCAA transfer rules)

Notes:

• For the second season in a row, an injury to a star player derailed what was looking like a promising season for the Jays. Creighton was sitting pretty at 15-4, including winning 5 of their last 6 games when Martin Krampelj went down with a torn ACL. The Jays went 6-8 down the stretch and that included first round losses in both the BET (to Providence) and NCAAs (to Kansas State). From that team, they are losing four starters and two back of the rotation players. They do bring in one of the better classes in the Big East and a solid grad transfer, but the Jays are certainly trending down at least on paper.
• A lot of Creighton’s success is hinging on the knees of Martin Krampelj. This was the third time that Krampelj has torn an ACL, two in one knee and one in the other. It is fair to wonder, how much lift will Krampelj have left after that many knee injuries. If he comes back 100%, he could be a candidate for Big East Player of the Year, that’s how efficient he was in the post and cleaning the glass. But if he is limited, the Jays could find themselves stuck in the cellar of the conference.
• Trying to help carry the load in the post for Creighton will be Aussie big man Jacob Epperson. The plan was for Epperson to redshirt his first season, similar to how Creighton handled talented but too skinny big man Justin Patton two seasons ago. Krampelj’s injury forced Coach McDermott to burn the redshirt and Epperson stepped up. He wasn’t the rebounder that Krampelj was but he scored as efficiently and was a better rim defender. Being thrown into a rotation midseason is not easy and Epperson displayed a lot of gifts. He has above the rim athleticism and even showed some shooting prowess, nailing all four of hit 3P attempts. His best game was easily against Marquette in Omaha. He scored 14 points in only 8 minutes, going 7/7 from the floor. A majority of those 7 FGs were thunderous alley oops that Marquette had no answer for. Why he only played 8 minutes was a bit of a mystery for both fanbases. With an entire offseason to get stronger, Epperson looks primed for an impressive first full season in the Big East.
• With Khyri Thomas gone, the Jays have some questions but a lot of potential answers at the PG position. The assumed frontrunner is rising junior Davion Mintz. Mintz got a trial by fire his freshman year when he was thrust into a prominent role after Mo Watson’s season ending injury. He struggled and eventually lost a lot of his minutes that year but found his way a bit as a sophomore. He’s never been a scorer but he did lead the team in assists last season and has plus athleticism. Challenging him is true freshman Marcus Zegarowski. Zegarowski, or Z as some Creighton fans already call him, is the highest rated player in their 2018 class. He’s a tough nosed guard that can score, distribute, and has a motor that never stops. Defense will be what could keep Z off the court.
• The dark horse for the PG position could be Kaleb Joseph. As a freshman at Syracuse, Joseph got the kind of minutes you would expect from a top 50 recruit. He wasn’t particularly productive, scoring only 5.9 points in 27 minutes. But he facilitated effectively and played solid defense. As a sophomore, his minutes all but disappeared leading to a transfer to Omaha. After the mandatory redshirt year, Creighton fans were hopeful that he would return to freshman year form but were disappointed. He only appeared in half of their games and almost always in garbage time. His stat line was better but mostly because he got extended minutes against the likes of Alcorn State and Bemidji State. If he finally lives up to the potential promised by his high school ranking, he could steal the starting role from both Mintz and Z.
• While Creighton will be anchored by their international twin towers, their scoring will come from a trio of wings. Rising sophomores Ty-Shon Alexander and Mitch Ballock were both effective contributors off the bench as freshmen. They are shooters at their core, each tallying more 3PM than 2PM despite only making about a third of their attempts. Those numbers will have to improve as Creighton’s three most accurate shooters have all departed and they both got elevated higher on the opposition’s scouting report. Joining them is grad transfer Connor Cashaw. The Chicagoland native did it all for the struggling Rice Owls this past season. He led the team in points, rebounds, and steals and was just 4 assists shy of being the top distributor as well. Cashaw could be a starter but Ballock and Alexander’s experience in the system should give them the early nod.

Prediction:
• Whatever the reason, Wojo has had Creighton’s number. Marquette has won five in a row against the Jays and there’s no reason to think that dominance won’t continue into next season. Wojo has what looks to be his strongest team since he took the job and Creighton is staring at a rebuilding year. Marquette makes it seven in a row (eight if they meet in the BET) and wins all games comfortably.

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Categories: Analysis, Home, Offseason, Previews

Author:Ryan Jackson

Texas A&M Professional, Marquette Fantatic

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