#32 Creighton Men's Basketball Preview

Creighton Bluejays

Overall Rank: #32
Conference Rank: #1 Missouri Valley
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2010-11: 23-16, 10-8
2010-11 postseason: CBI
Coach: Greg McDermott (23-16 at Creighton, 303-211 overall)

Creighton struggled at times last season, but they pulled together towards the end of the year and made a nice run to the CBI finals. With three of the best players in the conference back, the Bluejays should make a big move up the MVC standings. Antoine Young will have to be the catalyst that takes Creighton to the next level. The senior point guard has led the conference in assist-to-turnover ratio the last two seasons and can do some scoring too. He is not a great outside shooter, but he is good enough to keep the opposition honest. He has a nice mid-range game and can get to the basket with ease and either finish or find a teammate. With Young leading the way, Coach Greg McDermott should have an NCAA Tournament team during his second season in Omaha, Nebraska.

Who’s Out:
The big loss is Kenny Lawson. The 6-9 center was never a great rebounder, but he could step outside and knock down the mid-range jumper with consistency. His 9.2 points and 5.5 rebounds per contest are replaceable, but the lack of experienced depth in the frontcourt could be an issue. The depth on the perimeter also takes a hit with the departure of Kaleb Korver, Daryl Ashford and Wayne Runnels. None of those players are huge losses or were major scoring threats, but they do add up. Korver started all 39 games a year ago and was a solid glue guy despite not putting up huge numbers.

Who’s In:
Creighton will have to rely pretty heavily on the newcomers to provide depth. With four contributors gone, there will be opportunities for all of the new guys. The most experienced option is Gonzaga transfer Grant Gibbs. The 6-4 guard did not play much for the Bulldogs as a freshman, but he is a decent scorer and a good leader who should see some quality minutes on the wing. Freshmen Avery Dingman and Nevin Johnson will battle it out with Gibbs for playing time off of the bench. Point guard Austin Chatman will get the first crack at backing up Young and should take over that role eventually. Will Artino and Geoffrey Groselle are both big centers at 6-11 and 7-0, respectively. Their best days are ahead of them, but at least one of them will need to play some decent minutes. Mogboluwaga Oginni and Alex Olsen will look to add more depth to the frontcourt.

Who to Watch:
The starters up front are two of the best players in the conference. Doug McDermott, the coach’s son, led the squad in scoring and rebounding during his freshman campaign. He will keep getting better and that is a scary thought for the rest of the Missouri Valley Conference. McDermott is a big man who can hit the long ball with consistency and create space for the rest of the team. He connected on 40.5 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc and that makes the 6-7, 220 pounder extremely difficult to defend. By his side will be Gregory Echenique. Echenique is the big body who hangs out under the basket. He is a fine interior scorer who averaged 10.5 points per game last season. He is also a solid defender who can swat away quite a few shots.

Final Projection:
The biggest question for Creighton is filling in the spots around Young, McDermott and Echenique. On paper it looks like an issue, but Josh Jones, Jahenns Manigat and Ethan Wragge are more than capable of making a name for themselves. Jones, a 6-2 junior, has been terribly inconsistent so far during his collegiate career, but he is a good player who can knock down shots. Manigat had a fine freshman campaign, averaging 5.4 points, 2.0 rebounds and 1.6 assists. When Creighton was playing smaller, it was Manigat who got the starting nod last season. This time around he will be asked to do more and he should have little trouble increasing his production. Ethan Wragge had a great freshman campaign two years ago, knocking down a ton of three-pointers. He has nice size at 6-7, but Wragge is almost entirely a shooter. He may have to come in off of the bench at the four spot, but he will still provide a nice shooting spark off the bench if he can stay healthy after missing almost all of last season. Young, McDermott and Echenique can lead this team to the top of the MVC, but what they do in March might depend on the development of the rest of the team.

Projected Postseason Tournament: NCAA

Projected Starting Five:
Antoine Young, Senior, Guard, 13.1 points per game
Josh Jones, Junior, Guard, 5.0 points per game
Jahenns Manigat, Sophomore, Guard, 5.4 points per game
Doug McDermott, Sophomore, Forward, 14.9 points per game
Gregory Echenique, Junior, Center, 10.5 points per game

Madness 2011 NBA Draft Rankings:
#87 Gregory Echenique

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