#21 Creighton Men's Basketball 2016-2017 Preview

Creighton Bluejays
2016-2017 Overall Rank: #21
Conference Rank: #4 Big East
Creighton has not made the NCAA Tournament since 2014, but that should change this year. Coach Greg McDermott’s strong recruiting classes are about to pay off in a big way. Senior point guard Maurice Watson Jr. will again lead the way after averaging 14.1 points and 6.5 assists last season. With plenty of other scoring options returning and joining the program, Watson will have less that he must do in the scoring department, but he is still very good at attacking the basket and getting to the free-throw line.
2015-16 Record: 20-15, 9-9
2015-16 Postseason: NIT
Coach: Greg McDermott
Coach Record: 141-72 at Creighton, 421-267 overall
Who’s Out:
Geoffrey Groselle leaves a big hole in the paint. The seven-footer averaged 11.2 points and led the team with 6.1 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game. Groselle was amazingly efficient when it came to scoring and shot 70.2 percent from the floor during his senior season. James Milliken was a part-time starter as a senior and averaged 9.7 points per game. He could shoot the ball relatively well and score around the basket as well. Little used Malik Albert averaged 2.6 points in just 8.1 minutes per contest.
Who’s In:
Kansas State transfer Marcus Foster highlights a very good group of newcomers. Foster averaged 12.5 points per game with the Wildcats two years ago and 15.5 points per game as a freshman. Foster will step right into the starting lineup and could emerge as the team’s top scorer. The backcourt also adds Davion Mintz, Kobe Paras and Jordan Scurry. Mintz will compete for minutes backing up Watson at the point, while Paras was headed to UCLA before ending up at Creighton. Justin Patton, who redshirted last season, was a big time recruit a couple years back. The 7-0, 230 pound center added some muscle while sitting out and he will at least add quality depth to the frontcourt. Martin Krampelj ended up redshirting last season too after seeing limited action in seven games before suffering an injury. If healthy, Krampelj adds even more potential to an already dangerous frontcourt.
Who to Watch:
Cole Huff and Toby Hegner figure to start up front, but they will be pushed by Patton and Krampelj. Huff ranked second on the team with 11.3 points and 5.1 rebounds. Like many big forwards at Creighton, the 6-8 senior does much of his scoring from outside. Hegner started a dozen games last season, all during conference play, and averaged 5.3 points and 3.8 rebounds. The 6-10 junior is mostly a three-point shooter on the offensive end as well. Zach Hanson is the more traditional big man. He will bang in the paint and is the team’s top returning shot blocker.
Final Projection:
With Foster joining the mix, somebody is going to lose their starting job. Isaiah Zierden and Khyri Thomas were regular starters on the wing last season. Zierden knocked down a team high 70 three-pointers and averaged 10.2 points per game. Thomas did not take nearly as many outside shots, but he did hit 41.8 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc. Thomas is also a very good athlete who can help out on the glass and have some spectacular finishes above the rim. Add another promising sophomore in Ronnie Harrell and Creighton is loaded with depth in the backcourt. If everything comes together and players like Patton live up to their potential, this is a Creighton team that will not only get back to the NCAA Tournament, but also will compete for a Big East title.
Projected Postseason Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
Maurice Watson, Senior, Guard, 14.1 points per game
Marcus Foster, Junior, Guard, DNP last season
Khyri Thomas, Sophomore, Guard, 6.2 points per game
Cole Huff, Senior, Forward, 11.3 points per game
Toby Hegner, Junior, Forward, 5.3 points per game
By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 79.6 (28th in nation, 3rd in conference)
Scoring Defense: 72.4 (188, 7)
Field-Goal Percentage: 47.0 (35, 2)
Field-Goal Defense: 43.2 (153, 6)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 8.1 (76, 2)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 35.2 (146, 4)
Free-Throw Percentage: 70.0 (162, 7)
Rebound Margin: 2.0 (121, 4)
Assists Per Game: 15.3 (54, 5)
Turnovers Per Game: 11.6 (72, 4)