Creighton was one of the best offensive teams in the country a season ago, finishing fifth nationally in offensive efficiency according to Kenpom.
Their problem was on the defensive end of the floor, ranking as the 178th best team. Namely, the Bluejays were the third-worst team in the country at forcing turnovers and were in the bottom-half nationally in effective field goal percentage, which is essentially a nerdy way of saying teams shot the ball really well against the Bluejays all season long.
This season was supposed to be different, and while no one was going to confuse the Bluejays with Louisville, there did appear to be an improvement through the season’s first six games. Creighton was 67th in defensive efficiency coming in. Small sample size, yes, but anyone watching Creighton play could see an improvement. Penetration was tougher, help side was quicker, shots were challenged. Things just didn’t look as simple for opponents.
That’s a good thing.
But it was a trend that ended on Wednesday night, as Boise State left Omaha with Leon Rice’s first win over a ranked team as head coach. Boise State shot 60.7% from the floor and 10-19 for three in an 83-70 upset of the Bluejays, scoring 1.277 PPP for the game.
That’s … well, it’s not good.
The problem is that Creighton was never able to get back into the game. Boise State opened up a double-digit lead early in the second half and the Bluejays simply couldn’t string together enough stops to make a serious run. The only time they did get three stops in a row, Creighton went on an 8-0 spurt in the span of about a minute, cutting the Bronco’s lead from 75-70.
I don’t need to tell you that Creighton cannot win basketball games this way. Creighton fans certainly know that. The team absolutely does. They wore shirts with their defensive ranking from last season on it throughout the preseason. The Missouri Valley has looked strong early on this season. Wichita State won at VCU. Northern Iowa was impressive in their losses out in the Bahamas. Illinois State and Indiana State both have some quality pieces on their roster.
And most importantly, all of those teams are willing and able to muck-it-up defensively. If Creighton can’t iron out these kinks on the defensive end, they’re going to have a tough time trying to bring home the league title.
The one thing I’m almost certain of here: I don’t think that practice is going to be very enjoyable for the Bluejays on Thursday after this performance.
I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention the performance of Derrick Marks. 35 points. 13-19 from the floor. A bucket any time he wanted one. Throw in Anthony Drmic and Jeff Elorriaga, and you’ve got a pretty solid perimeter trio. The Broncos won’t compete for the Mountain West title this season — they may not even finish in the top half — but they’ll be a tough win on a nightly basis.
It’s also worth noting the value of this win for the MWC as a whole. Creighton is going to end up being highly ranked with a good RPI. And Boise State just beat them in Omaha. That’ll be a nice bump.