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No. 16 Creighton’s season on the ropes after blowout by Georgetown

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Creighton, without Mo Watson, is lost.

It’s expected, and it’s understandable, and most of all it’s a cruel twist in what should have been the best season in the history of the program.

But it’s a truth that head coach Greg McDermott is going to have to confront head-on if he wants the Bluejays to have a chance to make any noise this season.

No. 16 Creighton was smoked on Wednesday night by a Georgetown team that was 1-6 in the Big East and, prior to Wednesday, had lost to 16 straight Big East opponents not named DePaul or St. John’s; it’s been 364 days since the Hoyas beat the Bluejays in the Verizon Center last season. The final score was 71-51, but it didn’t feel all that close mostly because it never felt like the Bluejays were going to find a way to consistently get good shots, let alone score.

Creighton shot 35.1 percent from the floor, a number that drops to 25 percent when you remove Justin Patton’s 9-for-13 from the equation. The Bluejays were 1-for-18 from three, which is a disaster for a team that, even with a game-and-a-half without Watson on the books, was the 10th best offense, according to KenPom, and the nation’s ninth-best three-point shooting team.

And therein lies the problem for the Bluejays.

This team was built to play a certain way, and they just cannot play that way anymore.

“Maurice is a really good player. It’s not just me, he made the game easier for Coach Mac, me and all of my other teammates,” star center Justin Patton said. “We need to find a different way. When we stepped on campus on June 6th, we didn’t know what type of team we were, but we figured it out. Then we lost Maurice, and it’s like we’re back in that same position again.”

Since Watson, who was leading the nation in assists and found himself on every midseason all-american list, went down, the Bluejays have been using a point guard-by-committee. They’ve started Isaiah Zierdan, a senior sharpshooter that understands how to play but lacks the physical ability to get into the lane and draw defenders the way Watson could. Davion Mintz is a freshman that looked as promising in the loss to Marquette – 17 points and eight assists – as he did in-over-his-head against the Hoyas.

It got to the point that Creighton gave former walk-on Tyler Clement major minutes as McDermott tried to find an answer.

“We’re going to need some young guys to grow up really fast,” McDermott said. “We have to have guys step up and play better, and some guys are being asked to play a role they’ve never played at any point in their career. It’s tough to do that in late January.”

Oddly enough, in a blowout loss that was a deflating dose of reality, Creighton may have found an answer, although it wasn’t exactly hiding.

It’s Patton.

A redshirt freshman that had jettisoned himself from being a relative unknown to a potential lottery pick, he had 20 points and seven boards against the Hoyas, showing off a dominant array of post moves and looking unstoppable at times. This isn’t the first time he’s played this way, either, and that may be the future of this Creighton program.

If run-and-gun doesn’t work, maybe force-feeding the ball to the best big man in the conference will.

“Justin is not going to be able to make freshman mistakes for us to progress like we need to progress,” McDermott said. “That’s not fair to him. He’s a freshman. He’s 19 years old. He’s supposed to be able to make those mistakes, but our situation is different than it was before.”

The danger in that, however, is that there are essentially six weeks left in the season. Even if McDermott wanted to overhaul what Creighton does offensively, it’s not exactly feasible. At this point in the season, college basketball teams aren’t grinding through practices the way they did earlier in the season. There’s some skill work and some conditioning, but for the most part, these practices are made up of game-planning and prepping to play against their upcoming opponents while dealing with cross-country travel and two games a week.

In other words, installing a new offense now is more difficult than figuring out how to tweak what they do to fit the personnel that is still available.

“I don’t think you can take down and start over,” McDermott said. “We need more time to make the changes that we have to make. But we’e two thirds into the season, we can’t be pounding them into the ground, especially with the injuries and illness we’ve had. It’s tough, but the reality is we have to keep doing it.”

“We just gotta play together without Maurice for a little bit longer,” Patton added, “and we’ll be fine.”

Report: Pat Kelsey will not take the UMass job

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Moments before Pat Kelsey was set to be formally introduced as the new head coach at the University of Massachusetts, the school canceled the press conference citing, “unforeseen circumstances.”

According to Jeff Goodman of ESPN, the former Winthrop coach has decided not to accept the job.

Virginia’s Thompson to transfer

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Virginia lost another member of its team Thursday.

The Cavaliers announced Darius Thompson will transfer out of the program, a day after the news of Marial Shayok and Jarred Reuter’s departures.

“Darius Thompson informed me he has decided to play his final season at another school following his graduation from Virginia,” Virginia coach Tony Bennett said in a statement released by the school. “Although you never want to see young men transfer, I understand this is part of coaching. Darius, Marial, and Jarred feel it’s in their best interests to pursue other options for the remainder of their college careers.

“I will always appreciate the contributions they made to our program.”

Thompson, who would be immediately eligible as a graduate transfer, began his career at Tennessee before transferring to Charlottesville, where he averaged 5.2 points and 1.8 assists over two seasons. The 6-foot-4 guard shot 44.8 percent from the field and 35.1 percent from 3-point range last season.

Despite the three defections, Virginia returns a number of pieces that contributed to their 23-11 season.

As we look forward, we have a strong nucleus of players returning,” Bennett said, “and I’m excited for their continued development. As a staff, we are focused on finding student-athletes who want to be a part of this program and all the University of Virginia has to offer.”

Georgetown, John Thompson III part ways

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Georgetown has parted ways with head coach John Thompson III, sources confirmed to NBC Sports.

Thompson has been the head coach of the Hoyas for 13 seasons, going 278-151 during his tenure. He won three Big East regular season titles with the program, the last of which came in 2013, and he reached the 2007 Final Four, but in recent years the program has fallen on hard times.

Georgetown confirmed the news Thursday afternoon.

“For thirteen years, he has been one of the elite coaches in college basketball,” Georgetown president John J. DeGioia said in a statement released by the school. “His performance as a coach has been exceptional, and he has served our community with remarkable distinction and integrity, sustaining our commitment to the academic performance of our students and providing them with the very best preparation for their lives beyond the Hilltop.”

Georgetown is 29-36 over the course of the last two seasons and the Hoyas have missed the NCAA tournament in three of the last four years. They’ve failed to make it out of the first weekend of the NCAA tournament since that Final Four, losing to five double-digit seeds in their last six NCAA tournament appearances.

Thompson is the son of John Thompson Jr., the Hall of Fame head coach that built the Hoyas into a national power in the 80s and 90s. The University just invested more than $60 million into a renovation of the team’s practice facility which is now named The Thompson Center.

“We are committed to taking the necessary steps to strengthen our program and maintaining the highest levels of academic integrity and national competitiveness,” DeGioia said. “We will work immediately to begin a national search for a new head men’s basketball coach.

“I remain deeply grateful to John for all that he has done on behalf of Georgetown University.”

The news was first reported by CasualHoya.com.

Jeter to transfer from Duke

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A former five-star recruit is hitting the transfer market.

Chase Jeter, a top-20 talent in the Class of 2015, will transfer from Duke, the school announced Thursday.

The 6-foot-10 sophomore could never really crack the rotation with the Blue Devils, playing less than 500 minutes total over two seasons. He averaged 14.9 minutes in 16 appearances this past season.

“Chase has been an outstanding young man in our program for the last two years,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said in a statement released by the school. “He has been one of our top academic performers since he arrived on campus. Unfortunately, he was held back this season due to injury. We wish nothing but the absolute best for Chase and his family.”

This past season Jeter dealt with a back injury, and he did not play after Jan. 14.

“I have loved my time at Duke, getting a world-class education and competing alongside my brothers every day,” Jeter said in a statement. “After careful consideration, I decided it would be best for me to transfer to a school closer to home. I’ve made long-lasting relationships here and I want to thank my teammates and coaches for the support they’ve given me over the last two years.”

Jeter, a Las Vegas native, chose Duke in the summer of 2014 over Arizona, UNLV and UCLA.

Feeling the love: Men’s hoops squad toast of South Carolina

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COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) Sindarius Thornwell knew South Carolina fans would be excited about the team’s Sweet 16 appearance. The response since he has been on campus, though, surprised even him.

As Thornwell walked to the student union after class, he couldn’t take more than a couple of steps without students swarming him for selfies or asking for some tidbit about the win against Duke on Sunday.

“We’re trying to embrace the moment,” Thornwell said Tuesday. “But that was wild.”

Everyone on campus, around Columbia and even the state seem to be savoring every minute. It’s understandable, the Gamecocks haven’t been in the Sweet 16 since 1973.

It’s been a wild ride for the Gamecocks (24-10), who some wondered if they’d even get invited to the NCAA Tournament let alone produce one of the signature moments so far with their 88-81 win over the second-seeded Blue Devi ls in the East Region.

Next up is third seeded Baylor (27-7) on Friday night at Madison Square Garden for the chance to advance.

Coach Frank Martin said he’s gotten more than 1,100 text messages about Sunday night’s win and two or three from people wondering, “So I guess you’re not going to respond?” he joked.

“That’s a good problem to have,” he said.

South Carolina is gaining the attention Gamecock fans have recently showered on the football, baseball or women’s basketball programs.

Steve Spurrier, featuring NFL standouts like defensive end Jadeveon Clowney , receiver Alshon Jeffrey and cornerback Stephon Gilmore, won the Southeastern Conference East Division in 2010 and had three straight 11-2 seasons from 2011-13.

Baseball won back-to-back College World Series under now athletic director Ray Tanner in 2010 and 2011. Thousands turned out for victory parades to the Statehouse when the team returned home.

Most recently, South Carolina’s women’s basketball team, led by new U.S. women’s national team coach Dawn Staley, has gained much of the attention with four straight SEC regular season titles. The Gamecocks have led the women’s game in attendance the past three seasons.

Now, men’s basketball is getting some love.

“We’re happy to be part of that,” sophomore point guard P.J. Dozier said.

There was a time when men’s basketball led the way at South Carolina when New York City native Frank McGuire turned a sleepy program into a national power with a pipeline of NYC kids like John Roche, Tom Owens, Bobby Cremins, Brian Winters and Mike Dunleavy Sr.

McGuire led the Gamecocks to the NCAA round of 16 three straight seasons from 1971-73 – there were just 25 schools involved – and his team was considered the cream of the crop in South Carolina athletic circles.

But McGuire’s touch ran out in the mid-1970s and the Gamecocks have struggled for an identity for more than 40 years.

South Carolina won its only Southeastern Conference crown in 1997, but lost in the NCAAs as a No. 2 seed. The Gamecocks returned to the tournament the next season, that time falling as a No. 3 seed.

The Gamecocks high-water mark until now may be the consecutive NIT crowns won by coach Dave Odom in 2005 and 2006.

Martin and these Gamecocks are out to add another level of success to the program.

The fifth-year coach said that being around Spurrier – “Steve calls me every day,” Martin said – Tanner and Staley make him a better leader and give him examples of building winning cultures.

“I’m a big believer in winning leads to winning,” he said.

An emotional Martin, overcome by his team’s Duke win, told the players in the locker room, “Let’s go win this thing.”

He said Tuesday he wanted his players to know that by beating Duke, they proved they’re good enough to play with anyone left in the field.

Thornwell heard that over and over from friends, family and hundreds of new acquaintances he’s made the past 48 hours.

“We’re just having fun,” he said, “enjoying the game, enjoying every moment.”