Creighton Bluejays

WEST LAFAYETTE, IN - NOVEMBER 14:  Josh Hart #3 of the Villanova Wildcats goes up for a shot against the Purdue Boilermakers at Mackey Arena on November 14, 2016 in West Lafayette, Indiana.  (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
Michael Hickey/Getty Images

College Basketball Talk Top 25

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1. Villanova (6-0, Last week No. 1): The Wildcats hold steady at No. 1 this week as they weren’t tested.

2. Kentucky (6-0, 2): The more we watch Michigan State the less impressive that win looks for Kentucky. They’ll get UCLA at home on Saturday. We’ll know a lot more then.

3. Kansas (5-1, 4): The Jayhawks cruised right along with a title in the CBE Classic and a blowout win over UNC Asheville.

4. Duke (6-1, 5): Grayson Allen left a game because his foot was bothering him and it looks like none of the three injured freshmen will be available against Michigan State on Tuesday. We won’t know just how good Duke is for a while longer.

5. North Carolina (7-0, 6): There’s an argument to be made that North Carolina has been the most impressive team in the country this season. They haven’t won a game by fewer than 15 points yet.

RANKINGS: AP Poll | Coaches Poll | NBC Sports Top 25

6. Gonzaga (6-0, 8): The Zags did what we expected them to do, cruising to a title in the Advocare Invitational. It was more difficult against Iowa State than it should have been.

7. Xavier (6-0, 12): The Musketeers are starting to fly a bit under the radar. Their 22-point win over Northern Iowa on Saturday is better than you may realize.

8. Baylor (6-0, 15): The Bears are the only team in the country with four top 40 KenPom wins. they deserve this ranking for now. We’ll see if they can keep this thing rolling all year long.

9. Creighton (6-0, 16): The Bluejays look like one of the nation’s most potent offensive teams once again.

10. Virginia (6-0, 10): The Wahoos, on the other hand, are the nation’s most stingy defensive team.

11. UCLA (8-0, 13)
12. Indiana (5-1, 3)
13. Louisville (5-1, 9)
14. Purdue (5-1, 19)
15. Saint Mary’s (5-0, 21)
16. Wisconsin (5-2, 17)
17. Rhode Island (5-1, 20)
18. South Carolina (6-0, NR)
19. Syracuse (4-1, 14)
20. Maryland (7-0, 22)
21. Cincinnati (5-1, 23)
22. Iowa State (5-1, NR)
23. Michigan (5-1, 22)
24. Butler (6-0, NR)
25. Arizona (5-1, 11)

DROPPED OUT: No. 7 Oregon, No. 18 Virginia Tech, No. 24 Dayton
NEW ADDITIONS: No. 19 South Carolina, No. 22 Iowa State, No. 25 Butler

No. 12 Creighton lands come-from-behind win over Ole Miss

OMAHA, NE - NOVEMBER 15: Maurice Watson Jr. #10 of the Creighton Bluejays drives to the hoop past Jordan Hill #11 of the Wisconsin Badgers during their game at the CenturyLink Center on November 15, 2016 in Omaha, Nebraska. (Photo by Eric Francis/Getty Images)
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Marcus Foster scored 25 points and Khyri Thomas chipped in 16 points of his own as No. 12 Creighton landed a come-from-behind win over Ole Miss in the title game of the Paradise Jam in the Virgin Islands, 86-77.

The Rebels were up by as many as 12 points in the second half before the Jays caught fire from deep – Creighton finished shooting 16-for-26 from beyond the arc – but the real difference came on the defensive end of the floor. The Bluejays finally started getting stops, and it’s not a coincidence that those stops came at the same time that they started clearing the defensive glass.

Ole Miss took a 46-40 lead into the break. With 15 minutes left in the game, a jumper from Cullen Neal gave Ole Miss a 59-51 lead. They mustered just 18 points the rest of the way. It’s also worth noting that Ole Miss grabbed 14 of their 17 offensive rebounds in the first 25 minutes; they finished with 20 second chance points.

The defense is going to be the key long-term for Creighton. This is easily the most athletic team that Greg McDermott has had in his time at Creighton – there’s probably an argument to be made that it’s the most talented as well, although that’s a different discussion for a different day – but what they have in shooting prowess and back court dominance they lack in true difference-makers defensively.

Deandre Burnett and Rasheed Brooks, who both had 22 points, are good basketball players – Burnett had 41 points in the opening game of this event – but they got anything they wanted in the first half on Monday night. It helped that they made seemingly all of the open shots that they got, and it also helped that Justin Patton, Zach Hanson and Toby Hegner looked helpless against Sebastian Saiz on the glass. Again, Saiz is a good player, but he should not have been able to dominate the glass like that against a team that’s many believe is a top 15-20 team in the country.

The Bluejays are going to score a lot of points this season. They have shooters everywhere on their roster, they have a group of guards that are as good as any in the country and they those guards thrive in transition and when their spacing creates driving lanes.

But their ceiling will be limited if they cannot get more consistent defensively.

On the other side, Ole Miss is a better basketball team than I thought they were. They may even be the second-best team in the SEC. Burnett is going to score a lot of points this season while Neal and Brooks seem like capable compliments in the back court. Throw in Saiz, who is as underrated as anyone in that conference, and this is a typically-good Andy Kennedy team.

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No. 23 Creighton asserts itself in win over No. 9 Wisconsin

OMAHA, NE - NOVEMBER 15: Khyri Thomas #2, Justin Patton #23 of the Creighton Bluejays and Bronson Koenig #24 of the Wisconsin Badgers dive for a loose all during their game at the CenturyLink Center on November 15, 2016 in Omaha, Nebraska. (Photo by Eric Francis/Getty Images)
Photo by Eric Francis/Getty Images
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If starting the season in the top-25 wasn’t enough, Creighton announced its national relevance with a huge win Tuesday.

The 23rd-ranked Bluejays defeated No. 9 Wisconsin, 79-67, in impressive fashion at CenturyLink Center as part of the Gavitt Tipoff Games.

Creighton (2-0) forced 16 turnovers from the Badgers (101), who made just 11 of 39 3-point shot attempts on the night.

Wisconsin’s potential flaws were on display in Omaha as both Nigel Hayes and Bronson Koenig were at times inefficient scorers while Ethan Happ was marginalized offensively. Hayes was 6 of 13 from the floor, with all but four of his shots coming from 3-point range while Koenig was 8 of 19 from the floor and 3 of 13 from 3-point range. Happ, who even with the plaudits Hayes and Koenig have earned may be the team’s best player, only attempted five shots, making three, and grabbing 10 rebounds. He was part of Wisconsin’s turnover troubles, committing four on the night.

The Badgers’ jumpshooting will probably fade in and out at times, but committing 16 turnovers given their pace is almost always going to be a killer, especially when Hayes and Koenig aren’t at their best.

Still, time will likely bear out that losing to Creighton in their gym is no great sin.

This looked like a Bluejays team primed to jockey with Villanova and Xavier atop the Big East and make their return to the NCAA tournament after a two-year absence.

Creighton got the job done against the Badgers with balance with  four players finishing in double figures. The backcourt tandem of Maurice Watson, Jr. and Marcus Foster lived up to their billing as one of the country’s best. Watson had 17 points, 10 assists, four steals and three rebounds while Foster had 15 points. Khyri Thomas came through with 18 points on 6 of 8 shooting. Five-star freshman Justin Patton made 5 of 6 shots for 10 points and had six rebounds.

It’s the type of win that asserts the Bluejays as a team to be noticed in a post-Doug McDermott era. The backcourt will get the headlines, but if the supporting cast like Thomas, Patton, Isaiah Zierden and Zach Hanson can provide the help they did against the Badgers, Creighton is going to be a problem for the rest of the Big East, especially at home in front of 17,000.

NC State, Ole Miss among eight teams in 2016 Paradise Jam

Mark Gottfried
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While the 2015-16 season has yet to get underway, some in-season tournaments have already begun the process of finalizing teams for the 2016-17 campaign. Wednesday evening the Paradise Jam revealed its eight-team field for the 2016 edition of the event, which is scheduled to be played November 18-21, 2016 at the University of the Virgin Islands.

NC State, which has reached the NCAA tournament in each of the last four seasons under head coach Mark Gottfried, is part of the event as are Andy Kennedy’s Ole Miss Rebels. Completing the field are Creighton, Loyola-Chicago, Oral Roberts, Montana, Saint Joseph’s and Washington State.

Of the eight teams just two have made prior appearances at the Paradise Jam. Phil Martelli’s Saint Joseph’s team finished fifth in 2009, with Ole Miss finishing third two years later. Washington State may have the most interesting connection to this tournament, however.

The father of forward Josh Hawkinson, who was the Pac-12’s Most Improved Player last season and will be a senior in 2016-17, created the Paradise Jam back in 2000. That should make for a fun return to the Virgin Islands for Josh next November. Nels Hawkinson is the executive director of Basketball Travelers, a company some may be familiar with as they’ve set up foreign tours for many college basketball programs over the years.

While NC State and Ole Miss are the lone teams in this field to reach the NCAA tournament last season, Montana is one of the favorites in the Big Sky entering the 2015-16 season and ORU is expected to be a factor in the Summit League. Scott Sutton’s Golden Eagles were picked to finish third in the Summit League preseason coaches poll.

Four-star 2017 guard commits to Creighton

Greg McDermott
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Creighton went out east and landed a top-100 prospect on Saturday as four-star guard Ty-Shon Alexander pledged to the Bluejays, a source confirmed to NBCSports.com.

The 6-foot-3 Alexander had a very good summer playing with Team Charlotte as he showed he was a very good 3-point shooter to go along with a lot of team success.

Alexander represents Creighton’s first commitment in the Class of 2017 and a prospect of his caliber is a great start for the class. Regarded as the No. 86 overall prospect in the Class of 2017, Alexander is playing his junior season at Oak Hill Academy.

 

Creighton hoping transfers Watson, Huff can spark turnaround

Greg McDermott
Associated Press
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OMAHA, Neb. (AP) Even though Maurice Watson Jr. is yet to play his first game as Creighton’s new point guard, he doesn’t lack confidence.

Watson made that clear Wednesday at the Bluejays’ media day when he was asked to describe his playing style.

He said he’s a pass-first point guard who’ll keep his teammates happy. He was only warming up.

“I know the type of game we play with the 3-point shooters we have, teams are going to be forced to play me one-on-one, and I don’t think there is anybody who can guard me one-on-one, who can stop me from getting to the basket,” Watson said. “With my improved jump shot, I think I’ll be more efficient, and I’ll be knocking down way more jump shots. I do think I’ll be aggressive, mainly toward the middle to the end of games when it’s that time to take over.”

Coach Greg McDermott said he has no qualms with Watson’s strong sense of self.

“Sooner or later you’re going to have to back it up,” he said. “As long as he puts in the work to back up what he says, I can live with some of that.”

Watson and fellow transfer Cole Huff will need to play major roles if the Bluejays are going to bounce back from their first losing season since 1995-96. Creighton, which lost eight games in the final minute, was 14-19 and tied for ninth in the Big East at 4-14. The Bluejays were picked to finish ninth again in the Big East’s preseason coaches’ poll.

Forward Toby Hegner (6.7 ppg) is the only returning starter, guard James Milliken (9.6 ppg) played significant minutes and Geoffrey Groselle (5.4 ppg, 2.5 rpg) and Zach Hanson (3.8 ppg, 2.4 rpg) split time at center. Guard Isaiah Zierden (9.5 ppg), who shot nearly 40 percent on 3-pointers, is back after a knee injury ended his season in January.

Watson, who transferred from Boston University, takes over at the point for three-year starter Austin Chatman. Watson averaged 13.3 points, 7.1 assists and 2.1 steals while leading the Terriers to the NIT in 2013-14. Forward Cole Huff, who transferred from Nevada, averaged 12.4 points and 5.4 rebounds for the Wolf Pack.

“We’re more experienced than a lot of teams simply because Maurice and Cole played meaningful basketball and have been good players at their respective schools they transferred from,” McDermott said. “When you add two guys to the lineup that have played as many games as they’ve played, you probably aren’t getting a true reading of exactly what your returning experience is.”

Milliken said he’s excited to play with Watson and likes his cocksure demeanor.

What about Watson’s claim that he’s unstoppable one on one?

“Honestly, he’s tough,” Milliken said. “He’s really quick in changing directions. He’ll find a way to get around you, and he doesn’t miss layups. He might be accurate with that one.”