100 Teams in 100 Days: Creighton Bluejays

2016-2017 Season Review

Last season ended up being more about what could've been than what it actually was for the Creighton basketball program. Greg McDermott's team got out to a blazing start, winning their first 13 games. That included wins over Wisconsin and Seton Hall. They fell to also undefeated and #1 ranked Villanova, but then won their next five games to move to 18-1. It was the 18th win that was the most costly, though. Star PG Maurice Watson Jr, who led the nation in assists at the time, tore his ACL in the win over Xavier, ending his season. The Bluejays would go 5-7 the rest of the regular season and, although they still made it to the Big East title game, were never the same team. They received a #6 seed in the NCAA Tournament where they fell to Rhode Island in the first round, finishing the season 25-10. Had Watson not have went down, it would've been fun to see how far that Bluejays team could've gone.

Key Losses

Maurice Watson Jr was a senior, so his ACL injury ended his career at Creighton. In the 19 games he played in, Watson averaged 12.9 PPG, 8.5 APG and 1.5 SPG. The Bluejays also lost first round NBA Draft pick Justin Patton. The 6'11 athletic big man averaged 12.9 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 1.4 BPG and shot 67.6% from the field in his freshman season. Patton was a second team All Big East selection. Cole Huff, a 6'8 forward who was a grad transfer from Nevada, is gone after averaging 9.2 PPG, 3.9 RPG and hitting 62 threes at a 46.3% clip. 6'9 Zach Hanson graduated after scoring 5.4 PPG and grabbing 2.3 RPG. Guard Isaiah Zierden also graduated after a season season in which he played 20 MPG, averaging 4.9 PPG, 2.0 RPG and shooting 41.4% from three. 6'6 Kobe Paras, who appeared in 15 games as a freshman, decided to transfer to Cal State Northridge.

Key Returners

Headlining the returnees for Creighton is former Kansas State Wildcat and first team All Big East selection last season, Marcus Foster. The 6'3 senior averaged 18.2 PPG, 2.9 RPG, 2.4 APG and hit 73 threes last season. Khyri Thomas, a 6'3 junior, did it all in his sophomore campaign, averaging 12.3 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 3.3 APG and 1.5 SPG. He also hit 46 threes at a 39% rate. 6'10 senior Toby Hegner averaged 5.0 PPG and 3.4 RPG in 16.7 MPG last season. Most of his points came from beyond the arc, where he shot 45.1%. Davion Mintz is a 6'3 sophomore started 12 games last season after Watson went down with his injury. Mintz averaged 3.3 PPG and 1.8 APG. 6'9 sophomore Martin Krampelj played 6.1 MPG as a freshman, scoring 2.9 PPG and grabbing 2.3 RPG. Krampelj' per 40 minute rebounding numbers were best on the team at 14.7. Ronnie Harrell is a 6'7 junior that only played 7.3 MPG last season, but was one of the bright spots against Rhode Island in the NCAA Tournament. He played point for a majority of that game and posted a 15/5/4 line. 6'1 senior Tyler Clement played 9.4 MPG.

Key Newcomers

McDermott brings in the fourth ranked recruiting class in the Big East. Jacob Epperson is a 6'11 four star recruit that is the 7th ranked center in the 2017 class. Epperson has a great feel for the game and can protect the rim but does need to bulk up to be a force in the Big East. Mitchell Ballock is a 6'5 four star SG that plays bigger than his listed size, is an excellent shooter and has a high basketball IQ. Another four star recruit, TyShon Alexander is a 6'4 guard that is a very talented scorer. Kaleb Joseph will also be at McDermott's disposal this season after sitting out last year following his transfer from Syracuse. The 6'3 junior started 30 games for Jim Boeheim during his freshman season. Rounding out the group of newcomers is 6'10 big man Manny Suarez, who is a grad transfer from D2 Adelphi. Suarez, who averaged 16.9 PPG and 9.4 RPG last season, will give the Bluejays more depth inside.

Final Take

Marcus Foster and Khyri Thomas are both guys that could be All Big East performers this season, with Foster being the favorite to lead the league in scoring. They also bring in a talented group of newcomers, but the x factor for this team is in the hands of the other returning players outside of Foster and Thomas. Creighton needs guys like Mintz, Krampelj and Harrell to make big strides this season. If they do that, Creighton is a NCAA Tournament team that will be a tough out in the Big East. If they can't, though, the Bluejays could struggle in a deep league.

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