Friar Basketball

Previewing Creighton

Khyri Thomas

Game: Providence at Creighton

Date/Time: Sunday, Dec. 31, 2:30pm

TV/Radio: Fox Sports 1, 103.7 WEEI

For a Creighton team that has struggled to maintain leads in all three of their losses this season the last thing they want to see is Ed Cooley’s Friars coming to town.

Providence has enjoyed tremendous success against the Bluejays since they joined the Big East, winning seven out of ten contests, including the 2014 Big East Tournament Championship game. And Creighton fans certainly haven’t forgotten what happened the past two seasons when Providence visited.

The Friars own the two biggest road comebacks in CenturyLink Center history, erasing 12 and 13 point deficits in their last two trips to Omaha. Both games ended in heartbreak in the closing seconds for the Jays.

While the Friars have held a historical advantage in the series, Greg McDermott’s group is deserving of its top 25 ranking this season. #25 Creighton is 10-3, with all three losses coming to nationally ranked opponents — Baylor, Gonzaga, and most recently, at Seton Hall on Thursday night.

The Jays led by double figures in all three of those losses. A victory over Baylor would have marked their third straight win over a nationally ranked team at the time (Northwestern, UCLA).

Key for Creighton is terrific guard play. Marcus Foster and Khyri Thomas might be the best backcourt in the Big East. Foster was named 1st Team All Big East last season and Thomas is not only the best defensive guard in the league, but a versatile offensive player. Thomas is the reigning Big East Defensive Player of the Year.

Neither Foster or Thomas is playing over 30 minutes per game, yet Foster is averaging over 19 points a night, while Thomas is a 15/4/3 guy. Both guards are shooting over 50% from the field and 40% from long range.

My questions regarding this group centered around how they would make up for the losses of center Justin Patton (NBA Draft) and point guard Mo Watson.

With Watson, Creighton was a top 10 team nationally last year. After he went down with a season-ending knee injury they hovered around .500 for the final two months.

6’9 sophomore Martin Krampelj has more than ably replaced Patton. His 12.6 points per game are ten more than he averaged a year ago, and he’s coming off of a 23 point, 10 rebound night against Seton Hall.

What has allowed Creighton to continue to play at a breakneck pace (and average over 90 points per game) has been the emergence of its youngsters. Sophomore Davion Mintz starts at point guard and shoots over 40% from deep, while perhaps most encouraging for fans in Omaha is their freshman duo of Mitch Ballock and Ty-Shon Alexander. Both are building blocks for McDermott.

The 6’5 Ballock was a well-known commodity on the recruiting scene. He was offered by Kansas, but opted for Creighton. It didn’t take long for him to make an impact at the college level, as he keyed Creighton’s Nov. 20 win over UCLA with 22 points. He’s averaging almost nine points per game, while playing about 21 minutes per.

Alexander was a top 80 recruit who has been just as efficient in limited minutes (7.7 points in 19.9 minutes per game). The North Carolina native has great size for the point guard position (6’4) and plays with poise. He’s already scored in double figures in seven games.

6’7 junior Ronnie Harrell is a steady producer — 7.0 points, 7.6 rebounds, 2.5 assists in 25 minutes per game, while 6’10, 240 pound Toby Hegner is a floor-stretching big man.

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College Basketball Talk featured McDermott and his offensive approach earlier this week. It’s well worth a read for any follower of the Big East.

From the article:

“In McDermott’s first post-Dougie McBuckets season, it looked like Creighton might be headed down that same path. The Bluejays went 14-19 and 4-14 in the Big East as their offense slowed back to a crawl, but McDermott had already started recruiting players to the system he wanted to play. It started with point guard Mo Watson, a dynamic and speedy point guard transfer from Boston U. that sat out the 2014-15 season, and Cole Huff, a transfer from Nevada that fit nicely as a stretch-four. Then McDermott landed commitments from a pair of high-major prospects from Omaha in Khyri Thomas and Justin Patton. Marcus Foster pledged to the Bluejays after a falling out with the Kansas State coaching staff.

He was landing talents that fit the way he wanted to play, and from there it’s only grown. Creighton beat out Kansas State for a commitment from now-starting point guard Davion Mintz, a North Carolina-native. They beat out the likes of Clemson and South Carolina to land Ty-Shon Alexander, a freshman guard that was ranked as a top 50 prospect. Alexander is another North Carolina-native. Perhaps most impressive was that McDermott secured the services of Mitchell Ballock, another top 50 prospect and a Kansas-native (and Jayhawk fan) that picked Creighton over, among others, Kansas.

In the process, the pace and space McDermott has played with has only gotten faster and bigger.

Creighton is 24th nationally in tempo this season, according to KenPom. They have been among the top 75 teams in pace the last three years. In his final season with Northern Iowa, McDermott ranked 321st in pace.”

***

Here are highlights from Providence’s win at Creighton last year, and when the two teams met in the Big East Tournament.

 

3 Comments

  1. Derec Lamendola

    December 30, 2017 at 10:40 pm

    Providence College Men’s Basketball Get Redey For Tommmerrrow And Get Redey And Be Redey And Get Redey And I’m So Redey Providence. College Men’s Basketball #MakaiAshtonLangford Get Redey For Tommmerrrow BIG Fight Come In Tommmerrrow And Providence College Men’s Basketball Get Redey For Tommerrrow Providence College Men’s Basksetball iS Going To Win All Away This Year And Becuase Providence College Men’s Basketball iS The Best Team Right Now Providence College Men’s Basketball IS Geting Redey For Tommmerrrow So Be Redey Makai Ashton Langford Are You Redey For Tommmerrrow And Derec Lamemdola iS Jaming OUT Tonight All Night Geting Redey For Makai Ashton Langford For Tommmerrrow BIG Game Ugenst Crightion Tommerrrow News Years Eve

  2. Dennis

    December 30, 2017 at 10:59 pm

    Play like you played St. John’s and you will win. That’s all you need to do.

  3. Pingback: Friar Starting Five: Sunday Edition - Friar Basketball

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