Patrick from White & Blue Review was kind enough to take some time out to answer some questions about basketball from the Creighton perspective, as we preview the matchup on Sunday;
1. How do you along with Creighton fans feel about Altman leaving and McDermott getting hired? Were there any concerns he'd change his mind a la Arkansas a few years ago?
Initially, I think a lot of people including myself were pretty surprised that Dana Altman did decide to leave Creighton to take the Oregon job. When he left for Arkansas and came back, he said that it looked like he would finish his career at Creighton. Since he had come back though, things seemed to be different and after last season's 18-16 season, which was one of the worst since his first years at Creighton, I think there were more people starting to talk and it appeared there would be some slight changes with the staff or some players in the offseason. But I think many were caught off-guard by him leaving.
That being said, I would say that people were excited for the opportunity for something new and at first I think there was mixed reaction as well about the hiring of McDermott, but his proven track record in the MVC during his previous run with Northern Iowa speaks for itself and he is a total opposite personality of Dana Altman which
some like to see and get more insight on the program. .
As far as changing his mind again, he didn't have the luxury of having time to make that decision. Creighton didn't waste anytime getting in contact with Greg McDermott and discussing him becoming the new Creighton Head Coach. Athletic Director Bruce Rasmussen said when he introduced McDermott that he was on his short list for a long time and that if Altman ever did decide to leave, he would be the first one he would call. The rest is history.
2. Creighton has been to the NCAA tournament 3 times from the first half of the decade, but only 1 time in the second half. How far away do you think the program is from getting back there?
I know a lot of people would like to see the Bluejays get back right away even this season and are even projected to finish anywhere in the top four of the Valley. However, I think we can generally agree that it could still be a couple seasons away as players adjust to some different philosophies and McDermott brings in some of his own
recruiting classes. They have four new signees set to join the program next season with one more scholarship still left to go after another one.
3. What are Creighton fans' expectations for this season?
To expand on what I said on the previous question, I think there are a wide ranging view of expectations for this season. I think everyone is counting down to December 18th as Rutgers transfer Gregory
Echenique will make his debut in a few non-conference games before Valley play starts. The expectation that Echenique will make that much of an impact is partially the reason the Bluejays are picked to finish so high in the conference.
The performance in the non-conference season up until then would be icing on the cake if they are successful. If the non-conference record doesn't pan out as well as it could, then many are banking that Creighton could win the MVC Tournament at the end of the season.
4. What have you seen on the court that you've liked, and what is the biggest area Creighton needs to improve in?
There are several things that I have liked so far if comparing this season to last season. One of the problems in the final couple years with Dana Altman's teams were the troubles in rebounding and winning the rebounding battle. If you can win the rebounding battle that usually means you are winning games. Through each of the first
three games this season, the Bluejays have won that rebounding battle.
The other thing that is impressive is the difference in getting opportunities at the free throw line this season and limiting the opponents chances. Creighton has been to the charity stripe 85 times converting 81% of those chances while opponents have only gotten there a total of 26 times.
One area of improvement is the shooting of the guards. Creighton has struggled with their outside shot so far this season and a limited set of guards are available to contribute to that. Kaleb Korver, Darryl Ashford, Josh Jones and Jahenns Manigat have all had up and down games so far and nothing is really solidified with the wing positions. They have to establish more threats from the outside if it is going to open up the post for Kenny Lawson and company.
5. Who are the players we should watchout for? Everybody in the area knows about Ames High standout Doug McDermott, but who else should Cyclone fans keep an eye on?
First off, everyone is probably already on the lookout for senior Kenny Lawson as he was named the Preseason MVC Player of the Year. Those expectations however may have affected his game early as he has
had problems with foul trouble in the first half of the first couple of games. However he has appeared to have settled down a bit and had a good game against Louisiana on Wednesday.
The other player to watch closely is point guard Antoine Young. This is his team to run and he appears to be doing what he needs to do to run this team so far this season. He has a gear that most players don't have and if you aren't careful he will blow right by players to the basket. Young will be expected to play at least 35 minutes and if
he were to get into foul trouble, Creighton is really thin at that position this season and could be in a lot of trouble.
Senior Wayne Runnels may be the X factor though as he is in a role of a utility guy where he will be played wherever he is needed. He had his first career double-double against Northern Arizona. If he plays
down low, he is a bit undersized, but could be a little quicker than the opponent's low post players that could give Creighton an advantage.
6. It appears Creighton has returned a fair number of their ticket allotment for the game at Wells Fargo Arena. Creighton fans are known to travel well in the area. Why is there a lack of excitement from their fans about this matchup?
It will be interesting to see what the crowd will be like on Sunday. A lot of people I have talked to said they are going, which leads me to believe there may be more blue there than what you may expect. However, one problem might be how it is scheduled. Sunday road trips aren't always the easiest for families to make the trip.
It would have been better to have it on a Saturday or even closer to the end of college football season. But for the diehard fans, they will be there.
7. How does the game playout in your mind, and who do you think wins?
After seeing the pasting of Drake that the Cyclones gave out earlier this week, I initially thought that the same fate may happen to Creighton. However after thinking about things a little more, each game is different and if Creighton is able to control the tempo and get to the free throw line more than Iowa State, then they can pull out a win. I do see Creighton getting to the free throw line and that will be the difference. Creighton will win in a grinder, 60-55. Of
course I will pick the Bluejays. That's why you play the game.
Thanks again to Patrick from White & Blue Review! We're all looking forward to this game as it should be a good one. I will write my own take on this game on Saturday, so be on the lookout for that!