Previewing Creighton: Seton Hall looks to start Big East 2-0 for first time in over a decade against high-flying Bluejays

Doug McDermott (24.3 ppg, 7.3 rpg) ranks second in the nation in scoring. - Eric Francis

2013-14 Creighton Bluejays (11-2, 1-0; KenPom: 14, RPI: 40)

2012-13 Creighton (28-8, 13-5; Missouri Valley Champions, NCAA Second Round, KenPom: 18 RPI: 22)

A Creighton team that returns most of their talent, including preseason All-America walk-on forward Doug McDermott (24.3 ppg, 7.3 rpg), from an impressive (28-8, 13-5) final season in the Missouri Valley Conference looks to be a fresh challenge for Seton Hall after their inspiring win at Providence on New Year's Eve.

Improving upon their 8th and 80th finishes in adjusted offensive efficiency and adjusted defensive efficiency last season, respectively, Creighton is 5th and 44th in both statistical categories so far this year. Remarkably, the Bluejays have fallen all the way from first to second in effective field goal percentage and from first to third in three-point percentage. Creighton relies heavily on the 3-ball that they shoot incredibly well, as seen by their fourth best percentage of total points (42.1%) coming from beyond the arc. Although 6-7 fifth year senior Ethan Wragge (12.4 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 50-100 3pt fg), Doug McDermott (33-77 3pt fg), and senior guard Jahenns Manigat (24-55) are Creighton's main long-ball threats, the rest of the team isn't collectively that bad (42/114, 36.8%), an average that would rank 83rd in the country.

Experienced guards Jahenns Manigat (7.8 ppg, 3 rpg, 2.7 apg, 1.4 spg), who does a little of everything, Austin Chatman (7.2, 4.5 rpg, 4.3 apg), and Grant Gibbs (5.8 ppg, 4.3 apg, 3.2 rpg) hold down the Bluejay backcourt -- the trio has started every game for Creighton over the past two seasons. As indicated by their average stat lines, all three guards contribute in every way they can, racking up significant assists and rebounds every game. Junior Devin Brooks (8.2 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 2.8 apg) comes off the Creighton bench as an impact guard sub.

Led by Gibbs and Chatman (both 4.3 apg), Creighton has racked up 245 assists over 13 games (18.8 apg), an average good enough for third in the country behind Iowa State and Michigan State. Four Bluejays average at least 2.5 apg, indicating a dedication to superior ball movement and unselfishness. The way above average ability of forwards McDermott and Wragge to step outside the paint and hit shots certainly contributes to Creighton's versatility. 6-11 Will Artino (6.2 ppg, 3.2 rpg) fills in as the first post forward off of head coach Greg McDermott's (father of Doug) bench. Minutes aren't the easiest to come by for Artino, who backs up McDermott (takes 35.8% of Creighton's shots) and the smooth shooting Ethan Wragge. A finalist for Mr. Consistent 2013-14, Doug McDermott has led Creighton in scoring in every game except for two while scoring 20+ points in eleven games. Creighton's leading scorer in the other two games, Ethan Wragge, has drilled 4+ three-pointers in nine games so far.

As you've probably heard so far this season, or perhaps deduced while reading this piece, Creighton is scary good on offense. The Bluejays have scored at least 80 points in 9 of their 13 games this season while playing at the 248th quickest adjusted tempo. That about sums Creighton's 'O' up, if the previous onslaught of impressive stats befuddled you.

While their offensive prowess shouldn't be overlooked, their defense isn't half-bad either, just ask Kevin Willard. "Creighton is a very misleading team right now because everyone talks about their offense - and don't get me wrong, they're terrific offensively; but not enough people talk about their defense," Willard told NBC Hoops Insider and SNY color analyst Vin Parise. "I'm as concerned about us scoring against them, as I am about us defending them. It should be a great game."

Creighton excels in keeping their opponents off of the offensive glass (22nd) while also minimizing how often their opponents get to the line relative to their field goal attempts (FTA/FGA, 36th). Block percentage (303rd), turnover percentage (249th), and steal percentage (291st) would be Creighton's lone weak spots on the defensive end. In sum, the Bluejays aren't particularly flashy when defending, but they get the job done.

...

The Bluejays started the season on a five-game win streak that included wins away from home against Saint Joseph's and Arizona State before falling to San Diego State and George Washington in consecutive games on a neutral court. Since, Creighton has rattled off six straight, taking down California and most recently Marquette at home in the process.

Seton Hall leads the all-time series 6-1, with the only matchup in the past 62 years coming in the second round of the 1991 NCAA tournament. The Pirates dispatched Creighton 81-69 thanks to 28 points from Terry Dehere on their way to an Elite Eight loss to UNLV. A Pirate win would be their first 2-0 start to Big East play since the 1999-2000 season.

Tomorrow's matchup will be tough for a Seton Hall team that ranks 286th in three-point defense and may be without centers Gene Teague and Aaron Geramipoor. As of this morning, Teague, who suffered a concussion against Lafayette on 12/27, and Fuquan Edwin, who experienced a painful collision to his knee in the first overtime against Providence, are 50-50. Aaron Geramipoor is a game-time decision while still recovering from a sprained ankle. The 6-11 center gave an inspiring four points in four minutes against Providence with NFL lineman-esque tape on his right ankle.

KenPom says: No. 14 Creighton - 75, No. 114 Seton Hall - 67 (23%)
Projected Creighton starters:

6-5 Sr., G - Grant Gibbs

6-0 Jr., G - Austin Chatman

6-1 Sr., G - Jahenns Manigat

6-8 Sr., F - Doug McDermott

6-7 Sr., F - Ethan Wragge

When: Saturday, 3 p.m.

TV: FOX Sports 1

Radio: AM 570

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