In a loaded Big East, the Creighton Bluejays might have the best starting five. But can the bench bring them over the hump?
Head coach: Greg McDermott (23rd season, 14th at Creighton)
2022-23 record: 24-13 (14-6)
2023 postseason finish: Lost to San Diego State, 57-56, in Elite 8 of NCAA Tournament
Notable departures: Ryan Nembhard (Transferred to Gonzaga), Arthur Kaluma (Transferred to Kansas State)
Notable non-conference games: vs. Iowa (Nov. 14), vs. Loyola Chicago (Nov. 22, in Kansas City), vs. Boston College OR Colorado State (Nov. 23, in Kansas City), at Oklahoma State (Nov. 30), at Nebraska (Dec. 3), at UNLV (Dec. 13), vs. Alabama (Dec. 16)
PG: Steven Ashworth (6-1, 170, Sr.)
2022-23 stats: 16.2 PPG, 4.5 APG, 3.3 RPG, 1.2 SPG, 43.4 3P% (Utah State)
SG: Trey Alexander (6-4, 190, Jr.)
2022-23 stats: 13.6 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 2.6 APG, 1.1 SPG, 41.0 3P%
SF: Baylor Scheierman (6-7, 205, Sr.)
2022-23 stats: 12.8 PPG, 8.3 RPG, 3.3 APG, 1.0 SPG, 36.4 3P%
PF: Mason Miller (6-9, 190, So.)
2022-23 stats: 2.3 PPG, 1.6 RPG, 0.2 APG, 37.0 3P%
C: Ryan Kalkbrenner (7-1, 270, Sr.)
2022-23 stats: 15.9 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 1.2 APG, 2.1 BPG, 69.5 FG%
6: Francisco Farabello (6-3, 180, Sr.)
2022-23 stats: 3.0 PPG, 1.3 RPG, 0.9 APG, 32.4 FG%
7: Johnathan Lawson (6-6, 190, So.)
2022-23 stats: 3.4 PPG, 1.5 RPG, 1.2 APG, 41.3 3P% (Memphis)
8: Isaac Traudt (6-10, 235, Rs.-Fr.)
2022-23 stats: DNP (Virginia)
247Sports Composite No. 64 rated recruit (2022)
9: Fredrick King (6-10, 250, So.)
2022-23 stats: 3.4 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 0.1 APG, 60.9 FG%
10: Josiah Dotzler (6-3, 185, Fr.)
247Sports Composite No. 259 rated recruit
Creighton Bluejays MVP: Ryan Kalkbrenner
My pick for preseason Big East Player of the Year, Kalkbrenner is looking to finish his college basketball career in a winning fashion. A matchup nightmare, Kalkbrenner has the skillsets and body type to dominate inside, and will also out-smart opponents with his experience. Few players measure up to Kalkbrenner’s size and ability.
Creighton has so many shooters and playmakers around Kalkbrenner, that it’s impossible to double team him, or someone else will make the defense pay. Because of that, Kalkbrenner is able to free up for one-on-one matchups in the paint.
There’s no correct way to guard the Creighton Bluejays, and no matter what, Kalkbrenner will find a way to get points and rebounds.
Creighton Bluejays make-or-break player: Mason Miller
As I mentioned earlier, losing Arthur Kaluma was a big deal and a bit of a shock. With Kaluma, Creighton would have had a complete all-star lineup. Instead, the starting power forward will be a slight drop off compared to the rest of the starting five. In Creighton’s first exhibition game, Mason Miller appeared to have won that job.
As a freshman, the 6-9 Miller only averaged about 2 PPG and under 2 RPG. He also didn’t see the court much, but will undoubtedly be in for a much bigger role this season.
How Miller takes on this new role will be key. Virginia transfer Isaac Traudt could also fill in at power forward, but regardless, there are a lot of questions for the Jays at this position. For a perfect offense, whoever earns the job will need to fit like a puzzle piece.
Key analytic: FGM
Efficiency has long been a byproduct of Greg McDermott’s offense. Last year, the Bluejays were 60th in the country with 27.4 FGM per game. The Jays have been no stranger from being one of the top teams in this category. In fact, over the last eight seasons, they’ve finished in the top 60 seven times, including 2nd in 2017-18. This year’s roster should be able to continue that trend.
Creighton Bluejays 2023-24 projections
Projected conference finish: 3rd in the Big East
Projected postseason ceiling: NCAA Tournament – Final Four Appearance