Creighton's Defense Key To NCAA Tourney Run

By Paul Troupe

The Creighton Bluejays will play in the Missouri Valley Conference Championship this afternoon against the Illinois State Redbirds in St. Louis. While Creighton has pretty much locked up a bid, regardless of result, the Bluejays are playing far from perfect. Last night, the Bluejays showed why they have one of the best offenses in the country, shooting over 60% for the game.

Doug McDermott is the leader of this offense, averaging 22.9 points, 8.2 rebounds, and 1.1 assists per game. When he has struggled, the Bluejays have struggled, as evidenced by their three game losing streak earlier this season. Where the Bluejays will struggle in the tournament is not scoring, but defense.

Defense had been the backbone of this team for many years under Dana Altman. Yes, the Bluejays could score, but they also played great defense. The last few years under Altman, and now under Greg McDermott, the Jays defense has been less than stellar. Not only was McDermott poor in that three game losing streak, but so too was that defense of Creighton. It really hit a low after the Bluejays broke that streak, giving up 92 points to the Evansville Purple Aces while allowing them to shoot nearly 60%.

Creighton’s defense starts at the front with Antoine Young, Grant Gibbs, Jonhanes Manigat, and Josh Jones. They need to be on point, playing smart, helpful defense. In losses, and in victories, Creighton’s defense has been atrocious with winning one-on-one defensive battles. Instead, opposing offensive players are getting by far too easily, forcing McDermott and fellow big man Gregory Echenique to rotate, and the far side defender does not rotate to cover the big man in time.

Creighton’s press has been nothing special either. They are not forcing enough turnovers and it gets beat far too easily and often. Perhaps that is the risky nature of Creighton’s guards trying to make a big play. Sometimes it is just as well to press but just stay in front and force the opposition to walk the ball up the court.

Simple things like this are going to hurt Creighton’s chances in the NCAA tourney. They have the offensive abilities to play with anyone. I wouldn’t be surprised to see this team in the Sweet Sixteen. But if that defense does not show up, then it will be an early, disappointing exit for the Jays.

Follow Paul Troupe on Twitter @gamin4HIM

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