As BYU prepares to welcome the Creighton Bluejays into the Marriott Center on Tuesday evening for an NIT quarterfinal matchup that will send the winner to the bright lights of Broadway and Madison Square Garden, I decided it might be prudent to get a little more perspective on just what Cougar fans can expect from these hoopsters from Omaha.
In that spirit, I turned to Alex Sindelar, a writer who covers Creighton for SB Nation's excellent Big East Coast Bias blog, to ask him my questions and get some answers about the Jays. Here's what he had to say:
If BYU fans know anything about Creighton, it's probably that Doug McDermott used to play there. What do the Bluejays look like in the post-McBuckets era? What kind of team can the Cougars expect to roll into the Marriott Center on Tuesday?
Creighton is a fast paced up-tempo team that relies on a killer fast break and quick shots out of offensive possessions. When they're settled into a half-court offense, they aren't nearly as potent as when they're in transition, able to spread shooters around the floor and take advantage of defensive players who are just a bit slower to setup and find their man. They're fast — thanks in part to Philly native and Boston transfer point guard Maurice Watson, Jr. — and their modus operandi is to beat their opponents into submission by making them run. Defensively, however, they tend to get lost on ball-switches and tend to leave shooters wide open, much to their demise.
So it sounds like Creighton prefers to run an up-tempo offensive scheme, but sticking with that approach has often backfired on teams when matched up with BYU's warp-speed attack. Do you think coach Greg McDermott will try to run with the Cougars on their home floor (at high elevation), or will he alter his game plan to try and slow down Dave Rose's offensive juggernaut?
After seeing what happened to Seton Hall against Gonzaga in the first round of the tournament, it's clear that the elevation will be a factor. Whether or not that will change McDermott's style will be interesting, especially since the point guard depth took a major hit against Wagner when Malik Albert when down with a knee injury. I can see them trying to ease up on the offensive end in order to hang all 40 minutes, but at the same time, this team is quite proud of their style of play and may just refuse to quit.
Statistically, Creighton hasn't shown great proficiency in defending the 3-point line. (They're 211th nationally in 3-point makes allowed.) The Cougars, obviously, shoot (and often make) a lot of long balls. What will the Jays need to do to successfully to limit BYU's strong cast of sharpshooters? Do they need to alter their scheme or just execute better?
It's all about execution. There were times throughout the season where the Jays would fall apart on defense and go brain-dead when trying to guard shooters on the wings — especially in transition and off ball screens and switches. I think the one scheme they'll rely on is to hope and pray the night before that BYU has an off night.
Kyle Collinsworth is the center of everything BYU does offensively, and he's a basketball Swiss Army knife that few teams have figured out how to slow down. How would you expect McDermott to approach attempting to contain Collinsworth? Who will draw the unenviable task of marking the Triple-Double King?
You'll most likely see freshman guard Khyri Thomas lock down on Collinsworth. His defensive prowess, length and ability to defend the Big East's best was paramount to the Jays' success this season. He was able to shut down Kris Dunn and Edmond Sumner during the conference slate, but he does tend to get into foul trouble. His hands are lightning quick and his on-ball pressure is second to none. Collinsworth might be the best player he'll face this year and that's worrisome, but Thomas has played phenomenally in the NIT and seemingly has a renewed vigor after a pretty 'meh' conference slate.
OK, give me your prediction: Creighton figures to serve as BYU's most formidable opponent in the NIT so far, but the game is being played in the (un)friendly confines of the Marriott Center in front of a raucous crowd of Cougar fans. How do you see this one ending up?
There's no doubt I'm a Creighton homer, but BYU has more tools than the Bluejays at this point, so I'm betting on a high scoring, no defense affair that will put BYU at MSG. As far as score is considered, I'd say BYU 92, Creighton 83.
Many thanks to Alex Sindelar for taking the time to shed some light on Creighton. If you want to learn more, feel free to follow Alex on Twitter at @crimebait.