Patrick Marshall, of The White and Blue Review, and I agreed to exchange a few questions about the upcoming Michigan/Creighton game on Thanksgiving Day. There will obviously be a full preview later on but this should help provide an idea of the challenge Michigan will be up against on Thursday. My answers to his questions should be going up on their site sometime tonight.
Does Creighton have someone that can simply take over a game? They seem to be more of a balanced team without that one star player who can make everything happen.
Creighton did rely a lot last season on MVC Player of the Year Booker Woodfox for the scoring punch needed, but this season will probably be different with the possibility of a different player stepping it up each night. Junior P’Allen Stinnett has always been an offensive weapon for Creighton his first two seasons being the 2nd leading scorer on the team last season. However, there are several offensive weapons for the Bluejays this season including newcomers Wayne Runnels, Darryl Ashford and Ethan Wragge. Throw in center Kenny Lawson, PG Cavel Witter and SG Kaleb Korver, you never know what might happen. Then when Carter and Harriman return, they could be the scoring threats as well. In the last game against Arkansas-Little Rock, 5 players were in double figures while a sixth had 8 points.
What is the latest on the injury situation? I know Creighton has been playing shorthanded due to injuries and illness.
You would have thought Creighton had been snake-bitten with how a bunch of players went down at once. Chad Millard has been out since September with a foot injury. He did suit up Sunday against Arkansas-Little Rock and played a few minutes in preparation to play in the Old Spice Classic games.
Justin Carter partially tore his MCL in the final exhibition game and had a timetable of 2-4 weeks of rehab before returning. There is a possibility he may see his first action in the Old Spice Classic, but may be held out until December.
Forward Casey Harriman, one of the Jays more physical threats, had been out since playing in the first exhibition game with the swine flu that turned into tonsillitis that turned into strep throat into mononucleosis where he spent several days in the hospital and was just cleared for practice. In fact he ended up playing Sunday for about 5-7 minutes against Arkansas-Little Rock
Starting point guard Antoine Young tweaked his knee right before the Dayton game and re-irritated it during the Florida A & M game, but has been playing OK on it.
Which newcomers seem poised for the best seasons? Michigan recruited point guard Andrew Bock for a time and Darryl Ashford and Ethan Wragge both seem to have gotten off to a nice start.
JUCO transfer Darryl Ashford has been the most consistent scoring threat in the two exhibition and two regular season games in double figures. The other JUCO, Wayne Runnels was held scoreless in the Florida A & M game, but had 16 points in his debut against Dayton. Freshman Ethan Wragge has come off the bench with a deadly 3-point shot going 7-of-12 from three and in double figures in the first two games. Bock’s minutes have been somewhat limited as they slowly introduce him to D-1 ball, but that is the one luxury Creighton has at the point guard position where veterans Antoine Young and Cavel Witter play the important minutes at this point in the season.
Does Creighton have anyone that can guard Manny Harris? Who gets tagged with that responsibility and how will they handle the task?
Creighton may try several different players to guard Manny Harris. However, I think one of the first players tagged with the responsibility of guarding Manny Harris will be P’Allen Stinnett. Last season in the NIT against Kentucky, Stinnett was tabbed to guard star guard Jodie Meeks and he was up to the challenge. Meeks was held 16 points on 4-of-9 shooting which may look pretty good, but Meeks never really got into the flow of the game due to Stinnett’s pressure. But it will definitely be tough to guard Harris.
Similar to Michigan, Creighton appears to have a very small starting lineup. What type of weapons does Creighton have down low? Are they a threat to score in the post? Good rebounders? Good two point defense?
Junior Kenny Lawson is in his third season in the low post where he showed improvement down low, but has been a little inconsistent with the intensity of play. Also, the loss of Kenton Walker transferring to the left coast makes it even more important that Kenny makes himself a presence down low, but to also stay out of foul trouble. The return of Chad Millard, though he isn’t a natural low post player, should help with the depth of taller players down low. Wayne Runnels, as mentioned before, will be a presence down low with his rebounding ability. Although he is only 6’6”, he plays like he is 6’9” or 6’10. This may be surprising, but you may also see Ethan Wragge playing down low. Creighton was the worst in the MVC last season in rebound margin. Rebounding will definitely be a key for Creighton this season and we will have to see if they are up to the task.
I noticed Creighton running some 2-3 zone against Dayton, is this something that we should expect?
Coach Dana Altman likes to switch defenses up. The 2-3 zone is a little different is that it is not a pure 2-3 zone, but more of a matchup almost man-to-man zone, but they also like to play straight up man-to-man. One signature of Dana Altman is also trying to do some type of full court or half court press throughout the game.
What are the expectations for this year’s Creighton team? NCAA tournament? Win the MVC?
People in Omaha are glad that Creighton gets 20 wins every season for the past 12 years, but are getting a little tired of the NIT. Creighton has been in the NIT the past three seasons just missing the dance last season. A big win here or there or eliminating a bad loss could have been the difference. At the same time, Creighton has tried to schedule the right way to try to get in, but sometimes the teams they scheduled didn’t end up turning out like they should. This season has a lot more key games this season, including the Old Spice Classic, that will give them a little more wiggle room. But unfortunately, virtually all of them are on the road. I think for a lot of people not making the NCAA tourney this year will appear to be a failure.
If you were coaching against Creighton, what are two weaknesses that you would try to exploit?
Once again, rebounding would be key, so I would make sure my players are crashing the boards to get offensive and defensive rebounds. The other weakness would be with a thin frontline, to take it to the low post and get the frontline players like Kenny Lawson and Wayne Runnels in foul trouble.
What’s your prediction for the game, as well as the whole tournament?
I really think the first game against the Wolverines could go either way as well as the whole tournament. Five of the eight teams have coaches with less than three full seasons at their school. I think a lot of Michigan fans will be surprised how well Creighton may play against them. Dana Altman has been at Creighton for 16 years with an established program. I think with Creighton losing to Dayton, that the team will be motivated to want this game against Michigan especially with how the media has predicted how good Michigan will be. This is going to sound like a homer, but I think Creighton is the surprise of the tournament and knocks the Wolverines off in the first round.
Anything less than 2-1 for Creighton will leave a lot of questions. Of the teams involved, I think the winning team of the tournament will come from the top bracket of Michigan, Creighton, Xavier and Marquette. In the end, I am going to drink the blue kool-aid and say that Creighton will win the tournament. Altman knows how to get players prepared for consecutive day tournaments based on how many MVC tournaments his teams have won and of the tournaments like the Old Spice Classic, Creighton was part of the Guardians Classic (now called the CBE Classic) twice and won it both times. I don’t think the national media sees Creighton as a threat, but they will surprise some people this season. It all starts with the Old Spice Classic.