As part of our ongoing look at our opponents throughout the season, not only in football we bring you our latest edition of Opposition Q&A as we look forward to our Las Vegas Invitational matchup against fellow Top 25 team, Creighton on Friday.
We sat down the folks over at Creighton site The BlueJay Cafe to get a better understanding of just what's in front of Wisconsin on the day after Thanksgiving, so enjoy the knowledge dropped by our friends over there.
MTB: Everyone knows about Doug McDermott & what he can bring to the table, but to be ranked 14th you have to be more than a one trick pony, who else should we be paying attention to?
BlueJay Cafe: The thought that Creighton is just Doug McDermott is wrong and nationally, folks will learn this soon. Sure, he's the headliner and if you fail to game plan for him, he has the ability to drop 30 on you but the Jays are loaded this year. I've covered the team for 8 years and this is by far the deepest team I've ever seen for CU.
…. more after the jump…
Gregory Echenique is a Top 100 recruit who went to Rutgers before transferring to Creighton. He has played for the Venezuelan National Team for the past two years as their starting center. He's 6'9 and a lean 260. So far this year, he is 17 for 20 from the field (85%). He's a BCS-level post player, which is rare in the MVC.
Grant Gibbs is the man that makes it all go for CU on offense. He's the best passer on the team and the emotional leader. He transferred back home to the Midwest after originally going to Gonzaga. Gibbs will play the point if Sophomore Austin Chatman struggles on Friday.
Ethan Wragge is the key to this game in my opinion. He is the best shooter on the team and has been red-hot to start the year, hitting 64% from distance.
MTB: What do you see as being the key matchup that Creighton has to win to be victorious on Friday?
BlueJay Cafe: I think the 3-point shooting will be the key for CU against Wisconsin. The Badgers will slow everything down and try to keep this game in the 60's. Creighton wants this game in the 70's or 80's. Wisconsin will pack it in and double Doug and Gregory IMO. That will leave open shots from beyond the arc. Wragge, Avery Dingman, Grant Gibbs, and Jahenns Manigat have to knock down open jumpers to free up Doug and Gregory inside. Rebounding will also be a major key. The Jays must be no worse than even in that category.
MTB: I know it's early in the season and all, but who's been the most surprising and most disappointing player for you so far?
BlueJay Cafe: Most impressive has been Gregory Echenique. He has been so dominant on the post that it has made up for a slow start from Doug. Gregory is the reigning Missouri Valley Defensive Player of the Year but he turned up his defense to a new level. His shot blocking and rim protection is outstanding right now.
Most disappointing so far as been starting 2-guard Jahenns Manigat. He is battling a thigh injury but he hasn't been a factor in any of the 4 games played so far.
MTB: I've had the pleasure of meeting Greg McDermott on a few occasions during his time at Iowa State & always came away personally impressed, how has he fit in to the Creighton family?
BlueJay Cafe: Coach McDermott is at home in Omaha. When the call came that Dana Altman was finally going to stay gone from Creighton (remember Arkansas) and go to Oregon, the first coach I said out loud for the job was Greg McDermott. At the time, I was working in Des Moines and knew that Iowa State fans were ready to see Coach Mac move on. But Valley people remembered his run at UNI and knew he was meant to be at the non-BCS level. He is a family oriented coach, obviously even more so now with Doug on campus, but Creighton's players love him. He understands what it takes to win at this level and loves to find student-athletes who want to stay in school for 4 years. It could not have been a better hire by Athletics Director Bruce Rasmussen.
MTB: Most interesting to me is that McDermott coached ISU teams struggled to score points, that hasn't been the case at all as you rank 22nd nationally in points per game and rank 7th in AdjO according to KenPom.com. What's changed for him offensively?
BlueJay Cafe: At Iowa State, Coach Mac tried to go a touch uptempo but with a set structure of plays. At UNI, he never dared. I asked him style-of-play questions at length when he got the job because Creighton fans had seen Dana Altman's inability to be flexible in today's game work against him at times. He kept saying that he wanted to coach to his team's strengths. Antoine Young, who just graduated, was the point guard at the time of hiring and he did not enjoy running a ton of sets. At Iowa State, Coach Mac had over 100 plays that he would run. Young's presence made it smarter to go run-and-gun. Thus, the new Creighton offense was born. Now, CU recruits to the new system and the players love it. They look to score fast at every opportunity that they get and new point guard Austin Chatman is one of the fastest players in the Valley with the ball in his hands.
MTB: Prediction time…. If you dare?
BlueJay Cafe: Prediction. 70-68 Creighton