Creighton: 2017 March Madness

Conference: Big East (At-Large)

Record: 25-9 (10-8)

NCAA Tournament Seed: 6 (Midwest)

How they go to the Big Dance

The Bluejays got off to a strong start this season, going 12-0 in non-conference play with an impressive win against Wisconsin. A few weeks later, Creighton was 18-1 with a win over Butler and its only loss coming to Villanova. However, in their 19th game of the season, the Bluejays suffered a massive blow when veteran guard Maurice Watson Jr. was declared out for the season after tearing his ACL. Creighton immediately felt the absence of its playmaker, losing two consecutive games to Marquette and Georgetown. The rest of conference play was up and down for the Bluejays, as they were able to pick up another nice win over Butler, but dropped games against Providence, Xavier and Marquette for the second time. Creighton entered the Big East Tournament as the No. 6 seed and beat Providence and Xavier before falling to Villanova in the championship.

Why they’re a legitimate contender

Even without Watson in the lineup, Creighton can still light up the scoreboard. The Bluejays are averaging 82.1 points per game, and have three players who average 12 or more points per contest, shoot 50 percent from the field and shoot 39 percent from 3-point range. Opposing offenses will have their hands full trying to defend multiple players who can put the ball in the basket. Creighton’s offense has already led the team to wins over strong tournament teams in Butler and Wisconsin, so as long as the shots are falling, the Bluejays have a chance to beat anyone.

Why they’re not a legitimate contender

Creighton’s offense seems to deliver more often than not, but its inconsistency on defense could be a problem in the tournament. During the regular season, the Bluejays gave up 80 or more points to their opponents eight times and in three of those games they allowed 91, 94 and 102 points. A lot of Creighton’s victories this year have come in high scoring affairs. If opposing teams can find a way to shut down its offense, Creighton’s lackluster defense could allow things to get out of hand in a hurry.

Player to watch: Guard Marcus Foster

The Kansas State transfer is a key reason as to why the wheels did not fall off after Watson’s injury. The junior guard scores 18.3 points per game for Creighton and has taken over as its primary option on offense. When Watson went down halfway through the season, many wondered if Foster could be “that guy” for this Creighton squad. Without his scoring production, there would have been a greater chance of the Bluejays missing out on the tournament. Foster, however, has regained the swagger and skill that helped him burst onto the scene as a freshman at Kansas State, and if he can continue that trend into the tournament, Creighton will be able to compete at a high level.