Creighton’s Three-Point Barrage Enters The Big EastPosted by Greg Mitchell (@gregpmitchell) on January 2nd, 2014
A lot was “new” at Omaha’s Centurylink Center on Tuesday night: a new conference, new logo, and a new year. Not new, however, was the deluge of three-pointers Creighton hoisted up in beating Marquette in its inaugural Big East game. The Bluejays had taken 17 three-pointers by the eight-minute mark of the first half, and ended up shooting a total of 35 for the game. Greg McDermott’s team made a good percentage of them (13, or 37%), as they have done all season long (43%). The team came into the game with the third best team three-point percentage in the country, which is obscene when you consider the volume that they fire up — around 26 attempts per game (good for 46 percent of their total field goal attempts).
Will Creighton’s reliance on a three-point offense be as sustainable in the Big East? The answer is that its hopes at capturing the conference title in its maiden season completely depend on it. Marquette has been solid in defending the three this season (holding opponents to 33.1%), yet the Bluejays were able to impose their game plan successfully on the defense-first Golden Eagles. Georgetown down the road (January 25 and March 4) will likely be a tough match-up since the Hoyas have held opponents to only 28.5% from three (28th nationally), but the only other Big East teams in the top 100 are Butler (69th, 30.8%), DePaul (93rd, 31.5%) and Xavier (96th, 31.6%). That Creighton isn’t entering a conference full of elite three-point defenses is certainly a positive for them.
Another reason their three-point barrage could be sustainable is that they are getting contributions from a varied number of players. Ethan Wragge was 4-of-9 against Marquette, and the big man is shooting 50 percent from deep on the season despite a voluminous 100 attempts. That ridiculous percentage might be something of an anomaly, but that many attempts isn’t a small sample size, and Wragge did shoot 44 percent out there last season. Then of course there is NPOY candidate Doug McDermott, who is also over 40 percent for the season (42.9%). Jahenns Manigat (16 points, 4-of-9 from three) benefited from the attention the Golden Eagles gave McDermott, and is a 44 percent shooter on the season. All in all, the Jays have six players with a minimum of 18 attempts who are shooting the three-ball at or above 38 percent. The three can be a fickle beast, but Creighton seems to have enough good shooters to make it work for them more often than not.
As Marquette learned on New Year’s Eve, it’s going to take more than successful history in a name-brand league to beat this year’s Bluejays. While there are some teams at the national level (namely, Ohio State, Duke, UMass, and some others) that have good enough three-point defense to give the perimeter-oriented team some problems, Big East squads visiting Omaha are going to really have to mark the shooters and hope for some misses to take down a Creighton team firing on all cylinders.