Creighton’s Success Has Come from Unexpected Sources

Posted by Justin Kundrat on January 16th, 2018

Despite losing four of its top six scorers from last season’s 25-10 team, Creighton has found itself flirting with the Top 25 and comfortably above the mid-January NCAA Tournament bubble discussions. As the story was expected to go this year, backcourt mates Marcus Foster and Khyri Thomas have paced the offense, accounting for 37 percent of the team’s scoring production and 40 percent of its shot attempts. And while Foster has historically been an inefficient scorer and Thomas a better defender than playmaker, the two have formed a tenacious offensive tandem this season, showcasing their abilities to score in virtually any scenario. Some observers assumed that the Bluejays’ offense would sputter or devolve into more isolation sets without the services of point guard Mo Watson or superstar big man Justin Patton, but head coach Greg McDermott has ensured that isn’t the case. The biggest offensive concern heading into this season was how the lost interior production of Patton would be replaced, but Creighton is on pace for its best offensive season since Doug McDermott was still on campus in 2014, and that unlikely success has come from an unexpected source.

Creighton’s Martin Krampelj Has Been a Huge Surprise This Season (USA Today Images)

While Foster and Thomas receive most of the offensive credit, it is actually Martin Krampelj, who averaged under six minutes per game last season, who holds the crown as the team’s most efficient player. In fact, Krampelj owns the highest effective field goal percentage of anyone in the Big East with a greater than 50 percent minute share. His 69.6 percent conversion rate is largely a product of three-quarters of his shot attempts coming right at the rim, but nevertheless, finishing those attempts at an 83 percent clip is astonishing. Krampelj’s role is important for two reasons. First, he is far and away the team’s best and only consistent source of offensive rebounds. McDermott’s system typically does not prioritize offensive rebounding (only 3.9 percent of his team’s shot attempts arise from putbacks), but they remain a highly efficient origin of points. Second, Krampelj’s inside scoring and ability to draw fouls there add offensive diversity to the team’s perimeter-oriented style of play. The 6’9″ forward accounts for nearly a quarter of his team’s shot attempts at the rim and is a huge reason why the Bluejays are having their best success there in years (see below table).

However, focusing solely on his acumen in finishing at the rim would be ignoring a larger part of the picture. The majority of his shots come as a result of assists, but he is mobile for a big man, demonstrating an ability to both put the ball on the floor and connect on shots from the perimeter, making him especially effective in pick-and-roll sets. As seen in the clip below, McDermott utilizes Krampelj as a spot-up shooter when Seton Hall’s Angel Delgado sags off, and then follows it up with a dive to the rim on a subsequent play.

An added bonus is that Krampelj’s offensive versatility has also translated to the defensive end of the floor. In conference play, Krampelj has the highest defensive rebounding percentage in the Big East, and on a points per possession basis, he is the most impactful player on the team on this end of the floor.

That differential is largely a function of the team’s limited depth up front, but his aforementioned mobility has paid dividends in unexpected ways.

It’s too early to declare any season award winners in a conference filled with exceptional players, but Krampelj has certainly earned his place at the top of the lists for the conference’s most improved player. To this point in the season, it is by no means a stretch to say that Krampelj is the best Big East Player nobody is talking about.

Justin Kundrat (142 Posts)

Villanova grad, patiently waiting another 10 years for season tickets. Follow Justin on twitter @JustinKundrat or email him at justin.kundrat@gmail.com


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