We are fortunate today to have Patrick Marshall of White & Blue Review with us to talk about Sunday’s UNT-Creighton game. The website is one that covers Creighton sports. We typically only run Q&As on during football season, but this is a high-profile game for UNT, and Patrick offered to trade. Here is his take on Sunday’s game
1. UNT faced Creighton a couple of years ago. How has the team changed since then?
A lot has changed. Most of the nation should know about Doug McDermott’s senior campaign last season winning about every college hoops award out there. Along with McDermott’s departure, the Bluejays lost three other 3-4 year starters leaving only Austin Chatman as the lone returning starter. A huge percentage of points, three-point shooting and several other categories needed to be replaced heading into this season.
Surrounding Chatman are a lot of veteran players that played different roles the past few seasons and are now tasked to be starters and play different roles. That is probably the biggest adjustment is for veteran players to take on those new roles which has caused the non-conference portion of the schedule to have some inconsistent play.
2. Has Austin Chatman talked about coming home to play?
Chatman has had a stellar career at Creighton being a three year starter and is carrying the team on his shoulders this season. He has worked on being more vocal and being the leader that the Bluejays need to be successful this season. It was his leadership that brought Creighton back from an 18 point deficit in the second half against a ranked Oklahoma team. While he has not talked much about coming home to play in Texas, we are pretty sure that he is excited to return home to play. It was also the goal of the Creighton coaches to have a game in Texas because of a few different players from Texas on the team.
3. UNT plays a zone. How effective has Creighton been against zones this year?
The Bluejays have struggled a bit against the zone. Tulsa played a heavy matchup zone that really flustered Creighton in their first true road game of the season. They struggled shooting against that zone and could not get it inside enough to get the zone to sag off and give shooters more room. When the shots are not going down, Creighton struggles. In most games this season, the Bluejays have gone through long scoreless stretches that keeps opponents within reach.
4. Does Creighton have the outside shooters to take advantage of a zone?
Creighton was spoiled last season with McDermott, Ethan Wragge and Jahenns Manigat who could all fill it up from the outside with a supporting cast that got hot with them. However, this season, the Bluejays have struggled from the arc during stretches and it is finding the right player to get hot at the right time.
Toby Hegner has had some success from three, Devin Brooks is hot or cold, and as of this week, James Milliken has been suspended indefinitely. However, Isaiah Zierden and Chatman have been pretty consistent from behind the arc and if you leave Zierden open in the corner for a three, you can pretty much know it is going in. They have the shooters, just not like they had last season.
5. Talk about Creighton’s top players?
Obviously Chatman is at the top of the list leading the Jays in points per game, assists, and third in rebounding. He has had a couple nights where he was getting close to a triple-double which is rare in Creighton’s history.
Isaiah Zierden is probably the next go-to player. He is second on the team in scoring, but comes off the bench. He can be deadly from three and knows when to take shots. His basketball IQ is really high and he uses that to his advantage when trying to draw a foul from opponents.
From there, the Bluejays have a rotation of players that will be interchangeable during the game as coach McDermott looks for the hot hand. Devin Brooks will play the shooting guard and have some flashy plays at times. James Milliken would have been a shooting option off the bench, but he was suspended earlier this week and his future is up in the air until after the school’s winter break.
Ricky Kreklow, a fifth year transfer from Cal, and Avery Dingman will interchange at the small forward spot while Will Artino, Zach Hanson and Geoffrey Groselle will patrol the middle. Artino is long and has the most experience of the three and has been leaned on down the stretch in games while Hanson has shown some great potential as a bigger body defender down low.
Toby Hegner came into the season off his redshirt season looking to fill the big shoes of Doug McDermott. He has had his ups and downs. While a starter, there have been times that the elder McDermott has chosen to not use Hegner as much in the second half as he could depending on what the first half brings.
6. How do you see this game playing out?
This game is not a slam dunk for the Bluejays as they have struggled on the road this season. They failed to close out against Ole Miss on a neutral court in Florida, had to hang on to win against Middle Tennessee in that same arena and then turned around and got sliced up by Tulsa’s athleticism and failed to keep the Hurricane off the offensive glass in their first true road test of the season.
That all being said, after the loss at home to St. Mary’s last Saturday breaking a 24 game home winning streak and a week of finals, the Bluejays should be ready to play another game. They will have to get past the distraction of guard James Milliken’s indefinite suspension (due to breaking some team rules) and focus on moving forward to get ready for Big East play after this game on Sunday.
Creighton will struggle early, but behind Chatman, the Bluejays will get it together and leave Texas with a win, but it may be closer than those from the outside realize.