Q&A on UNT-Creighton game

I traded Q&As this week with Patrick Marshall of White and Blue Review, a website that covers Creighton athletics. Be sure to check it out: here

Here is what he had to say about Friday’s game between UNT and Creighton, not to mention the big showdown between Tony Mitchell and Doug McDermott

1. Does Creighton see UNT as a threat coming into this game?
I think the Creighton basketball team is well aware that UNT is a thread coming into the game. There are the diehards, especially the ones that frequent WBR, the Bluejay Underground message board and check Twitter frequently that are well aware of Tony Mitchell and UNT. For the casual Creighton fan however, they may not realize how good this game could potentially be.

Originally, Creighton was looking to start the season against a team from the top leagues in the country whether it was hosting a game at home as part of a home-and-home series or even some type of neutral site game. As it became more clear that it wasn’t going to happen, it sounded like they were going to schedule the opener against a Division II team. Ultimately North Texas was added to the schedule as a buy game for this year and then there will be a home-and-home series starting in Denton in the 2015 and back in Omaha in 2016.

The local media has done its best to promote what a great game this is and how Creighton will be challenged to start the season. Hopefully the crowd recognizes that. At the same time, the buzz for the team itself has created a lot of excitement.

2. How much is Doug McDermott,looking forward to facing Mitchell?
Doug is pretty excited to face him. Both he and Mitchell played on the Team USA U-19 team a couple summers ago and they became pretty good friends. The matchup of two of the top 10 players in the country will get anyone excited, but I think it will be a good challenge. It will be interesting to see if Creighton decides to defend against Mitchell with McDermott of if Gregory Echenique will get the assignment.

3. Who are the other players on Creighton’s team UNT fans should know about?
Creighton will be really deep this season with nine of the top ten in the rotation returning. The first player to be aware of us McDermott’s cohort Gregory Echenique. Echenique transferred to Creighton from Rutgers a few seasons ago and he has turned into a power in the post. Despite Creighton’s deficiencies in defense last season, Echenique was the MVC Defensive Player of the Year. He has also spent the past two summers playing with the Venezuela National Team trying to qualify for the Olympics. He is a force inside and if North Texas focuses too much on McDermott, Echenique will be there to pick up the slack.

Creighton can shoot lights out with forwards Ethan Wragge and Avery Dingman along with guards Josh Jones and Jahenns Manigat. Then another key to the offense is Grant Gibbs, who while he doesn’t play the point guard position, can distribute the ball quite well and even lead the team in assists.

The biggest question mark is at point guard. Sophomore Austin Chatman will take over the role as the starting point guard. He is quick and got some nice experience backing up Antoine Young last season. It will be interesting to see how he handles the UNT pressure.

4. Does Creighton have any concern about UNT’s overall athleticism?
I think Creighton has a lot of concern about the overall athleticism. As mentioned before, Creighton’s defense was less than desired last season and sometimes it was a contest on if they could outscore the opponent. They worked hard on improving defense during the offseason. If their defense picks up this season along with the offense, that will definitely help. North Texas will definitely be a great test to see how far they have come to defend against an athletic team.

5. How do you see this game going?
I think there will be a lot of energy with it being the first regular season game. I think it will feel sort of like a February game played in December. Creighton may get down a little early, but they have been known to engineer some great comebacks, especially at home. This game will likely go down to the wire. Doug McDermott and Tony Mitchell will get their points and Creighton will walk away with a 89-80 win.