The Creighton Bluejay basketball team enters Missouri Valley Conference play when it hosts the Missouri State Bears at the Century Link Center on December 28, 2011. Looking back, the Jays are 3-0 against teams from the conference with the best RPI rating, the Big Ten. Looking forward, the Jays are ranked 23 in the AP Poll. In addition, Missouri Valley Conference members Wichita State, Northern Iowa and Indiana State all received votes for the December 19 AP Poll. The top eight teams in the Missouri Valley enter conference play with a record of .500 or better. The top five teams in the conference stand at 8-3 or better.
In looking at how the Jays ended up 10-1 in non-conference play, most of the focus is directed to Sophomore Doug McDermott. The focus is with good reason. McDermott leads the Missouri Valley in scoring at greater than 25 points a game. McDermott is second in the conference in rebounding at more than 8 a game. In fact, McDermott is in the top 5 of 8 of 13 individual statistics kept by the Missouri Valley. However, the depth of the Jays as a whole has been overlooked. One should look no further than the Jays game against Northwestern last week. McDermott secured his second personal foul with twelve minutes to play in the first half. The Jays were trailing 17-16 when McDermott went to the bench. At the half, the Jays led 37-36. McDermott did not play a minute for the remainder of the first half. The Jays secured a lead with balanced contributions from Gregory Echenique, Antoine Young, Ethan Wragge and Grant Gibbs. As good as McDermott has been, he is surrounded by a number of talented players.
The high expectations from the beginning of the season have only increased. The media and Jays’ fans are looking for a deep run in the NCAA Tournament. Before anyone gets too far ahead of themselves, the Jays better focus on conference play due to the apparent depth of the Missouri Valley. One thing is for certain, it is going to be fun to watch this team try to meet expectations over the next three plus months.