2008-09 Creighton Basketball Preview: #24
Overall Rank: #24
Conference Rank: #1 Missouri Valley
2007-08: 22-11, 10-8, 4th
2007-08 postseason: NIT
Last year’s version of Creighton was inconsistent. And it showed with their fourth place conference finish in the conference. Fourth might not sound too bad, but it is very rare for the Bluejays to end up outside of the top three in the Missouri Valley Conference. A year of experience should do more than just get Coach Dana Altman’s squad back into the top three, it should get the Bluejays back in the NCAA Tournament.
Experience was a problem last year and losing Dane Watts, Nich Bahe, Pierce Hibma and Aaron Brandt does not really help matters. Watts and Bahe were two of the three players to start all 33 games. Watts was versatile scorer who could battle in the paint and hit the outside shot with consistency. He also led the team with 6.4 rebounds and 0.9 blocks per contest. Bahe and Hibma were not big offensive threats, but Bahe was always a threat to hit a three-pointer.
The backcourt is already loaded with talent. And now there is more. Justin Carter averaged over 20 points per game at Fullerton Junior College in California last year and has the ability to be the team’s go-to-scorer. At 6-4, Carter is big, physical and will bring a much needed toughness to the group on the perimeter. There is not much that he cannot do and once he gets comfortable in the system, Carter will be a great player. That leaves little room for shooting guard Josh Jones and point guard Antione Young to make an impact as freshmen, but both will be solid contributors in the years to come.
Who to Watch:
P’Allen Stinnett was the team’s leading scorer last year, Josh Dotzler started all 33 games at the point, Booker Woodfox and Cavel Witter had great debut seasons in Omaha, Nebraska and Kaleb Korver is a Korver. Just where is Carter going to fit into that backcourt? Coach Altman will find a way. Stinnett is a decent outside shooter, but he does his best work finishing around the basket. The reigning MVC Freshman of the Year, Stinnett is still learning how to be a leader on the floor. And without Bahe and Hibma in the backcourt, finding a leader will be important. Dotzler has been hampered by injuries throughout much of his career, but he is a solid floor leader. He will not do much scoring, but that is fine as long as he can keep the assist-to-turnover ratio around 2-to-1. Woodfox was the team’s third leading scorer his first year in the program. The former junior college transfer is a great three-point shooter and could be a consistent double-digit scorer if he can find the minutes. Like Woodfox, Witter did not earn a start last year but proved to be an effective scorer. Unlike Woodofx, Witter will do most of his scoring around the basket.
Watts is gone, but the frontcourt still has some weapons. Kenny Lawson Jr. returns to man the center spot. Lawson is a solid rebounder and can do a little bit of scoring around the basket, but at 6-9 and 245 pounds, he has the body to be a difference maker in the paint on both ends of the floor. Chad Millard spent a year at Louisville as a freshman before heading to Creighton. The 6-8 forward did not make a huge impact during the 2007-2008 campaign for the Bluejays, but he should play a bigger role this season and replace Watts in the starting lineup. Sophomores Casey Harriman and Kenton Walker had decent freshmen campaigns and will have to be ready to see a majority of the minutes backing up Lawson and Millard. And it is that inexperienced depth in the frontcourt that is the main thing that could keep Creighton outside the top spot in the MVC.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
Josh Dotzler, Senior, Guard, 3.4 points per game
Booker Woodfox, Senior, Guard, 9.6 points per game
P’Allen Stinnett, Sophomore, Guard, 12.6 points per game
Chad Millard, Junior, Forward, 4.1 points per game
Kenny Lawson Jr., Sophomore, Center, 5.9 points per game