For the first time in program history, Creighton took the practice floor Monday with a single-digit number in front of its name in the Associated Press basketball rankings.
The Bluejays learned Monday morning that they had jumped from 11th to ninth in this week's AP rankings. That bettered Creighton's previous high of 10th, which came the week of Jan. 20, 2003.
While the players knew of their ranking, most had little feel for the historical significance of earning a top-10 ranking for just the second time in program history.
“Only the second time?” senior guard Jahenns Manigat said. “I didn't know that. I figured we had more teams than that ranked in the Top 10. It's pretty cool.''
Creighton sports information officials recognize the AP poll as the official ratings for historical purposes. The Bluejays' No. 9 ranking Monday equals the school's previous high ranking in the Jan. 20, 2003 USA Today coaches' poll.
After winning twice in the past week to improve to 23-4, Creighton jumped two spots in this week's coaches' poll, moving from 12th to 10th. The last time the coaches had ranked the Bluejays that high was Jan. 14, 2013.
While the ranking promotions were nice, Creighton coach Greg McDermott said, the move to seventh in the NCAA's official RPI might have been the most significant rise.
“It's just another measuring stick that the NCAA committee can possibly look at when they're evaluating who to send where and where to seed teams,'' McDermott said. “In that regard, the higher we're ranked in any one of those, whether it's the Sagarin or the RPI or the BPI or whatever else there is out there, the better off it is.
“I think different committee members probably look at different sets of data, so it's important to be as high as you can.”
While McDermott and his players naturally tried to downplay the promotion in the rankings, one former Bluejay took note of it as well as what Creighton and All-America forward Doug McDermott are doing in their first season in the Big East.
In an Monday interview on the Doug Gottlieb radio show, Kyle Korver pointed out that Creighton's current success hasn't come at the expense of doing things “the right way.''
“I'm so proud of Creighton, not just because they're playing well and Doug's player of the year but because of how they're doing it,'' said Korver, who played for the Bluejays from 1999 to 2003. “They didn't lose themselves in trying to fill a new arena. You know what I mean?
“There are so many games you can play just bringing in talent and losing your standards of character, integrity and all those things that Creighton really prides itself in. Because they are who they are and because Doug is who he is, cheer for them, man.''
Doug McDermott is considered the odds-on favorite to win college basketball's player of the year awards. He leads the nation in scoring, and is closing in on becoming just the eighth player in Division I history to score 3,000 career points.
“We were in the Missouri Valley, and now they're in the Big East,'' Korver said. “Everyone was like, 'Are they going to make it in the Big East?' and 'Can Doug score in the Big East?'
“They're winning the Big East, and they're blowing out Villanova twice, and all these good things are happening. And, because they did it the right way, you're proud of it.''
Even if McDermott and 3-point bomber Ethan Wragge are bettering many of Korver's considerable accomplishments in the record book.
“That's good, man, and you want them to keep going,” Korver said.
Monday, the Bluejays surpassed Korver's senior team as the highest-ranked squad in program history. That's heady stuff, something that might have seemed hard to believe when the season started in November.
“If you would have told me that, I would have been thrilled,” redshirt freshman guard Isaiah Zierden said. “At the same time, now that it's happened, we can't dwell on it for too long.
“When I saw it (ranking) this morning, I thought how neat it is to be a part of this in Creighton's history. But when we got back to practice today, it was all about seeing how far we can really go and how high we can really take this thing.”
Greg McDermott, who was out of town recruiting, said the real significance of Monday's developments was that it was “another feather in the cap for this particular group of players.
“Outside of that, it doesn't mean very much, other than the fact that being ranked high means that we've continued to win,” McDermott said. “That's kept us in the conference race, and it's kept us in the conversation for a high seed in the NCAA tournament.”
Providence star outduels McDermott for player of week
It almost qualified as breaking news when the Big East announced Monday afternoon that Doug McDermott did not win its weekly player of the week honor.
McDermott had won the award a record seven times in the first 14 weeks of the season. Providence guard Bryce Cotton won this week's award after averaging 25 points and 7.5 assists in a 1-1 week for the Friars.
McDermott, who averaged 27.5 points and 5.5 rebounds in Creighton's two wins, did make the league's weekly honor roll, which recognizes five other notable performers.
With two weeks left in the regular season, McDermott continues to lead the nation in scoring with a 26.0 average. He also is second in field goals made (241) and third in points (701).
Wragge ranks second nationally in 3-point percentage (.500), ninth in 3-point baskets (91) and 10th in 3-point baskets per game (3.37), while Manigat is fifth in assists-to-turnovers ratio (3.82 to 1).
Creighton remains the national leader in 3-point percentage (.428) and assists-to-turnovers ratio (1.82 to 1). The Bluejays also are second in assists per game (18.0), 3-point baskets per game (10.3) and 3-point baskets (279), while ranking third in assists (487), fifth in field-goal percentage (.499) and eighth in scoring margin (plus-14.1).