With addition of Michigan, Jays will face at least five Power Five teams to ‘challenge’ themselves

“I don’t want to be in a position in March where our team doesn’t get into the NCAA tournament because of a choice I made in scheduling,” Creighton coach Greg McDermott said.

Last year Creighton suffered two four-game losing streaks and saw its record drop to .500 in mid-February. Yet CU still wasn’t completely out of the NCAA tournament at-large picture.

Coach Greg McDermott says the Jays’ challenging nonconference schedule deserves much of the credit for that — even though they went 1-4 against the five best foes they faced before Big East play began.

So he’s at it again.

CBS Sports college basketball analyst Jon Rothstein reported Tuesday that Creighton will play a road game against Michigan in the Gavitt Games next year. It’s at least the fifth Power Five school that CU’s set to face in nonleague competition this winter.

The Jays will host Oklahoma in the second leg of a home-and-home deal — the game has since been incorporated into the first year of a new Big East-Big 12 challenge. McDermott said a home-and-home agreement with Arizona State begins next season. There’s the annual Nebraska series. Plus, Creighton will meet Iowa in the opening round of the Las Vegas Invitational — and either Texas Tech or San Diego State in the second game.

“I don’t want to be in a position in March where our team doesn’t get into the NCAA tournament because of a choice I made in scheduling,” McDermott said. “I think you have a responsibility to your team to put together a schedule that fits your roster — and with some of the guys coming back, I think we have to challenge ourselves.”

The Jays could return their top seven scorers from a season ago. Seniors-to-be Martin Krampelj and Davion Mintz have declared for the NBA draft — the deadline to withdraw and retain college eligibility is Wednesday.

Roster uncertainty aside, though, CU will undoubtedly be aiming to make a third NCAA tournament appearance in four years.

But even beyond 2019-20, the Jays appear to be thinking bigger.

Stadium’s Jeff Goodman reported earlier this month that Creighton will take part in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament in the Bahamas during the 2020-21 season. Duke, Ohio State, Wichita State and West Virginia are among the teams that reportedly will be there, too.

McDermott said he’d like to try to have home-and-home deals in place with two high-major teams in nonconference play going forward. That’s not including the annual Nebraska game and a league-associated challenge.

Yes, Creighton will still bring in a handful of lower-profile opponents for home games. That’s not changing. Buy-games are part of the sport’s landscape now.

But there does seem to be more of a commitment to find more marquee out-of-league opponents.

CU ended last season ranked 38th nationally in nonconference strength of schedule, according to Ken Pomeroy’s data. Only five major-conference teams ranked higher. Creighton had never before finished inside the top 100 of Pomeroy’s SOS metric during McDermott’s tenure.

The Jays did ultimately miss out on an at-large berth in March — they ran out of time to spruce up the résumé with a late-season surge. But they were in the hunt.

That caught McDermott’s attention. A week before Selection Sunday, CU’s NET rating was No. 54 and it held a 17-13 record.

“Our problem was, we played a lot of great games, we just didn’t win enough of them,” McDermott said. “I think there’s a lesson learned there. I think there were some teams that had some NET rankings that were better than ours that did not make the NCAA tournament because they didn’t play anybody.”

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