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.
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.”
1 of 21
After growing up in Cascade, Iowa, Greg McDermott went on to play at Northern Iowa from 1984-88, earning second-team all-conference honors as a junior.
After serving as an assistant at North Dakota, Greg McDermott got his first head coaching job at Wayne State in 1994. He won 116 games there in six years and led the Wildcats to four straight 20-win seasons.
Greg McDermott took over at his alma mater, Northern Iowa, in April 2001. He made three consecutive trips to the NCAA tournament from 2004-06.
Greg McDermott was introduced as Iowa State's new coach in March 2006, but he struggled to find success in Ames. He left after four seasons with a losing overall record, no NCAA tournament appearances and no better than a seventh-place finish in the Big 12.
Greg McDermott was tabbed in April 2010 to replace Dana Altman as Creighton's next men's basketball coach.
Greg McDermott inherited a Creighton roster in his first season that included experienced veterans like Kenny Lawson and Antoine Young, as well as a mix of talented young players like Grant Gibbs, Gregory Echenique and his son, Doug McDermott.
Greg McDermott led Creighton to a 23-16 overall record in his first season. The Bluejays played in the College Basketball Invitational and lost in the championship series to Oregon and former Bluejay coach Dana Altman.
In 2012, Greg McDermott won his first Missouri Valley tournament title with Creighton, defeating Illinois State by four in the championship game.
The 2011-12 season also featured Creighton's first NCAA tournament victory in a decade. The No. 8-seeded Bluejays defeated Alabama in the first round before falling to North Carolina.
Creighton and Greg McDermott made it back-to-back conference tournament titles in 2013. The Bluejays also won the regular-season championship that season.
Greg McDermott led Creighton back to the NCAA tournament in 2013, this time as a No. 7 seed, and defeated Cincinnati in the opener before getting eliminated by Duke in the second round.
Greg McDermott helped steer Creighton into the Big East, and he made his coaching debut in the conference on Dec. 31, 2013 with a 67-49 victory over Marquette.
Greg McDermott had the opportunity to coach his son, Doug McDermott, for four seasons at Creighton. Doug was a three-time All-American under his father and won the national player of the year award in 2014.
Creighton's third consecutive trip to the NCAA tournament ended with another second-round loss. After defeating Louisiana-Lafayette in the opener, CU fell by 30 to Baylor, again falling short of the Sweet 16.
Creighton's first season in the post-Doug McDermott era was a struggle, as the Bluejays limped to a 14-19 overall record — 4-14 in the Big East — under Greg McDermott in 2014-15.
Creighton saw improvement under Greg McDermott in 2015-16, finishing sixth in the Big East with a 9-9 record. The Bluejays made it to the NIT that season, losing to BYU in the quarterfinals.
Greg McDermott led Creighton to its best start in program history during the 2016-17 season. The Bluejays won their first 13 games and were ranked as high as No. 7 nationally before struggling down the stretch.
The late-season struggles continued for Greg McDermott and Creighton into the NCAA tournament. The No. 6-seeded Bluejays fell to Rhode Island in the first round, ending their once-promising season.
Greg McDermott was targeted by Ohio State for its head coaching vacancy, but on June 8, 2017, he announced that he was staying with the Bluejays.
Greg McDermott led Creighton to 21-12 record in 2018. The Jays ended the season with three straight losses, including 72-68 to Providence in the Big East tournament and 69-59 to Kansas State in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
Creighton coach Greg McDermott comforts Marcus Foster near the end of a 69-59 loss to Kansas State in the 2018 NCAA tournament. The loss was the Jays' third straight in the NCAA tournament.