Creighton Bluejays team preview 2013-14
You've heard of a one-trick pony? Well, Creighton fifth-year senior Ethan Wragge is a one-shot Bluejay. Of Wragge's 187 field goal attempts last season, 175 came from beyond the arc.
It's easy to see why the 6-foot-7, 225-pound supersub has a cult following in Omaha, and he embraces his role as the consummate catch-and-shooter. He likes to brag about a game at Northern Iowa two seasons ago in which he scored eight points despite having the ball in his possession for just 11 seconds. Wragge does not pass -- he dished just 14 assists in 582 minutes -- and he likely has more career threes (224) than dribbles. "That's scary to think that's accurate," says coach Greg McDermott says, "but it is."
Wragge grew up in Eden Prairie, Minn., shooting endless treys from the corners, because those were the most level shots available on the slanted street in his cul-de-sac. Now Wragge runs to the corner to clear space so that senior All-America forward Doug McDermott, Greg's son, can work through his low-post moves without being double-teamed by the big charged with guarding Wragge.
In Creighton's offense Wragge and McDermott often set double high screens. That action can leave point guard Grant Gibbs an open lane to the basket, McDermott with a mismatch or Wragge with the split second he needs to pop open for a three. "It puts a lot of pressure on the defense," Greg McDermott says.
The Bluejays might not be able to move as freely now that they've joined the bump-and-grind Big East, but the team that finished in the top 10 nationally in field goal percentage (50.1), three-point percentage (41.4) and assists (16.9) will surely continue to fire from long range. And though he claims to have worked on his 15-foot face-up game over the summer, if you see Wragge run to the corner, chances are you know what's coming next.
Creighton plays St. Joseph's, California, Arizona State, Nebraska, Tulsa and Long Beach State, a non-conference schedule put together for the RPI-challenged Missouri Valley. But Creighton found out in March it was going to the Big East, so they'll be tested -- perhaps too much -- by the time Marquette kicks off league play on New Year's Eve in Omaha.
With its entrance to the Big East, Creighton picked up a player from the league's recruiting cradle. Junior college guard Devin Brooks, who attended St. Raymond's in the Bronx and Iowa Western Community College, gives Creighton a bouncy guard who can play multiple positions. He scored 15.9 points per game in junior college and should rev up Creighton's high-tempo offense.
That's the weight -- listed conservatively -- of former Creighton center Gregory Echenique, a low-post filibuster and rim protector. Creighton's ability to replace his defensive presence will be the key to whether they can win the Big East.
SI.com: This is the last-go around with Doug. Are you trying to savor it?
Greg McDermott: I'm trying not to change anything. I was on him hard a couple days ago in practice. I think we both appreciate what we have here and are able to experience it. The opportunity to go to this new league in his last season is pretty cool stuff. We'll probably cherish it a lot more 10 years from now. In the middle of grind we don't step back and realize how cool it is in that moment. We've enjoyed it. They'll be some finality this year. Doug didn't know and I wasn't sure last year. At least he'll be able to get the send off from our fans and enjoy senior night as well.
SI.com: How fired up are folks in Omaha?
GM: Our fan base has never been as ramped up as they are right now. And interest and season tickets was already off the charts before we switched leagues. There's a general excitement in our community.
SI.com: How do you prepare for the change?
GM: When the times comes, you're preparing for nine new teams. You can watch as much film as you want, but until you are on the court and have a good understanding of the nuances of what they're trying to do offensively and defensively, it's difficult to start making adjustments. It's a challenge with nine new teams on one hand, but we're very different than the rest of the teams in the Big East. I hope there's a period of adjustment to how they play us as well.
SI.com: Can we expect the same fun Creighton offense?
GM: Our guys know they have the green light and we're not turning down an open look, whether it's in the first five seconds of the shot clock or the last five. If we get a crack at an open three, we're taking it.