Creighton senior Kenny LawsonNo more Dana Altman. What a relief for Shocker fans. Altman went 27-7 against WSU as Creighton coach (3-1 at Kansas State) and his teams dealt the Shockers some of their most painful and frustrating losses in recent history. The teams split last season. WSU finished ahead of Creighton in the MVC standings and Shocker fans would say Altman got out just when their team was ready to put the hammer down in the series.
The day Altman traded Jesuits for Nike was a good day for WSU (avoiding the strength-of-conference argument). Then Creighton hired Greg McDermott from Iowa State. McDermott doesn’t own Altman’s history or success against WSU, but he bugged the Shockers plenty during his five seasons at Northern Iowa (2001-06). He went 7-4 against WSU, winning four of the final five meetings and exiting with back-to-back wins at Koch Arena. McDermott developed his own list of buzz-killing wins against the Shockers, starting in the final seconds of the 2005 game at Koch Arena.
1. Did Altman’s departure come at the right time?
I’m never going to say losing a coach with his resume is a good thing. Maybe, however, after 16 seasons a new face on the sidelines isn’t a lose-lose. Creighton slipped to 18-16 last season, its first time below 20 wins since 1998. The Jays missed the NCAA Tournament for a third season, and even the NIT said “No thanks.” Altman probably doesn’t get fair credit for 2009, when the Jays shared the MVC title, went 27-8 and won an NIT game. That’s the way it goes when expectations are high – it’s NCAA or disappointment in Omaha. McDermott takes over a program with good resources, great attendance and four starters returning. Maybe a new voice and a new approach will help. There is some pressure on McDermott to get back to relevance immediately. One average season is bad. Two is a trend, and Creighton doesn’t want to lose any of the gains it fought for over the past decade.
2. Where are the shooters?
Altman often surrounded one inside player with tremendous shooters – six of his teams rank among the MVC’s top 15 for threes made in a season. The Jays might operate differently this season with senior center Kenny Lawson, transfer Greg Echenique and Wayne Runnels. Among returners, only Ethan Wragge (43.3 percent) is an above-average three-point shooter. Players such as Kaleb Korver and Josh Jones must shoot better from the outside.
3. Where is Antoine Young’s head at?
I really liked Young as a freshman. I figured he would smoothly step in as Creighton’s point guard as a sophomore and be a good defender and scorer. His sophomore season didn’t go as smoothly as I expected. Creighton fans – and Altman – spent a lot of time pining for departed guard Josh Dotzler when things went wrong late in games. Young struggled from the field (40.2 percent, 23.5 from three) and the line (59.8 percent). My prediction is a bounce-back season for Young as a junior. He fixed his free throw problems late in the season, making 21 of 23 to end the season. He scored in double figures in five of Creighton’s final eight games. Shooting problems didn’t hurt his handle – Young led the MVC in assist-to-turnover ratio at 2.50. If Young can play with the confidence he showed late last season, he will be in good shape. He needs to reach that level. Creighton lacks an experienced backup.