For the first time since the Christmas break, the No. 13 Creighton men’s basketball team is enjoying an extended break.
Before this week, the Jays haven’t had more than three days between games since late December. They’ll return to the court on Friday to host Butler at 8 p.m. CT after a five-day layoff. Coach Greg McDermott gave his team a couple of days off to recharge after a grueling few weeks before they got back to work on the court Tuesday.
Baylor Scheierman said the Bluejays took advantage of the extra time both to rest and recharge and also to work on themselves rather than focusing on the upcoming opponent.
“Part of it was just for our bodies, but then also we were able to kind of just get in the gym and kind of work on ourselves a little bit, which we haven’t been able to do in a while and kind of just regroup, refocus and get ready for this last stretch of games before the Big East Tournament is here,” Scheierman said.
McDermott said he planned to use part of the break to step back and watch film of the team through a different lens, performing a deeper self-scout than they typical game-prep schedule allows.
“We’re progressing, which is what you hope,” McDermott said of what he saw. “At this time of the season, you don’t have a lot of time to spend on yourself. You’re so caught up on the next appointment, sometimes you can’t take a step back and really look at where your team has made progress. I think we have. For the most part, we’ve taken care of the ball a little bit better. Defensively, we’ve given ourselves a chance in most of the games that we’ve played. The ball continues to move, guys are unselfish. Sometimes shots go and sometimes they don’t, but as long as we’re sharing it and getting good shots, we’re going to be in a position to have chances to win. It’s going to be tough in February, February is going to be a very difficult month for us.”
A pair of Bluejays also earned some recognition during the break. Trey Alexander was one of 10 players named a finalist for the Jerry West Award, honoring the top shooting guard in college basketball. Scheierman also made the cut for the Julius Erving Award, honoring the nation’s top small forward. Scheierman was also on the Wooden Award Late-Season Watch List, recognizing the top 20 players in the country regardless of position.
Scheierman is averaging a career-high 17.8 points, 8.1 rebounds and 3.8 assists while shooting 37.9% from 3 in his fifth season of college basketball. Alexander isn’t far behind at 17.0 points and 6.0 rebounds per game while leading the team with 4.7 assists per game.
“They deserve it,” McDermott said. “Sometimes when you have two guys with their ability level on the same team, they kind of take from one another and maybe you don’t realize what you’re seeing play out in front of your eyes. They’re two of the better players in the country, and they happen to be on the same team. And they’re incredibly unselfish, which is another reason they probably don’t get the attention they deserve because they don’t inherently bring that attention to themselves because they’ve always been about the team and about winning.
“But I’m glad that others have recognized them as top-10 players at their position in the country because we certainly feel that way about them.”
The Bulldogs (14-7, 5-5 Big East) lost eight of their top nine scorers from last year’s team, turning to the transfer portal to fill out their starting lineup around the one key returner, 6-foot-10 senior Jalen Thomas (6.8 points and 6.8 rebounds per game).
One of those portal additions will look very familiar to the Creighton veterans as former St. John’s point guard Posh Alexander is now a Bulldog. Known primarily for his defensive prowess, the 6-foot senior is averaging 11.4 points, 5.1 assists, 4.3 rebounds and 2.4 steals, though he’s only shooting 27.3% from 3.
“He was a great player at St. John’s and now he’s doing well at Butler and he’s doing a lot of the same things he did at St. John’s at Butler — pressuring the ball, getting down into the paint, bullying and stuff,” Scheierman said. “There are certain things that he does do the same and certain things he doesn’t, and that’s just all the scout.”
Butler’s leading scorer is former Michigan State wing Pierre Brooks, a 6-foot-6, 240-pound junior. He’s averaging 16.6 points and 4.5 rebounds while shooting 43.2% from deep in his breakout season. Northeastern transfer Jahmyl Telfort, a 6-foot-7, 225-pound wing, has had a terrific season as well, averaging 13.9 points, 5.0 rebounds and 2.8 assists while shooting 36.1% from 3. UC-Irvine transfer DJ Davis, a 6-foot-1 guard, rounds out the double-digit scorers for Butler at 13.6 points per game while shooting 36.1% from the arc.
“We’ve been watching a lot of film on them,” Isaac Traudt said. “They’re really physical, a really good team. They have a couple of guards that can really shoot.”
Since league play began, Butler boasts the third-best offense in the Big East with the lowest turnover rate, according to KenPom. The Bulldogs aren’t as stout defensively, coming in eighth, though they do a great job of defending without fouling with the second-lowest opponent free-throw rate behind only Creighton.
FS1 will televise the game with Connor Onion and former Bluejay Nick Bahe on the call.