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Creighton Slips Again, Falls Against Northern Iowa For 3rd Straight Defeat

Something is rotten in Omaha, and it might be the Creighton defense. The Jays lost their third-straight game Wednesday night, and might be on the verge of slipping out of "Lock" status and back onto the bubble.

The elder McDermott has reason to be concerned. His team is slipping back into its old defensive habits
The elder McDermott has reason to be concerned. His team is slipping back into its old defensive habits
Eric Francis

It is almost too easy to write the "sky is falling" piece about Creighton. After all, ESPN's Eamonn Brennan pleaded with the Jays in his latest Bubble Watch article, asking them to not make him take them out of Lock status.

Sorry Eamonn, I think you might have to do it.

Creighton went to Northern Iowa -- not a slouch by any means -- Wednesday night, and came away with its third straight loss. This one will read 61-54 in the morning paper, and looking at the box score, it will be hard to fathom how the Jays managed to do this badly.

Northern Iowa shot under 40 percent from the floor. They didn't hit the offensive boards particularly hard. Perhaps the only advantage they had on Creighton was that they forced the Jays into 17 turnovers... in just 64 possession.

Yeah, I guess you can't really shoot the ball if you don't have the ball.

The offensive side of the equation hasn't been what has been bothering Creighton though. It has been the slow slide back into their defensive habits of last season. Teams are shooting better against them. They are keeping control of the ball better (Northern Iowa had just eight turnovers), and that is really saying something as the Jays are one of the worst squads in terms of forcing the turnover.

There is no telling what number Greg McDermott will have to paint on the practice jerseys next season, but it is already into triple-digits (going into Wednesday, 108 according to KenPom) and this performance won't exactly help that .

Against Indiana State, it was 1.21 points per possession. Against Illinois State, it was 1.17. Somehow they escaped tonight with a number less than one. But it was the defensive efficiency that really killed them.

Indiana State saw its second best offensive performance of the season -- and that is second only to a game against High Point when the Sycamores had an effective field goal percentage of 63 percent.

Illinois State had a similar high on its end, although not its second-best (and actually the worst on its three-game, er, make it four-game winning streak). It was the fourth worst performance by Creighton this season.

That is the thing about this Jays team. If they allow the opponent to have an efficiency over 100, they are playing with fire.

Here are all the near misses for Creighton. Just look at the trend here:

Site Opponent Creighton's Defense Creighton's Offense Rank vs. Opp.
Neutral Wisconsin 110.1 124.9 1
Home Evansville 102.8 127.7 1
Away Illinois State 108.7 119.3 1
Home Indiana State 107.8 129.1 1
Home Northern Iowa 100.4 116.1 1
Home Missouri State 120.2 142 1

The Rank vs. Opp. column? That shows that Creighton had the best offense that the opponent has seen all season, before or after playing the Jays. Any other time that Creighton has had a defensive efficiency over 100, they have lost. And that is every loss this season (maybe Wednesday will be the first exception).

The real kicker is the Missouri State game. Maybe we would have noticed this earlier had Creighton not shot lights out against the Bears. You don't need to play any defense when you have everyone on the team playing that well with the ball.

It is clear that Creighton's excellent offensive game -- 5th according to KenPom going into the night -- has bailed them out more times than not. And when you have the best player in the country in Doug McDermott, you are going to find ways to win games.

But there are going to be nights when even he looks mortal, and when that happens, combined with everyone else looking off at the same time, that is when the defense will have to step up. That hasn't been Creighton's strong suit this season, or last. Now it is coming back to bite them.

It just might cost them their lock status.