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Creighton Basketball: Still Pressing, But Impressing?

by Andrew Force | March 3rd, 2008

The system is the same. Thankfully, the coach is the same. There was a frightful window in which Dana Altman was gone, but he chose to return.

The roster he returned, too, is hardly the same. The turnover in Omaha was tremendous. No team lost more in the Missouri Valley.

Way back in October, Altman realized the challenges that lay ahead. “We have a long way to go,” he said. “We have some good younger players but I think their lack of experience will take some time to develop…. You know, hopefully as the season progresses we will develop and have a decent year.”

The usually humble coach looked downright downtrodden as he sat on the dais during MVC Media Day. Wonder why.

Past People

Creighton recently said see you later to two of the program’s finest players of all time.

Nate Funk resided in Omaha for parts of six calendar years, scored in double figures 89 times, and won 94 basketball games. Clutch as anyone, Funkmaster Flex won three MVC Tournament titles. Funk managed to pick up the role of leading scorer from current NBA player Kyle Korver. Their careers overlapped by one year and they oddly sit back-to-back on the Creighton scoring list. Korver finished fifth with Funk soaring right up behind him to close out a stellar career.

Every game that finished with a close result, every moment that needed a hero, every play that needed a finisher relied on one man. Nate “Fifth-Year” Funk. Finding a replacement in these moments is the hardest thing to do, as almost any player can easily step forward and cover the ten first-half points missing. But when the game is on the line, and one defender is draped all over him as a second rushes towards, can a first year player really succeed? And succeed more often than he fails in such instances?

Anthony Tolliver had nowhere near the numbers Funk featured. What Tolliver did offer was unwavering leadership and that unmistakable predilection towards constantly winning. Winner of the “Most Inspirational Award” in high school, Tolliver helped his teams win 96% of the time. For Creighton, he started 93 games in his three final years. In virtually every players-only huddle, Tolliver vocally guided his unit through the tough times and praised for the good instances.

Does a person who has been on campus for five months step into those shoes?

Present People

The Bluejays are learning defense slowly. The full-court press, which is not intended to rattle but merely to impede offensive progress, shows signs of confusion. Altman has to be feeling frustration from this confusion while he sits patiently on the bench. If ever there was a time to capitalize from his years of success and move on, 2007 was it.

Over three-fourths of the games saw the Bluejays led in scoring by a rookie. On a team composed of nine newcomers and five returnees, the odds were in the first-years’ favor. The holdovers don’t boast any frightening talent. Dane Watts is the only returning scorer and his talents are best used in a supplementary fashion.

“We are playing eight new guys,” said Altman. “ It has been inconsistent as you can imagine.”

The most productive newbies have been P’Allen Stinnett, Booker Woodfox, and Cavel Witter. Yes, those are real names. No, they are not from Aesop’s Fables.

Woodfox and Witter have been averaging 8 ppg and 7 ppg respectively. Oddly neither one on average logs minutes that would equate to half the game. The efficiency of these two guys in particular helps Creighton stay competitive in the abnormally weak MVC.

“We have a hard time deciding where we want our shots to come from,” said Altman. The repercussions are obvious. Altman typically places trust in a core of guys whom he eagerly plays big minutes. As the year concludes, the rotation has been “dwindled” to ten. Ten players. Averaging between 13 and 24 minutes per game.

From certain coaches, Bruce Pearl or Rick Pitino to name a few, that statistic would be viewed as typical, understandable. They play more guys fewer minutes. From Dana Altman it means he still does not know who “his guys” are.

“We really haven’t had anybody step up and establish themselves,” Altman explained midway through the season.

Future People

When Altman showed that he was willing to leave Creighton, he opened the door to many dirty recruiters poaching on his land. See, in today’s world of recruiting high school athletes the emphasis is barely on what ‘we can do for you’ (the recruit). So much of the focus is on what ‘they cannot do for you.’

Altman no longer has a stranglehold on permanency. There is a chance he could leave. After countless rebuffs prior to this most recent offseason, Altman accrued permanency capital. Recruits had no fears of playing for a second or even third coach during their stay at Creighton. Altman was Creighton.

While he could again quickly regain this ground, right now the hypothesis is that recruiting will dip.

Take a look. In the class of 2008, Altman has signed two 2-star recruits, Josh Jones and Antoine Young. They are both guards. For the first time in three years Altman will fail to bring in at least a 3-star talent.

The present P’Allen Stinnett might very well become a future star in the Valley. His quick shot and bubbly athleticism harkens back to Ryan Sears. Committing defensively within the 2-3 zone goes a long way to determining playing time for Stinnett. There are still lapses, mentally and physically for him. His driving skills will have to improve and it would be nice to see him demand the ball more, but scoring will never be a problem for the 6’3” freshman.

System

Altman loves to run the 1-2-2 press with the intention of draining the shot clock; not an easy task when college basketball allows an eternity–or 35 seconds–to shoot.

Once the halfcourt portion begins, preferably as the shot clock whittles down to 25 seconds, CU settles into a 2-3 matchup zone. The zone is not overly daunting. Ball pressure allows shooters to flourish. The one aspect of zone defense in which the Bluejays excel is rebounding.

Average to good players following the exceptional guidance of Dana Altman fosters Creighton championships. Whether they are in the MVC Tournament or MVC regular season, the Bluejays plays well in the games that matter.

As Altman begins his “second” stint as Creighton University men’s basketball coach, expect nothing to change.

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8 Responses to “Creighton Basketball: Still Pressing, But Impressing?”  

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  1. Matt Says:

    Antoine Young is 3 stars on rivals and 185 ranked from Van Coleman. Josh Jones missed a year of AAU because his father passed and missed much of the rating process. Creighton had a top 30 recruit and a 4 star prospect for 2009 in its gym for the double overtime game. Every year Altman’s name has been linked to vacant coaching jobs and has been used against him in recruiting, now that he came back its pretty clear he isn’t going anywhere. Also I think you have mistaken Ryan Sears and Rodney Buford. Stinett has a whole lot more Buford in him than Sears.

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  2. CL Says:

    Has this guy ever seen the Jays play? “The one aspect of zone defense in which the Bluejays excel is rebounding” – is he being sarcastic? Did he see any of Creighton’s last 5 games? I disagree with about 85% of what this guy says.

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  3. Chris Says:

    Is this article for real? Creighton lost 80% of their scoring from last year and still managed to win 20 games. Their RPI sits around 50.

    The cupboard is loaded with young talent and the future is bright. Ask any MVC fan (or coach) if they would trade their team for Altman’s going forward the next 3 years and you would get nine “absolutely” responses.

    With an attendance that ranks 15th in the nation. all Altman needs is a deep NCAA run to cement his position as one of the top coaches in the country.

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  4. Andrew Says:

    Are you serious? Wow. Read a book and do some research. This is miserably inaccurate.

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  5. Andrew Force Says:

    DEFENSIVE REBOUNDS
    ## Team G No. Avg/G
    —————————————
    1.Northern Iowa……. 30 745 24.83
    2.Wichita State……. 30 711 23.70
    3.Illinois State…… 30 706 23.53
    4.Creighton……….. 29 670 23.10
    5.Bradley…………. 31 704 22.71
    6.Missouri State…… 31 683 22.03
    7.Drake…………… 29 634 21.86
    8.Southern Illinois… 30 632 21.07
    9.Evansville………. 29 601 20.72
    10.Indiana State……. 29 596 20.55

    REBOUNDING MARGIN
    ## Team G TEAM Avg OPP Avg Margin
    ——————————————————–
    1.Wichita State……. 30 1091 36.4 893 29.8 +6.6
    2.Drake…………… 29 977 33.7 898 31.0 +2.7
    3.Creighton……….. 29 996 34.3 944 32.6 +1.8
    4.Illinois State…… 30 1007 33.6 958 31.9 +1.6
    5.Southern Illinois… 30 951 31.7 913 30.4 +1.3
    6.Missouri State…… 31 1018 32.8 982 31.7 +1.2
    7.Northern Iowa……. 30 982 32.7 950 31.7 +1.1
    8.Bradley…………. 31 1039 33.5 1058 34.1 -0.6
    9.Evansville………. 29 873 30.1 933 32.2 -2.1
    10.Indiana State……. 29 904 31.2 966 33.3 -2.1

    As a team Creighton rebounds well. They do not have the individual rebounding skill they had last year with Anthony Tolliver.

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  6. Matt Says:

    Do you have those statistics for Valley games only because the Jays played some really terrible rebounding teams outside of conference.

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  7. Andrew Force Says:

    I saw P’Allen twice in December/January and saw a jump shooter who couldnt defend. Dana even benched him for stretches for that very reason.

    Now I see a exuberant, impulsive player with unwavering confidence that he can get to the basket at any moment. He makes some poor decisions, but his overwhelming courage and enthusiasm will make him a potential All-Conference player next year.

    I think he will be hated more than any Nate Funk was, by Southern Illinois fans before he graduates, because he has a big flashy personality. That is not necessarily a bad thing.

    The reason I didnt compare him to Rodney Buford was because I think Rodney had more success beyond just shooting the ball. P’Allen is rapidly broadening his game though.

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  8. Roland Says:

    Antoine Young is 3 star on Rivals

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