Published Friday, October 12, 2012 AT 8:45 PM / Updated at 12:42 AM
Interactive: Bluejays taking flight
Bluejays Today Omaha World-Herald

The Creighton men’s basketball team is projected by some as a preseason Top 10.

After a successful 2011-12 season that ended with Creighton’s NCAA tournament loss to North Carolina, staff writer Steven Pivovar broached the question: What do the Jays need to do to join the likes of Xavier, Gonzaga, Butler and a few others as perennial mid-major hoops powers?

We asked dozens of college basketball reporters from around the country for their opinions, and arranged them in an online interactive project for Bluejays’ fans to peruse.

So check it out, or keep reading to get the full list of quotes.

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“I expect the 2012-13 to be one of the most exciting in Bluejays basketball history. The return of first-team All-America team member Doug McDermott should keep Creighton in the nation’s spotlight. Combine that with the return of a proven big man in Gregory Echenique and only one real question remains. Will sophomore Austin Chatman be able to step up and fill the shoes of Antoine Young? I think he will and I expect to see Creighton as a top 15 team much of next season.”
— Mike’l Severe, 1620 The Zone

“Creighton has only one question mark in my mind going into the season and that’s at point. Antoine Young has been extremely clutch in his career. Filling that void will be the task of the non-conference season. The schedule, though, is very conducive to a hot start for the Jays, who should be the prohibitive favorites in the Valley this year. This has the potential to be one of the best seasons in Creighton hoops history.”
— Kevin Kugler, BTN/Dial Global Sports

“Creighton’s 2012 boils down to one thing — defense. The Jays are loaded offensively and can exploit mismatches all year with McDermott and Echenique, but can they improve defensively enough to shut down teams late in games? It’s all about defense.”
— Michael Grey, 590 AM ESPN Radio

“Aside from the X’s and O’s, Creighton needs a more intimidating home atmosphere; an environment that can fluster opposing teams. Blowouts at home like last season against Wichita St. simply cannot happen if the Jays want to be a national program.”
— Ryan Holmgren, The World-Herald

“Many want Creighton to commit to becoming a great defensive team. But the Jays aren’t built that way. There are two things, however, they could use to take that next step. One is an athletic, defensive-minded 6-foot-5 to 6-7 wing player who can block an occasional shot. (Not easy to find outside the power conferences, by the way.) And two is some luck in March. Creighton was underseeded last year, but its second-round matchup with North Carolina was even more unfortunate because of the way it matched up with the Tar Heels. And as any college basketball follower knows, you can’t become a national program without reaching the second weekend of the tournament on at least a semi-consistent basis.”
— Kevin White, The World-Herald

“Be aggressive with non-conference scheduling. Continue to recruit student-athletes who fit the Creighton program profile and don’t yield to the temptation to cut corners.”
— Kirk Wessler, Executive Sports Editor/Columnist of Peoria Journal-Star

“I actually think Creighton is close to being in that conversation already. It could solidify its position nationally by getting to a Sweet 16 or two, of course, in addition to producing some more NBA-level talent. But really all the Bluejays need to do is keep winning 20-plus games per season, as they have been.”
— Mark Emmert, Des Moines Register

“I think Creighton should be on the look-out for a change in conference affiliation. Creighton seems to me to be the kind of school, with the kind of athletic department, that would appeal to a conference like the Atlantic-10, which is undergoing serious upheaval. In these times of upheaval in college athletics, I think it’s wise for a school like Creighton to have an open mind.”
— Bob Lutz, Wichita Eagle

“Reaching the next level, whether BCS or non-BCS team, requires an institutional commitment. It is not just up to the coach or the athletic department, it requires the commitment of the institution from the top down. That, in my judgment, is the difference between having good teams and having a program.”
— Jay Bilas, ESPN

“Creighton is one deep March Madness run away from joining Butler, Gonzaga and Xavier — all of whom have made one deep run (or more) — to cement themselves as a national powerhouse in college hoops, mid-major or not.”
— Gregg Doyel, CBS Sports

“You and I both know how good Creighton is. Hopefully, Creighton can build off some of the success they’ve had this season. That sounds crazy, because some people will avoid them because of that success. But there will be some people that know how good they are going to be and might be willing to accept the challenge.”
— Butler coach Brad Stevens, on future scheduling

“First, land Omaha Central star Akoy Agau, who plays one minute from Creighton’s campus. After that, CU should play the tough games, of course, but the Bluejays should also schedule to get more visibility in markets like Chicago, Indianapolis, Kansas City and New York. Next, leverage Greg McDermott’s strong relationship with Nike into special uniforms and looks. Creighton should be willing guinea pigs for Nike to do whatever it pleases. Finally, partner with Nebraska for an annual, rotating tournament on Thanksgiving weekend — CU, NU, a Big 12 team and a mid-major that culminates with Jays vs. Huskers on Sunday night. Doc Sadler never would have approved, but Tim Miles — always with an eye on marketing — might.”
— Sam McKewon, The World-Herald

“Schedule a one-and-done. Get a game at Michigan State or Missouri or Florida or Syracuse. You win there, you’re leading ‘SportsCenter.’ You’re fielding calls from recruits who previously couldn’t find Omaha on a map. Even if you lose, your kids see what it’s like to play in the toughest possible environment. That pays off in March.”
— Dirk Chatelain, The World-Herald

“I think what Creighton is doing is great. I’m not a believer it has to be the next anything. If it happens to put together a run of Sweet 16 or Elite Eight or Final Four teams, it will be talked about the way people speak of those other teams. If it does not, it still will be a great program.”
— Mike DeCourcy, Sporting News

“Creighton had a great year this year, but if things had gone sideways on them at the end and they hadn’t made the tournament, I’m sure they probably wouldn’t have considered it a great year. That’s how success is measured in college basketball these days. You have to be one of the 68. No one can tell you who won the NIT or the CBI because nobody pays attention.”
— Gonzaga Athletic Director Mike Roth

“In order for Creighton to win the MVC regular-season title and get to the second weekend of the NCAA tournament, two things must happen. Sophomore point guard Austin Chatman has to fill the shoes of departing senior Antoine Young and run the team at a high level, and Creighton must improve its half-court defense. The Jays were electric offensively as a team, averaging 79.2 points per game, but gave up far too many great individual performances to various players. If Creighton can tighten things up defensively and Chatman can run the team, the Jays will be a force to be reckoned with in the world of college basketball. The future is extremely bright for the Creighton Bluejays.”
— Nick Bahe, CU sports announcer/former Bluejay

“Losing your floor general and second leading scorer in Antoine Young hurts. Obviously the word is out on Doug McDermott and teams are going to key on him defensively like never before. Thankfully, the Jays have everyone else back and someone will have to step up and help carry the scoring load. Austin Chatman will have to make strides this season in not just running the offense, but bailing the team out offensively when the shot clock is running down as Young did.”
— Heath Gunderson, 590 AM ESPN Radio

“Stopping dribble penetration was a challenge for the Jays last season on defense. The Jays need MVC defensive player of the year Gregory Echenique to control the paint and help keep opposing teams from driving to the basket and grabbing offensive rebounds. Hopefully the athleticism of Austin Chatman and redshirt freshman Nevin Johnson will be able to help slow down the opposing team’s guards. This will be a very experienced team with a lot of competition for playing time. The Missouri Valley will be down next season because of coaching changes, player transfers and graduations. So Creighton will be the unanimous preseason favorite. If the Jays avoid injuries, making the NCAA tournament should be a lock.”
— Heath Gunderson, 590 AM ESPN Radio

“Austin Chatman must have an standout sophomore campaign. His ability to run the offense and replace the floor minutes of Antoine Young will be paramount. There won’t be another point guard with experience on the roster behind Chatman so he must be solid and more importantly, stay healthy.”
— Matt Perrault, Rivals.com

“The team must become more athletic, as we all learned watching CU against North Carolina. It starts with the addition of 6-foot-5 redshirt freshman Nevin Johnson on the wing, but Doug McDermott, Gregory Echenique, Ethan Wragge, Grant Gibbs, Jahenns Mannigat, and Avery Dingman all must work on their agility this offseason.”
— Matt Perrault, Rivals.com

“CU must handle the upcoming blazing spotlight properly. Last year, the team got complacent after they broke into the Top 15 of the rankings and then lost on the road at Evansville and got blown out at home versus Wichita State the next week. This year, Doug McDermott will be the darling of the non-BCS. The only returning first-team All-American will be expected to have another outstanding year and dominate lesser competition. There is going to be real pressure on the Jays to win and win big next season.”
— Matt Perrault, Rivals.com

“Creighton needs to build on the success they are having right now. By getting back to the NCAA Tournament, winning a game and having Doug McDermott as a first team All-American, it has put Creighton back on the map. However, the window is short on this success.”
— Patrick Marshall, White & Blue Review

“Taking chances on the schedule is a big thing. Although many other BCS level schools schedule much, much worse, the national media is not satisfied with the Bluejays nonconference scheduling. Unfortunately, several bigger name schools aren’t brave enough to play Creighton even if it was a one-and-done situation.”
— Patrick Marshall, White & Blue Review

“The pressure is to get to a Sweet 16 this year, especially with Doug McDermott and almost everyone else returning. Tournament success translates into better recognition and more opportunities. Gonzaga, Xavier, VCU and Butler have all been put up a notch since their consecutive NCAA Tournament success. They were all good teams consistently in the regular season, but it wasn’t until they had consistent success in the Big Dance that they have been recognized more nationally. It is a lot to handle, but this team is up to the task.”
— Patrick Marshall, White & Blue Review

“Creighton has to be consistent. That is obviously easier said than done. I believe it often comes down to talent and how it compares to other schools in the conference. It was hard to argue that Doug McDermott wasn’t the absolute best player in the league last year and he was an All-American. Having that caliber of player helps with being a good team every year, but that type of player doesn’t come around often, so the Jays need to go out and find the best players they can. I feel like the MVC will continue to trend upwards, and playing in a good league is part of the battle. Have a good non-conference schedule and do what you can to make the numbers (RPI, strength of schedule) look good on paper.”
— Carson Tigges, UNI beat writer

“Creighton needs to continue to have the talent that keeps them in the top three of the MVC, schedule a good nonconference, fight tooth-and-nail in league play and go to the NCAA Tournament. Winning a few games when you’re there certainly won’t hurt (see: Xavier, Butler, Gonzaga).”
— Carson Tigges, UNI beat writer

“We know Creighton’s going to be good, but if the goal is to take the step from a one-NCAA-tournament-win team to a second-weekend team or beyond, the perimeter defense is going to have to improve. Redshirt (freshman) Nevin Johnson might be that defensive stopper the team needs, but one guy can only do so much – the returners will need to show improvement as well.”
— Danny O’Byrne, 590 AM ESPN Radio

“The Jays will also need to make up for Antoine Young’s departure. One of the greatest point guards in Creighton basketball history, Young was the only member of the backcourt last year who was able to penetrate and get to the basket with any consistency. Guys like Josh Jones, Jahenns Manigat and Avery Dingman will need to show that ability more regularly, and presumed point guard heir Austin Chatman will be tasked with running the offense. If he can do so with close to the efficiency as Young, the Jays shouldn’t miss a beat.”
— Danny O’Byrne, 590 AM ESPN Radio

“This season is all about playing for seeding in the NCAA tournament. Expectations have never been higher on the Hilltop. A school-record 30 wins and Sweet Sixteen appearance are in the offing. But there is little margin for error with their potential (lack of) strength of schedule, so the Bluejays will be punished for hiccups. As long as Creighton doesn’t play down to its opponents, look for at least a 5-seed come tournament time. Oh, and I think Doug McDermott will be good at basketball.”
— Matt Schick, ESPNU

“Creighton may have lost point guard Antoine Young, but the Bluejays are still a Top 25 team entering the 2012-13 season. Versatile forward Doug McDermott will likely be the consensus preseason national player of the year and should form one of the better power forward-center combinations in all of college basketball with burly big man Gregory Echenique. Also returning is underrated facilitator Grant Gibbs along with deadeye shooters Jahenns Manigat and Ethan Wragge as well as reserve guard Josh Jones, who should also have an augmented role as a senior. Barring something unforeseen, Creighton should be at the top of the Missouri Valley Conference once again along with Illinois State and Northern Iowa.”
— Jon Rothstein, CBS Sports Network

“Let’s start with something no one ever starts with when talking about the Bluejays: defense. It wasn’t quite as bad as you may have heard last year, but it certainly wasn’t very good either. The problem was simply that opponents never committed turnovers. In Missouri Valley play, teams facing Creighton gave the ball away on just 13 percent of their possessions. The sheer number of chances Greg McDermott’s team gave to opponents resulted in a defense that was a notch below average. Can that change in 2013? McDermott thinks it can.”
— John Gasaway, ESPN Insider

“Change conferences.”
— Lee Barfknecht

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