INDIANAPOLIS -- Behold, the Creighton Bluejays without Doug McDermott.
So far, it’s not pretty.
Wednesday had been another night, and another brass knuckles-to-the-gut defeat. The Bluejays had just lost in the last seconds at Butler, just as they had done a week before at Marquette and four days before that against Seton Hall. That made three games Creighton led with a minute to go, but had watched it vanish in the end. And so, with eight defeats in a row, the Blue Jays own an 0-7 record in the Big East.
This past March, they finished second in the league. Obviously, the year 1 A.D. (After Doug) is not going so well.At the microphone, Greg McDermott was coughing. Maybe a cold. Maybe weariness after a long night. Somewhere else, his famous son is trying to make something of his rookie season in the NBA with the Chicago Bulls. His three senior teammates who joined together for 107 Creighton wins are all in one professional league or another. Here, the father left behind guides a team of great heart, but lousy record. He keeps hoping for the day when the former overtakes the latter. He mentions that a lot.
"It’s difficult when you’re in the situation we’re in to bring passion and effort to the game on a daily basis, and this group has continued to do that,’’ McDermott began.
"We have a fan base that understands the game of basketball extremely well and expects us to play a certain way. And if we play that way, as much as I hate losing, I can walk away from it and at least be proud of what my team’s attempting to accomplish."
And on the matter of confidence ...
"I don’t think there’s any question we’re somewhat fragile. But we were fragile at 0-3, and they continued to compete. Now this is the third game that’s really gone down to the last 10 seconds that we’ve lost, and that is tough to swallow, because you really compete for 39-plus minutes, and you find a way to lose in the end.’’
And about keeping the chins up ...
"It’s certainly not easy. But I think there’s a group of seniors here that have experienced a great deal of success in our program, and the program’s very, very important to them.’’
Or as senior Rick Kreklow, who has played at Missouri and California, said, "As much as losing hurts, if you play the right way, at least you can live with it a little bit. To be in the situation we’re at, I don’t think many teams would care. I’ve been on a few other teams and I can honestly say I don’t think those teams would react the way that this one has.’’
There are numbers that give a glimpse of what Creighton is enduring.
The 9-11 record is the first time the Bluejays have been under .500 after 20 games in 20 years.
Seton Hall and Marquette were the first back-to-back one-point losses for the program since 1980.
The current three-game home losing streak is its longest in 19 years.
Doug McDermott left Creighton with 3,150 career points. The current roster has 3,172 points as a whole in a Bluejay uniform.
The leading scorer this year is Austin Chatman at 11 points a game. Doug McDermott averaged 14 points last season -- in the first half.
Greg used only 10 different starting lineups the past four years. Creighton was stable and efficient. He has already used seven this season. After 19 games the past three seasons, the Bluejays were shooting 51.8, 51.8 and 49.5 percent from the floor. This team is currently at 41.7 percent.
Even the referees seem harsher. McDermott drew his first technical foul in nearly five years the other day against Providence.
And yet, the Bluejays show up each night eager for more, certain there are better times ahead. Just a tweak here, a small fix there, and those painful defeats can transform into exhilarating victories, like the ugly ducking into a swan.
"It’s frustrating and promising at the same time,’’ Kreklow said. "To lose three games like that but to at least put yourself in position against some really good competition, you know you’re doing something right.
"It’s nice to have a team that still can come to practice with that short-term memory, remember what you did wrong and try to change it, but don’t let it hang over your head. And it’s nice to have a group of guys that isn’t quitting on the team, isn’t quitting on the coaches, isn’t quitting on the program.’’
It’s just that the Big East is a relentlessly cruel place for teams a little short on the goods.
"When you’re 0-7, I don’t think it matters what league you’re in,’’ McDermott said of the situation. "You can’t take a breath. You can’t look at a game and say that’s probably a win if we show up and play average. I don’t think those games exist in our league.’’
But they will keep trying.
"There are teams across the country that are having a great deal of success that aren’t having as much fun coaching their teams as I am,’’ McDermott said. "That’s a testament to the character of the guys in that locker room.’’
"We’re 0-7, but my guess is teams aren’t overly excited about coming to CenturyLink to play because they know we’re going to show up, and we’re going to compete and we’re going to play hard. We’re the last place team in a pretty good league right now. We’re going to do what we can to change that."
Next up Saturday is a game at No. 4 Villanova. Like the man said, no time to take a breath at all.