Greg McDermott figured when his Creighton basketball team dropped out of the national rankings that there was little chance it would return this season.
“Usually when you drop from the rankings and you're a so-called mid-major school, you disappear from the radar,” McDermott said. “You're usually gone for good.”
Of course, there are exceptions. A five-game winning streak has pushed Creighton back into the national polls, with the Bluejays claiming the No. 24 spot in the coaches poll and the No. 23 slot in the Associated Press ratings.
Creighton had been ranked in the first 14 AP polls until back-to-back losses to Indiana State and Illinois State dropped it from the Feb. 11 rankings. The Bluejays stayed in the coaches poll, but a third straight loss, to Northern Iowa, left them unranked the week of Feb. 18.
Since the Feb. 13 loss to the Panthers, Creighton has won seven of eight games to improve to 27-7. The Bluejays won the Missouri Valley regular-season championship with a win over Wichita State on March 2 and then completed a sweep of the conference tournament Sunday with another win over the Shockers.
The 68-65 victory in St. Louis put Creighton back into the NCAA tournament with the league's automatic bid. The Bluejays will learn Sunday where they will play their opening game of the tournament.
“I think it's valuable to be back in at this point in the season,” McDermott said. “For one thing, it means you're playing well. And I think the recognition means a little more to this team because when we dropped out they probably didn't think there was a chance to get back in.”
McDermott had downplayed Creighton's early-season rankings, even when the Bluejays reached the No. 10 spot in the coaches' ratings and No. 11 in the AP.
“It's always more important to be ranked in March than in January,” he said. “If you're ranked now, it means that you've had a good season and you're going to the NCAA tournament with a chance to wear the white (home) jersey in your first game.”
Creighton returned to Omaha on Sunday night and took Monday off. The players will hit the weight room on Tuesday, with some going through optional workouts. Full-scale practices to get ready for the NCAA tournament will begin Wednesday.
In addition to handling some public relations duties, McDermott on Monday dug into putting together a plan for the tournament.
“When you win your conference tournament, it seems like every national radio show wants to get you on for 10 minutes or so,” he said. “It takes time to handle all those requests, but it's important to find the time to do that.
“It's also important to start zeroing in on what we want to do to get ready for the tournament. At this point of the season, you're not going to get better in 10 areas, but if there are three or four you can really focus on, it could be the difference between winning and losing your next game.”
Creighton will hold a public viewing party of Sunday's selection show on CBS. The gathering will be held at Sokol Arena, with the doors opening at 4 p.m. The selection show begins at 5 p.m.
Wragge makes Valley scholar-athlete team
The Missouri Valley on Monday named Creighton junior forward Ethan Wragge to its scholar-athlete first team. Wragge became the first Bluejay to earn first-team honors since Anthony Tolliver in 2007.
Wragge was named the league's scholar-athlete of the week three times this season. He holds a 3.22 grade-point average while majoring in finance, marketing and entrepreneurship.
The spot on the scholar-athlete team is the third honor Wragge has earned. He was recognized last week as winner of the league's Sixth Man Award, and he also was picked as captain of the Valley's all-bench team.
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