Creighton is ready to put the offseason hullabaloo behind it and get on with the business of playing basketball.
Oh, how the Bluejays are ready.
“Everything is new around here,'' Creighton forward Doug McDermott said. “The Big East, the logo, the floor. We're just ready to get started and playing together again.
“Nothing has changed with us within the group, and we're excited to let that show.''
Much has changed for the Bluejays since last March when they lost to Duke in the final game of the 2012-13 season. They've changed conferences, moving from the Missouri Valley to the new Big East. They've changed logos. They've even changed the status of the most decorated player in school history.
When the Bluejays open the season Friday night against Alcorn State, McDermott, their two-time first-team All-American, will take the floor as a non-scholarship player.
“It's not often you start a walk-on,'' said Creighton coach Greg McDermott with a chuckle.
Doug McDermott relinquished his scholarship last summer after guard Grant Gibbs was surprisingly granted a sixth season of eligibility by the NCAA. The return of Gibbs and McDermott, who last spring decided to bypass an opportunity to turn professional, has spiked expectations for the coming season.
Two other starters — guards Jahenns Manigat and Austin Chatman — also return, as do several key reserves from the Creighton teams that have produced a program-record 57 victories over the past two seasons.
“It's going to be fun to get started,'' Greg McDermott said. “This obviously is a special group, a great group of guys. Most of them have been around here the four years I've been here.
“That makes it fun. They pretty much know what my expectations are, and I pretty much know what I'm going to get from them. We just need to get on the floor and start to work on things that we need to improve. You can only go against yourself so much and continue making progress.''
A change in NCAA rules lengthened the preseason by two weeks. Creighton started preseason practice on Sept. 28 and has tasted outside competition just twice — a closed scrimmage against Iowa State and last week's exhibition game against Northern State.
“We've been practicing way too long,'' the coach said. “I say that, but with the guys, you can take that times 10. These guys are ready to play somewhere else.''
Alcorn State will supply the other faces for the opener, although it's uncertain how much competition the Bluejays will get from a team picked eighth in the Southwestern Athletic Conference preseason poll.
At this point, though, that's not the most important thing for the Bluejays.
“Our main focus is to improve upon what we did in the scrimmage and the exhibition game,” Doug McDermott said. “We want to get into our flow and get off to the right start to have that momentum going into the rest of the season.”
Alcorn State returns just one starter — forward LeAntwan Luckett — from a team that won 10 games last season. The 6-foot-4 sophomore was picked to the preseason SWAC second team after averaging 13.4 points last season.
“We don't have any film on them,” Greg McDermott said, “so we just need to stick to our own guns and play our own game and hope that's good enough.”
He rolled his eyes when jokingly asked if he's hoping that the Braves might be looking past the Bluejays to Sunday's home opener against Tougaloo College.
“I can't even spell Tougaloo,” McDermott said.
McDermott, his son and just about every other Bluejay know that the expectations being placed on this team are great. The returning personnel, coupled with the move to the new conference, has produced unprecedented excitement.
Creighton sold more than 15,000 season tickets. More than half of the team's home games already are sold out, and there is a chance the Bluejays could play in front of full houses in every home game this season.
“That's really hard to fathom,” Greg McDermott said. “There are a lot of seats in this building, and most of them are gone. I'd like to think that people not only appreciate what our guys do from a basketball standpoint but how they represent this university, our community and, in a lot of ways, our state.
“I'm proud of that, and I think that's one of the reasons our fans come out to support them.”
NOTES: Alcorn State's only other meeting with Creighton came in the 2004 season opener. The Bluejays scored a 74-40 victory, with the Braves' total being the lowest single-game output in the 170-game history of the CenturyLink Center. … Alcorn State has lost its last 41 nonconference road games by an average of 28.1 points. All but three of the defeats came by margins of 10 points or more. … Doug McDermott already owns the school scoring record, and he will become the Bluejays' all-time leader in field goals with his first basket. He is tied with Chad Gallagher with 811 career field goals. … Creighton is 80-15 in season openers.