Three weeks ago, the Creighton Bluejays were ranked 23rd in the nation. After jumping to No. 15 last week, the Bluejays sneaked up to No. 10 in the latest ratings and predictions of a No. 2 or 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament have gained momentum.
With a road win Sunday against St. John's, tournament chatter will grow even louder.
Few people outside of Omaha, Neb., saw this coming from a team that was predicted to finish seventh in the Big East. But the Bluejays (22-6, 11-4) are 9-1 in their past 10 games and have three road wins against ranked teams -- Villanova, Seton Hall and Marquette -- in February.
Being ranked in the Top 10 "definitely puts a target on your back," Creighton head coach Greg McDermott said.
"At this stage of the season and in our league, you have so many teams fighting for seeding and for an NCAA bid, you're going to get everybody's best shot anyway," he added.
The Red Storm, who split their home games between their Queens campus and Madison Square Garden, sport a 9-2 record at Carnesecca Arena, with both losses coming by two points. They have a decided advantage there, outscoring opponents 80.9-65.4.
A win against Creighton would be a solid building block for Mike Anderson's team.
The Red Storm (14-14, 3-12) have lost three in a row and six of seven games and know what they need to do to slow down the Bluejays train.
St. John's was within two points of Creighton midway through the second half before the Bluejays pulled away for a 94-82 win on Feb. 8.
"I thought the 3-point line was the difference and that's what (Creighton) does. They had some momentum shots," Anderson said after that loss. "I'm proud of our guys' effort. I thought our guys fought, just didn't have enough in the tank when it was all set and done."
Creighton clamped down on LJ Figueroa and held him to 12 points in the win. The Red Storm's leading scorer will have to provide more offense to give his team a chance Sunday.
"They paid a lot of attention to him. That allowed other guys to have pretty decent games," Anderson said. "He's the target. Coming into this year, he's on the top of the scouting report and it probably did get frustrating."
It would be impossible to pick out just one target on the Creighton squad, which leads the Big East in scoring, field-goal percentage, assists and 3-point shooting percentage.
The Bluejays backcourt is deadly and fearless. Marcus Zegarowski (16.1 points, 5.0 assists), Ty-Shon Alexander (16.9 points, 5.1 rebounds) and Mitch Ballock (12.0 points, 5.5 rebounds) have accounted for 221 3-pointers and 57.6 percent of CU's overall points thus far.
A hallmark of McDermott-coached teams is that they are unselfish.
"I think we're all on the same page at all times," Zegarowski said. "No one cares who scores, no one cares who does what, we just want to win."
Creighton has had a week to prepare for the Red Storm after beating visiting Butler 81-59.
"They're playing as good as anybody in the country," Butler coach LaVall Jordan said after the loss.
--Field Level Media