Return of Ryan Kalkbrenner gives Creighton new boost

The Creighton men’s basketball team was poised to be the team out of the Big East Conference that could win a national championship this year.

Creighton (9-6, 3-1 Big East) ranked No. 9 in the Associated Press Top 25 poll when it was released on Oct. 17. With that ranking, and one of the best starting lineups in college basketball, things were shaping up to be a special season for the Bluejays.

All of that optimism and excitement quickly came crashing down in December. After participating in the Maui Invitational where Creighton only lost in the championship game to then-No. 14 Arizona, it lost its next five games. That six-game losing streak included a loss in its Big East opener against Marquette on Dec. 16.

Where had things taken a turn? Why was head coach Greg McDermott’s team seemingly falling apart before it even got into the heart of conference play?

Ryan Kalkbrenner. The junior forward missed three-straight games after playing 32 minutes in a loss to Nebraska. Without Kalkbrenner, Creighton lost to BYU, Arizona State and Marquette.

Since his return, Creighton hasn’t lost a game. Creighton has won its last three games on average by almost 20 points. The Bluejays have found their groove again with the start of the new year.

In those victories, Kalkbrenner has scored 19, 4 and 17 points, respectively. Those four points he scored against DePaul were after he only attempted three shots for the entire game.

Kalkbrenner doesn’t only impact scoring, he is also a force on the glass and his defensive ability is nothing to shy away from.

Creighton is not short on superstars when it comes to its starting five. Don’t forget the Bluejays also have Ryan Nembhard, Trey Alexander, Baylor Scheierman and Arthur Kaluma. All four of those players are difference makers, but lately, the biggest difference maker has been Kalkbrenner.

So, if you were ready to throw in the towel on this Creighton squad after it lost six-straight games, think again. These Bluejays are healthy and ready to take on a wide open Big East.

The next two games will be substantial tests for Creighton as it plays at No. 4 Connecticut (Jan. 7) and at No. 18 Xavier (Jan. 11).

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