Preisman Precap – Varsity Basketball


Brendan Preisman, CP Sports Network

The road to Lincoln is always difficult, but the 3rd-ranked Creighton Prep Junior Jays appear to have all-wheel drive after two blowout victories to open their season.  Luke Jungers has indeed stepped up with an average of 12.5 points in the first two games, but it is the defense that has been key for Prep.  The Junior Jay defense has already bettered its mark of last year by holding 2 teams to 40 points or less (they only did that once last year), which they did in their first two games.  Despite an offseason during a pandemic, Prep appears unfazed and well on their way to contend for a state title, the second in 4 years and third in 7 years.  

The season opened with a marquee matchup against a team that gave the Junior Jays fits last year, the Islanders of Grand Island, still led by talented star Isaac Traudt.  Unfortunately, those fans who tuned in expecting an exciting matchup on par with the 57-54 and 64-62 (in overtime) classics between these teams last year were treated to a blowout.  

The Prep defense was a clinic, never letting Traudt get comfortable and holding the Islanders to 5 total points in two separate quarters.  The only reason the deficit was even below 20 is that Prep let the backups take nearly all of the fourth quarter (11 different players took at least 1 shot or free throw) and the defense let up enough to allow 16 points.  

The real key to the defense was shutting down Traudt, which they did.  They made him uncomfortable all night long, and Traudt only scored 16 points (5 off of free throws) and went 5 of 18 from the field for a 28% FG mark, something he was only lower than 3 times total last year.

The Junior Jays continued that momentum into a matchup against the #8 Papillion La Vista Monarchs, and once again Prep fans were able to breathe easy in the second half.  After a tight first quarter, Prep used runs in the second and third quarters to extend their lead, and then blew the doors open with a 22-12 fourth quarter margin.  The hero of this game was Brendan Buckley, who scored 16 points on 6/8 shooting.  

This was another great team game for the Junior Jays, who shot 58% from beyond the arc and had 10 different players shoot.  The defense also put on another classic performance, holding the Monarchs to 34% shooting from the field, and also forcing 8 turnovers. 

The dominant performances have led to a 40 point scoring differential through the team’s first 2 games, and there is reason to suggest that this dominance will continue.  Here are three reasons why:

  1. Everyone on the team has played.  This one is self-explanatory.  If you’re winning big, you’re able to get the people deep on the bench into games.  Not only has everyone on the Prep roster played, they’ve all taken at least one shot.  This shows that not only is everyone on this roster skilled enough to get good shots in a game, but that Coach Luedtke and his staff have given them the green light to do so.  Don’t be surprised if we have a John Trainer-esque scenario where someone (like Casey O’Malley or Joe Sudbeck) comes off the bench and starts draining threes later this year.
  2. 27 forced turnovers.  Again, this one is self-explanatory.  If you are able to force turnovers: a) the other team doesn’t score and b) you have a fast break opportunity.  This plays right into the hands of a team like Prep, who can use their length on defense and then their speed on offense. The Junior Jays already have 32 points off of turnovers, and if Prep can keep this kind of defensive pace up, there will be a lot more of them.  
  3. 44% 3 point shooting as a team.  Last year, the Junior Jays shot 39% from 3-point land as a team.  I brought this up in the broadcast, saying that 40% for a player is terrific (there’s a stat club called the 50-40-90 club that requires 40% 3 point shooting to get in).  Well, this year (and I know it’s a small sample size), Prep is blowing that out of the water, shooting 44%(!) as a team.  Now, let’s say that Prep regresses slightly and finishes the season at 42% percent from 3.  That’s an average of 1.26 points per shot!  That means that Prep opponents would have to shoot 63% from 2 to stay in the game or match the 42% clip from 3, but considering how Prep’s defense has played so far, something like that won’t happen, or even come close to happening.  

Upcoming schedule: Prep plays at Omaha Northwest on December 11 and at Millard West on December 12.