Tuesday, January 26, 2010

JTG 01/25/10 - GTFO, P

Procrastination has its’ benefits. My plan was to get all caught up on Creighton’s travails over the last two weeks over the weekend, after the Missouri State game. A strong desire to get a little FIFA 10 in on my Xbox overcame me, however, and the article got put off until Monday night.

Well, thank you FIFA 10.

Monday afternoon, head coach Dana Altman confirmed that he indefinitely suspended junior guard P’Allen Stinnett. The reasons for the suspension were not announced, but the trouble had been brewing for some time. Stinnett had struggled with disciplinary issues throughout his Creighton career, and had lost his starting job.

In public, anyway, Stinnett’s behavior came to a head towards the end of the Missouri State game on Sunday. Stinnett received a technical foul, his second of the season and ninth (!) as a Bluejay, in the second half after arguing a foul call. Altman, a stickler for on-court discipline who is famous for telling his players that he’s the only one allowed to get a technical, could not have been pleased.

But, obviously, there’s more to the story than that. Earlier in the season, Stinnett got himself into trouble by taking a shot a Creighton’s fans on his Facebook page. He’s been in and out of Altman’s doghouse throughout his Creighton career for antics on and off the court and practice. And, most importantly, his play has been maddeningly inconsistent.

Sure, he’s talented. He’s probably the most dangerous scorer Creighton has – or, I guess, had – on the roster. But he’s also the guy you expect to make the clutch turnover at the end of a close game. He’s the guy who pouts after Booker Woodfox hits one of the biggest shots of the year because he didn’t get the ball. He’s the guy who poses for the camera after a dunk at the end of the Missouri State game – when Creighton was losing and a little defense might have been in order.

It’s hard not to draw comparison to Terrell Taylor, a supremely talented but self-centered talent Creighton had a few years ago. Much like Stinnett, Taylor clashed with the team-first ethic preached by Altman and flamed out of the program early.

Bluejay fans who like to talk about “old school” and “overachievers” welcomed Stinnett’s suspension, thinking the team will improve now that Stinnett’s distraction has been removed. In the long run, there may be some truth to that, but no Bluejay fan should kid themselves as to the short-term effect of Stinnett’s departure.

Stinnett was Creighton’s second-leading scorer, was second in assists, and led the team in steals (of course, he also led the team in turnovers). He was an offensive threat that opposing teams had to plan for. Altman has said that freshman Josh Jones will likely see the most minutes as a result of Stinnett’s departure, but that all of the wing players on CU’s roster would have to pick up the slack left behind. That’s a lot to ask a freshman, and for a team that has been walking such a razor’s edge in terms of wins and losses, it’s tough to see how Stinnett’s departure doesn’t add to Creighton’s struggles in the short term.

Oh, by the way, there’s been some games played since last we met. In the interim, Creighton has fallen into a somewhat-disturbing pattern. They’ve played tough, hard-nosed games at home, winning exciting games against Drake (73-69), Southern Illinois (71-69), Wichita State (57-56), and Missouri State (76-72). Unfortunately, they’ve also been dreadfully flat on the road, losing to Wichita State (58-70) and Illinois State (62-71), in games that weren’t as close as the scores would indicate.

There are definite signs of hope, particularly that Creighton hit their last 19 free throws to close out the win over Missouri State. But, as of yet, Creighton has not shown an ability to take their show on the road, getting their only conference road win against Evansville.

Now there’s a new factor in the equation, however. What will Stinnett’s departure do to the mentality of this team? Will the removal of a distraction help the rest of the team come together and salt away the road wins that have escaped them? Or will the loss of a powerful offensive threat be the final millstone that sinks the Bluejays season?

We’re about to find out. Creighton sits at 10-10 overall, and 5-4 in the Valley. They’re stuck in a four-team logjam for third place in the conference. This week they have two road games, against Bradley and Drake. We’ve said since November that this team was playing for the conference championship in St. Louis, but now the Bluejays only have nine games to figure out their identity post-Stinnett.

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