Grant Gibbs' return gives Creighton chance to contend for league title

By Jeff Borzello | College Basketball Writer

Grant Gibbs adds a different dimension to Creighton's prolific offensive attack. (USATSI)
Grant Gibbs adds a different dimension to Creighton's prolific offensive attack. (USTASI)

We've had plenty of high-major transfers and college commitments over the past couple of months, but one of the bigger personnel moves of the offseason falls into neither category.

It was a decision by the NCAA -- granting (pun halfway intended) Creighton guard Grant Gibbs a sixth year of eligibility.

While Grant Gibbs' numbers -- 8.5 points, 4.1 rebounds, 5.8 assists -- don't jump off the page at most people, there's little questioning his impact on the Bluejays. In fact, with the senior guard from Iowa back in the mix, it's not far-fetched to consider Creighton the new favorite in the Big East.

Gibbs' impact on Creighton is more than just regular statistics. He's arguably the second-biggest reason the Bluejays have had one of the most efficient offenses in the country the past two seasons. Doug McDermott deservedly gets more attention and celebrity, but Gibbs' versatility and ability to initiate the offense from different spots on the floor gives the Bluejays an added dimension. And at 6 feet 5, Gibbs causes matchup problems with his size and outstanding vision.

McDermott made the surprising decision to return to school, while Gibbs received surprising news with the extra year of eligibility. Now that those two are set to be one of the most effective duos once again, does it change the pecking order of the Big East? It certainly might.

Creighton also brings back 3-point shooting forward Ethan Wragge and starting point guard Austin Chatman, and guard Jahenns Manigat returns on the perimeter. Throw in two top-50 junior college transfers and three-star center Toby Hegner, and the Bluejays have the pieces to be a contender.

But are they the favorites? That remains to be seen.

Georgetown only loses Otto Porter from last year's team, although forward Greg Whittington is out for an extended period of time with an injury. Markel Starks and D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera could be good enough to carry the offense, though.

Marquette loses three of its top five scorers, but Davante Gardner and Jamil Wilson are back in the frontcourt, and Buzz Williams welcomes a loaded recruiting class that includes plenty of perimeter reinforcements.

Providence and St. John's are both very talented and will be improved from last season, while Villanova should also be better than last season's NCAA tournament group. And Butler and Xavier will also be in the mix for the top half of the league.

Without Gibbs, Creighton would have been a notch below Marquette and likely Georgetown. That's no longer the case.

There's a ton of talent coming back into the Big East, but now Creighton has enough pieces to contend for a league title.

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