Team preview: Creighton
Blue Ribbon Yearbook previews the 2006-07 college basketball season, exclusively on Insider.
(Information in this team report is as of October 1.)
The rumblings continue every time Dana Altman wraps up another winning season at Creighton University, and that's become an annual occurrence in Omaha.
At the conclusion of March Madness, when the coaching job market is booming, Altman's name often gets thrown out there as big-time programs look for someone to rescue their school.
But why would the man who runs the best program in the state want to leave when he already has everything he could ask for already at CU?
Under Altman, the Bluejays have become the top program -- even better than the Big 12 Cornhuskers -- in Nebraska, play nightly at home in front of one of the top crowds in the nation and almost all of their games are shown on television. Plus, they play in the state-of-the-art Qwest Center.
"We get great support from the administration at the university and from the fans," said Altman, whose Bluejays ranked 20th in the nation in home attendance after drawing a Valley-record 13,901 fans per night at the Qwest Center. "I've always said the people here in Omaha and the people at Creighton have been very good to us."
It is hard not to like a coach that has won at least 20 games per season over the last eight years, a record in the 99-year history of the Missouri Valley Conference.
CU is one of only 11 teams in the nation that can make that claim, and nine of those schools are from major conferences. Kent State, which plays in the MAC, is the only exception.
The Bluejays have won five MVC Tournament titles in an eight-year span and made nine straight postseason appearances (six NCAA, three NIT).
"We've had a good streak here," said Altman, who has had only two losing seasons at Creighton, and they came in his first two years.
Last season, the Bluejays were put to the test because of injuries. Preseason All-American guard Nate Funk was lost for the year six games into the schedule because of a shoulder injury, and then point guard Josh Dotzler missed the final seven games with a knee injury.
One of the reasons CU has had a lengthy run in the Valley has been depth, and it was put to the test. Veterans Anthony Tolliver and Johnny Mathies shouldered more of the load and guard Nick Porter returned from an injury in 2004-05 to become the Valley's Newcomer of the Year.
The Bluejays missed out on the NCAA Tournament, but still won 20 games and advanced to the second-round of the NIT.
"We had a lot of injuries last year," Altman said. "We've been to two NITs in the last three years and we've had some major injuries."
This season, Funk will be back for a second chance at his senior season, and if the Bluejays can get Dotzler back as well, they should be loaded for a run at another Valley title along with a chance to be in the Big Dance in March.
Throw in possibly the best recruiting classes in Altman's tenure, and Creighton could be on the verge of something really big this season. And advancing deep into March Madness at a perceived mid-major program is about the only thing the coach hasn't done yet at CU.
If everything works out this year, Dana Altman will once again be a popular man at the end of the March.