Last week, the USA Today/ESPN Coaches Poll ranked Creighton 15th in their preseason poll, just the second time the Jays had appeared in that poll’s preseason list. Today, the Associated Press released their preseason poll, and the Jays were picked 16th, receiving 622 points. Three opponents on this year’s schedule are either ranked or receiving votes: Wisconsin comes in at #23, while St. Joseph’s got enough votes to rank 33rd and Northern Iowa got five votes which would put them 46th.
This marks the highest preseason ranking in school history, but it’s also a historic announcement for the Missouri Valley — this is the highest any MVC team has been ranked prior to a season since 1981-82 when Wichita State was ranked #6. That Shocker team featured Valley immortals Antoine Carr and Xavier McDaniel, and would climb as high as #2 in the poll the final week of December.
The AP poll has been around since the 1950-51 season. Creighton made it’s first appearance the second week of February in 1974, when Eddie Sutton’s final Hilltopper squad made headlines first in a Sports Illustrated article detailing their coast-to-coast travels, then by upsetting #6 Marquette in Milwaukee. The Warriors had won 99 of their last 100 games at home, as coach Al McGuire had built them into one of the powerhouse programs in college hoops. After Creighton’s 75-69 victory made national headlines, the Jays moved into the AP poll for the first time in school history. That team would finish 19th after beating Texas in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, bowing out to Kansas in the second round.
They returned to the AP poll the next season, Tom Apke’s first as head coach, again in mid-February after an impressive stretch of wins made headlines. This time they’d climb as high as #13 the final week of the season; two losses dropped them from the polls but didn’t keep them out of the NCAA Tourney, where they narrowly lost to #4 Maryland 83-79 in the first round.
It would be 18 years before the Jays would return to the AP poll, despite eight NCAA Tournament berths in the interceding years. The 2002-03 team that finally returned the Jays to the Top 25 spent 15 consecutive weeks in the poll, a magical run that reached it’s apex the week of January 20 when Creighton cracked the top ten.
Creighton spent one week ranked by the AP the following season, coming in at #24 the week of January 12. A bitter loss at Northern Iowa dropped the Jays from the Top 25 just as quickly as they’d made the cut. That Panthers team was coached by Greg McDermott, and would make the second NCAA Tournament berth in school history that March. Meanwhile, Creighton limped to the finish after a 12-0 start, ending the season 20-9 with an NIT loss to Nebraska.
Before the senior campaign for Nate Funk and Anthony Tolliver, Creighton was ranked 19th in the preseason AP poll — the only other time the program has been ranked by the media before the season. A first-week loss to Nebraska deflated the hype balloon significantly, costing them every one of the 385 votes they’d garned the week before. Amusingly, Nebraska picked up one vote that week. By mid-February, as their season righted itself, the Jays slowly began accumulating votes each week, and as they entered the NCAA Tournament following an MVC Tournament title, they found themselves 29th in the final AP poll.
Creighton spent 11 weeks in the Associated Press poll last season, peaking at #13 the week of January 30th, before ranking No. 19 in the final AP poll issued prior to the NCAA Tournament.