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Torn ACL Is the Diagnosis; Mo Watson’s Career at Creighton Ends

Torn ACL Is the Diagnosis; Mo Watson’s Career at Creighton Ends

In the first half of Monday’s game at Xavier, Creighton superstar Maurice Watson, Jr. went down with a knee injury. While the initial prognosis was somewhat positive, the final diagnosis is as bad as it gets: a torn ACL, ending his collegiate career. Take a moment and let that sink in. One of the most dynamic point guards in school history, and THE key player on a top-ten team with hopes for a big run in March, has played his final game in a Bluejay uniform.

“I’m devastated in the fact that I cannot finish out the season with my boys and that my college career is cut short during the best basketball I’ve ever played in my life,” Watson wrote in announcing the injury on Instagram. “This is a sad time now, but God has a plan for me. My boys got my back and I will be on the sidelines all the way, even if I’m in a wheelchair!”

Watson was leading the nation both in assists per game, 8.5, and total number of assists, 162, at the time of his injury. Those 162 assists were spread among nine different players, and led to 403 points, an average of 21.2 points per game. Added to the 13.4 points per game he scored, on average, and Watson directly accounted for 34.6 points per game.

But his importance went far beyond statistics. The breakneck pace with which he was able to dribble through defenses and dissect them, his electrifying passes through traffic, and his ability to dribble penetrate on almost any defender to get a basket for his team at the rim when nothing else was working — all of those are irreplaceable. His amazing ability to play point guard at 100MPH without turning it over was the linchpin in everything Creighton did offensively. Without defenses having to respect Mo’s dribble, Justin Patton doesn’t get the separation to throw down the lob dunks that turned him into a household name. Without defenses having to worry about all the ways Mo could score on them, Toby Hegner, Isaiah Zierden and other Bluejay spot-up jump shooters don’t have the open looks they got. Without his ability to find Marcus Foster at the precise moment he could most devastate a defense, he doesn’t have the best offensive year of his career.

Think about the times this year when Watson sat out with foul trouble, and how Creighton’s high-octane offense stalled and became so much easier to defend. He was their engine, and while it’s true they have a ton of talent remaining, much of the success of that talent was directly attributable to Watson.

“I’m going to fight to get back,” said Watson. “And my teammates need to keep fighting through the year. The fact that these guys battled through yesterday game gives me confidence and security that they’ll be able to go on and do great things. I intend to finish my college career and have a great impact, even if it’s not on the court.”

There’s no dodging this reality: Watson’s injury is a season-altering, and perhaps history-altering, moment in Creighton basketball. This was a team 18-1, 5-1 in the Big East, ranked seventh in the country and seemingly set up to make a run in March to the Sweet 16 or beyond. With Mo at the helm, they were the sort of nightmare team that could beat anyone, especially on short preparation in the tournament — a dynamite point guard surrounded by great shooters and a great big man, with a solid bench. Hell, their defense and rebounding were even improving. Seasons like this don’t happen overnight — they’re constructed through years of recruiting and roster development.

He transferred to Creighton from Boston University, and sat out during the extremely tough 2014-15 season as the Bluejays rebuilt for the post-Doug McDermott Era. Everything was built towards this season, when Watson would be a senior, to make their glorious return to the NCAA Tournament and announce their re-emergence to the college basketball world.

It wasn’t supposed to end like this, but here we are.

Creighton has four days to prepare for the next stage, with Marquette in town on Saturday, and they’ve got a lot of talent remaining. Marcus Foster, Khyri Thomas, Justin Patton, Cole Huff, Toby Hegner, and Isaiah Zierden are a pretty solid top-six. Ronnie Harrell seems poised to emerge after back-to-back solid games. Zach Hanson is expected to return sometime next month. The season isn’t over, and neither are their March dreams — that elusive Sweet 16 or beyond should still be the goal for this team, even if that goal became harder to achieve with this news.

Here’s to a complete recovery as soon as that’s possible, and to a long and prosperous pro career. From the bottom of this longtime Bluejay fan’s broken heart, I sincerely say: thanks a million for all the memories, Mo.

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Here’s some reaction on Twitter from Bluejay fans and around the college basketball landscape:

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