Creighton is leaning too hard on Austin Chatman

Last season, despite having the nation’s best scorer on their roster in Doug McDermott, one of Creighton’s best assets was that they spread the production among those on the roster. McDermott got the buckets to the tune of 26.7 points per game on 52.6 percent shooting, but five other players averaged at least six points per game while all five shot at least 42 percent from the field.

Austin Chatman, who has emerged — as expected — as the top offensive option for the Blue Jays in 2014-15, finished last year putting up 8.1 points per game. This season, Chatman is cranking out 13.3 points, 5.1 assists and 4.8 rebounds per game, hitting shots at a 40.4 percent clip.

Those numbers aren’t a bad thing. The following numbers, however, could be.

Chatman’s minutes per game have recently spiked. In Creighton’s last five contests, the senior from The Colony, Texas, is clocking 44 minutes per game and hasn’t played less than 35. In Creighton’s last game, a 91-88 win over South Dakota in double overtime, Chatman played 47 of a possible 50 minutes. It’s the second time he’s played at least 40 minutes, along with the Blue Jays’ 57-47 win over Middle Tennessee State, where he played the entire game. Against Ole Miss, Chatman played  39 minutes.

If Creighton wants to compete in the Big East in their second season in the conference, they’ll want to save Chatman’s legs for conference play. In these past five games, Creighton is 3-2 — after starting the season 5-0 with a win over a ranked opponent — with Chatman getting way too much burn.

Add all that in with the fact that Chatman leads the Blue Jays in assists and is second by a tenth of a percentage point in rebounding, you’ll see he’s doing it all. A high amount of minutes along with a high percentage of stats this early? Not good. In a 65-63 victory over then-no. 18 Oklahoma on Nov. 19, Chatman went for 17 points, 11 rebounds and 6 assists in 38 minutes. Too much run, too early (though it could be argued that a win like that will look too good on the Blue Jays’ resume to hold anyone back, and I’d be inclined to agree). Four players already average 20-plus minutes for Creighton, so the problem isn’t others’ minutes going up. It’s Chatman’s minutes needing to be scaled back.

Then, you look at what else Creighton has on its roster. Outside of Isaiah Zierden’s 12.4 points per game, there isn’t a ton of help for Chatman to rely on in the scoring department. The middle of the roster is balanced with mid-level scoring, as five players average between 6.1 and 8.7 points per game, but a third scoring threat will have to emerge hitting a higher clip. Will Artino, who is third on the roster averaging just under nine points per game, should be the likely candidate to jump his production up, as he’s shot at least 62.3 percent in three previous seasons and leads the team in rebounds. Freshman Toby Hegner’s 7.5 ppg could also increase if he can find his shooting touch (he dropped in 11 against the Sooners).

It’s not a ridiculous task to find some offensive help for Chatman. Coach Greg McDermott is a solid coach who could really take advantage of his first post-Doug season if he raises the level of his team on offense.

None of this is to say Chatman can’t handle the workload. He clearly can. But the schedule will get harder for the Blue Jays as they welcome St. Mary’s to Omaha on Saturday and open conference play at Providence on Dec. 31. As the schedule gets tougher, so will Chatman’s ability to keep going 35-40 minutes per game. And if Creighton wants another trip to the NCAA Tournament, Greg McDermott might want to look one year into the past to see how they were successful with sharing the responsibilities, even if the numbers didn’t show it.

Love it, hate it, think you can do better? Find David on Twitter at @David_Harten.

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