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Xavier

vs.

Creighton

College Basketball

Pick

2/10/18

Xavier has a shot to get a 1-seed for the NCAA tournament, but it has to win games like this one. The Musketeers did just that when they took down Butler in overtime on Tuesday and this is an equally difficult game. Creighton has yet to lose at home this season already with easy wins over teams like Butler and Seton Hall.

Creighton’s home record is important to look at for this game because it has played much different on the road and that was seen in the first meeting between these teams. Xavier won almost too easily in that game scoring 1.18 points per possession en route to a 92-70 score. The Musketeers dominated the offensive glass (13 boards) and went 11-of-24 from deep and that was it. Again, it’s hard to put too much into that result as Creighton already beat teams at home that it was destroyed by on the road.

Creighton’s Martin Krampelj played in that first game, although fouled out with just four points in 22 minutes so his absence due to a torn ACL may not make things much different. The Bluejays will aim to ride their defense in this game, which ranks first in the Big East in terms of efficiency. They also rank second in the conference in offensive effective FG% (56.4) and that’s usually been a main advantage in home games.

To win this one, Creighton clearly has to play much better defensively and get more than 24 points from its starters. The good news is that while Xavier has shooters in Trevon Bluiett and Kaiser Gates, it’s likely the Musketeers won’t make almost half of their three pointers again. The bigger question may be what Creighton can do against Xavier’s bigs in Kerem Kanter, Sean O’Mara and Gates. Those three guys could all dominate the glass with Creighton’s former leading rebounder Krampelj out. It’s been more of a team effort as Toby Hegner, the team’s tallest player, isn’t a good rebounder. But if Creighton struggles in the paint again and gives up offensive boards, it’ll immediately be in a hole.

Throw in what Bluiett and J.P. Macura can do on the perimeter and the Bluejays have a long way to go. But as said above, Creighton is a much different team at home. The backcourt duo of Marcus Foster (19.9 ppg) and Khyri Thomas (14.5 ppg) is one of the best in the conference and neither of those guys stood out in the first meeting. In fact, Thomas probably had his worst performance of the season. While that was partly due to Xavier’s length with Macura and Bluiett, it’s hard to see Thomas being completely shutdown again.

To win this game, those two will have to show up, as well as Hegner, who stretches the floor. Ronnie Harrell is another guy that can make a different even if he hasn’t done much offensively since becoming a starter. He had 13 points in the first meeting and his versatility at power forward was a clear problem for Xavier.

It makes sense to back the Musketeers in this situation given how the last game played out, but until the Bluejays lose at home, there’s no reason to go against them. Foster and Thomas can match what Bluiett and Macura bring and that could end up being enough as long as Creighton holds its own on the glass.

Our Pick - Xavier +1.5

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