Villanova is headed toward yet another No. 1 seed and Big East title. The Wildcats are running through the conference, rarely with a blip on the radar and this Game doesn’t look to be any different. Creighton is playing well, but still isn’t the same team as it was earlier in the season with Maurice Watson. In fact, these teams met on the last day of 2016 in Omaha and the Bluejays still couldn’t win even with Watson in the lineup.
Now on the road at the Pavilion, Creighton faces an enormous test. Villanova hasn’t been completely untouchable at home this season, but still come into this without a loss, so that should say enough. Creighton has been hard to trust on the road, from losing by 20 points at Georgetown to beating Butler by nine. Nothing has been predictable for the Bluejays since Watson tore his ACL, but they’ll be hard-pressed to win without him in this Game. Watson played 31 minutes in that first meeting and while he only had six points, dished out nine assists.
Creighton was actually efficient in that 80-70 loss from an offensive perspective. Both teams shot better than 63% from inside the arc, but Nova’s edge came from three-point range and that’s what the ultimate difference was along with Villanova’s rebounding advantage of 37-22. Simply put, Creighton has a lot to do in order to come away with an upset in this Game. If the Bluejays couldn’t defend Villanova at home with Watson, then how will they on the road?
Josh Hart, Jalen Brunson and Kris Jenkins all had a fairly typical Game in that win, combining for 66 points. All of them got any shot they wanted and that was everything the Wildcats needed even though Brunson and Hart combined for nine turnovers. Those guys are expected to have plenty of success again as Creighton’s defense remains mediocre, despite what the efficiency numbers say. Last road Game, the Bluejays gave up 87 points to Seton Hall and ‘Nova is on a level above the Pirates. Daryl Reynolds hasn’t been in the lineup, but that hasn’t affected the team’s performance much with Donte DiVincenzo and Eric Paschall seeing increased minutes.
However, that does open up a route of success for Creighton, as big man Justin Patton was great in the first meeting with 18 points and eight boards and he could surpass those numbers without Reynolds opposite of him. But if Patton can’t reach those totals, there aren’t many more routes for Creighton to succeed or even keep the Game close. Marcus Foster and Khyri Thomas have been playing well along with freshman Davion Mintz, but consistency has been a major problem for them.
Creighton led 24-14 in the first half of the first meeting, but that was after starting incredibly hot from the field, scoring all of those points in the first eight minutes. Without Watson, the offense has been good, but now against the most efficient defense in the Big East, the Bluejays will likely run into trouble. And if they can’t stop Hart and Brunson on the other end, this could result in another easy win for the Wildcats at home.
Our Pick – Villanova by 10