This season almost feels like a replica of previous ones with Villanova running away with things in the Big East. The Wildcats are only a half-Game above Xavier, but that’s been the case before and they already beat the Musketeers by 24 points. At home, this team is close to unstoppable and that’s where Creighton will try and defy the odds.
The problem for the Bluejays is that they’ve already struggled on the road against decent teams, losing by 22 at Xavier and 14 at Providence. Combine those performances with the recent injury of Martin Krampelj and there’s little reason to back them. While Villanova also lost starting guard Phil Booth recently, this team just showed it could win without him taking down Marquette on the road on Sunday. Creighton’s lone difficult Game without Krampelj was the 85-71 loss at Providence.
It’s logical to think there are going to be points in this Game, but Creighton’s defense in Conference play has been surprisingly good. The Bluejays lead the Big East in defensive efficiency as well as defensive three-point percentage (31.5). That’s a big stat because Villanova shoots lights out from deep at 41.7 percent to go with 62.7 percent from two-point range. The Wildcats have the No.1 offense in the country for a reason and even without Booth, still had 85 points at Marquette almost too easily.
Creighton’s offense is the one thing that could win this Game for the road team. However, the Bluejays have fallen off a bit on that end in Conference play and it’s hard to see them having enough options to keep up in this Game. Marcus Foster (19.9 ppg) and Khyri Thomas (14.6 ppg) are by far the best scorers on the team, but the problem is that they’ll have to work extremely hard on the other end against the likes of Jalen Brunson (19.4 ppg), Mikal Bridges (16.7 ppg) and Donte DiVencenzo (13.7 ppg). The other issue is that Villanova can put Bridges on one of those guards (likely Thomas) and lock him down for most of the Game due to his size and length.
It should be a similar battle down low with Toby Hegner playing more the last few Games. But while he’s often Creighton’s tallest guy on the cOurt, he isn’t a great rebounder and is averaging less than three per Game. He can extend the floor, but ‘Nova’s Omari Spellman can do that too and Spellman is also a much better rebounder. That said, rebounding isn’t a major deal for either of these teams due to their efficient shooting percentages.
At the end of the day, Villanova has too many scorers for Creighton to be able to compete on the road. Foster and Thomas can only do so much, especially since Brunson and DiVencenzo can match and probably exceed whatever those two do. Throw in Bridges and Spellman and it’s a large advantage with Krampelj not there to help with scoring for Creighton.
The Bluejays will need to continue their great defense, but if they couldn’t stop Xavier and Providence on the road, there’s little reason to believe they’ll do so in this Game. Look for another easy home win for the Wildcats, where they’ve scored at least 89 points in every Big East contest.
Our Pick – Creighton -13