This may be the best version yet of the new Big East and that’s seen in this matchup. Both Creighton and Xavier come in ranked and there’s no reason to doubt either of them. The Bluejays have reeled off Four solid wins, but none of them can compare to a trip a trip to Cincinnati against a Xavier team that’s in need of a win.
The Musketeers are coming off back-to-back losses, but it’s hard to fault them for losing two road Games against quality teams. They still haven’t lost at home, although single-digit wins over DePaul and Butler may be reason enough to take Creighton against the spread in this one. In fact, Xavier has fallen behind early in a lot of its recent wins and that’s turned into six-straight wins by 10 points or less. If Creighton can get out to a hot start, a cover is definitely in the cards if not a win.
The Bluejays almost stole a win at Seton Hall a couple weeks ago but lost it late and then ran away from Georgetown in their only other road Game. The talent on this team is reason enough to back them in any Game and even with a lack of size, is still one of the best defensive rebounding teams in the country. But at some point, Creighton’s inability to get to the free-throw line is going to hurt them and it’ll likely be on the road.
Xavier’s big test will be keeping guards Marcus Foster (19 ppg) and Khyri Thomas (14.9) in check, both of whom can go off any night. Foster is the biggest threat, averaging almost three made threes per Game. He’ll find some resistance going against the defensive-minded Quentin Goodin or possibly even JP MACura if that’s the route Xavier takes. But with both Foster and Thomas coming in on the shorter side, it could be an issue trying to guard the bigger MACura (13.1 ppg) and Trevon Bluiett (19.4 ppg), Xavier’s two best players. MACura and Bluiett provide almost the same amount of production as Foster and Thomas on the other side, but due to a few extra inches, grab more rebounds.
If that matchup evens out, the next question is what happens down low. Conveniently, it’s another similar battle with Creighton’s Martin Krampelj and Xavier’s Kerem Kanter. Neither guy plays more than 25 minutes per night, but both are considered almost automatic offense down low and can also shoot from distance if needed.
No matter what happens in this Game, it’s likely both of these teams will be fighting in the Big East standings all season simply because of how similar of teams they are. There are many things that stand out between them outside of Creighton’s three-point defense (29.5%) and defensive rebounding. Both teams shoot efficiently and limit turnovers. This one should come down to the wire and while Xavier is at home, the end result could depend on which veteran players don’t mess up. Creighton’s 12th-best turnover rate in the nation could come in handy and may be what the Bluejays need to steal a road win. That said, the Musketeers are desperate for a win and won’t go down easy at home.
Our Pick – Xavier -3.5