Villanova has all but locked up a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, but it still is fighting to at least share a piece of the Big East regular season title. Its next two Games will decide that with this trip to Creighton followed by at Seton Hall next week.
The Wildcats have a couple iffy losses (St. John’s, Providence), but with their backs against the wall, they showed up in a big way at Xavier last weekend. If they put a similar effort into this Game, the result may not be pretty for the home team. The Bluejays haven’t looked the same since Martin Krampelj went down as they’ve won just three Conference Games against weaker competition. In their last home Game, they fell at home to Marquette and it’s more than possible this team will be on the bubble if losses continue.
When these teams met at the beginning of the month, Creighton had no answer for the Villanova offense. Even with one of the most efficient defenses in the Big East, the Bluejays couldn’t stop the Wildcats from doing what they wanted en route to a 98-78 Scoreline. Creighton just gave up 90 points to Marquette at home so it’s not like its defense is much better at home. Of course, Creighton also took Xavier to the wire a couple weeks ago and could’ve easily won that Game (lost by one point).
But in that first meeting, Villanova had five guys reach double digits as it shot a ridiculous 19-of-29 from long range and turned the ball over only six times. The difference was that Creighton made only six threes and had just three offensive rebounds. The best path to envision a Creighton win is to assume ‘Nova won’t shoot lights out from three again. The Wildcats are the most efficient team in the country, but making 19 threes isn’t a regular occurrence for them, which means this Game should be closer if things go back to the mean.
Still, the Bluejays don’t have the tools to stop easy buckets, whether it’s Jalen Brunson or Mikal Bridges making plays or Donte DiVincenzo or Omari Spellman in secondary roles. It doesn’t help that Phil Booth returned to the lineup on Wednesday in a big win. All of those guys can Score20 points in any given Game and that’s not including Eric Paschall or Collin Gillespie, who have taken up bigger roles in recent weeks.
Creighton may rank well defensively, but it’s given up close to 90 points multiple times this season. To have a chance, it will need more on the offensive end and without Krampelj, the Bluejays just haven’t been the same. Marcus Foster and Khyri Thomas combined for 32 points in that first Game, but to have a chance, those two will probably need to reach more than 40 together. Both have the ability to go off for 30 points, but Thomas has really struggled with consistency as of late and he couldn’t get many open looks with the lengthy Bridges defending him in that first Game. Others will have to step up like Toby Hegner stretching the floor or Ronnie Harrell winning on the offensive glass.
The Bluejays are at home, but it’ll be hard to take them against a team that is better at just about every position on the floor. Thomas and Foster can get hot, but betting on Creighton with hopes of that happening is a stretch when Villanova has the tools to drop 90 points in every Game it plays.
Our Pick – Villanova -6.5