Villanova is starting to come around a bit and remains undefeated in the Big East. That’ll change at some point, but the Wildcats have found ways to get wins in Conference play even if they aren’t pretty, winning all three by six points or less. Creighton is hoping to change that and if it wants a chance at the NCAA Tournament, needs to win home Games like this one.
The Bluejays were fine in non-Conference play, but a home loss to Ohio State could be costly and they come into this one with back-to-back losses. With two upcoming road Games, this has to be a win if they want to finish with a winning record in Conference play.
While Creighton likes to play a little quicker, this one could go similar to how most have gone for Villanova since it has one of the slowest adjusted tempos in the country. The Bluejays may want to play fast, but that may not work in this situation because their defense doesn’t rank well, giving up a poor effective field goal percentage. Villanova isn’t as good as prior years, but its offense has still been efficient, ranking 13th in the country in adjusted efficiency. Slowing the Game down may actually help the home team because its offense is loaded with shooters and should be able to Scoreagainst a mediocre ‘Nova defense.
Both teams are built the same way so there are no major matchup advantages, though the Bluejays are a little more balanced. Ty-Shon Alexander (16.7 ppg), Mitch Ballock, Davion Mintz and Marcus Zegarowski all shoot better than 40 percent from three, while Damien Jefferson also does but he has just 28 attempts. The return of big man Martin Krampelj also can’t be overlooked after he tore his ACL last January. After starting the season slow, he’s averaging 16 points and eight rebounds over the last six Games, which gives the offense another dimension, especially since he isn’t afraid to shoot from deep.
Oddly, Creighton is the type of team that Villanova usually has. The difference for Villanova is that the only guy shooting better than 40 percent from three is Joe Cremo, who plays 20 minutes per Game. It’s mostly a two-man offensive Game between Eric Paschall (16.3 ppg, 6.3 rpg) and Phil Booth (17.6 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 3.5 apg), and if one of them isn’t hitting shots, this team is often put in a hole. Guys like Collin Gillespie and Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree are mostly there for defensive purposes and not to make mistakes on the offensive end.
To win, Creighton needs to stop one of Villanova’s guys and if not, this will come down to the final couple minutes, like most ‘Nova Games have been. The problem is that they don’t have a great player to match up with Paschall. Krampelj likely doesn’t have the athleticism, which means a shorter player like Jefferson or Ballock has to mark the bigger Paschall. And just like Villanova, Creighton doesn’t use a big bench with six main guys rotating the majority of the Game.
The Bluejays are at home and more balanced, but the Wildcats may have the two best players on the cOurt in Booth and Paschall. It’ll come down to what you trust more in terms of betting. While these teams had much different rosters last year, Creighton won in this spot in overtime late last season, 89-83.
Our Pick – Villanova +1