#6 Villanova Wildcats (16-1) vs. Creighton Blue Jays (15-3)
When: Monday, January 20, 2014, 7 p.m.
Where: Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia, PA
Coverage: Fox Sports 1
Creighton’s Previous Season Record: 28-8, Lost in Third Round of NCAA Tournament to Duke
Key Players for Creighton: #3 Doug McDermott (6-8, 225) Sr., F; #34 Ethan Wragge (6-7, 225) Sr., F; #12 Jahenns Manigat (6-1, 185) Sr., G
Scouting Report: The team lives and dies by Doug McDermott. McDermott has been named First Team All-American for the past two years, by the way he is playing right now, he is on his way to make it three years in a row. He is currently the highest scorer in all of Division I, leading active players with well over 2,500 points, and counting. The conference realignment is no issue for him either, so far this season he has been named Big East Player of the Week five times. He’s also famous for being the coach’s son, it does not faze him though. Despite all the chants that may come his way, he has proven himself worthy by the way he plays. Twenty, thirty point nights are the norm if you are Doug McDermott. Due to this production and achievement, he has many NBA scouts examining his play. He lives up to the hype of being an excellent scorer. He is capable of scoring from anywhere on the court, whether it be inside in the post, or from long range beyond the arc, he gets the job done. His scoring has gone up from 23.2 to 24.9 this season. His shooting percentages may have dropped, but they are still impressive. This season he is shooting 49.5% on the floor, including 43.4% from long range. When he goes to the free throw line, he is a sure bet, converting nearly 90% of his attempts. His one drawback is the defensive side of his game. He is excellent on offense, but he lacks the athleticism and quickness to play defense. On offense, he compensates for the lack of athleticism with his high basketball IQ and smart play. On defense, one needs the quickness and athleticism to be great. His defensive game is something that has deterred some NBA scouts. He is also a solid rebounder, grabbing about seven boards per game.
When it comes to Creighton, McDermott is the first name that comes to mind, however there are four other players taking the court alongside him. While teams may focus on McDermott, there are other players for the Blue Jays that can quietly rack up points. Ethan Wragge is a senior forward who is the second highest scorer on the team. He is the only other person on the team that averages double digits with 11.9 points per game and is shooting 50% from three point range. Jahenns Manigat is listed as a key player, but the honest truth is that anyone on the Blue Jay squad can take this third spot. Aside from McDermott and Wragge, anyone can step up and have a helpful night. They have a deep squad and like to rotate and distribute playing time. However, Manigat has been playing well lately. He averages 7.9 points per game, 3.2 rebounds and assists per game, and 1.4 steals per game. He is 12 for 13 from the free throw line and is a decent shooter. Keep an eye out also for Devin Brooks and Austin Chatman, they are both capable of getting on a roll and chipping in a ten point night off the bench. It may only be a ten point night for them, but it has been shown that those ten points can go a long way. Brooks is the third highest scorer on the team and is solid contributor in his role off the bench. He had ten points in the loss to Providence while others struggled to get something going. As a team, they like to move the ball around and spread it across the floor. Their 19 assists per game leads all of Division I.
Outlook: When it comes to observing these teams from the Big East, at face value a lot them match up like “rock, paper, scissors.” Creighton can beat Butler and Seton Hall convincingly, but lose pretty badly to Providence. The Friars lost a close one to Seton Hall and got beaten by 30 to Villanova, is that good for us? In a way, yes. For Creighton, maybe it was a case of overlooking Providence and focusing on the big game Monday night. Regardless, the stakes have gone up for the Wildcats, as they will have much more lose should Creighton fall out of the Top 25. Villanova is undefeated at home this season, and has not lost a game since two seasons ago at the Wells Fargo Center. Creighton is a team that is vulnerable on the road. St. Joe’s gave them a hard time, and their two losses earlier this season was at a neutral site, so it’s pretty much a road game. Now, they are coming off of a beatdown from Providence. Villanova is the favorite for this one, but it might not be easy. Don’t be surprised if they do not win by a comfortable margin, it very well may be a close back and forth duel like the Butler game. Creighton has a high powered offense and will look to outgun their opponents, their defense can be a bit lacking at times but is not overly incompetent. McDermott is talented is one of the best scorers in the nation, and they are going to want to at least slow him down. Pressure the other guys on the Creighton squad, as they probably do not function well when they have to step up when McDermott is contained. Earlier this season Creighton put up a season low 53 points in a loss to George Washington. Why? Because McDermott only put up seven points and shot 2 for 12 from the field. It all starts and ends with him, as every team probably knows. The scary part is how he puts up the numbers he does when defenses are geared towards stopping him. Villanova needs to bring him back down to Earth and the win is theirs for the taking.