#4 Villanova Wildcats (17-2) vs. Creighton Bluejays (9-11)
When: Sunday, January 25, 2015, at 7 p.m.
Where: The Pavilion
Coverage: Fox Sports 1
Creighton’s Previous Season Record: 27-8, Lost to Baylor in Third Round of NCAA Tournament
Key Players for Creighton: #1 Austin Chatman (6-0, 180) Sr., G; #21 Isaiah Zierden (6-2, 180) So., G; #5 Devin Brooks (6-2, 175) Sr., G
Scouting Report: Year one of the post-Doug McDermott era isn’t going too well for Creighton. While it was expected that the Bluejays would dip in this year’s standings, I don’t think head coach Greg McDermott is too pleased with the current eight-game losing streak. They went from having the top offense in the Big East last year, to the second-worst with 69.4 points per game. Austin Chatman is the lone returning starter from last season’s squad. It’s only fitting that the senior leader plays the role as facilitator on the floor. Chatman leads the way with a team-high 11.0 points per game and 4.2 assists per game. In the last five games, he averaged a meager 3.8 points per game. Chatman is the only player on Creighton’s roster that averages double-digit scoring so far this season. However, that’s not completely a bad thing, because Creighton likes to spread the ball around and have everyone contribute. Each player does a little of everything. Devin Brooks is an athletic guard who is a solid slasher and finisher around the basket. He’s also a hard-nosed guard who excels at grabbing rebounds. Brooks has a team-high 5.0 rebounds per game. Isaiah Zierden and Toby Hegner create a formidable duo from long range as the team’s top three point shooters. Zierden can really sling it from deep, sinking 39.6% of three point shots. While they’re not Ethan Wragge numbers, you still need to respect what he can do to opposing teams. Hegner is shooting 36.6% from long range. Both Zierden and Hegner are excellent from the free throw line, making 90% and 84.6% of them respectively. Opposing teams do not want to allow either of these guys to establish a rhythm. Another scoring threat to watch for is James Milliken. In his first year as a Bluejay after transferring from junior college, Milliken has made it known that he can be a dangerous scorer. He is capable of scoring from anywhere on the court, but has issues with consistency. Since Big East play started, he has notched a couple of 20+ point games under his belt. He also has scored less than eight points in four of the seven conference games played so far. Will Artino is the man in the middle, he can chip in points here and there, as well as collect boards. His backup is Geoffrey Groselle. Grosselle comes in at seven feet tall, but there doesn’t seem to be much behind him other than his size. Rick Kreklow, Avery Dingman, and Zach Hanson round off the deep Creighton rotation. Kreklow and Hanson provide quality minutes off the bench, while Dingman is an all-around starter.
Outlook: It’s weird to think that last year there were talks of creating a Villanova-Creighton rivalry. It seems that as soon as McDermott left, he brought a lot with him. A rivalry seems distant now, with the wide gap in standings. For starters, the buildup isn’t there anymore. This game was scheduled to be in the Pavilion before the season started, as opposed to last year’s venue – the Wells Fargo Center. The Bluejays aren’t a one-man show anymore. Now, they are just remnants a supporting cast. They no longer have that dynamic player they could just lean on to bail them out. Their offense just isn’t the same. During this eight-game losing streak, the Bluejays have averaged only 59.6 points per game. As evidenced, Creighton’s big problem is putting points on the board. Teams are not going to win many games if they are scoring 59-60 points a game. Their defense seems to be doing just fine, which is what prevents them from being a total shipwreck.
Overall, this team has a lot in common with Villanova. Creighton is selfless, they love to share the ball. The Bluejays also have tremendous depth, expect them to play 10-11 guys tomorrow night. What separates Villanova from Creighton is the Wildcats’ level of talent. Villanova has more talent than Creighton at every position. The Wildcats will have to put that talent to use and get back on track. Georgetown seemed to contain everyone but Ryan Arcidiacono. Even if Creighton is able to replicate the Hoyas’ defense, they don’t have the firepower to blow by Villanova.
I’m not too concerned with this one. I see Villanova getting their first ever Big East win over Creighton and the Bluejays’ losing streak extending to nine games.