No. 18 Creighton shot fewer threes in the rematch than they made in the opener, but that didn’t matter.
The Bluejays still managed to put up triple-digits on No. 6 Villanova in Omaha, beating the Wildcats 101-80 behind 39 points from National Player of the Year favorite Doug McDermott.
That means that in two games against Villanova, Creighton beat them 197-148. They shot 60% from three (30-for-50) and 60.4% from the floor. They scored 1.449 PPP in the two games. For those that aren’t well versed in efficiency numbers, that’s a ridiculous number.
There’s an important note to make here: Creighton is not as good as they played in these two games against Villanova, and the Wildcats are not overrated because they ran into the buzzsaw know as “when Creighton’s offense is clicking” twice.
What Creighton does is put shooters are every spot on the floor. In the first matchup with Villanova, the Bluejays simply lit up Jay Wright’s team from the perimeter, hitting 21-for-35 from three. On Sunday, Villanova tried their best to take away the three, but what that opened up was the paint. Creighton was able to beat Villanova off the dribble or on off-the-ball cuts, getting whatever they wanted around the rim. Since Daniel Ochefu, the only real shot-blocking threat on the roster, had to chase Ethan Wragge around the perimeter, Villanova had no defense around the bucket.
And then there is the Dougie McBuckets issue. He moves without the ball more than anyone in the country and is lethal when he gets the ball in the post, but help-side and post-doubles are difficult given how well the Bluejays move the ball and shoot from three.
There are two ways to beat this Creighton team. You need to have the length and athleticism to be able to switch all screens, or you need to be able to muck the game up, getting physical with McDermott and keeping him from getting clean looks from three, curls off of an in-screen or comfortable touches in the post.
Then you need to hope that they have an off-night, because if they’re hitting, they’re going to be tough to beat regardless of what you do.
Over the course of the holiday week, we at College Basketball Talk will be detailing what we believe will be the New Year’s Resolutions of some of the nation’s most talented, most disappointing, and thoroughly enigmatic teams. What can we say, we’re in a giving mood.
WHAT DOES CREIGHTON PROMISE TO DO MORE OF?: Become a more disruptive defensive team.
Why it will happen: Creighton may have the best offensive player and offense in the country, but their defense has holes that may come back to bite them as they embark on their first season in the Big East. With a team that is so high-powered on offense with a bevy of shooters, they will be able to get by — for the most part — with a mediocre defense. Guards Devin Brooks and Jahenns Manigat are both more than adequate perimeter defenders, and they should match-up well with the top guards in the Big East.
Why it won’t happen: Their defensive numbers actually don’t look too bad through the non-conference as they give up 65 ppg, but what is of concern is their inability to force turnovers. The Bluejays played a very pedestrian non-conference schedule, and the Big East figures to pose a much greater challenge to their defense. The prior two seasons, Creighton’s defense was actually worse than it is the year, so improvement has been made. However, not having a stopper in the paint like Greg Echenique will make it difficult to defend teams like Marquette and Georgetown who have imposing front-courts.
WHAT DOES CREIGHTON SWEAR THEY WILL DO LESS OF?: Head coach Greg McDermott will not have as short of a leash for guard Devin Brooks.
Why it will happen: Devin Brooks is in his first season with Creighton after transferring from Iowa Western CC. The Creighton offense isn’t one that anybody can simply step into and excel, but Brooks has done a solid job thus far coming off the bench as he’s averaging 8.1 points, 4.0 rpg, and 2.9 assists in just over 16 minutes of action — very productive. With the Big East featuring some of the best guards in the country, don’t be surprised if Brooks has his minutes extended and McDermott allows him to play through mistakes.
Why it won’t happen: Creighton is averaging nearly 83 ppg and, as previously mentioned, may have the best offense in the country. Why tamper with that? Senior shooting guard Jahenns Manigat, who is in his fourth season with Creighton, boasts a 2.9:1 assist to turnover ratio, while starting point guard Austin Chatman leads the team with assists at 4.3 per game. Until Creighton begins to struggle in the Big East or Brooks plays so well in practices / games that he leaves McDermott no choice but to see more minutes, Brooks will continue his role off the bench playing 15 minutes or so a night.
GAME OF THE DAY: No. 10 Connecticut at Washington (3:30 p.m., ESPNU) — all times eastern
The Huskies are coming off their first loss of the season as they lost to Stanford at home this past Wednesday, 53-51. Now, in their first true road game of the season, Connecticut will face another Pac-12 team in Washington. Against Stanford, the Huskies’ ability to win close games in the final minute came to an end; they were 4-0 in games decided by one possession. Washington has really struggled this season, limping out to a 6-4 start with their best win against Montana, but a cross-country trip for UConn and playing against an ostensibly hungry team makes this a tough game.
THE OTHER GAME OF THE DAY: California at Creighton (7:00 p.m., FOX Sports 1)
If you’re looking for something to watch in between the 4:00 p.m. NFL games and Sunday night football, check this one out. While both California and Creighton have one non-conference game remaining on their respective slates following this one (California vs. Furman, Creighton vs. Chicago State), the game today is the final opportunity to pick up a quality non-conference win. The Blue Jay offense is clicking again, following a season-low 53 point output against George Washington where Doug McDermott was held to just seven points. Meanwhile, Cal has rebounded after losing at UC Santa Barbara by winning their following two games against Nevada and Fresno State.
WHO’S GETTING UPSET? Brown at Northwestern (2:00 p.m.)
Chris Collins and Northwestern need to approach today’s game against Brown very seriously. If not, the Bears are good enough to upset them in Evanston, IL. Not a whole lot was expected of Northwestern in Collins’ first season at the helm, but the Wildcats have struggled perhaps more than some expected. Their best win has come against Western Michigan, and currently stand at 6-5 on the year. Brown senior guard Sean McGonagill shoots the ball as well as anyone in the country (32-76 3PT), and if JerShonn Cobb is unable to play due to an ankle injury that will make slowing McGonagill that much more difficult.
MID-MAJOR GAME OF THE DAY: Boise State at Hawaii (1:00 a.m., ESPNU)
After beginning the season 8-0, Boise State has lost two straight against Kentucky and St. Mary’s. The Broncos look to rebound against Hawaii, but winning against the Warriors in Hawaii is never an easy task. This is the final game of Boise State’s non-conference schedule before Mountain West play begins. While they have a nice win against Utah, winning on the road at Hawaii would boost their resume, even if only marginally.
FIVE THINGS TO KNOW
1) Connecticut probably isn’t as good as their No. 10 ranking suggests, and Shabazz Napier wasn’t going to continually hit game-winning shots in the final minute to propel the Huskies to close victories — to that end, UConn’s flaws were exposed by Stanford. UConn scored a mere 13 points in the second half against the Cardinal. Heading out west to play Washington, I will go as far to say that UConn needs to win this game.
2) A big opportunity at the end of the non-conference for Purdue and West Virginia today. Each team doesn’t figure to seriously factor into their respective conference races — Purdue in the Big Ten and West Virginia in the Big 12 — as neither has performed well to date. The team who walks away from today’s game with a win today, however, will at least have some good feelings and something to build upon moving into 2014.
3) I think Northwestern should be on upset alert more than Mississippi, but don’t be surprised if Mercer gives the Rebels everything they can handle. Mercer is a solid team. They nearly beat Texas in their season-opener, and own solid overtime victories against Seton Hall and Denver. At this point, Mercer has to be considered the team to beat in the Atlantic Sun. If Mississippi leaves this game victorious, it may be against a Top 100 RPI team come March — critical, considering that Mississippi may find themselves sitting on the bubble.
4) Akron has a good opportunity to pick up a victory over a BCS team for the MAC as they travel to Hawaii to face Oregon State. The Zips have won four straight with three of the wins coming against solid teams in Cleveland State, Oral Roberts, and Detroit. While Oregon State is 6-2, don’t let that record fool you. Sure, the Beavers have a road win against Maryland, but they have played one of the weakest schedules in the country. On a neutral court, Akron has a good shot at winning this game.
5) There are ten undefeated teams remaining, and three are in action today: Iowa State, St. Mary’s, and Wichita State. The team most in danger of losing today is Iowa State as they play George Mason in Hawaii.
THE REST OF THE TOP 25:
No 11 Wichita State vs. North Carolina Central, 8:00 p.m.
No. 12 Baylor vs. Southern University, 5:00 p.m.
No. 17 Iowa State vs. George Mason, 5:30 p.m., ESPNU at the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic
No. 25 Iowa vs. Arkansas-Pine Bluff , 2:00 p.m., ESPN3
Indiana vs. Kennesaw State, 12:00 p.m., Big Ten Network
In a day full of great games, Villanova knocking off No. 2 and previously undefeated Kansas takes the cake. The game was hardly pretty, but that doesn’t much matter to Jay Wright. In fact, it seemed like Wright’s game plan against Kansas was to play in the mud — a physical, grind-it-out kind of battle. Ryan Arcidiacono hit only one shot all night, but it was a critical one as his three-pointer from the corner put Villanova on top 61-59 with ten seconds remaining.
2) San Diego State acquitted themselves well when they played Arizona earlier this month — a 69-60 loss at home — but they confirmed they are a true contender in the Mountain West with an 86-80 victory over Creighton. There’s no doubting just how good Doug McDermott and the Creighton offense are, but their defense leaves much to be desired. Spotting the Aztecs a 19 point lead in the second half was too deep a hole to climb out of in the end.
3) It took three overtimes and delayed the start of the marquee game of the day between Arizona and Duke, but Drexel outlasted Alabama 85-83. The Dragons are now 4-2 with a good win over Alabama, and strong showings against UCLA and Arizona, despite both being losses. Chris Fouch was an absolute warrior today playing 54 minutes and willing Drexel’s way to the win. Bruiser Flint has a good group who will challenge for the CAA title.
1) Mercer’s Jakob Gollon had a day. The senior forward entered Friday’s game against Valparaiso averaging 6.4 points, but exploded for 37 points in the Bears’ triple overtime win over Valpo. Dropping 37 points on 17 shots is remarkably efficient. To go along with the scoring effort, Gollon also dished out seven assists and pulled down seven rebounds.
2) There may not be another player in the country whose team missed him as much last season as Penn State did with Tim Frazier. Frazier demonstrated just how important he is to the Nittany Lions as he propelled his team to an overtime victory over St. John’s going off for 29 points. He didn’t shoot particularly well — just 5-14 from the field — but he got to the free throw line 20 times, making 17 of his attempts.
3) Langston Galloway filled up the stat sheet in a big way for St. Joseph’s in a 78-66 win over Siena. The senior guard poured in 27 points (6-10 3PT), had seven rebounds, three assists, and five steals.
1) It was a bad time for Southern Mississippi to play Louisville as this was the Cardinals first game following their loss to North Carolina. The Golden Eagles, who entered the game 6-0 and are one of the top teams in Conference USA, scored just 13 first half points and shot 29% as a team for the game en route to a 69-38 loss.
2) The transition to Division 1 hasn’t been a pleasant one thus far for Abilene Christian. Entering tonight they were 2-6 with their only wins coming against sub-D1 teams, and five of the losses being blowouts. Tonight, they suffered their seventh loss of the season to West Alabama, a sub-D1 team.
3) Chris Bolden has had a rough start to the season. He was suspended for the first three games of the season for a violation of team rules, and since he has rejoined the team he has been less than stellar shooting a combined 7-34 in four games. Against Mississippi, a 77-67 loss, Bolden was 1-8 from the field. Bolden will need to be better if Georgia Tech has any chance at have a good season.
Missouri moved to 7-0 with an 83-70 win over Nevada. Jabari Brown, Earnest Ross, and Jordan Clarkson did nearly all the scoring as they combined for 73 points.
Tennessee bounced back with a 64-49 win over Xavier a day after losing to UTEP.
No. 5 Oklahoma State had a 44-30 halftime lead over Butler, but nearly gave it away in the second half. They ended up winning 69-67 and will meet No. 21 Memphis in the championship game of the Old Spice Classic.
Behind 19 points off the bench from Anthony Gill, Virginia defeated SMU, 76-73.
Cincinnati moved to 6-0 with a win over Kennesaw State, but the Bearcats’ schedule has been hardly challenging to date.
Denver lost to Pepperdine in the Great Alaska Shootout to move to 0-4. A tough start for a team looking to challenge for the Summit title.
Penn State earned a good win over St. John’s in overtime 89-82 at the Barclays Classic.
Creighton’s defense isn’t particularly strong. That’s common knowledge for any college hoops fan.
But, their offense? Perhaps the best in the game. Doug McDermott is arguably the best pure scorer in college basketball who can score from anywhere on the court, and they have a bevy of three-point shooters that can really fill it up. Between McDermott and his cohorts, Creighton is never out of a game.
At one point, they trailed 51-32 early in the second half, but there was never the feeling that the Blue Jays were out of it. A double-digit deficit for Creighton is like a two-possession game for most other teams.
Rob Dauster put it best:
This SDSU-Creighton game is awesome. It's like a men's league. All fast breaks, a lot of threes. Very little defense.
One would think that a game like that would benefit Creighton every time, but not tonight.
While the porous defense will no doubt come back to bite Creighton at times, the potency of their offense cannot be ignored. Unfortunately tonight for Creighton, they spotted the Aztecs a 19 point second half lead and were unable to recover, losing 86-80. They cut it to a one-possession game on multiple occasions and actually had a chance to tie the game, but shot attempts from McDermott and Gibbs both were turned aside.
Doug McDermott led all scorers with 30 points, but the play of Xavier Thames for San Diego State was tremendous as he scored 26 points on just ten field goal attempts.
This was a big time victory for the Aztecs. They hung tough with Arizona in their second game of the season, but eventually lost 69-60. Their three other games came against a sub-D1 school, UC Riverside, and the College of Charleston — hardly world-beaters. The game against Creighton was a benchmark kind of game against a Top 25 team.
After taking the lead 31-28 late in the first half on a three-pointer from Thames, San Diego State did not relinquish the lead for the rest of the game. Creighton certainly made things very interesting in the latter part of the second half, but to keep them at bay and earn a victory is impressive. The Aztecs reaffirmed they will challenge for the Mountain West title, and may even be the front-runner at this point — although, New Mexico, Utah State, and Boise State would all have something to say about that.
San Diego State will now play Marquette in the championship game of The Wooden Legacy on Sunday.
All month long, CBT will be rolling out our 2013-2014 season preview. Check back throughout the day, as we’ll be posting three or four preview items every day.
To browse through the preview posts we’ve already published, click here. The rest of our Top 25 Countdown can be found here. For a schedule of our previews for the month, click here.
With six months of no college basketball to watch, it’s about time that the ball starts bouncing once again. The season gets underway in just over a month, so here are some of the non-conference games that you should keep an eye on this season. The top game should come as little surprise, but there are many other intriguing match-ups between teams who will be in the Top 25 and on the fringe, as well as a few mid-major teams looking to prove themselves in the early going.
1. Kentucky vs. Louisville (December 28)
Like you thought the number one non-conference game would be something other than Kentucky vs. Louisville at Rupp? Two legendary coaches, a slew of future NBA players on the court from both teams, two of the best and most rabid fan bases in the country – this game at the end of December is a great way to close the book on 2013.
Last meeting: Louisville 80, Kentucky 77 (2012)
2. Duke vs. Kansas (November 12)
You’d be hard pressed to find a better double-header of games all season than Duke vs. Kansas and Kentucky vs. Michigan State (see below) as part of the Champions Classic. All four teams ranked inside the Top Ten with national title hopes on their minds. The nightcap pits Duke against Kansas, and two of the best freshman against one another — Duke’s Jabari Parker and Kansas’ Andrew Wiggins.
Last meeting: Duke 68, Kansas 61 (2011)
3.Kentucky vs. Michigan State (November 12)
Depending on how the preseason rankings shake out, the early game of the night very well could have the No. 1 team in the county playing the No. 2 — how’s that for some early season fireworks? This will also be Kentucky’s first true test of the young season; the nation will see how far along Coach Cal has his young team of superstars against a veteran Michigan State bunch led by Adreian Payne and Keith Appling.
Last meeting: Michigan State 94, Kentucky 88 20T (2005 NCAA Tournament)
4. Michigan vs. Arizona (December 14)
An intriguing match-up between two teams who lost a fair bit of talent from last season, but still have high expectations for the 2013-14 season. Arizona, of course, has one of the top freshman in the country in Aaron Gordon, while Michigan — coming off of its first Final Four appearance in 20 years — returns a trio of sophomores in Mitch McGary, Glenn Robinson III, and Nik Stauskas, along with highly touted freshman point guard Derrick Walton Jr.
Last meeting: Arizona 61, Michigan 60 OT (2004)
5. North Carolina at Michigan State (December 4)
One of the featured games of the ACC / Big Ten Challenge, North Carolina faces their first true road test of the season traveling to East Lansing. This being Carolina’s sixth game of the year, one has to assume that P.J. Hairston’s suspension will have been lifted by this point, although that all depends how stringent Roy Williams and North Carolina wish to be with Hairston. With Reggie Bullock foregoing his senior season, the Tar Heels will lean on Hairston as a primary scoring option. The match-up between Hairston and Gary Harris would be a great one to watch.
Last meeting: North Carolina 67, Michigan State 55 (2011)
6. Florida vs. Kansas (December 10)
An enigma for the latter half of the prior season, Florida is coming off of three straight appearances in the Elite Eight. Their game against Kansas is sandwiched in between games against Connecticut and Memphis — talk about a tough three game stretch. Replacing Kenny Boynton and Mike Rosario will be a challenge, although some would posit Boynton is addition by subtraction given his erratic play at times.
Last meeting: Kansas 82, Florida 80 OT (2006)
7. Duke vs. Michigan (December 3)
Another one of the premier games of the ACC / Big Ten Challenge, Duke welcomes Michigan to Cameron Indoor. Duke has dominated this series in recent years winning nine of the last ten meetings, but many of those games took place when the Wolverines were a struggling program marred near the bottom of the Big Ten. Incoming freshman Jabari Parker and transfer Rodney Hood will be major factors in the Duke frontcort, but handling the size and brute strength of Mith McGary inside will be a challenge.
Last meeting: Duke 82, Michigan 75 (2011)
8. North Carolina vs. Kentucky (December 14)
This was one of the “can’t miss” games of the 2011-12 season, and the college basketball community is certainly pleased to see this series continue between two of the most storied programs in history — last year proved to be a brief hiatus in the series. Kentucky’s slew of talented freshmen will be a storyline all year, but keep an eye on the match-up between North Carolina’s James Michael-NcAdoo and how he performs inside against Julius Randle.
Last meeting: Kentucky 73, North Carolina 72 (2011)
9. Marquette vs. Ohio State (November 16)
Each of these teams are coming off of runs to the Sweet 16 last year, and both will be adapting to life after losing their top players from a year ago — DeShaun Thomas at Ohio State and Vander Blue at Marquette. Perhaps more difficult for Marquette to overcome is losing point guard Junior Cadougan. In this the Golden Eagles’ first test of the year, it will be interesting to track how Derrick Wilson, who will most likely take over the point guard duties, handles himself against Aaron Craft.
Last meeting: Marquette 82, Ohio State 70 (1994)
10. Oklahoma State vs. Memphis (November 19)
Two of the top backcourts in the country will do battle early in the year. Marcus Smart gave Travis Ford a very nice present heading into the offseason when he elected to stay at Oklahoma State for his sophomore year, thereby solidifying one of the top backcourts in the country with Smart and Markel Brown. Meanwhile, Memphis has dream backcourt with a quartet of fine guards in Michael Dixon Jr. Geron Johnson, Chris Crawford, and Joe Jackson.
Last meeting: Oklahoma State 70, Memphis 53 (2004 NCAA Tournament)
11. Connecticut vs. Florida (December 2)
We should all be delighted this tilt is being played at Connecticut’s on-campus gym, Gampel Pavilion, rather than the XL Center, the arena in downtown Hartford. The Huskies have a prolific backcourt with Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright, but are thin up front which plays into Florida’s advantage as they return Patric Young.
Last meeting: Florida 69, Connecticut 60 OT (1994)
12. Colorado vs. Kansas (December 7)
Colorado figures to be a Top 25 team as they return do-it-all guard Spencer Dinwiddie, along with Askia Booker. Last year, the Buffaloes were dismantled at Kansas losing by 36 points, but they’ll look to return the favor to Wiggins and company this year at home.
Last meeting: Kansas 90, Colorado 54
13. Duke vs. UCLA (December 19)
While UCLA plays at Missouri on December 7, the first time Steve Alford and his team will truly be in the limelight comes in the Big Apple against Duke. Despite losing the talented, Alford has plenty of talent to work with as the Wear twins return along with rising sophomores Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams.
Last meeting: Duke 84, UCLA 73 (2002)
14. Memphis vs. Florida (December 17)
If you can believe it, it’s been nearly 40 years since these two programs last met. This season’s game will greatly challenge a Florida backcourt without the services of the previously mentioned Boynton and Rosario, especially facing a supremely talented and deep Tigers backcourt.
Last meeting: Florida 84, Memphis 83 (1976)
15. Kansas vs. New Mexico (December 14)
The Lobos will have a new-look on the sidelines with Craig Neal taking over for Steve Alford, but the product on the court will largely be the same. Senior guard Kendall Williams returns, as does the Lobo’s front court duo of Alex Kirk and Cameron Bairstow. New Mexico figures to be a Top 25 team and the class of the Mountain West, and their game against Kansas will go a long way proving just how good they are this season.
Last meeting: Kansas 59, New Mexico 40 (1964)
16. Florida at Wisconsin (November 12)
Last meeting: Florida 74, Wisconsin 56 (2012)
17. Syracuse vs. Indiana (December 3)
Last meeting: Syracuse 61, Indiana 50 (2013 NCAA Tournament)
18. Wisconsin vs. Marquette (December 7)
Last meeting: Marquette 60, Wisconsin 50 (2012)
19. Notre Dame vs. Ohio State (December 21)
Last meeting: Ohio State 67, Notre Dame 62 (2008)
20. Memphis vs. Gonzaga (February 8)
Last meeting: Memphis 62, Gonzaga 58 (2011)
21. Wichita State vs. Tennessee (December 14)
Last meeting: Tennessee 69, Wichita State 60 (2012)
22. Colorado vs. Harvard (November 24)
Last meeting: Harvard 82, Colorado 66 (2010)
23. Virginia vs. Virginia Commonwealth (November 12)
Last meeting: Virginia 86, Virginia Commonwealth 70 (1998)
24. Creighton vs. Arizona State (November 28)
Last meeting: Creighton 87, Arizona State 73 (2012)
25. Oregon vs. Georgetown (November 8, in Camp Humphreys, South Korea)
Last meeting: Oregon 57, Georgetown 50 (2006)
Five ‘Dream’ Games
The following five games we are crossing our fingers that if things break right in these early season tournaments, these match-ups will happen:
Arizona vs. Duke (Championship of the NIT Season Tip Off)
Louisville vs. North Carolina (Championship of the Hall of Fame Tip Off)
Syracuse vs. Gonzaga (Championship of the Maui Invitational)
Michigan vs. Virginia Commonwealth (Second Round of the Puerto Rico Tip Off)
Connecticut vs. Indiana (Championship of the 2K Sports Classic Benefiting The Wounded Warrior Project)