It was a busy night for hoops around the country, that featured some good news for a team not even playing, Louisville struggling and Kansas showing itself to be just a notch better than West Virginia. Here’s what else you need to know:
1. Creighton lands another top-10 W
We’re probably not talking enough about Creighton. After Wednesday’s 87-82 win over No. 10 Seton Hall, the 23rd-ranked Bluejays are now tied for second in the Big East and have quietly assembled a resume that’s going to moving up to top-four NCAA tournament seed territory here shortly. Creighton is very much for real, and has a real chance of making the first Sweet 16 in school history next month.
It’s the offense that makes the Bluejays go, and Seton Hall learned that Wednesday. Creighton shot 46 percent from the field, 38 percent from 3-point range and grabbed 11 offensive rebounds while playing at a blistering 76-possession pace. Ty-Shon Alexander, Marcus Zegarowski, Denzel Mahoney and Damien Jefferson all had 18 points for coach Greg McDermott on the night. Creighton’s offensive night was almost even more impressive considering Mitchell Ballock, their best 3-point shooter and a consistent offensive threat, was 0-7 from the floor. Take that out, and Creighton was 51.8 percent from the floor and 44.4 percent from 3.
They’re now up to sixth nationally in offense on KenPom, thanks strong 3-point shooting, good work inside the arc and their ability to take care of the ball. The rotation is thin, but every player McDermott sends out on to the floor is a capable offensive presence. There’s something to be said for the power of simply not having a liability on the floor to help make an offense excellent. The defense isn’t much to lean on, but the Bluejays get buckets.
The loss is the second in four games for Seton Hall, with both Ls coming at home. There’s certainly no reason to start wondering about the Pirates now – they’re probably not winning on nights when Myles Powell goes an atypical 3 of 16 from the floor – but they’re missing on opportunities to push their resume up a notch.
2. Auburn wins in OT…again
What in the world do you make of Auburn?
The Tigers improved to 22-2 on the year and 9-2 in SEC play with their seventh-straight win, a 95-91 victory over Alabama at home. It was the third-straight extra-time victory for the Tigers, and their fourth in five games.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but winning is, obviously, the thing that’s most important in a basketball game. When you’re trying to evaluate just how good Auburn is, though, all these close games make it awfully difficult. Does it say anything all that much different about a team if they win or lose an overtime game? It’s five minutes of basketball, and in five minutes of basketball anything can happen. Are they clutch? Lucky?
When a game comes down to such a small sample size, it’s hard to assign credit. The average KenPom ranking of these teams that are playing Auburn even for 40 minutes is 42. Not cupcakes, but hardly national title contenders, either. Making things even more difficult to judge is that the one game in this stretch that didn’t take OT was Auburn’s win against Kentucky.
I don’t really know what to make of Auburn, but I imagine they don’t care too much. They’re too busy winning.
Side note: Alabama shot 59 times from 3-point range tonight. The Tide are one of the fastest-playing teams and highest-volume 3-point shooting teams in the country. If Nate Oats starts loading up on skilled players that can maximize that style of play, they’re going to be a ton of fun.
3. Villanova gets back on track
Villanova’s three-game losing streak is no more.
The Wildcats salvaged their last chance in a tough four-game stretch by beating Marquette, 72-71.
It was the first victory in two weeks after losses to Creighton, Butler and Seton Hall. Even with two of the three coming at home, those are schedule losses as much as anything. Getting this one against Marquette, even if it came down to the wire, helps build a little momentum and confidence heading into a regular-season finale stretch of seven games when a rematch against Seton Hall is the only KenPom top-45 opponent on the slate.
Villanova has a real chance to stack victories over the next month.
Marquette, meanwhile, has a huge game against Creighton next week before a similarly light finish to Big East play that features a rematch with the Pirates.