Teams: Creighton (3-0) vs. Tulsa (0-3)
Day: Saturday, Nov. 23
Time: 3:30 PM ET
Location: CenturyLink Center Omaha; Omaha, Nebraska
TV: FOX Sports Midwest
Radio: 1620 KZON-AM (Creighton) or 102.3 KRMG-FM (Tulsa)
The Creighton Bluejays are on fire to start the season offensively. They are statistically ninth in the country in points per game (95.3), and their success runs much deeper than that. Via Ken Pomeroy's ratings, the Bluejays are number one in the nation in Adjusted Offensive Efficiency. This statistic measures how many points a team is scoring per 100 possessions against the average Division I offense, and by this metric, Creighton is scoring 119.7 points per 100 possessions. Creighton is also making the most of their opportunities beyond the arc, shooting 47.3 percent clip from the 3-point land, ranking eighth in the nation. As they welcome the winless Golden Hurricane to Omaha, something to watch for is certainly whether or not this white-hot offense can continue to roll.
Doug McDermott is the best player on the roster and is arguably the best player in the country. But who has stepped up in a big way to provide more offense for the Bluejays? One could argue that it is none other than JUCO transfer Devin Brooks. Brooks, a native of Harlem, New York, has given a jolt to the Bluejays off the bench this season and only continues to progress from game to game. Against the Saint Joseph's Hawks, Brooks scored 16 points in 21 minutes on 13 shots (46.1 FG percentage) and added three assists and four rebounds. On the season, Brooks has been one of the most efficient shooters on the team. Via Hoop-Math, he has a True Shooting Percentage of 62.2. True Shooting Percentage refers to a statistic which accounts for the values of two point shots, three point shots and free throws. So, Brooks' efficiency has been a plot line for much of the season, and Saturday afternoon
Based on statistics alone, Saturday afternoon's matchup for the Tulsa Golden Hurricane could be something of a mismatch. Through the first three games of the season, the Golden Hurricane are scoring 71.7 points per game, allowing 82.33 points per game, shooting 46.7 percent as a team from the field, and a meager 30.7 percent from the 3-point line. In a close loss to Missouri State in their second game of the season, the Golden Hurricane got a lot from sophomore Shaquille Henderson. A Kansas City, Missouri native, the guard scored 21 points on 50 percent shooting from the field, and could be the main source of offense from the Golden Hurricane on Saturday afternoon. Via Hoop-Math, he has a 53.6 TS% and his field goal percentage at the rim is 71.4 percent, which both are near the team's best.
Defensively, this matchup could be something of a nightmare as well. Via Ken Pomeroy, Tulsa is 255th in the nation in 3PT% allowed, as teams are shooting at a 37.5 percent clip from the perimeter. They are also yielding a 47.1 2PT%, which stacks them up at 122nd in the nation. However, although Creighton is within the Top 50 in 2P%, they rank 100th in Adjusted Defense Efficiency, giving up 99.6 points per 100 possessions early on in the 2013-14 season. The Bluejays have yet to prove that they can be very stout defensively and even though Tulsa's offense has been struggling out of the gate, playing Creighton could open up a few opportunities.
In their first three games of the season, Tulsa has allowed 52 points in the paint. They have done a good job of controlling the game in the paint, but they might be up to a tougher task in this contest. That is why I am selecting Creighton's Will Artino to be their X-Factor. At the rim this season, Artino has been nearly unstoppable. He has shot 81.8 percent at the rim according to Hoop-Math, and 68.8 percent of his shots have come at the rim. Tulsa's big men have not been very effective on defense as of late, so this could be one of many matchup problems for the Golden Hurricane.
Meanwhile, for Tulsa, their X-Factor could more than likely be sophomore Rashad Smith. Smith, a 6'7" 206 lbs. forward from Plano, TX is coming off of a poor outing against the Wichita State Shockers. Smith had just six points and found himself unable to contribute in other areas. Before that, though, Smith was got into double figures in the first two games of the season for the Golden Hurricane and was effective on the glass and all over the floor, as a very efficient shooter. He will have to come up large for Tulsa in this game if they want to stand any chance of giving Creighton a game.
Although the defense has been nothing to write home about, this looks and feels like a mismatch. Last season's encounter saw the Creighton Bluejays have relatively no trouble with the Tulsa Golden Hurricane. In 2013, the same could very well be said. Being that Creighton has been notorious for starting slow in games this season, this could start off as a close one but it would not surprise many if the Bluejays pulled away in the second half as the have done for much of this early season.
Creighton 94 Tulsa 72