Game Preview: Creighton vs. Arizona State

Dave Weaver-USA TODAY Sports

The Creighton Bluejays are California bound to partake in the Wooden Legacy Tournament. Their opening round matchup is against a tough Arizona State Sun Devils squad.

Teams: Creighton (4-0) vs. Arizona St. (6-0)

Day: Thursday, Nov. 28

Time: 11:00 PM ET

Location: Titan Gym; Fullerton, California

TV: ESPN2

Radio: 1620 KZON-AM (Creighton) or Sun Devil IMG Sports Nework (Arizona St.)

Creighton Storylines

The rust factor may have inhibited Creighton a bit in their last contest against the Tulsa Golden Hurricane. Despite having an overwhelming advantage over Tulsa in most statistical categories, the game was only decided by 10 points. Now, Creighton once again has an extended period of rest, and hundreds of miles of travel, to Fullerton, California for the Wooden Legacy Tournament. Even though Doug McDermott was superb, and Austin Chatman rose to the occasion, there was much left to be desired for the rest of the offense. Once again, the Bluejays started off the game slowly. Against a team that is 12th in Adjusted Offensive Efficiency (115.2) according to Ken Pomeroy's ratings, is shooting over 40 percent from the 3-point line on the season as a team, and shooting over 55 percent from inside the 3-point line, it is imperative for Creighton to not come out sluggish in this game.

Both Arizona St. and Creighton are teams that do not play much of a transition game. Creighton has attempted just 32.6 percent of its shots in transition according to Hoop-Math, while Arizona St. has played even less in transition, attempting just 29.7 percent of their shots when they are on the move. WIth that in mind, Creighton has to be on their toes defensively on the perimeter. When the Sun Devils are not in their half-court sets, they take 42.3 percent of their shots from the 3-point line, and are sinking 38.5 percent of those attempts. As a team, this may be something that they can do a good job of stifling. As a team, they are yielding merely 34.7 percent of 3-point shots to be made thus far in the 2013-14 season.

Arizona St. Storylines

By the eye test and by metrics alike, Arizona State's Jahii Carson has been the Sun Devils' most outstanding player through their first six games. He checks in as Ken Pomeroy's 12th best player in Offensive Rating among all players in the land, at 125.3. He is third on the team in True Shooting Percentage (64.6) among players with >20% of possessions used, and is scoring 23 points per game which is 17th best in the country. If Carson proves to be as big of an offensive threat as he ha been thus far this season, the Bluejays could very well be on upset alert.

In contrast to their opponent, the Arizona St. Sun Devils are one of the very best teams in the country at defending the 3-point shot. Teams are only taking 25.7 percent of their shots from the arc or further behind against them, and are only converting 24.4 percent of them. That slots them at 15th in the country in three-point field goal percentage defense, according to Hoop-Math. Being that Creighton likes to take a lot of shots from the arc, and feature a coupe of great 3-point shooters, the Sun Devil defense on the perimeter will be a very interesting factor to watch. Should Herb Sendek's club thwart a majority of the Bluejays' chances from the perimeter, the SUn Devils could take advantage in a big, big way.

X-Factors

Creighton has to look towards the post if things do not work out from the perimeter. Will Artino and Zach Hanson are coming off sluggish performances against Tulsa, and while Doug McDermott can, could, and will most likely do everything that he can for the Bluejays to win, they will need big games from their big men in order to compete with the Sun Devils. Arizona State is allowing 52.4 percent of shots taken at the rim to be converted so far this season, their weakest link on defense. The Bluejays will have to look to their big men, and also some more attacking of the rim to come away with a victory.

Jordan Bachynski is the X-Factor for the Arizona St. Sun Devils. Bachynski, a 7-foot senior from Calgary, Alberta, Canada, has been a superb defender this season. He currently boasts a Block Percentage of 13.4 according to Ken Pomeroy's ratings, which makes for 14th best in the country. Bachynski is also averaging a double-double on the year, scoring 14 points per game and hauling in 11.8 rebounds per game and is shooting at a 68 percent clip. He certainly has the ability to be as stout defensively as he has been this year, while also giving the Sun Devils an added boost offensively.

Prediction

The Sun Devils impressively took care of UNLV at the Thomas & Mack Center last Tuesday, and already added a victory against a Big East team on Monday, when Arizona State beat the Marquette Golden Eagles in Tempe. They could certainly have a crowd advantage also, with Tempe being 365 miles away from Fullerton, while Omaha is a much farther 1,540 miles from the Titan Gym. This could prove to be a very phrenetic, high-scoring affair and one of the best matchups on Thanksgiving. While Creighton has impressed lately with their ability to climb out of the well and drive away, that this is only their third game in what will be 12 days has this writer a bit worrisome.

Creighton 89 Arizona St. 94

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