Game Preview: Creighton vs. San Diego State

Eric Francis

The semifinals of the Wooden Legacy Tournament get started tonight, and Creighton will take on the San Diego State Aztecs.

Teams: Creighton (5-0) vs. San Diego St. (3-1)

Day: Friday, Nov. 29

Time: 9:30 PM ET

Location: Titan Gym; Fullerton, California

TV: ESPN2

Radio: 1620 KZON-AM (Creighton) or (San Diego State)

Creighton Storylines

The Creighton Bluejays are off the heels of an impressive victory over the previously unbeaten Arizona St. Sun Devils. JUCO transfer Devin Brooks stole the show with 23 points scored in 19 minutes on 11 shots, giving the Bluejays everything they could have hoped for with Doug McDermott struggling, even though the Ames native still wound up scoring 27 points.

Brooks’ multi-dimensional game has been a big reason why the Bluejays have gotten off to the great start that they have, playing like someone who had played in big-time college basketball before, even though this is his first taste of the action. San Diego State certainly has the type of defense and the players to contain Brooks, but whether or not they put the clamps on the Harlem, NY native will be something to look for.

The Bluejays were locked in along the perimeter against the Sun Devils. As a team, Creighton shot 48 percent (12-of-25 3-PT FG), including a stellar 55.6 percent (5-of-9 3-PT FG) in the 1st half. This was against a Sun Devil team that was one of the best at defending the 3-point shot, and Friday night they will take the floor against another team that is well versed in defending the perimeter.

The San Diego State Aztecs are yielding a 3-point field goal percentage of just 21.1 percent on the season, which accounts for fifth best in the nation. With the dossier of sharpshooters that Creighton has, finding open looks against the man defense SDSU will employ will be crucial to their success on the perimeter.

San Diego State Storylines

Steve Fisher’s Aztecs play a very effective game while in transition. They have taken only 56 attempts in transition, but their eFG% (Effective Field Goal Percentage) is a high 55.4 percent. Delving in deeper, they are incredibly effective at the rim, converting 78.6 percent of their chances, and out on the 3-point arc they are making 50 percent of their shots taken. Their go-to guy in transition is arguably their go-to guy in general in Winston Shepard. The 6’8" sophomore has converted 100 percent of his attempts at the rim, which accounts for 71.4 percent of the seven attempts in transition that he has taken.

Defensively, the Aztecs are doing well in most categories. They are only yielding an Effective FG% of 38.9, which is fifth best in the country, and have forced a turnover percentage of 22.1 percent, which is 31st best in the country. On two-point shots taken, they are yielding just 41.1 percent, which is 21st best of the nation, all according to Ken Pomeroy. Further, SDSU has allowed an average of 50.75 points per game, with the highest points allowed being 69 to the Arizona Wildcats two weeks ago.

The Aztecs will absolutely need to hammer down defensively and attempt to confuse Creighton. It is no ordinary task to try and defend the Bluejays, with one of the nation’s top scorers in Doug McDermott and recently Devin Brooks has started to have scoring barrages of his own. Steve Fisher will need to devise a good defensive game plan, perhaps implementing some double-teaming on McDermott and Brooks on occasion, and they will have to keep a sharp eye on the 3-point line with how dangerous Creighton can be from deep.

X-Factors

The obvious choice for an X-Factor for the Bluejays tonight should be Devin Brooks, based upon what he can do for the Bluejays on any given night. However, I am going to go with Will Artino in this game. Artino did not play the best of games against Arizona St. offensively, finding himself harassed with his lack of athleticism, and even though that is not truly his game there was a lot left to be desired. Against the Aztecs, opponents are shooting 55.6 percent at the rim and when they are not blocked they are shooting 61 percent. Look for Devin Brooks, Jahenns Manigat and Austin Chatman to try and get Artino some good looks down low so he can contribute offensively.

Freshman Matt Shrigley is San Diego State’s X-Factor in this game. The 6’6" freshman has been sensational in limited possessions this season, especially from the 3-point line. Shrigley is scoring 9.5 points per game and an impressive 58.8 percent from the 3-point line. This percentage comes from 17 attempts from deep, which is the most any Aztec has taken this season. If Shrigley finds his rhythm and starts to knock down three pointers then the Aztecs can most certainly hang with the Bluejays.

The Prediction

There are two things that we know about these teams: Creighton possesses one of the best offenses in the nation, and San Diego State does not. While the Aztecs are shooting 41 percent as a team from deep, they maintain just a 50 percent Effective FG%, which is just barely over the Division 1 average of 49.4 percent.

Additionally, SDSU is scoring 75.5 points per game to Creighton’s 91.2 points per game. There is no denying that San Diego State can play good, tough defense, and they probably will for a majority of the game. Whether or not they can go shoot with Creighton is an entirely different story.

Creighton 81 San Diego State 70

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