Teams: Creighton (15-3; 5-1) vs. Villanova (16-1; 5-0)
Day: Monday, Jan. 20
Time: 7:00 PM ET
Location: Wells Fargo Center; Philadelphia, Pa.
TV: FOX Sports 1
Radio: 1620 KZON-AM (Creighton) or 1210 WPHT (Villanova)
Following perhaps their worst, and most embarrassing defeat of the season, the Creighton Bluejays are forced to make a quick turnaround. Despite losing on the road to the Providence Friars in a game where the final score did not indicate how badly the Bluejays were embarrassed by the Friars, they must shift gears and regain their focus against the highly ranked and highly touted Villanova Wildcats.
Creighton has struggled to rebound the basketball this season. While they are good at preventing offensive rebounds, they have proven this season that they are far from the best at collecting them. The Bluejays rank 196th in Off. Rebounding% and 111th in the country in rebounds per game (36.9). If Creighton is not careful this could lead to them running into some trouble, as the Wildcats are the 70th best team in the country in Off. Rebounding%.
Doug McDermott will need to be relied heavily on once again, and the Bluejays will need him to be 100 percent. He appeared to be out of it against the Providence Friars, later stating that he was sick, but he has to show up in a big way in this game. This is a big stage, and the star players need to shine the brightest. With some doubts trickling in about Creighton, the best player in program history must look to swiftly erase them.
The No. 4 Villanova Wildcats have soared up the rankings at an exponential rate. Picked to finish fourth in the conference in the preseason poll, Coach Jay Wright has helped spearhead this group to the top spot in the conference, and even with their opponent for Monday evening lighting up the scoreboard at a superb rate, many believe that they are the class of the BIG EAST Conference.
What stands out most about the Wildcats is their ability to be balanced on both ends. Their scoring at a high rate (117.0 points per 100 possessions) and defending stoutly as well (95.0 points allowed per 100 possessions). Their Effective FG% is 53.9 percent, and they're yielding an Effective FG% of just 44.1 percent. With a bevy of athletic, skilled players who can play well on both sides of the ball, Villanova has been outstanding so far this season.
The Wildcats have four different players that are averaging double figures this season. Leading the pack is junior forward JayVaughn Pinkston. A native of Brooklyn, N.Y., Pinkston has arguably been Villanova's most significant contributor. He has been exceptional at the rim, converting on 62.5 percent of his opportunities at the basket, and possesses a 2PT FG% of 55.9 percent. The 6'7" forward should find himself being the focus once again in this contest.
Jahenns Manigat has been coming into his own as of late and it should not surprise many to continue his recent trending upwards. Over the last seven games, he has averaged 10.6 points per game and 4.3 assists per game. His defense has also been solid as well, as evident in the game against Providence. The moment that Greg McDermott inexplicably decided to take Manigat off of Friars point guard Bryce Cotton was when he and the rest of the bunch began to take control of the ball game. Manigat may be next in line to provide a serious impact for the Bluejays.
Josh Hart has been a terrific sharpshooter thus far for the Wildcats and has been one of the biggest reasons that their offense has been as dynamic as it has been. Averaging 22.2 minutes per game, Hart is scoring 10.1 points per game on an efficient rate of 53.8 percent. But nowhere else has Hart been deadly from other than the 3-point line. 47.9 percent of Hart's 96 attempts have been 3-point shots, and he has delivered on those opportunities, shooting 45.7 percent from the arc. The freshman from The Nation's Capital has provided a huge spark for the Villanova offense, and if he is to get it going once again on Monday evening, Creighton could be in a world of trouble.
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Creighton has seen itself struggle against teams who can rebound well. In fact, their three losses have been to teams who fit that bill: Providence, George Washington, and San Diego St. are all teams inside the Top 50 in OR%. Villanova is outside the Top 50, ranking 70th in the country in OR%, but they are conversely 37th in rebounds per game. So although they are not amongst the elite in grabbing offensive rebounds, they can do just fine in all aspects. After the poor performance on Saturday, it will be interesting to see if the Bluejays can get up emotionally for this game. If they are not careful, this could wind up being a runaway.
Creighton 69 Villanova 78