Game Preview: Creighton vs. DePaul

Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

The Creighton Bluejays go from The Brick City to The Windy City, as they take on struggling DePaul Blue Demons.

Teams: Creighton (12-2) vs. DePaul (8-7)

Day: Tuesday, Jan. 7

Time: 9:00 PM ET

Location: Allstate Arena; Rosemont, Ill.

TV: FOX Sports 1

Radio: 1620 KZON-AM (Creighton) or WSCR 670 AM (DePaul)

Creighton Storylines

In their first two conference games as a member of the BIG EAST, Creighton has slid by their opponents with relative ease. They handled Marquette 67-49 last Tuesday on New Year's Eve, and on Saturday they took down the Seton Hall Pirates 79-66. The Bluejays may have faced a bit of a challenge from The Hall in the 2nd half, but they would prevail in The Garden State.

Two big reasons that the Bluejays were able to pul of those defeats was exceptional defense and a supreme ability to take care of the basketball. In their game against Marquette, Creighton only allowed an eFG% of 37.7 percent. This was the lowest eFG% that the Bluejays had allowed all season, and it was not even particularly close. The next closest was 40.9 percent to the California Golden Bears.

Against The Hall, Creighton limited turnovers at a superb rate. The Bluejays had a TO% of a minuscule 6.3 percent, their lowest output that department since the first game of the season against Alcorn St. when they had a TO% of only 7.7 percent. With that ability to take care of the basketball, they were able to breeze past the Pirates and help push themselves to their second BIG EAST victory.

While season-high performances should not necessarily be expected each and every game, the Bluejays could certainly use a combination of these two factors when they head into Rosemont to take on the DePaul Blue Demons on Tuesday evening.

DePaul Storylines

Although they have seen themselves struggle to make it over the .500 mark this season, the DePaul Blue Demons are doing a few things right this season. Most of them center around the defensive side of the ball. Coach Oliver Purnell's bunch has been solid for the most part, especially from the perimeter. The Blue Demons are yielding only 31.7 percent of 3-point shots to be converted through their first 15 games.

This could be a big factor for this game, as the Bluejays are one of the best 3-point shooting teams in all of college basketball. So far this season, they are making 42.7 percent of their 3-point shots, which is 3rd best in the country behind only Utah St. and Gonzaga. Additionally, DePaul has been good at forcing turnovers. Their defensive Turnover% stands at 21.0 percent, which is the 44th best mark in the nation.

DePaul has not proven to be a very good offensive club. In fact, they have been just about average. Their 104.2 points per 100 possessions ranks 166th in the country and is merely 0.4 behind the Division 1 average of 103.8 points per 100 possessions. They rank 204th in the country in points per game (71.5) and 241st in the country in FG% (.431). But, should they force enough turnovers to create enough opportunities, they may be able to hang with the Bluejays if the ball bounces their way a few times.

X-Factors

Devin Brooks is slowly but surely coming into his own. He had a decent enough performance against Marquette to warrant questions of whether or not he would start to break out again and he followed that up with a good performance against The Hall. On Saturday, in the Prudential Center and with several of his friends and family members in attendance, Brooks scored 11 points and looked good in other areas, too. If he gets going again in this game, Creighton will prove to be tough to defeat yet again.

The offense of the DePaul Blue Demons runs through senior forward Cleveland Melvin. Melvin, a Baltimore native, has been very good this season, leading the Blue Demons in points per game (15.8) and rebounds per game (6.5). Melvin also has possessed a 45.5 FG%, and a 3-point percentage of 49.1. Melvin is going to be the guy that impacts this game for the Blue Demons and will determine just how well they can play against him.

One thing that Melvin has struggled with this season though is consistency. Against Houston Baptist, Northwestern and Marquette, Melvin has scored 28, 11 and 22 points respectively. But, against Illinois State and Georgetown, the other two games in this recent five-game stretch, he scored four and six points respectively. To say he has been up and down recently is putting it mildly.

Four Factors

Factor Creighton DePaul
Effective FG% 58.1 48.0
Turnover% 15.4 20.7
Off. Rebounding% 31.2 36.8
FTA/FGA 31.5 41.5

The Prediction

With every good performance away from Omaha, Creighton is rubbing away any thought that they are that much of a lesser team away from CenturyLink Center Omaha. They will once again find themselves against a team that has average offensive efficiency and below average shooting and so far this season, the Bluejays have done a good job of putting those teams away right from the start. Seeing this result being anything different would be somewhat of a shock. Doug McDermott, whose National Player of the Year stock rises with every 20+-point outburst, should most likely find success from the field.

Creighton 82 DePaul 65

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