Preview: No. 11 Creighton Takes On Marquette in Milwaukee

Eric Francis

Riding high off of yet another dominant performance over Villanova, the Creighton Bluejays head up north to The Cream City to take on the Marquette Golden Eagles for a rematch of their New Year's Eve encounter.

Teams: No. 11 Creighton (21-4; 11-2) vs. Marquette (15-10; 7-5)

Day: Wednesday, Feb. 19

Time: 8:00 PM ET

Location: BMO Harris Bradley Center; Milwaukee, Wisc.

TV: FOX Sports 1

Radio: 540 AM ESPN (Marquette) or 1620-KOZN AM (Creighton)

Creighton Storylines

"Creighton bounces back from a tough trip on the road with a dismantling of Villanova."

Sound familiar?

It should. After squeaking out a victory at historic Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, the Bluejays welcomed the then-No. 6 Villanova Wildcats to Omaha. It was not the same type of thrashing that Doug McDermott and the Jays dished out a month ago in The City of Brotherly Love. But the thousands and thousands inside CenturyLink Center Omaha saw Creighton lay the smack down on Villanova for the second time this season.

Do you smell with the Bluejays are cooking?

They are cooking up a storm this season. Almost unparalleled offensive efficiency; the surefire National Player of the Year, whose accomplishments grow larger by the hour; and solid defensive play that has paved the way for the Bluejays to stand above all in the BIG EAST Conference with two weeks left this season.

It might certainly concern some that within their second go-around of the BIG EAST season, Creighton has had a few hiccups. Their record stands at 3-1, but the only truly impressive performance was Sunday evening against the Wildcats. The Bluejays merely squeaked by lowly Butler and DePaul, and fell to the rolling St. John's Red Storm at Madison Square Garden.

Have the Bluejays been figured out? Their performance against Villanova may not suggest that, but the other three performances could dictate a trend. With this trip to Milwaukee looming against a tough, defensive-minded Marquette team that is just trying to get on the bubble at this point in the season, it could bring us some answers to that question.

But as it stands right now, it could not be any clearer that Omaha now joins Asbury Park, N.J. as locations of "Beasts of the East."

Marquette Storylines

Downtrodden times have circulated through Milwaukee this season. But as of late, things are starting to turn around for the Marquette Golden Eagles.

Coach Buzz Williams and his team came into the season with high expectations. This much is true, as the Golden Eagles were picked to be the cream of the crop in the inaugural season of the new-look BIG EAST Conference. Sadly, things have not gone Marquette's way this season, and the cream of the crop has not yet risen to the top.

But on the back of a three-game winning streak, the Golden Eagles walk into this showdown with the Creighton Bluejays with some confidence, and some swagger. They have scored an average of 75.67 points in their last three games, which is 4.55 points better than their season average of 71.12 points per game. They are succeeding under their own roof as well, winning their last three games in a row at the BMO Harris Bradley Center.

The play of Jamil Wilson has been a big reason for this run. Over the course of the three-game win streak for the Golden Eagles, the Racine, Wisc. native has scored an average of 19.33 points, including a 25-point showing against Seton Hall last Tuesday night. While Wilson's efficiency is still an issue, his level of play as of late is not. There is no doubt who is making things happen for Marquette lately.

X-Factors

Against Villanova, Devin Brooks returned to form. Riding through some inconsistencies, and with a high usage rate as well, Brooks scored 12 points in 12 minutes of action with relatively good efficiency to boot. The Harlem native shot 44.4 percent from the field on nine attempts, and sunk all four of his free throw attempts. He picked up the slack for senior Jahenns Manigat, who was held scoreless throughout the night, and that type of play will be everything that the Bluejays need again against this Marquette team.

Meanwhile, Davante Gardner could find himself having a good night down low. One of the Bluejays' weaknesses is and despite scoring just nine points, Villanova's Daniel Ochefu was rarely challenged when he got the ball on Sunday. Ochefu missed just three of his seven attempts from the floor, as the 6'11" sophomore hovered right around his average of 62.1 percent on 2PT FG attempts. Gardner might not be the size of Chris Otule, who like Ochefu is 6'11", but the 6'8" forward could provide some ammunition for the sluggish Golden Eagle offense on Wednesday night if things go right.

Four Factors

Team/Factor Effective FG% Turnover% Off. Rebounding% FTA/FGA
Creighton 58.7 15.0 29.2 34.1
Marquette 48.5 17.6 35.2 42.7

The Prediction

Call this writer crazy, but an upset could be looming. The Bluejays have not had the easiest of go-arounds in the second run through the BIG EAST Conference. Whether or not there is a correlation to that, Marquette does fit the bill of the teams that have given them the most trouble. And additionally, the BMO Harris Bradley Center fits the bill of environments that Creighton has walked into as of late that could give them fits. Marquette is in desperate need of a signature victory to help catapult any chance of landing on the bubble, which is outstandingly weak this year. The Golden Eagles should prevail in this contest thanks to a tough-minded defensive effort, and Davante Gardner could find himself having a big night.

Creighton 60 Marquette 64

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