Teams: No. 12 Creighton (18-3; 8-1) vs. DePaul (10-13; 2-8)
Day: Friday, Feb. 7
Time: 9:00 PM ET
Location: CenturyLink Center Omaha; Omaha, Neb.
TV: FOX Sports 1
Radio: 1620 KOZN-AM (Creighton) or WSCR 670 AM (DePaul)
It has been a superb two-week period for the Creighton Bluejays. After falling to the Providence Friars, the BLuejays have responded with a three-game winning streak, including wins over then-No. 4 Villanova, Georgetown and St. John's.
Creighton took down the Red Storm in dramatic fashion, via a 39-point performance from their resident superstar Doug McDermott, who flushed a game-winning 3-pointer with mere seconds remaining.
Now the Bluejays will shift gears and, after a long period of rest, welcome the DePaul Blue Demons to CenturyLink Center Omaha. Last time these two teams met, they were in the shadows of the city of Chicago, and the Bluejays lost one of their glue guys in Grant Gibbs.
The team has responded well in Gibbs' absence, as Creighton has gone 5-1 and is scoring 81.0 points per night.
The Blue Demons have struggled mightily this season. Oliver Purnell's club is only scoring 107 points per 100 possessions, a mark that has them just a hair over the Division 1 average of 104.2 points per 100 possessions.
With the average marks defensively on this club as well, Creighton should look to stay true to their own game and attack from the perimeter and the rim as well.
This season, the Bluejays lead the nation in 3PT% (43.3 percent) and at the rim, Creighton is converting 54.2 percent of attempts in transition, and an astounding 68.3 percent in non-transition situations.
Needless to say, this season has been yet another rough patch in a long line of disappointing seasons for the DePaul Blue Demons. Standing at 10-13 with a 2-8 record in BIG EAST play, the Blue Demons look to be primed to miss the NCAA Tournament once again.
A prime reason for their last string of losses has been an inability to shoot at an effective, efficient rate. Their eFG% over their current five-game losing streak has been 44.4 percent (at Villanova), 45.6 percent (vs. Xavier), 47.3 percent (at Seton Hall), 49.1 percent (vs. Providence) and a disastrous 41.2 percent (vs. Georgetown).
To put those numbers in context, the D-1 average is 49.5, so in each game in this current five-game losing streak the Blue Demons have shot at a below-average clip. In some cases, a well below-average clip.
Simply put, that will not cut it and it certainly could prove to be a recipe for disaster against the potent Bluejay offense. DePaul simply has to gather things together and put together a solid game defensively as well. Going off that, the gameplan for defending Creighton may already be written.
It is certainly hard to argue that St. John's did a good job at stopping Doug McDermott. The favorite for National Player of the Year went off, but the remaining Bluejays were held in check for a majority of the contest, if not from start-to-finish.
Is it possible that letting Doug do his thing and put the clamps on everyone else? It did almost work for the Johnnies. On the other hand, "almost" is not quite good enough.
Look for the play of Creighton's backcourt to be a beneficial reason why the Bluejays could come away with a victory here. In the last meeting between these two teams, Austin Chatman and Jahenns Manigat exploded for a combined 17 points and 10 assists.
But, one name to look out for is Devin Brooks. Back in Rosemont, Brooks scored just one point, had three assists and three turnovers as well. Coincidentally, Brooks is coming off yet another one-point performance as the Harlem native scored just a single point against the Red Storm. After his one-point performance against DePaul, the JUCO transfer rebounded with a 14 point performance in a win against Xavier.
Is another stellar performance in Brooks' future?
With Cleveland Melvin suspended, the Blue Demons will have to lean on the play of Brandon Young.
Young, a 6'4" senior from Baltimore has an integral piece of the Blue Demon offense in the 2013-14 season. Young is scoring 14.5 points per game on a FG% of 44.0 and has been accounted for on 24.9 percent of all possessions this season. Young will need to continue his successes for DePaul to have any sort of chance in this contest in Omaha.
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Being overmatched has been DePaul's problem this season, and this matchup with the bombastic Bluejays does not look like it will stop the bleeding. Should the Blue Demons put follow the defensive method that the Red Storm used the last time Creighton took the floor, this could be an interesting contest. But, with that said, DePaul may not have the players and the schemes necessary to keep Creighton at bay. McDermott could very well continue his string of elite play, and Creighton should look to maintain the terrific play of their own, as they remain atop the BIG EAST mountain.
Creighton 83 DePaul 70