Teams: Creighton (11-2) vs. Seton Hall (10-4)
Day: Saturday, Jan. 4
Time: 3:00 PM ET
Location: Prudential Center; Newark, N.J.
TV: FOX Sports 1
Radio: 1620 KZON-AM (Creighton) or WNYM 970 AM (Seton Hall)
Well, that was one way to start off your tenure in the BIG EAST Conference.
Creighton found a platform to strut their stuff against the Marquette Golden Eagles, and boy did they ever. The result was never in doubt, as the Bluejays won their first ever BIG EAST Conference game against Buzz Williams' squad 67-49. The win improved Creighton's record at CenturyLink Center Omaha to 8-0 on the season as they finished the month of December with six straight victories. But now, the Bluejays must fly away from Omaha for the first time in over a month, as they head to New Jersey to take on the Seton Hall Pirates.
The way that Creighton plays at home and the way they play on both away and neutral courts this season is very noticeable. The Bluejays are scoring an average of 76.4 points in their five games away from Omaha this season, with an average margin of 7.2 points. This includes two losses to San Diego St. by eight points and to George Washington by seven points. Additionally, Creighton's lowest scoring output of the season came away from CenturyLink Center Omaha, when the Bluejays could only muster 53 points against those George Washington Colonials. It is imperative that coach Greg McDermott has Creighton prepared after that emotional victory on Tuesday evening.
Seton Hall Storylines
The Hall is coming off of an impressive victory of their own. Their trek up to Providence ended with a 2OT victory by the tally of 81-80. This win was so large because this Pirates club was 2-4 in games decided by six points or less and 0-2 in overtime games this season. The Pirates have gotten hot as of late, too, winning six of their last seven games after a tough loss to Fairleigh Dickinson a month ago. Much of their success could be attributed to the play of Brian Oliver. The senior from Glassboro, N.J. has scored an average of 15.9 points in The Hall's last seven games, including 18 in their victory against the Providence Friars. With Oliver's 60.1 TS%, 57.4 eFG%, 42.3 3PT FG% and 86.7 FT%, his stout contributions could very well lead to an upset on Saturday afternoon if all goes well.
One thing that The Hall does exceptionally well is create attempts at the free throw line, and then convert on those attempts at an efficient clip. The Pirates' FTA/FGA ratio is 14th best in the nation at 53.9 percent. When The Hall is at the line, they are drilling 75.1 percent of their FT attempts, which is 31st best in college basketball. Impressively, the Pirates have six players with a FT% of >75.0%, and 11 players with a FT% of >50.0%. It would behoove them to try and get to the line in aggressive fashion with their arsenal of terrific FT shooters, because it could very well provide a huge difference in the ball game.
Doug McDermott is an obvious choice for the X-Factor in this game. He was held to under 20 points for the second time this season against the Marquette Golden Eagles, a strong-minded defensive club with an assortment of athletic defenders. The Hall has been a very average defensive team this season, allowing 101.9 points per 100 possessions which is just a few ticks under the D-1 average of 103.6 points per 100 possessions. It will be interesting to see what kind of defensive game plan that the Pirates implement to try and take away any of McDermott's abilities to score. If this elite scorer has proven anything this season, though, it's that he can score from just about anywhere on the floor.
Look for Sterling Gibbs to provide a little something extra for the Pirates. Against Providence, Gibbs scored 15 points and racked up four assists in 43 minutes of play. Although Fuquan Edwin has since stepped into the starting lineup after returning from the sprained ankle he suffered earlier on in the season, Gibbs has still been a very significant contributor for The Hall. He has accounted for 20.4% of possessions this season as well as 65.3% of minutes.
It's certainly true that the Bluejays have been a much different team away from home this season. But, as the season has progressed, it seems like one major factor has been involved in determining whether or not Creighton will be defeated: can their opponent keep up with them offensively? With Seton Hall's offense being right around the D-1 average, it may seem somewhat out of reach to believe that. Anything's possible, but from this standpoint, it seems somewhat unlikely.
Creighton 77 Seton Hall 72