Time and Date: Friday, January 25 @ 8:30 p.m. ET
Location: Omaha, Nebraska
Records: Butler (12-8) | Creighton (11-8)
Rankings: Butler (#48 NET) | Creighton (#61 NET)
TV Channel: FS1
Stream: FOX Sports GO
The current state of affairs in the BIG EAST makes almost every game critical for any team not named Villanova or Marquette. Every other team in the league has exactly four conference losses, and any NCAA Tournament hopefuls need to separate themselves from the field. Butler and Creighton both hope to take a step in that direction when they face off in Omaha Friday evening.
The game is perhaps more critical for Creighton, since Butler already beat the Bluejays in Indiana. Creighton must defend its home floor; what’s more, Butler has three BIG EAST wins while Creighton only has two. If the Bluejays fall to 2-5, they will be faced with a very difficult climb the rest of the way.
Creighton does have momentum on its side; the Jays won a 91-87 shootout on the road against Georgetown on Monday. Ty-Shon Alexander was fantastic in that game, scoring 26 points. Meanwhile, Butler fell on Tuesday to the 6-0 (BIG EAST) Villanova Wildcats.
In the teams’ previous meeting, Butler stifled the Creighton offense with stellar defense. Alexander had a particularly forgettable performance, and the game was basically over by halftime. Butler will look to contain Alexander again, while Creighton will look to get off to a better start. Butler has suffered some of its worst BIG EAST defeats in Creighton’s home arena, so the Bulldogs may crumble if they get behind.
KEYS TO THE GAME
Butler: Control the game with defense
Butler’s formula for success against Creighton the first time is the same formula its had in victories all season—control the game from the opening tip with defense. Unfortunately for the Dawgs, their defense has been inconsistent this year. Butler, which features a number of underclassmen playing significant roles, seems to lose focus and energy on defense at times. The Bulldogs absolutely cannot afford to do this against a Creighton team that is coming off a 91-point performance against Georgetown. Butler needs to keep Creighton under 40 first half points to have a chance.
Creighton: Get Ty-Shon going
Alexander’s struggles were the most obvious reason for Creighton’s loss to Butler earlier this year. While the game was never particularly close, Mitch Ballock and Martin Krampelj actually got it going in the second half and were able to torch the Butler defense for brief periods. If Alexander can score early and put pressure on the Bulldogs to give him more attention, the Bluejays may begin slicing and dicing Butler’s defense. Alexander’s performance may very well determine the winner of this game.