Gametime: 11:00am CT
Location: Hinkle Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, IN
Creighton radio: 1620am / 1620 The Zone App feat the voice of Xmus Jaxon Flaxon-Waxon Bishop
Butler radio: 93.5FM/107.5FM/1070AM
Weather at tipoff: 35° fahrenheit, light snow showers, northwest winds at 9mph
BETTER PREVIEWS THAN THIS ONE:
Tom Nemitz at White and Blue Review put together another masterpiece pregame primer this week. You can read it here.
Jon Nyatawa from the Omaha World-Herald had two pieces to get you ready for this one. The first is about Creighton’s utilization of tempo and how it aided them against Marquette. The second is a pure scouting report of Butler.
David Woods of the Indianapolis Star gives an update about Kamar Baldwin’s ankle.
He also gave a preview about Creighton-Butler that sits behind a paywall.
Here’s Rob Anderson’s notes before the game, which are filled with lots of fantastic information.
Creighton has won 8 consecutive games, are currently 12-2 on the year, and 1-0 in BIG EAST play.
Butler has won 4 consecutive games, are currently 13-1 on the year, and 1-0 in BIG EAST play.
Butler led St. John’s in their conference season opener by 23 (!) points. They then proceeded to give up a 32-5 run to the Johnnies, saw themselves in a deficit, then proceeded to go on a 7-0 run to close the game out to ultimately win the game 60-58.
Kamar Baldwin injured his ankle. It’s serious enough that he was held out of practice this week according to David Woods of the Indianapolis Star.
If this holds true, and isn’t some sort of weird Kevin Willard/Myles Powell psychological play, the Bulldogs might be in a modicum of shit come game time. Baldwin is heralded as the Bulldogs best player, but he’s managed to put up some rather poor performances against stellar competition and still have his team become the victors.
Aaron Thompson, Sean McDermott, Bryce Golden, and Bryce Nze have managed to pick up the slack when Baldwin isn’t feeling it, spreading out their offensive attack and managing to scrounge together enough points offensively to get the Bulldogs by.
It’s the defense that makes the knees of their opponents quiver and become gelatinous. Not a single team that the Bulldogs have faced have managed to score over 70 points this season. One team has scored over 65; only four have managed to get over 60.
They’re just punishing, relentless, and force their opponents to play their way. The Butler Way. The Bulldogs currently hold their opponents under 30% from beyond the arc; and at 43% from inside of it. They don’t get a lot of steals, they simply make their opposition take bad shots. They’re not up-tempo. In fact, they’re averaging roughly 65 possessions a game. Compare that to Creighton, who averages 69.8 per game. It may not seem like a sizable difference, but when you’ve plodded yourself down and are experiencing College Basketball, it’s night and day.
Jordan Tucker is the hired gun from White Plains that comes off the bench for Butler. The 6’7 Junior is here to shoot threes, and he’ll get his opportunities, but he comes a matchup nightmare. He transferred in from Duke, where he sat on the pines, but he’s made an incredible difference to the Butler lineup, shining when the lights are brightest (12 points against Purdue and St. John’s, 13 against Florida, and 10 against Minnesota).
Christian David is the hotshot scorer who canned the game winner against St. John’s. Khalif Battle is a 6’5 freshman that can guard anyone in the conference. Henry Baddley still somehow has college eligibility.
Creighton has been dang good recently. They’re floating in the land of smallball, excelling at an increasingly alarming pace, doing everything that makes them unique and exciting. Led by Marcus Zegarowski, Ty-Shon Alexander, and Mitch Ballock, the Jays have carved themselves into a beautifully eccentric niche of the sport, shooting threes and putting so much pressure on defenses that there isn’t a true and proper way to guard them.
San Diego State happened to be their one kryptonite, as they played an equally fluid style but with more moxy and immense defensive prowess. They took Michigan down to the wire, where they eventually collapsed in the end, but showed promise for a big-time early-season tilt.
Without a true center, Greg McDermott has been forced to play 6’8 uber-athletic forward Christian Bishop down low. Bishop is complemented by Damien Jefferson, a 6’5 wing that can slash and grab rebounds with reckless abandon. The tandem gives the Jays pressure at the rim, and their athleticism makes pick-and-rolls a masterclass in movement and momentum.
This is McDermott’s sandbox. He has a mix of heady players that have enough toughness to get shit done defensively with the potency to eviscerate teams offensively. The intricacies of his offense makes my head spin; there’s so much going on with high screens and off-ball movement that it truly makes for magnificent basketball if it’s slowed to half speed and explained to me by someone that knows what the fuck is going on.
Off the bench the Jays will feature Denzel Mahoney, a true, pure scorer who will make opponents pay at the free throw line. He’s a new addition at winter break, a fresh face with fresh legs that can do a little bit of everything. Shereef Mitchell will come in to be a defensive stopper; his small frame features electric limbs that seemingly swipe basketballs from even the sturdiest of hands. Kelvin Jones acts as Creighton’s true ‘big,’ standing at 6’11 with a wide body. Jones’s footwork can be suspect and his first instinct isn’t always the best, but he provides excellent minutes down low if the Jays need someone at the rim.