On Tuesday, November 30th, the Creighton Bluejays play host to the North Dakota State Bison. The Bluejays and Bison have squared off ten times before, most recently in 2020, when Creighton dispatched of the Bison in Omaha, 69-58. Before that, CU and NDSU had not played each other since the 70s, but even still, Creighton is undefeated in 10 attempts versus the Bison. This year, NDSU travels to Omaha favored to finish second in the Summit League with seven first-place votes out of 36 possible votes, and with three players on a first or second All-Summit League team.
How to watch Creighton vs. North Dakota State
Time: 9:00pm ET
Watch Online: Fox Sports App
North Dakota State continues a trend for Creighton that the Bluejays have seen in recent games: experience and returning talent. The BIson are the third team in four games to have more than 90% of minutes and scoring returning, joining Colorado State (L, 95-81) and Southern Illinois (W, 66-64). In those two other games, Colorado State made 20 threes on only 34 attempts, and Southern Illinois was leading by 8 with mere minutes left in the game before a 12-2 run from Creighton. Experienced teams have played the Jays close, and North Dakota State isn’t going to be a slouch either.
North Dakota State (4-2) had not impressed this season until recently, where the Bison were able to blow out the Idaho Vandals, 90-73. Rocky Kreuser went off for 21 points and 10 rebounds on 9-14 shooting, Grant Nelson had 18 points with 7 rebounds, Tyree Eady had 17 points and 10 rebounds, and off the bench went Andrew Morgan for 13 points and an additional 5 rebounds. North Dakota State never trailed and was only tied for the first 15 seconds of the game before a Grant Nelson layup. North Dakota State was dominant for the first time this season against a Division One opponent, gathering good momentum going into the Creighton game.
What should concern Creighton fans is the height of NDSU. The Bluejays have length at the guard positions and forward positions, but the Bison have a strong frontcourt with size CU has not seen yet this year. Rocky Kreuser (15.3 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 1.5 APG) is 6’10”, and a starter. Grant Nelson (11.5 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 0.7 APG) is 6’10”, and a starter. The combo of Kreuser and Nelson will put Creighton at a slight disadvantage down low. Ryan Kalkbrenner can handle Nelson on the condition that he doesn’t make many threes (18.2% from three on 3.7 attempts). Kreuser shoots 35.3% from three, and will have a three-inch height advantage over whoever in Creighton’s starting lineup will guard him (whether it be Arthur Kaluma or Ryan Hawkins). This two-headed monster is complimented on the perimeter by Jarius Cook (10.0 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 1.0 APG), Tyler Eady (6.8 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 2.6 APG), and Willie Guy (3.8 PPG, 1.3 RPG, 1.8 APG), all of whom have started NDSU’s past two games.
In order for Creighton to win...
...the interior defense has to be as solid as a rock. Creighton has been fortunate this season not to play a frontcourt this daunting. Sure, David Roddy of Colorado State went off for 36 points in his game against Creighton, but his shooting numbers were crazy. The Bluejays have not seen a duo like Kreuser and Nelson all year, so Creighton will need to delegate defensive assignments well and have the team ready for a dogfight down low. The other starters can knock it down from three as well (Guy shoots 41.7% from three, Cook shoots 39.3%), meaning the Jays can’t really afford to double-team down low. Kalkbrenner and one or Kaluma or Hawkins needs to be ready for the assignment down low.
Creighton also needs to get out to a better start in the first half. Look at the last three home games for Creighton, and you will see a combined deficit of 23 points over three games. This is unacceptable for the quality of opponent that Creighton is about to face, and Creighton needs to jump out to a more commanding start than what they have done at home to start the season.