On Tuesday, December 14th, the Creighton Bluejays will play host to the Arizona State Sun Devils. ASU has been streaky this year, winning on the road against Oregon, but also being on the back-end of some bad games (including a 51-29 loss to Washington State). Despite going on a five game losing streak, Arizona State bounced back, and will hope to challenge Creighton in Omaha.
How to watch Creighton vs. Arizona State
Time: 8:00pm ET
Watch Online: Fox Sports App
The Arizona State Sun Devils (4-6, 1-1) have been questionable. The aforementioned five game losing streak were all to good teams, but Arizona State is not shooting the ball well at all. ASU is shooting numbers as a team all rank in the 300s nationally according to Sports-Reference, with the Sun Devils shooting 39.3% from the field and 29.4% from three. The defense makes up for this, as ASU’s opponents are shooting about well from the field as they are, but the losing ways of the Sun Devils are explained by the weak shooting numbers.
The other easy explanation for the losing ways of Arizona State could very well be the loss of Marcus Bagley, who is dealing with an injury bug and has been unavailable each of the last seven games with no signs of being available against Creighton. He was averaging 10.0 PPG, but this is also misleading, as he scored 30 in his first two games before going down after 9 minutes of play against North Florida. He was a starter, and as seen with BYU, starters lost can spell trouble for teams and their game plans.
What Arizona State has been able to do without Bagley is what has been questionable. 2-5 in games without the 6’8” forward has been to shoot worse from the field than their average, worse from three than their average, have a -7.9 margin of victory, and get outrebounded by 8.3 rebounds per game. That being said, this team still won at Oregon and against Grand Canyon, a good conference opponent and a decent mid-major. There are definitely pieces that still make the team operate successfully at times.
One of those pieces is D.J. Horne, leading scorer for the Sun Devils. Horne has started every game since the North Florida game on the 15th of November, has been responsible for 27 of ASU’s 69 three-pointers (39.1% of total), and has been shooting the second-best rate from three on the team. He also, for good measure, is averaging 13.2 PPG. Kimani Lawrence is second on the team in scoring at 11.4 PPG and leads the team in rebound at 8.5 RPG, easily the best mark on the team. Jay Heath is another player to look out for, as he is third on the team in scoring (ignoring the injured Marcus Bagley) at 8.9 PPG with the best three-point percentage on the team at 45.5%. Finally, Marreon Jackson leads the team in assists with 4.2 APG, again easily the best mark on the roster.
In order for Creighton to win...
…the Jays must continue to apply defensive pressure to make Arizona State uncomfortable. Creighton has already had a game this season that got out of hand because of shooters getting hot against Creighton (see Colorado State). Applying the pressure has not been an issue for Creighton as of late, with Ryan Kalkbrenner roaming the paint and guards playing particularly well on the perimeter. Creighton cannot let their guard down now.
Creighton also needs to focus on the present. A big game looms with #9 Villanova arriving in town on Friday. Creighton cannot allow themselves to be star-struck by the Wildcats and must focus on the game at hand. Sounds simple, but you can often tell once a game has started who is looking ahead and who is living in the present.