How to Watch
Time: 5:00pm EST
TV: FOX (Tim Brando & Nick Bahe)
Streaming: Fox Sports Go
Spread: Villanova -3
The No. 19 Creighton Bluejays (15-5, 11-4) are set to host the No. 5 Villanova Wildcats (13-2, 8-1) in Omaha this Saturday afternoon at 5:00pm. This will be the first of two meetings this season between the Wildcats and the Bluejays, with the latter game scheduled for March 3rd at Villanova. Last season, Villanova and Creighton split their season series, with each team picking up a quality win on the road. Now with both teams perched atop the Big East standings, this top 25 battle is sure to be the conference’s marquee matchup of the season.
While this game will be monumental for both teams, this is arguably the most important matchup of Villanova’s season thus far. Although they are ranked fifth in the country, they only own one quad one win (at Texas) this season. This series with Creighton will be imperative for the Wildcats to build their resume as they push towards a number one seed in the NCAA Tournament. To add to the pressure and an already tough road environment, this will be only the second time the Wildcats have played in front of a live crowd this season due to COVID restrictions. In this matchup, look for Jeremiah Robinson-Earl to continue his domination in the paint. Outside of freshman Ryan Kalkbrenner, the Bluejays are a relatively small team, as evidenced by their generous allowance of offensive rebounds. If the trio of Colin Gillespie, Jermaine Samuels and Caleb Daniels have as much of an impact on this game as they did in the second half of their matchup with Marquette, then Villanova will be well on their way to not only a win, but to a Big East regular season title.
Creighton will come into this matchup with a lot to play for as well, most notably looking to defeat Villanova consecutively (dating back to last season) for the first time since the 2013-14 season. The Bluejays will rely heavily on their senior leadership consisting of Mitch Ballock, Denzel Mahoney and Damien Jefferson, who have accounted for over 45% of the teams total points this season. Another name to keep an eye out for will be Marcus Zegarowski. The dynamic junior was recently named to the 2021 midseason team for Naismith men’s player of the year, as voted on by the Atlanta Tipoff Club. Zegarowski is averaging 14.4 points per game this year and can hit three pointers at a clip of nearly 40%, proving his title of preseason Big East Player of the Year, as well as his numerous preseason All American selections.
Both the Wildcats and the Bluejays have explosive offenses that can shoot the ball exceptionally well. Since the 2013-14 season, which coincides with the realignment of the Big East, both teams are top five in the country in the three pointers made category, Villanova in first with 2,592 and Creighton in fifth with 2,413. Creighton is 0-11 all time against Villanova when they make eight or less three pointers, so the key to victory for the Bluejays will be success from beyond the arc as well as mistake-free basketball on the boards. The Bluejays offensive has always been good, but what is making them a serious contender this year is their improved defense. For Villanova to come out of Omaha with a win they will need to continue their style of disciplined basketball by limiting turnovers and capitalizing on their opportunities when they arise. This game is sure to provide the fireworks that you would come to expect from a traditional Big East bout, and just may be the biggest game of the regular season for both of these programs.
My Prediction: 83-75 Villanova