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Villanova vs. Creighton Preview

VUSports previews #23 Creighton visiting #2 Villanova at the Pavilion for Senior Day on Saturday ...

#2 AP Villanova tips off against #23 Creighton at the Pavilion on Saturday afternoon at 3:00 p.m. (TV: Fox, Radio: 610 (WTEL AM) or VUSports Live Chat).  Villanova (26-3, 13-3) looks to bounce back from a loss against Butler on Wednesday night and secure the out-right, Big East, regular season championship.  

Kenpom predicts an 80-70 win for Villanova with an 81% chance of the Cats emerging victorious.  Villanova won the first meeting between the two teams in Omaha on New Year’s Eve by a score of 80-70.  Since that time, the Blue Jays have lost Maurice Watson for the season while the Cats are likely without Darryl Reynolds (who played 21 minutes with 0 points in the first meeting).  Jalen Brunson was the star in the first game - dropping 27 points and dishing out 5 assists.  Brunson, Hart and Jenkins combined for 10-22 shooting beyond the arc and 66 points.  The Cats fell behind 24-14 at CenturyLink Center before storming back.

Fueled by a high-powered offense, Creighton (22-6, 9-6) is projected to earn a 6 Seed in the NCAA Tournament this season by virtue of grabbing wins over Wisconsin (79-67, home), N.C. St. (112-94, Neutral), Mississippi (86-77, Neutral), Nebraska (77-62, Away), Arizona St. (96-85, Away) and in conference over Seton Hall (89-75, Home), at Xavier (72-67) and a sweep of #22 Butler.

One interesting aspect of this match-up will be tempo.  Creighton has one of the quickest offenses in the country - they look to get out in transition and to create good looks at the basket early in possessions.  Can Villanova take care of the ball and shoot the ball well enough to slow down the Creighton offense?  Will Villanova’s 3/4 court pressure slow the Bluejays ability to quickly transition to offense or will the Jays be able to shred it and attack off dribble-drive with impunity?

Taking a look at the Four Factors for each team:

VUSports (data per Kenpom.com)

a few things stand out:

Creighton plays at a very quick tempo - doing a lot of damage in transition

The Bluejays have been shooting the lights out - 41.3% from three, 57.8% from two

The Cats do a great job of avoiding fouling on defense - the Jays aren’t bad at it either

Creighton is not a great offensive rebounding team

Neither team gets to the FT line with consistency

other stats of interest:

Creighton is shooting 67.9% FTs - could this play a factor in a close game given the Cats shoot 80.0%?

Villanova should look to avoid getting in a three-point shootout

Creighton player thumbnails:

Marcus Foster (6-3, 210, Jr., 30.4 MPG, 18.6 PPG, 2.7 RPG, 2.2 APG, 33.9% 3PFG, 48.3% FG, 72.0% FT, 106.0 ORtg)  A great athlete with power and hops.  He is pouring them in from deep and getting to the rack with authority - especially in transition.  In the hunt for All-Big East honors given the terrific season he is putting together for the Jays.

Khyri Thomas (6-3, 205, So., 30.1 MPG, 11.9 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 3.1 APG, 1.5 SPG, 38.8% 3PFG, 51.6% FG, 75% FT, 121.1 ORtg)  The Soph is really coming into his own this season.  He, like his teammates, takes good shots and hits a ton of them.  Thomas rebounds well for a guard, has been setting people up more in the absence of Watson, and will be a tough cover for Villanova.

Justin Patton (7-0, 230, Fr., 25.5 MPG, 13.6 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 1.3 APG, 1.6 BPG, 53.8% 3PFG, 69.3% FG, 53.2% FT, 121.0 ORtg)  His achilles heel is his free throw shooting but the seven-footer is a weapon on both ends of the floor.  He is a good rebounder and a good help shot-blocker.  He handles the ball well for a big man and has the combination of athleticism and skill to score the ball from all over the court.

Cole Huff (6-8, 220, Sr., 22.5 MPG, 9.2 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 47.6% 3PFG, 47.2% FG, 83.0% FT,  123.8 ORtg)  He has experience and knows what is needed of him.  He doesn’t commit fouls, he doesn’t turn it over and, if left unattended, he is a very good three-point shooter.  When he gets a spot-up jump-shot with space, he can drain it.

Toby Hegner (6-10, 235, Jr., 17.0 MPG, 5.4 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 45.2% 3PFG, 46.8% FG, 61.1% FT, 119.5 ORtg)  The junior combines the length and skill to be a versatile resource off the bench for Coach McDermott.  Shoots it, defends, and helps out on the glass.  Strong with the ball for a 6-10 player - can pass it a bit.  Not a great FT shooter.

Isaiah Zierden (6-3, 190, Sr., 19.9 MPG, 5.0 PPG, 1.9 RPG, 46.7% 3PFG, 46.5% FG, 92.6% FT, 125.6 ORtg)  Versatile - can get hot from three-point range.  Brings a lot of energy and experience off the pine.  He has upped his game since Watson’s injury.

Davion Mintz (6-3, 175, Fr., 10.6 MPG, 3.5 PPG, 1.5 APG, 52.9% 3PFG, 42.1% FG, 84% FT, 93.0 ORtg)  The Frosh has been part of the rotation in the absence of Watson.  He is not the most efficient offensive player but he handles the ball  well enough to get the job done and is an effective passer.

Tyler Clement (6-1, 185, Jr., 9.3 MPG, 1.7 PPG, 1.5 APG, 37.5% 3PFG, 51.7% FG, 57.1% FT,  92.7 ORtg)  Clement has stepped up to play some good minutes for the Jays.  He can make the open jumper and pass the ball effectively.

Zach Hanson (6-9, 245, Sr., 11.1 MPG, 6.4 PPG, 2.4 RPG, 66.7% FG, 44% FT, 112.4 ORtg)  This experienced big-man option for Creighton understands what is epected from him on both ends of the floor.  He is an opportunity scorer, can post you up, and gets on the glass a bit.


Injuries: Phil Booth, Darryl Reynolds and Tim Delaney are all expected to be out for Villanova.  There is some probability that Reynolds will play token minutes to start the game given it is Senior night.


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