BET Championship Game Preview

VUSports previews the Villanova - Creighton, Big East Tournament Championship game (Sat, 5:30 p.m., FOX) ...

Villanova faces Creighton in the Big East Tournament Championship game on Saturday at 5:30 p.m. at Madison Square Garden (TV: FOX, Radio: 610 (WTEL AM) or VUSports Live Chat).  Villanova is seeking a third BET Championship - Creighton a first.

Kenpom predicts a 77-70 win for Villanova with a 74% chance of the Cats winning the game.  Villanova won the first meeting between the two teams in Omaha on New Year’s Eve by a score of 80-70 and the rematch, 79-63, at the Pavilion on Senior Day.  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.  Paschall, Hart and Jenkins all scored 15 or more points in the second game as Villanova canned 46 second-half points to break open a game that was tied at 33 at intermission.  The Cats were without Darryl Reynolds in that game and played primarily six players while Dylan Painter contributed ten minutes.

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 - 40.6% from three, 56.9% 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 good offensive rebounding team

 • Neither team gets to the FT line with consistency

other stats of interest:

 • Creighton is shooting 68.4% FTs - could this play a factor in a close game given the Cats shoot 79.4%?

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

Creighton player thumbnails:

Marcus Foster (6-3, 210, Jr., 30.6 MPG, 18.4 PPG, 2.9 RPG, 2.3 APG, 34.4% 3PFG, 47.0% FG, 70.1% FT, 103.4 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.  Proved against Xavier that he is willing to take, and make, the big shot.

Khyri Thomas (6-3, 205, So., 30.9 MPG, 12.7 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 3.3 APG, 1.5 SPG, 38.0% 3PFG, 51.2% FG, 77.3% FT, 117.2 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.  He is a lock-down defender.

Justin Patton (7-0, 230, Fr., 25.2 MPG, 12.9 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 1.3 APG, 1.5 BPG, 53.8% 3PFG, 69.2% FG, 51.2% FT, 118.4 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., 22.8 MPG, 9.1 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 46.3% 3PFG, 45.2% FG, 84.6% FT,  119.0 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., 16.9 MPG, 5.3 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 46.3% 3PFG, 48.3% FG, 62.5% FT, 121.8 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., 20.5 MPG, 5.0 PPG, 1.9 RPG, 41.3% 3PFG, 41.7% FG, 92.3% FT, 125.4 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., 11.8 MPG, 3.5 PPG, 1.8 APG, 39.1% 3PFG, 39.4% FG, 78.8% FT, 90.3 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., 8.8 MPG, 1.6 PPG, 1.3 APG, 35.3% 3PFG, 50.0% FG, 57.1% FT,  92.2 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., 10.7 MPG, 6.0 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 64.3% FG, 44.4% FT, 108.5 ORtg)  This experienced big-man option for Creighton understands what is expected 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 and Tim Delaney are expected to be out for Villanova.

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