Monday, January 20, 2014
When: 7:00 pm Eastern
Creighton Bluejays (15-3, 5-1) vs #4 Villanova Wildcats (16-1, 5-0)
RPI: Creighton: 14 | Villanova: 4
KenPom: Creighton: 13 | Villanova: 2
Wells Fargo Center (Capacity: 19,500)
Where: Philadelphia, PA
TV: Fox Sports 1
Announcers: Gus Johnson & Bill Raftery
Radio: 1210 WPHT
Odds: Villanova -5.5 | O/U OFF
Creighton and Villanova have met 3 times from 1950-1952, with the Wildcats owning the series 3-0. Villanova won the first match 84-63 at Creighton. They also won the two return games at The Palestra, 61-42 and 79-61.
Creighton has been something of a NCAA darling, emerging from mid-major status with repeated successful seasons. The 2013-2014 campaign is no different for the Bluejays, who find themselves in second place of the Big East standings. They have been ranked three times in the AP Poll and received votes in all but one week of the season. This was the result of a one week hiccup that included losses to San Diego State and George Washington during the holiday tournament portion of the schedule. Creighton also dropped a game Saturday night at Providence 81-68, so a win against their first ranked opponent (SDSU was not ranked at the time) would be huge.
The Nebraskan squad is led by the highly touted senior Doug McDermott. Though known as a shooter, he is an offensive powerhouse who can do it all when called upon. He possesses NBA range from 3-point territory, but also plays a tough below-the-rim interior game. McDermott shoots at a 43% clip from behind the arc and 50% overall on 17 attempts per game. All this leads to his staggering point production of 25.2 ppg. Although McDermott's scoring average is second highest in the NCAA, Jay Wright recently called the forward "the best player in the country."
McDermott is not without a supporting cast. Ethan Wragge, Creighton's other starting forward, contributes 11.9 ppg exclusively from 3-pointers. Wragge is not a threat with off the dribble, but the Bluejays guards are. Four guards on the roster average more than 2.8 assists per game each. Creighton earns the most helpers in the NCAA with 19.1 per game.
Villanova will need to play a complete game to earn a W against the conference leader. Fortunately McDermott is not invincible, as former Villanova forward Isaiah Armwood held him to 7 points. The defensive match up will likely fall to JayVaughn Pinkston and James Bell. Creighton does not shy away from physical play either, so players like Daniel Ochefu could be exposed through foul trouble. Providence did expose their slow defense, which failed to compensate for a poor shooting performance.
Here is Jay Wright on the matchup.
Greg McDermott is in his fourth year as Creighton's basketball coach and his twenty-second year as Doug McDermott's father. The coach played D1 collegiate ball for the Northern Iowa Panthers before moving to the sidelines. North Dakota state hired the McDermott immediately after graduation as an assistant. He stayed there for 5 years before earning a head coaching position at Wayne State. He bounced around Midwest schools, including a stint at his alma mater, before landing at Creighton in 2010. His career tally is 375-278 (.574).
At Creighton, McDermott is 85-33 (.726). His offensive forte is running set plays as opposed to a motion offense. His recruits are not usually highly ranked, but they fit well into his system. The 2014 class boasts the first 4-star recruit that McDermott has signed at Creighton, Leon Gilmore. A similarly sized forward Ronnie Harrell is also headed to Nebraska next season.
Creighton University boasts a nice list of alums. Donald Keough, former president and COO of Coca-Cola, and Joseph J. Rickets, founder of TD Ameritrade and owner of the Chicago Cubs, both called the Omaha university their home. The MLB Hall of Fame right hand pitcher Bob Gibson played both baseball and basketball for the Bluejays.
Manhattan: The Mason Jar - 43 E 30th Street
Boston: Warehouse - 40 Broad Street
Note: Many of you are aware of my Doug McDermott fondness. I watched the Creighton-Butler game so I could highlight more than just McDermott, but then he scored 24 points in the first half on a ridiculous performance. So I didn't have a choice.