The 365th day of the year has been kind to Villanova since the new Big East launched. The Wildcats opened Big East conference play with a startling 31-point margin of victory over sixth-ranked Xavier on New Years Eve. Now the Wildcats will travel to Omaha for their first road test of 2016, against a Bluejays team that is also 1-0 in conference play (10-4 overall) after a Thursday win over St. John's.
Surely, the quick turnaround hampered the Wildcats' New Years' Eve party plans, but Creighton had a similar travel arrangement to get their home court ready for the Big East favorites. The game will air live on Fox Sports 1 at 10:00 PM (eastern) from the CenturyLink Center.
Here are three things to watch for tomorrow:
They Haven't Beaten a Ranked Opponent Yet
In their two chances so far, Creighton has fallen short against ranked opponents Indiana (#14) and Oklahoma (#3). Villanova certainly can't fault the Bluejays for an 87-74 away game loss to the Sooners -- and their other ranked los was an away contest as well. This isn't the Doug McDermott-era Bluejays, but they're a capable squad who likely learned from their non-conference losses, much like Villanova has.
Coach Greg McDermott set a high bar for his program during his introductory season in the Big East. Since then, there have been growing pains as the Bluejays have had to rebuild. This season, however, they have won all of the games they were supposed to, even if they came up short against their two ranked tests.
Geoffrey Groselle Is Dangerous Inside
He's a 7-foot tall senior center, and he's leading his team with 12.9 points per game and 6.8 rebounds. After a relatively-quiet career up to this point, Groselle has become a very important piece for the 2015-16 Jays. He doesn't shoot from outside, but connects on 75% of his shots from the floor and puts up a respectable 66.1% from the charity stripe, and he was nearly-perfect shooting against the Johnnies.
Creighton will certainly be looking to feed their beast in the post. The big kid from Plano, Texas needs to be an obsession for Daniel Ochefu on defense, to take away those easy shots. On the perimeter, the 'Cats will look to deny entry passes and force the Creighton guards to look for their shot outside. That could still be dangerous, with second-leading scorer, Boston University transfer (and Philly kid) Maurice Watson connecting on over 41% from deep, but you can't guard every shot.
Creighton is one of the strongest offenses in the country this season, rating 26th on KenPom.com, and have the 7th-best effective Field Goal percentage in the country.
This Could Become a Shoot-out
Creighton has plenty of offensive fire-power, with a high-power offense that features four players averaging double-digit points and a fifth who is close. Villanova's defense will have their hands full trying to slow the Jay's roll on offense. If that doesn't happen, it could be a high-scoring affair.
Villanova has a good offense as well, especially if their shots are falling from deep like they were on New Years. The Blue Jays, meanwhile, rank 167th in the nation for defensive-efficiency, which puts them just a hair above the average. Unless the Wildcats shoot themselves in the foot, scoring points to keep pace in Omaha should be a reasonable possibility. However, you'd have to hope that the 'Cats learned a few key takeaways from their loss at Virginia, where a shootout, combined with a rough night on the boards, saw the Cavaliers run away with a victory.
If this one does turn into a shootout, the Wildcats need to work for better shots and keep pace on the boards to avoid a similar fate as they faced in Charlottesville.