The Villanova Wildcats return from their trip to New York and Madison Square Garden with another road victory and now face the Creighton Bluejays at the Pavilion on Wednesday night. Creighton is currently 14-8 on the season, and 5-4 in the Big East right in the middle of the standings where 4 teams are within a game of each other.
Villanova beat the Bluejays a few weeks back in Omaha, winning 85-71. Since these two teams last met, Creighton has gone 1-1 against both Georgetown and Seton Hall, beat DePaul and Butler, and lost to Providence at CenturyLink on a last second shot from Kris Dunn.
The Bluejays are fighting for one of the 68 spots in the NCAA tournament come March, and a road win at Villanova would be a huge resume builder. Here are three things to watch for Wednesday night:
How Will Injuries Play a Part?
Villanova has been relatively lucky when it comes to injures in the recent past but this year is a lot different (thanks Chris, yes I remember the Arizin in which you jinxed us). Tim Delany and Donte Divincenzo have both been bitten by the injury bug and now Daniel Ochefu has been to. After suffering a concussion Friday in practice and considering he has to be symptom free for three days to be cleared, it appears Chef will be out for a second straight game as Wednesday will be only five days from the injury.
In the first matchup with the Bluejays Chef dominated, going 9-10 from the field and finishing with 19 points, 7 boards, and 2 blocks. Creighton seven footer Geoffrey Groselle was also a nonfactor and a lot of credit can be given to Ochefu for that. However the head coach for the Blue Jays, Greg McDermott, said after their loss to Seton Hall on Saturday the big man rolled his ankle and was on crutches.
Assuming Chef is out, Darryl Reynolds will likely make his third straight start for the Wildcats. He struggled some against Providence but had a nice game against the Johnnies finishing with 4 points, 9 rebounds, and 1 block. If Groselle can't go for Creighton that would likely mean more of 6'9" forward Zach Hanson, who has had a solid season so far averaging seven points and three rebounds.
Maurice Watson Has Been Having a Great Season
Mo Watson is a 5'10" guard from Philadelphia who's playing his first season for the BlueJays after transferring from Boston University and siting out last season. He is currently averaging 14 points, 6.5 assists, and one steal per game. He also doesn't come out often as he has played 86.1% of his team's available minutes since conference play has begun, per Kenpom.com.
Watson's passing ability is elite as his 143 assists this season is good for 10th in all of division one. Mo also has a 38.4% assist rate per Kenpom, meaning he assists on 38.4% of his teammates field goals which is good for 14th in the country. He's a decent three point shooter as well, hitting on 34.5 percent of his shots from behind the arc but has struggled as of late, hitting only 28.6% of his three's since Big East play has started. Slowing down Watson and keeping him from making plays for others, as 'Nova did last time around, will by key in coming out with a victory.
Which offense will come out on top?
Both Villanova and Creighton have top 50 adjusted offensive efficiency's according to Kenpom. 'Nova comes in at number 23, scoring 115.0 points per 100 possessions while the Bluejays aren't too far behind, scoring 111.2 points per 100 possessions, good for 44th in the country. The Cats have struggled from the behind the arc, shooting only 31.9%, but have been one of the best in the country at scoring inside the arc hitting 57.5% of their two pointers one of the best in the nation.
Creighton isn't just a three point shooting team either, they shoot 54.2% from two point range but still hit 36.5% of their three's. The Wildcats have held there opponents to 41.4% shooting from two point land so far this season so it will be interesting to see if they can continue that against a very good two point shooting team and complete the season sweep of the Bluejays.