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Villanova Basketball 2022-23 preview: Creighton Bluejays

The Wildcats look for revenge as they welcome Creighton to town.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: FEB 14 Creighton at Providence

The Villanova Wildcats seek revenge as they welcome the second-place Creighton Bluejays to South Philadelphia. When the Wildcats and Bluejays faced off earlier this month, the Bluejays were able to stave off a late Villanova run to win, 66-61.

Villanova got behind as much as 10 points but fought their way back into the game and took the lead with less than a minute left. Similar to many games this season, the Wildcats lost because of a long scoring drought to end the game — finishing with only one made shot in the last five and a half minutes of the game.

After winning eight-straight, Creighton enters this matchup losing two of their last three games, with both losses being against ranked teams. The Bluejays lost in Providence in double-overtime and they lost at home against first-place Marquette on a questionable foul call in the final seconds of the game that prevented Creighton from taking the game to overtime.

Villanova, on the other hand, is coming off their biggest win of the season. The ‘Cats went into Cincinnati and defeated the No. 16-ranked Xavier Musketeers. Justin Moore looked like himself again scoring 25 points on 10/13 shooting and Villanova held Xavier’s elite offense to a season-low in scoring.

Villanova is looking to pick up another huge win to increase their slim chance of being selected on selection Sunday, while Creighton is fighting for position in the Big East Tournament in less than two weeks. Villanova and Creighton face off Saturday at noon on FS1 from the Wells Fargo Center. Ahead of the matchup, let’s highlight a few things to watch out for:

Keep Creighton Guards in Check

In order for Villanova to have any chance of winning this game, they must do a better job containing Creighton’s guards. In the first matchup, Creighton guard Trey Alexander was clearly the best player on the court and Ryan Nembhard was the best facilitator even with Justin Moore back in the lineup.

Trey Alexander finished with 27 points and Ryan Nembhard finished with five assists. Alexander has cooled off his scoring in Creighton’s past three games but Nembhard has picked up the slack. Nembhard is averaging 12.1 PPG on the season but 17.7 PPG over the past three games.

In the first matchup, the Wildcats got lucky that Baylor Scheierman was ineffective or the score may have been way more lopsided. Scheierman shot a season-low six shots finishing just 1-of-6 with five points and four rebounds. Villanova will need to keep Scheierman, who averages 13.1 points and 8.3 rebounds per game, in check again on Saturday to have a chance at winning. Scheierman is a spark-plug for the Bluejays who gets home crowds rowdy due to his limitless range. Luckily this game will be played in Philadelphia, but it is hard to forget what Doug McDermott and Ethan Wragge did the first time Creighton played Villanova at the Wells Fargo Center.

Creighton’s MVP - Ryan Kalkbrenner

It is not a surprise that Ryan Kalkbrenner is having a huge season. The 7-foot-1 junior is the reigning Big East Defensive Player of the Year and probably the toughest player Villanova has had to defend in Big East play this season.

Due to Villanova’s small-ball playstyle, they have historically struggled guarding seven-footers. The past few years, Wildcat fans have been extremely blessed to have Jermaine Samuels Jr. who could guard seven footers, like Kalkbrenner and Hunter Dickinson, better than most seven-footers around the country.

Kalbrenner is clearly Creighton’s most important player this season. A team that once used to run teams out of the building offensively now has a strong defensive presence with Kalkbrenner clogging up the paint and Arthur Kaluma locking down opposing wings. Kalkbrenner is averaging 14.7 points, 6.7 rebounds and a whopping 2.3 blocks per game.

Creighton is a completely different team with a healthy Kalbrenner. Creighton coach Greg McDermott confirmed Kalkbrenner was dealing with mono and the Bluejays proceeded to lose six straight games after starting off the season 6-0.

The Wildcats will need to hit their threes on Saturday if they want a good chance at beating Creighton - buckets around the rim will be hard to come by.

Justin Moore is BACK

It is time to officially declare Justin Moore BACK. Although he says he is still not at 100%, his game has been improving each time he’s been out there. Moore’s best game of the season came in Villanova’s first quad one win of the season at No. 16 Xavier.

Aside from Villanova’s win against Seton Hall, Justin Moore has increased his scoring in each game while his minutes have remained pretty consistent. It will be hard to top Moore’s efficient 25-point outing at Xavier, but as long as he leads this team to a win Saturday against Creighton, that is all the Villanova faithful care about.

In order for Justin to become an NBA Draft target, he will need to continue to work on his facilitating, setting up other teammates. Moore has never averaged more than 3.0 assists per game in a season during his time at Villanova. Although he is more of a shooting guard, this year’s Villanova team is in desperate need of a point guard who can help close out games.

Late in every game it seems like a graphic pops up on the screen saying “Villanova has 0 made field goals in the last X minutes”. Moore’s return has allowed Villanova to get out to leads and hang on late. Moore drained a huge three to give Villanova a five point lead with 2:15 left against Xavier, then the ‘Cats went silent finishing with three turnovers and 0 points to end the game. In order to reestablish Villanova’s winning culture, they must get good looks late in the game and that is up to Moore to create good looks.

Anyone who is coming off a torn Achilles is expected to have an uphill battle back to 100%. Unlike most players, Moore was able to return in 10 months from an injury that usually sets players back an entire 12 months. Moore coming back from this devastating injury shows his dedication to this team and university and should be praised. Let’s hope Moore can continue making Villanova fans proud by topping his last performance and leading Villanova to a win against Creighton.