NCAA Wednesday Night Basketball: Creighton/Providence Preview

by Big Al Staff

The opening contest in a college basketball doubleheader on FS1 features a rematch of a game on January 2nd in Big East decided on a game-winning shot with just 0.8 seconds left to play. Christian Bishop’s clutch shot gave Creighton a 67-65 victory at Providence as a 4-point favorite.

Ed Cooley’s team has found themselves in several close games this season. The Friars followed up that loss by getting beat at Xavier, 74-73, via a 3-pointer with 0.1 seconds left on the clock a week later. Those heartbreaks may have contributed to their flat effort on January 12th at Marquette, where they fell behind by 16 points before losing to the Golden Eagles by a 79-69 score as a 4.5-point underdog. Some of the bounces have gone their way this season as they pulled out overtime victories against Seton Hall and DePaul.

Providence has not played in eight days since their game on Saturday with Georgetown was postponed due to COVID issues. The Friars had three other conference games postponed in mid-December due to COVID. They are 7-6 on the season with a 3-4 mark in conference play.

Cooley’s teams often continue to improve as the season wears on. He had his group on a six-game winning streak before last season got canceled. Just three players are back from that 19-12 team that played more than 12 minutes-per-game, yet two of them are in the top-three scorers in the Big East. Junior guard David Duke is scoring 19.9 points-per-game. Senior Nate Watson is adding 18.3 points-per-game with the 6’10 center pulling down 7.2 rebounds-per-game. Cooley considers Watson the best post-up player in the nation. The duo is scoring 51.5% of the 74.2 points-per-game that Providence averages per game while providing an inside-out scoring threat that Cooley facilitates with the 301st slowest pace in the nation. Guard A.J. Reeves scores 9.7 points-per-game as an outside shooting threat, but he is questionable for this game with an undisclosed issue.

The Friars are eighth in the nation with a 6.9% non-steal turnover rate when they have the basketball. Providence ranks 41st in adjusted offensive efficiency and 101st in adjusted defensive efficiency according to the metrics at kenpom. The Friars only make 32.8% of their 3-pointers on the season, but they only take these shots 31.7% of the time, the 296th lowest rate in the nation. Providence has improved in conference play by making 38.9% of their 3-pointers, third-best in the Big East. The Friars are also holding their conference opponents to a 32.9% clip from 3-point land, third best.

Providence’s highest-profile win is against Seton Hall, and they registered a non-conference victory against Davidson. They lost to Indiana and Alabama in non-conference play last month.

Creighton had their six-game winning streak snapped on Saturday in a 70-66 upset loss in overtime at Butler as a 7-point favorite. The Bluejays went on a 23-3 run in the second half but still could not stave off overtime as they ultimately lost to the Bulldogs. They played that game without point guard Marcus Zegarowski who missed his second straight game with a hamstring injury. The junior is scoring 14.1 points-per-game while averaging 4.4 assists-per-game. He is questionable for this game. Creighton still has five other players that score at least 7.0 points-per-game, including Denzel Mahoney, whose 15.9 points-per-game scoring average leads the team.

The Bluejays rank 11th in the nation in the Associated Press poll with a 10-3 record. They are 6-2 in Big East play with victories against Seton Hall, UConn, and Xavier. Their three losses were a one-point loss to Kansas and Marquette and the Bulldogs in conference play.

Creighton ranks tenth in the nation in adjusted offensive efficiency at kenpom. They are 11th with a 58.5% shooting percentage inside the arc, and they rank 36th with a 38.0% shooting clip from 3-point land. Their 57.8% effective field goal percentage is 11th best. The Bluejays are also playing strong fundamental defense. They are limiting their opponents to just a 43.0% shooting percentage inside the arc. They rank 35th in the nation in adjusted defensive efficiency using the metrics at kenpom.

The Bluejays’ 2-point win on January 2nd was the fifth time in the last ten meetings between these two teams settled by 6 points or less. BookMaker lists Creighton as a 9.5-point favorite, with the total set at 146. The FS1 broadcast starts at 7 PM ET.

All photographic images used for editorial content have been licensed from the Associated Press.

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