The Big East regular-season title will likely be decided on Wednesday night when the no. 10 Villanova Wildcats host the no. 14 Creighton Bluejays at 8:30 pm EST. The Wildcats are a 3-point favorite at home, with the over/under set at 147 points.
The Bluejays had appeared to turn things up a notch until losing to Xavier over the weekend. That loss snapped Creighton’s four-game winning streak and a stretch of seven wins in eight games, including a convincing 86-70 win over Villanova. At 13-5 in conference play, the Bluejays are half a game behind Villanova in the Big East standings, meaning wins in their last two games of the regular season would give the Bluejays the regular-season crown.
Likewise, the Wildcats are coming off a loss, putting forth a dreadful effort in a 73-61 loss to Butler over the weekend. Jay Wright’s team has lost three of its last seven games, putting another regular-season title in doubt and likely costing Villanova a no. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Of course, a win on Wednesday would give the Cats the regular-season title and the top seed in the Big East Tournament.
What Went Wrong?
In plain terms, the Wildcats made just two of their 27 three-point attempts during their loss to Butler. All five starters went ice cold from the perimeter in the same game. It didn’t help that Villanova was out-rebounded and bullied inside the paint while failing to score from the perimeter.
The good news is that such a poor performance is likely to repeat itself on Wednesday. The Wildcats shoot 36% from the perimeter as a team and have five scorers who average at least 10 points per game. On the other hand, they shot a low percentage in their loss to Creighton last month. The team’s two leading scorers, Collin Gillespie and Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, were both held well below their season averages in that game, and Villanova will need its stars to shine in the rematch.
A Bump in the Road
Other than running into a desperate Xavier team and having a disappointing showing at the free-throw line, no egregious concerns were coming out of Creighton’s recent loss. The Bluejays had four players in double figures, with point guard Marcus Zegarowski contributing a double-double in a losing effort.
Much like the Wildcats, Creighton has five players who average double figures, giving them plenty of scoring options. Zegarowski excels at distributing the ball, especially to Denzel Mahoney and Mitch Ballock, who are both dangerous shooting threats from the outside. Meanwhile, freshman center Ryan Kalkbrenner continues to develop, giving the Bluejays size and an inside scoring threat they didn’t have earlier in the season.
After a terrible performance over the weekend and getting dominated by Creighton earlier this season, the Wildcats are difficult to trust as home favorites. The Bluejays look like the more balanced team in recent games and should have an advantage in the frontcourt that could be the difference. Bet on Creighton as road underdogs on Wednesday night.
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