A clash between the two best teams in the Big East highlights Saturday’s college basketball schedule, as the no. 19 Creighton Bluejays host the no. 5 Villanova Wildcats. On the road, the Wildcats are a slight 1-point favorite over the Bluejays, with the over/under for the game set at 144 points.
Despite a few stumbles earlier this season, the Bluejays have won five of their last six games, pulling somewhat even with Villanova atop the Big East standings at 11-4. This meeting and the rematch on March 3 should go a long way toward deciding the Big East regular-season champion. Creighton would also love to add another quality win to its NCAA Tournament resume to move up the seed line.
The Wildcats have started to find their groove again after having six straight games postponed due to COVID concerns. Jay Wright’s team has won five of six games since that prolonged absence, including a 32-point win over Marquette earlier this week. If Villanova can keep it up, another Big East title and a no. 1 seed aren’t out of the question.
Steady as She Goes
Despite missing all of those games in the middle of the season, the Wildcats have remained remarkably consistent this season. Wright has his rotation trimmed to eight players who have appeared in all 15 games this season, with five of those eight players averaging at least 11 points per game. Everybody has a role, and everybody seems to understand their position.
Forward Jeremiah Robinson-Earl typically takes the lead, averaging over 16 points and seven rebounds per game. He’s also gone off for over 20 points twice in his last four games, so he can be unstoppable when he heats up. Meanwhile, senior point guard Collin Gillespie contributes 14.5 points and 5.2 assists per game, spreading the ball to Robinson-Earl and the other Wildcats. As a team, the Wildcats shoot 38.7% from the perimeter, as Justin Moore and Caleb Daniels are just as dangerous shooting the ball as Gillespie.
The Z Man
Of course, the Bluejays can match Gillespie and the Villanova backcourt with Marcus Zegarowski, who is arguably the best point guard in the Big East. Zegarowski averages 14.4 points and 4.3 assists per game. He’s more of a pure scorer than Gillespie, who’s also capable of creating plays for his teammates.
He’s also one of three quality outside shooters on the Creighton roster, along with Denzel Mahoney and Mitch Ballock, who have both made at least 45 three-pointers this season. Mahoney is the team’s leading scorer with 14.5 points per game, while Ballock, Damien Jefferson, and Christian Bishop also average double figures. The Creighton frontcourt also has a wild card in 7-foot freshman Ryan Kalkbrenner, who has scored at least 10 points in three of his last six games as he gets more comfortable playing at the college level.
Attack of the Cats
The Bluejays are a quality team, but they’ve also lost three games at home this season to teams in the bottom half of the Big East standings. That doesn’t bode well for their chances against the best team in the conference. Creighton will make this interesting but bet on Villanova to pull away late and cover.
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