Xavier vs Creighton Odds, Prediction: Bluejays Heading for More Success
Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images. Pictured: Ryan Nembhard (Creighton)
Xavier vs Creighton Odds
-110o / -110u
-110o / -110u
Two Big East heavyweights square off on Saturday afternoon as No. 13 Xavier heads to Omaha to take on Creighton.
The Musketeers took home the first matchup between these two on Jan. 11, taking down the Bluejays, 90-87. Both teams averaged more than 1.14 points per possession as Xavier pulled away late.
Fresh off a season sweep of Connecticut, can Xavier keep its momentum rolling, or will Creighton bounce back with a much-needed Quadrant I win at home?
Sean Miller’s coaching job in his first season as Xavier head coach is nothing short of impressive. He hasn’t skipped a beat since his departure from Arizona and now boasts one of the deadliest offenses in college basketball.
This is as well-rounded a team as you will see.
UTEP transfer Souley Boum has turned into a star and ranks 54th in offensive rating, leading the team with 16.8 points per game.
But it’s the duo of bigs — Zach Freemantle and Jack Nunge — that make the Musketeers’ offense so fluid.
Xavier’s high-low offense spreads defenses thin and if double teams drop into the paint, shooters are often open on the perimeter.
Compared to other teams, Xavier shoots on post-ups at the 11th-highest rate, per ShotQuality. The Musketeers are also 29th in PPP out of the pick-and-roll, highlighting the importance of both Freemantle and Nunge in the middle.
As expected, most of Xavier’s offense comes on 2-point attempts because of its big men — 332nd in 3PA/FGA — but it’s worth noting it’s the fourth-best 3-point shooting team at 40.3%.
This is a team that isn’t shy to create offense out of isolation and is 24th in PPP on off-the-dribble 3s.
Miller’s offense wastes no time on offense. While this isn’t a deep Xavier squad, it’s experienced. Four players in the starting five are seniors and the lone outsider, Colby Jones, is a junior.
All five are capable scorers and exceptional passers, which leads to the Musketeers’ efficient up-tempo offense that ranks second in assist rate.
There are many notable defensive chinks in the armor for the Musketeers, though. For starters, they don’t force many turnovers and are all the way down at 198th in eFG%.
The list of struggles continue defensively, though many teams have not been able to take advantage. ShotQuality ranks Xavier 359th at defending catch-and-shoot 3s and 309th in defending the mid-range.
The Musketeers give up a lot of open 3s and allow too much spacing for opponents as plays develop.
We’ve seen Xavier flirt with danger over the last few weeks. In their last nine games, the Musketeers are 5-1 in games decided by two possessions or less.
It seems like yesterday when everyone was hitting the panic button on Creighton amid its six-game losing streak.
But Ryan Kalkbrenner had been sidelined and the Bluejays were incapable of filling the offensive and defensive shoes of their star center.
Since then, Creighton has won six of eight and nearly eked out a road win against Xavier in mid-January.
Kalkbrenner has supplanted himself as a college basketball star. The 7-foot-1 junior is first in the country in TS% and is nearly impossible to stop around the rim.
Creighton’s offense runs primarily through the pick-and-roll, using the duo of Ryan Nembhard and Kalkbrenner to force opposing defenses into tough decisions. Kalkbrenner often demands double teams, which leaves shooters open on the perimeter.
Because of the heavy attention set toward Kalkbrenner, the Bluejays’ offense has a lot of space to operate. Per ShotQuality, they are 23rd in the pick-and-roll and 12th in PPP when cutting.
Correlated alongside that PnR offense, Creighton is 27th in catch-and-shoot 3s and seventh in the mid-range.
This is an incredibly sound offense that loves the 3 ball and has one of the best-developed bigs in the country. The Bluejays assist on nearly 60% of all field goals, too.
Defensively, like Xavier, Creighton doesn’t force turnovers. It’s extremely efficient out of the half-court and great at defending the pick-and-roll, with Kalkbrenner serving as a deterrent around the rim.
Where the Bluejays’ biggest issues lie on the defensive end is out of the mid-range. They’re 232nd in SQ PPP, where opponents attack them at the 15th-highest rate.
The primary source of offense comes from just inside the arc, where opponents use the trio of pick-and-rolls, mid-range jumpers and post moves to create.
You won’t get many second-chance opportunities against Creighton. Aside from Kalkbrenner, Baylor Scheierman has been a force on the defensive glass. It’s also extremely disciplined and ranks second in FTA/FGA.
Xavier vs. Creighton Betting Pick
I think this is the perfect revenge spot for Creighton. It went wire-to-wire with Xavier on the road and now welcomes the Musketeers to Omaha for a pivotal Quadrant I bout.
While Creighton has begun to right the ship, it’s still lacking a couple of impressive wins. It took down Arkansas right before its six-game skid, but has yet to pick up a Q1 win since.
Now the Bluejays draw Xavier fresh off its biggest win of the season, a road victory against the daunted Connecticut Huskies. This is a perfect letdown spot.
It’s also just a strong matchup for a team Creighton team that’s playing much better as of late. Kalkbrenner and Nembhard should have no issues running the pick-and-roll, and they can take advantage of Xavier’s weak spots.
The Musketeers have been long overdue for some negative regression. They’re 247th in open 3 rate and about average in the shot selection they give up.
Meanwhile, Creighton has some positive regression coming its way and sits ninth in defensive shot selection.
It’s hard to really stop Xavier’s fast-paced offense, and we’ve already seen plenty of Big East foes go down early. Even Creighton lost early this month and gave up 90 points.
But in a high-intensity home game, I’m expecting the Bluejays to show up. They should slow down Xavier, and I’d be shocked if there wasn’t a better defensive effort this time around.
Also, for what it’s worth, Creighton is ranked 11th in KenPom, while Xavier is down at 19th. The Bluejays have the better roster and success is inevitable in the near future.
Pick: Creighton -3.5 (Play to -4.5)
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