Saturday College Basketball Odds, Picks & Predictions for Creighton vs. Xavier (Jan. 15)
Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images. Pictured: Greg McDermott and Arthur Kaluma.
- The Creighton Bluejays (10-4) and Xavier Musketeers (12-3) meet on Saturday at noon ET in a pivotal Big East basketball conference clash.
- Xavier has impressed to open the 2021-22 season and has earned its favored status, opening as 9.5-point favorites. The point spread has remained 9.5 points with just hours to go before tipoff.
- Nonetheless, our college basketball betting analyst, Shane McNichol, explains why he's backing the Bluejays to cover the spread as 9.5-point underdogs on Saturday.
Creighton vs. Xavier Odds
-105o / -115u
-105o / -115u
Saturdays in January annually bring massive conference games. The Big East battle between Creighton and Xavier checks that box, with tons of implications for March.
Both are jockeying for position beneath Villanova in the Big East standings. Creighton held serve, winning its home game against the Wildcats, while Xavier missed that opportunity this week, losing to Villanova at home in Cincinnati.
A chance to beat another team in the top half of the conference is critical for seeding in both the Big East Tournament and the NCAA Tournament. Both of these teams are currently projected to reach the Big Dance by the aggregators at BracketMatrix with Xavier currently slotted as a 5-seed and Creighton more delicately holding a 10-seed.
A win for either would go a long way. Which side should bettors favor in this showdown of new-look Big East programs?
Greg McDermott’s teams at Creighton have developed a personality. Typically, he builds a roster of high-basketball-IQ players that enables the Bluejays to run an efficient offense that maximizes its looks at the rim.
This year, his Bluejays are taking full advantage when they do get a scoring chance, ranking in the top 15 in the nation in 2-point shooting percentage. McDermott’s offense, built off motion and selflessness, looks to create easy opportunities.
This season, however, turnovers have emerged as a major issue for this offense. In Creighton’s 14 games, the Bluejays have committed fewer than 12 turnovers just twice. Creighton’s two highest-usage players, Ryan Nembhard and Arthur Kaluma, are freshman who are each coughing up a turnover on over one-quarter of their used possessions. Nembhard leads the Big East in turnovers, with Kaluma sits sixth in the conference in the stat.
Creighton’s shooting ability and McDermott’s schemes only matter so much if the Bluejays are going to toss a turnover on 20 percent of their offensive possessions. The hope, for Creighton fans, is that this team made up largely of freshman and transfers can settle down and do a better job protecting the ball as the season continues. Creighton’s defense is improved this season, but no defense can survive that many extra possessions or live-ball turnovers that lead to run outs.
Travis Steele and the Musketeer coaching staff have to be kicking themselves over this week’s home loss to Villanova. The Wildcats shot just 4-20 from outside the arc, managed only 64 points on 1.03 points possession, and coughed up twice as many turnovers as Xavier, but Villanova was able to survive with a win. The Musketeers also shot poorly and got hammered in the paint and on the glass by a Villanova team with questions in its frontline.
That is a scary development with Xavier turning around to face a Creighton team with a very skilled frontcourt. DII transfer Ryan Hawkins has feasted on mismatches in open space this season, and sophomore, 7-footer Ryan Kalkbrenner has developed into a real offensive weapon for Creighton.
Steele should feel confident in his roster, though. After all, this Xavier team hasn’t lost to a team not named “Villanova” since before Thanksgiving. The Musketeers have been excellent at drawing fouls on offense and avoiding them on defense, ranking in the top 15 in the nation in that stat on both ends of the floor. In heated Big East brawls, that is a great quality to have.
Creighton vs. Xavier Betting Pick
I think these teams are more evenly matched than this spread suggests. Creighton, with its rotation loaded with newcomers, is built to improve as the season progresses. I trust McDermott to get a handle on his team’s turnovers and hope some of those issues could regress during Big East play.
On the other side, Xavier is a very good team that has been a very high-variance shooting team. The Musketeers have seven games shooting under 30 percent from outside the arc and six games sinking better than 45 percent from long range, with just two games anywhere near the national average. That is likely to normalize over time.
Xavier has a great chance to pick up a big win Saturday, yet this is too many points to lay against this feisty Creighton club. I’ll take the Bluejays and the spread.