Big East Tournament Championship Odds & Picks: How to Bet Creighton vs. Villanova
Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images. Pictured: Jermaine Samuels (Villanova)
Creighton vs. Villanova Odds
-110o / -110u
-110o / -110u
The first game of the Big East’s season — all the way back on December 17 — ended up being one of its most shocking results.
The conference kicked off play with league-favorite Villanova not just losing to Creighton in Omaha, but being routed out of the gym. Creighton rode an ice-cold Villanova shooting night to a 20-point victory, announcing itself as a team to reckon with in conference play.
For a few months, however, that win was the peak of Creighton’s season. The Bluejays’ offense was clunky and sloppy, finishing the year outside the top 300 in the nation in turnover rate.
Even as Creighton bounced back, riding a lesser late-season schedule to a six-game winning streak in February, the Bluejays never looked as strong as they did in the win over Villanova.
After promising freshman point guard Ryan Nembhard was sidelined with a season-ending injury, Creighton seemed destined to slowly fade away.
The opposite has been the case, with the Bluejays demonstrably making their way to the Big East Tournament final thanks to resounding wins over Marquette and top-seeded Providence.
In Saturday’s final, the Bluejays will have a chance to recreate their best win of the year, facing a Villanova team that survived close calls from St. John’s and UConn this week.
A Tale of Two Previous Meetings
While Creighton looks back fondly on its first dance with Villanova this season, the rematch at Villanova was a complete reversal.
In Omaha, Villanova managed to make just 4-of-23 (17%) from outside the 3-point arc. Star guard Justin Moore had one of his worst performances this season, posting just six points on 3-of-10 from the field.
When the teams met again just two weeks later outside of Philadelphia, Creighton made just 3-of-24 (12.5%) from long range, scoring only 41 points in the game. The Bluejays’ leading scorer Ryan Hawkins had his worse showing of the season, shooting 0-of-6 from the field and failing to score.
With any luck, the rubber match at Madison Square Garden will split the difference between the two meetings.
Watch the Turnover Battle
Villanova has carved out so much success in recent years, largely in part to smart play on the offensive end. The veteran Wildcats always take care of the ball, which has also been true this season. Villanova ranks in the top 10 percentile of teams in college basketball in turnover rate.
Creighton has been on the opposite end of the spectrum. If there is a flaw with this young Bluejays roster, it has been decision-making and mistakes. No team committed a turnover on a higher percentage of possessions in Big East play than Creighton.
If that disparity is on full display, Villanova will use those extra possessions wisely to build and hold a lead.
Monitor Eric Dixon’s Status
One area of caution for Villanova: center Eric Dixon has been struggling with an illness all week. Villanova already has depth issues, especially in the frontcourt. Jay Wright doesn’t play another center and without Dixon, he is forced to slide 6-foot-7 Jermaine Samuels into that role.
Against some teams, that is doable. Creighton’s roster makes that a much tougher proposition.
Ryan Kalkbrenner is a legitimate 7-footer in the paint, capable of scoring as a post presence or rolling after setting a ball screen. Samuels is athletic enough to challenge Kalkbrenner at the rim, yet he’s simply not big enough to make life difficult for the Creighton big if he defends him for long stretches.
On top of that, the Villanova small-ball lineup would be forced to find an answer for Hawkins, a skilled back-to-the-basket, post-up scorer. Hawkins has his limitations, but against a guard or smaller forward, he poses a real threat.
On the flip side, Villanova’s smaller lineups would challenge Creighton’s defense. Kalkbrenner would be drawn away from the rim, where he is a very successful shot blocker. Villanova loves to post up its scoring guards, so clearing out a helping big man is critical.
Much of this hinges on the availability of Dixon, who played only 12 minutes in the semifinal versus UConn. Even if he does play near his typical minutes, his conditioning after a week of fighting flu-like symptoms could slow him down.
Creighton vs. Villanova Betting Pick
Villanova — despite being the better team and having a real chance to secure a high NCAA Tournament seed with a win — is laying a healthy amount of points for what should be a highly competitive game.
I’ll steer clear of the spread and instead turn my focus to the total. Villanova has played two grinding, low-scoring affairs at MSG so far this week. That is likely to change now that it’s playing a Creighton team with a lot of shooting talent and the ability to score in transition.
Villanova is going to use its small-ball lineups to spread out Creighton and attack from the perimeter. Creighton will need to shoot its way out of the hole created by the difference in turnovers in this game.
Each of these teams had a dud shooting night against the other this season. In the title game, when the lights are brightest, I think both shoot the ball at a high level and put points on the board.
Pick: Over 130 (Play to 135)
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