Odds & Pick for Providence vs. Creighton College Basketball: Back Friars As Heavy Road Dogs
Mitchell Layton/Getty Images. Pictured: Marcus Zegarowski.
- Providence and Creighton meet on Wednesday night, and games are usually tight between these two.
- Creighton guard Marcus Zegarowski's status for the game is up in the air, which would be a big problem for a Bluejays offense that goes through him.
- Mike Randle breaks down why he sees value in the Friars as double-digit road dogs.
Providence vs. Creighton Odds
Since joining the Big East in the 2013-14 season, Creighton-Providence matchups have been one of the most balanced conference rivalry games.
In their 14 regular-season meetings prior to this year, each team has seven wins. These games also tend to be close, with five of the past 10 meetings having been decided by six points or less.
Creighton has been a dominant home team in Big East play, covering at a 57% rate. However, their cover record against the Friars during that time period is only 42.9% (3-of-7).
Will the Bluejays continue their home dominance, or will Ed Cooley’s Friars force another close Big East battle?
Creighton is an offensive juggernaut, especially playing at home. The Bluejays average 81.9 points per game overall and 84 in Big East play in Omaha.
The key to their offensive efficiency is Marcus Zegarowski. The junior guard is averaging 14.1 points, 4.2 rebounds and 4.8 assists as the centerpiece of the Creighton attack.
His presence was sorely missed in the Bluejays’ meltdown during the second half of a 70-66 loss at Butler. Zegarowski’s availability for this game (hamstring) is still uncertain as of Tuesday night.
Zegarowski’s presence was critical to the Bluejays 67-65 victory at Providence on Jan. 2. He had 20 points, including six made 3-pointers.
The Bluejays rely on 3-point shooting for a large majority of their offense. Guards Denzel Mahoney (15.9 points, 37.9% 3-pointers) and Mitch Ballock (9.7 points, 37.5% 3-pointers) and forward Damien Jefferson (40.5%) join with Zegarowski (40.5%) to make a diverse perimeter shooting attack.
The Friars’ 3-point defense has been average on the season, allowing opponents 33.3% from beyond the arc. In conference play, Providence has lowered that number to just 32.9%, ranking third-best in the Big East.
The Friars have the talent in their guards to control the pace against Creighton, a critical part of finding success against the explosive Bluejays.
Juniors David Duke (19.9 points) and A.J. Reeves (9.2 points) form a skilled backcourt pair that can also limit the Creighton guards on defense. They played a combined 76 of 80 minutes in the first meeting with Creighton and were the catalysts behind a late 14-2 run that just fell short.
Providence will hold a significant interior advantage with center Nate Watson. The 6-foot-10 senior brings per game averages of 18.3 points and 7.2 rebounds while making 74% of his free throws.
Creighton will counter with 7-foot freshman Ryan Kalkbrenner (7.1 points, 4.2 rebounds), but his impact has been minimal over the past few weeks. He is coming off an uninspiring four points and two rebounds against Butler.
The Friars would get a huge boost if point guard Jared Bynum is available. The 5-foot-10 transfer from St. Joseph’s has not played since an injury in the January meeting. He is listed as day-to-day.
The Friars play at one of the slowest paces in the country, ranking 301st in adjusted-tempo, per KenPom. With Reeves and Duke, they are usually able to control the pace, as illustrated by the 132 combined points between the two teams in their first matchup.
The Friars’ NCAA tournament hopes are very much in doubt after being picked third in the preseason Big East poll. Providence is just 7-6 overall and 3-4 in conference play. They travel to Omaha tonight coming off three consecutive losses to Creighton, Xavier and Marquette. The Friars need this game badly.
Betting Analysis & Pick
I’m going to project this game with both Zegarowski and Bynum out. If either plays, they are probably not going to be at 100%. That hurts Creighton more, as illustrated by the loss at Butler.
This is a desperate Providence team that will give its maximum effort. Duke and Reeves should be able to score against the Bluejays suspect defense, while Watson presents a mismatch problem on the interior, making the double-digit spread too much to lay.
I’ll back the Friars +10 in a game that should follow these teams’ matchup history and come down to the final two minutes.
Pick: Providence +10 (down to Providence +9.5).