After a week off, the Providence Friars (16-11, 6-8) are back in action, as they make the trip to Omaha to face the #23 Creighton Bluejays. The Creighton Bluejays (22-5 9-5) are coming off a 17-point victory over Georgetown on Sunday, while the Friars are coming off back-to-back top 20 RPI victories at home over Butler and Xavier. The Friars will take their act back on the road, where they will try and avenge a 78-64 loss to the Bluejays back in January. The Creighton team that faced the Friars back in January at the Dunk is much different then the one they will face Wednesday. The Bluejays are without star point guard Mo Watson Jr, who tore his ACL during a victory against Xavier back on January 17th. To the credit of coach Greg McDermott the Bluejays have fared pretty well given the circumstances. Creighton still rank 13th in the country in points per game and are ranked 15th in Ken Pom’s adjusted offensive efficiency rating. During the stretch without Watson the Jays have gone 4-4 and the difference seems to be more ball movement, compared to them running a lot of pick and roll action with Watson and Patton. So here are the Friars keys to the game to defeat a Watson-less Creighton team.
Keys to The Game
- Contain Justin Patton– This is way easier said then done as the Creighton freshman big man is shooting an astonishing 70% from the floor this season. In the two teams first meeting he went for 20 points on 9/13 shooting, however what’s interesting is that a bunch of those baskets where assisted by Watson and a bunch were alley-oops. So that would tell me the Friars got to limit Creighton from fast break opportunities to help slow down Patton. When you look at Patton trying to score from the post I’m looking at Emmitt Holt to step up and defend him down there. I’ve been really impressed lately with Holt’s ability to front the post players that are bigger then him and it limits their touches, look for him to do that tomorrow. As for Kalif Young I expect him to foul out in this game because he needs to make nothing easy on Patton even if it means sending him to the line, where he shoots 52%.
- Second Chance Opportunities– I have talked about it all year long how this Friar team is not a great rebounding team. However, when they play a team that is just as bad as they are they need to take advantage. In the first meeting the Friars got a rare victory in the rebounding category vs the Jays. Not only did the Friars out rebound the Bluejays by 15 they also crushed them on the offensive glass grabbing 21 offensive rebounds. The Jays also rank dead last in the conference in offensive rebounding but that may be attributed to the fact the Jays hardly ever miss shots! If the Friars can give a similar rebounding effort for what the put forth in the first meeting it will go a long way, especially on the road.
- Defend the 3– This is a key to the game I use often but its hard to blame me when the Friars play teams like Nova, Butler and Creighton. The Friars have done a really good job defending the three-point line in their last two games holding Butler to 27% and Xavier to 40%. It is very crucial for the Friars defend the three-point line in this game as the Jays rank 4th in the country and three-point percentage. If the Friars can hold Creighton to under 40% from three they will put themselves in a great position to steal one on the road.
For the third straight game the Friars find themselves with a huge opportunity to enhance their tournament resume and grab a top 25 RPI win. Its amazing how ten days ago the Friars looked like they didn’t have a chance to secure their 4th consecutive NCAA Tournament bid and now with a win Wednesday would be right in the field. The Friars have a lot to play for tomorrow but it’s not like the Jays have nothing to play for either. Even with the loss of Maurice Watson the Jays are trying to secure the #2 seed in the Big East Tournament, which would be huge in terms of getting a good seed in the Big Dance. While the Jays certainly aren’t better without Watson they still have plenty of players that can impact the game. The first time the Friars and Jays met this season, the Friars appeared to not have enough offense to keep up with the Jays. At this point of the season the Friars appear to be playing much better offensively and without Watson I think the Friars can keep up with the Jays. One thing that should be considered is the fact that Cartwright was limited in the second half of the Creighton game with knee tendinitis and the Friars were only down 6 at half. Cartwright will be a full go tomorrow and he’s playing at a high level. I believe this will tip the scale for the Friars and I see them stealing one on the road.
Friars 76 Creighton 72