Villanova vs. Creighton Prediction: Big East Play Opens With a Banger

Villanova vs. Creighton prediction and pick for Friday's Big East college basketball matchup. Handicapper Mike Spector breaks down his pick for this one
Mike Spector |
Fri, December 17, 8:37 AM EST | 4 min read
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Villanova vs. Creighton Prediction: Big East Play Opens With a Banger

Villanova Wildcats vs. Creighton Bluejays

Spread: Villanova -6.5

Total: 130.5

Game time: Friday, 8:00 PM ET

Where to watch: FS1

Villanova vs. Creighton odds

Villanova vs. Creighton Prediction

While many conferences are already underway with league play, the Big East opens league play tonight with a battle of two of its top contenders. The Villanova Wildcats have been held to season lows in points in each of its last two games and look to break out of their shooting slump tonight. Will Jay Wright’s bunch get back to scorching the nets, or will the Creighton Blue Jays’ defense rise to the challenge and help them avoid a third loss in the last four games?

Villanova remains a top ten team despite having three losses, as AP voters respect the brutal non-conference schedule they have played to this point. Villanova’s three losses have come against Baylor, Purdue, and UCLA, who currently rank in the top four. However, while Villanova was solid offensively in losses against UCLA and Purdue, they had a historically poor performance in their last game against Baylor.

Villanova’s 36-point output against Baylor was not only their fewest points scored in the Jay Wright era but it is also tied for the fewest points scored in men’s basketball in the shot clock era (since 1985-86). In addition, the Wildcats had more turnovers (13) than field goals made (12) and now have two consecutive games with 67 or fewer points scored. In their previous game, Syracuse’s vaunted zone defense held the Wildcats to 13-for-50 (26%) from three-point range.

Creighton has lost two of its last three games after starting the season 7-1. Their offense has looked stagnant in their previous two losses, averaging just 57.5 points in the two losses to Iowa State and Arizona State. The Blue Jays are one of the best two-point shooting teams and one of the best defending inside the arc. Creighton’s 58% two-point shooting ranks ninth in the country, and their 42.4% two-point defense ranks 15th.

Villanova is 5-3 at Creighton since the Blue Jays joined the Big East, but most of those battles have been shootouts. Jay Wright and Greg McDermott have had difficulty defending each other, as six of those eight head-to-head meetings have seen at least 150 total points scored.

Villanova’s two-game shooting slump has more to do with their opponents than some in-house flaw that will haunt them all season. Jim Boeheim had just morphed his 2-3 zone to more of a 1-3-1 the game before playing the Wildcats, so Jay Wright did not have a lot of time to scout it and make a solid game plan for it. In addition, Boeheim dared Villanova’s wings of Brandon Slater and Jermaine Samuels to beat them while keying in on limiting the shot attempts of Collin Gillespie and Justin Moore. That was the same approach Scott Drew took against them, as Moore scored 15 points, but the Wildcats got no more than six from any other player.

Wright is a hall-of-fame coach for a reason, and he will figure out ways to get his top two guys, Gillespie and Moore, going early and establishing a rhythm. Creighton has one of the best rim protectors in the country in 7’1” Ryan Kalkbrenner, so the Wildcats will have to be on their game from the perimeter, as scoring at the rim will not be easy.

Villanova has struggled against elite size (see Purdue game), so we look for McDermott to get Kalkbrenner touches early and often. Kalkbrenner can either take advantage of his one-on-one matchup with the smaller Eric Dixon or force double teams and kick out to open shooters.

This is not one of McDermott’s best shooting teams, evidenced by their 30.3% shooting percentage from three-point range. However, history shows his offensive style has been difficult for the Wildcats to defend, and now he has a true 7-foot threat to play through and take the pressure off his shooters.

The under has cashed in Villanova’s last five games, and is 5-1 in Creighton’s last six. However, we will not overreact to each team’s poor offensive performance in their last game, and prefer the contrarian play of this pick.

Villanova vs. Creighton Pick

Mike Spector
@MikeSpector01

Mike Spector brings unmatched knowledge and insight into the game of football, and more importantly the process of betting on NFL football. Mike is the #2 ranked expert in FantasyPros' NFL betting contest

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