The gauntlet that is the Big East steals the show Tuesday night with a battle between two top-25 teams when the Creighton Bluejays battle it out against the Providence Friars. Both are near the top of their conference standings, making this matchup a must win game for both units as we roll into the last few weeks of the season. Can Providence get their revenge against the Bluejays from earlier in the season that resulted in a narrow loss?
Creighton Vs. Providence Odds
Oddsmakers don’t think so as they opened the Friars as a +2.5 underdog. Bettors were quick to back them though, taking Providence down to +2 as of writing. Even though Creighton has mightily improved after a midseason slump, Providence poses as one of the best home teams in the nation with an absurd win rate. Granted their success has been predicated behind another year of narrow wins, proving to be unsustainable as the season moves on.
As for the total, points are expected to be scored at a blistering pace as oddsmakers opened the total at 141.5. Bettors believe this matchup will feature some efficiency defense on both ends, taking the under down to 140.5 in some shops. Behind Creighton’s improved level of play has come with an improved defensive production. That will be much needed against a Providence squad that is near the top-20 in AdjO.
Creighton Vs. Providence Prediction & Pick
The Pick: Wait on Creighton spread
We are in for a special matchup as Creighton is finally playing at the same level of their preseason championship aspirations while Providence is one of the best home teams in the nation. While I initially lean towards Creighton, I was surprised to see that early money is siding with the Friars. Because of this early line movement, I will patiently wait to see how this number continues to move before potentially taking the Bluejays.
No team in the nation encapsulates the hectic nature of this college basketball season more than the Creighton Bluejays. To sum up Creighton’s season so far, they came into this season as a potentially sleeper national title pick, got off to a hot start with impressive metrics on both ends of the court, hit a serious slump that resulted in questionable losses, and are now right back into the title picture.
A brunt of their recent surge of success has come from their improved level of play on the defensive end. When Creighton was in the midst of a slump, their defense was playing at a brutally bad level by giving up open looks at an alarming rate. Especially in the interior, giving up high quality looks at the rim. Creighton has since clamped down to suffocate open looks, now ranking 12th in Adjusted Defensive Efficiency per Kenpom.
Their defensive ability to limit looks at the rim will be crucial against the Friars as a brunt of their success is in their ability to score in the interior. Kentucky transfer Bryce Hopkins has been an immediate boost for the Friars offense, averaging 16.6 points per game while shooting 47% from the field. He can also stretch the floor with elite perimeter shooting, but he does most of his damage with cuts to the rim for mid-range looks. This plays into Creighton’s hands as they limit two-point completions at the lowest rate in their conference.
Creighton Vs. Providence Key Matchups
Can Kalkbrenner continue to find scoring success on the block against the smaller Friars?
Ryan Kalkbrenner vs Providence interior defense
Ryan Kalkbrenner has been the most important player on both ends of the court for Creighton as his on court metrics are shockingly different in comparison to when he is off the court for the Bluejays. They already run thin as a unit, playing six players in meaningful minutes.
He is their leading scorer by averaging 15 points per game and their first look on the post. He stands at 7’1”, towering over the Friars tallest starter at 6’8”. This bodes well for Creighton as Kalkbrenner plays true to his size and will impose his will on the block.
Foul situations are an area of concern as he shoots 72% from the charity stripe, but his ability to gobble offensive rebounds for second chance opportunities may make up for potential empty trips. He had 21 points and seven rebounds in their earlier matchup against Providence.
Wait and see how low the spread will go before taking a position on Creighton in a must win situation.